Celebrities who died in 2017

Prodigy of Mobb Deep. Photo: [email protected]

One woman who was “Touched by an Angel” was an actress perhaps best known for beating up Eddie Murphy in the alley behind a nightclub. One man was a thespian and Emmy and Tony nominated actor, but gained national fame playing Bill Cosby‘s father on one of the most iconic sitcoms in television history. This legend was a rock-n-roll pioneer of Louisiana Creole descent who had 11 top hits in the mid-1950s. One was a sexual revolutionary who openly advocated for civil rights and built a mansion devoted to women. Another was one of the greatest pitchers of all time, while yet another was a Wimbledon tennis champion who was cut down before her 50th birthday.

The man who rapped with iconic group Mobb Deep and the man who played college student “Flounder” who pledged in a literal Animal House are just a few of the actors, musicians, entertainers, comedians and dignitaries we lost in 2017. As we close out the year and bid adieu to folks who made an indelible impact in people’s lives, let’s not so much say goodbye as much as we remember what they did to impact and alter our lives and our world.

These are the celebrities who died in 2017:

  • Dick Gregory: Richard Claxton Gregory was a civil rights activist, social critic and comedian who rose to fame in the 1960s for his satire. He was the first Black comedian to appear on television to solely deliver comedy. His first talk show appearance was on “Tonight Starring Jack Paar” show, which was revolutionary for his ilk. Gregory co-wrote with Robert Lipsyte the book ni**er: An Autobiography. He was married to Lillian Gregory for more than 50 years and had 10 children.

  • Jim Nabors: James Thurston Nabors was known for his portrayal of Gomer Pyle, although he became a popular guest on variety shows which showcased his rich baritone voice in the 1960s and 1970s, including two specials of his own in 1969 and 1974. He subsequently recorded numerous albums and singles, most of them containing romantic ballads.

  • Fats Domino: Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino, Jr. was an American pianist and singer-songwriter of Louisiana Creole descent. One of the pioneers of rock and roll music, Domino sold more than 65M records. Between 1955 and 1960, he had eleven top 10 hits.

  • Robert Guillaume: Robert Guillaume was an American actor known for his role as Isaac Jaffe on “Sports Night” and as Benson on the TV series “Soap” and the spin-off “Benson,” as well as for voicing the mandrill Rafiki in The Lion King.

  • Tom Petty: Thomas Earl Petty, born Oct. 20, 1950 in Gainesville, Florida, was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, and actor. Petty served as the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers formed in 1976. 

  • Harry Dean Stanton. Born in 1926 in Kentucky, actor Harry Dean Stanton began appearing on TV programs like “Gunsmoke” in the 1950s. He quietly built a reputation as a respected character actor via films like Cool Hand Luke (1967) and Alien (1979), and earned praise for his starring roles in the 1984 features Repo Man and Paris, Texas.

  • Jerry Lewis: Jerry Lewis (born either Jerome Levitch or Joseph Levitch, depending on the source; March 16, 1926 – August 20, 2017) was an American comedian, actor, singer, producer, director, screenwriter and humanitarian. From 1946 to 1956, he and Dean Martin were partners as the hit popular comedy duo of Martin and Lewis. 

  • Della Reese: Delloreese Patricia Early, known professionally as Della Reese, was an American jazz and gospel singer, actress, and ordained minister whose career spanned seven decades. The “Don’t You Know?” singer died at her home in California at age 86 on Nov. 19.

  • Jana Novotna: The Wimbledon champion died in her native Czech Republic after a long battle with cancer on Nov, 19. She was 49.

  • Earle Hyman: Best known for playing Russell Huxtable on “The Cosby Show,” Earle Hyman died at 91 on Nov.17 at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey. The actor had been in the industry for over 40 years, earning both an Emmy and Tony nomination.

  • Lil Peep: The rapper died at age 21 on Nov. 16. Police said he died of a suspected Xanax overdose.

  • Roy Halladay: Former MLB pitcher Roy Halladay was killed in a plane crash in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida on Tuesday, Nov. 7. He was 40 years old. 

  • Brad Bufanda: Best known for his role as Felix in “Veronica Mars,” he died of an apparent suicide in Los Angeles on Nov. 1. He was 34. 

  • Hugh Hefner: Hugh Marston Hefner was an American businessman, magazine publisher and playboy. He was the founder of Playboy and editor-in-chief of the magazine, which he founded in 1953. The Playboy founder died at the age of 91 on Wednesday, September 27. “My father lived an exceptional and impactful life as a media and cultural pioneer and a leading voice behind some of the most significant social and cultural movements of our time in advocating free speech, civil rights and sexual freedom,” his son Cooper Hefner said in a statement. 

  • Frank Vincent: “Sopranos” actor Frank Vincent died in New Jersey on Sept. 13. He was 78.

  • Richard Anderson: The actor died at his home in Beverly Hills at the age of 91 on Aug. 31. He was best known for his role as Oscar Goldman on The Six Million Dollar Man and its spinoff, The Bionic Woman.

  • Prodigy: The rapper, who was a member of the hip-hop duo Mobb Deep, died on June 20 at age 42, his publicist confirmed. “It is with extreme sadness and disbelief that we confirm the death of our dear friend Albert Johnson, better known to millions of fans as Prodigy of legendary NY rap duo Mobb Deep,” the statement read. “Prodigy was hospitalized a few days ago in Vegas after a Mobb Deep performance for complications caused by a sickle cell anemia crisis. As most of his fans know, Prodigy battled the disease since birth.”

  • Stephen Furst: The Animal House actor died from complications of diabetes at the age of 63 on June 16.

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks