Keen observers will note I haven’t been as omnipresent as usual here over the last several days. Besides a new baby and Christmas, I have been working on year-end stories for MSNBC. This one is a whopper – profiles on almost 30 entertainers who died in 2003:
- Some of the names are massive — Bob Hope, Katharine Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Johnny Cash, Mr. Rogers — others less so, but we lost many a great performer in 2003.
The keen observer will note that year by year the list of deceased celebrities grows larger — if this keeps up, we won’t have any performers left alive to amuse and edify our children and grandchildren, but the hereafter will be one ripping entertainment fiesta!
On a less flippant note, the age of mass entertainment — which began with sound recording in the late 19th century and shot into hyper-drive with the advent of film, radio and television in the 20th — is now more than 100 years old, and with more engines of celebrity-creation came, logically enough, more celebrities. Over time these “extra” celebrities have been aging and expiring, as we are all actuarially prone to do, so there really are more dead celebrities these days.
We come not to bury but to praise those performers of screen, stage and song for whom the year 2003 was their last. We recognize them in the order in which they exited for the last time.
The death of Maurice Gibb, 53, was particularly difficult to take: he collapsed with a congenital intestinal condition of which he was previously unaware at his Miami home, had surgery and showed signs of recovery before dying three days later of complications on January 12.
One-third of the Bee Gees (“Brothers Gibb”) from Manchester, England, and Brisbane, Australia, with his twin Robin and older brother Barry, Maurice played bass and keyboards and harmonized behind their unique, quavering leads on great, lush Beatlesque pop-rock songs of their own creation in the late-’60s including “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” “Holiday,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” “I Started a Joke” and “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart.”
Gibb had a brief marriage to Lulu and a period of personal excess amid a fallow artistic period for the Bee Gees in the early-’70s, before the group made a dramatic turn in direction, got soul, found falsetto, and became the biggest name of the disco era with smash hits “Jive Talkin’,” “You Should Be Dancing” and the iconic soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever,” with shimmering ballad “How Deep is Your Love,” and dance floor staples “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever.” The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997…..
And on, and on. Check it out.