Coal Country and musical inventors who sang “Great Balls of Fire.” The actress created the signature role of Baker, a devil who meets an evil end. “In the Heat of the Night” is an interesting heart.
There are many creative people who died this year whose lives helped shape us—through the art they created, through the words they spoke. A tribute to just a few of them in their own voice.
“I didn’t give life auditions for many of the roles I had to play.”
— Sidney Poitier, actor, born 1927 (Read the obituary.)
“People in the past have done infinitely better what we’re trying to do. That’s why one has to keep going back to them, for one’s own sanity, to keep one’s own sense of proportion.
— Peter Brook, director, born 1925 (Read the obituary.)
“Every song is a little piece of my life.”
– Ronnie Spector, singer, born 1943 (Read the obituary.)
“Dance is life. Dance, for me, is survival.
– Yuriko, dancer, born 1920 (Read the obituary.)
“The question is, how do you build with what you have?”
– Kirsty Alley, actress, born 1951 (Read the obituary.)
“Every painting is a battle between me and the painting. I tend to win. But do you know how many paintings I threw in the trash?”
– Carmen Herrera, artist, born 1915 (Read the obituary.)
“I decided you were naked in every scene. If you’re in a park dressed up and you’re not wearing anything, what’s the difference if you examine yourself?”
– William Hurd, actor, born 1950 (Read the obituary.)
“You’ve got to enjoy a song and make somebody laugh. You’ve got to have character. A tough punchline can make you laugh, but you’ve got to know how to say it.
– Takeoff, rapper, born 1994 (Read the obituary.)
“I love watching people get kicked in the crotch. But only if they rise again.
– Bob Sackett, comedian and actor, born 1956 (Read the obituary.)
“The overt act of making a sign and hanging it up in space is always political.”
– Sam Gilliam, artist, born 1933 (Read the obituary.)
“Everyone says I am a role model. But when I was composing, I never thought about that when I was acting. I wanted to make good music.
– Betty Davis, singer-songwriter, born 1944 (Read the obituary.)
“Over time, writers learn that good fiction editors care as much or almost as much about the story as they do. You often end up with all three of you — the writer, and the editor, and the story — working on this hard, beautiful thing, this brand new creation.
– Roger Angell, writer and editor, born 1920 (Read the obituary.)
“I’m smart, I’m a good painter, I’ve spent thirty years trying to convince people and myself that I’m this or that. It won’t happen. I’m the only person that needs to happen. This is what I intended to do.
– Jennifer Bartlett, artist, born 1941 (Read the obituary.)
“I don’t want to play the piano on stage, let alone sing, because I don’t think I have much of a voice. But my preference is window dressing or jumping off a cliff and try this. So I jumped off a cliff.
– Christine McVie, musician and songwriter, born 1943 (Read the obituary.)
“Sometimes you have to put yourself on the edge. You go into the valley and lean over it,” he said.
– Maria Ewing, opera singer, born 1950 (Read the obituary.)
“There’s a lot more to what I do than hard work — there’s luck and timing, being in the right place at the right time with the right hairstyle.”
– Taylor Hawkins, drummer, born 1972 (Read the obituary.)
“I’m primarily an actress, not a pretty face.”
– Angela Lansbury, actress, born 1925 (Read the obituary.)
“I always try to improve what I do. If something doesn’t work, I change it to make it better. I’m an artist and above all an actor, I don’t limit myself.
– Elsa Soares, singer, born 1930 (Read the obituary.)
“I’m always working, always. I’ve got to keep the ship afloat.
– Leslie Jordan, actor, born 1955 (Read the obituary.)
“The reward of work is always work.”
– David McCullough, historian and author, born 1933 (Read the obituary.)
“For me, sitting at a desk all day is not only a privilege, but a duty: I owe to everyone in my life, who lived and died, to say more than anyone asked.”
– Barbara Ehrenreich, writer, born 1941 (Read the obituary.)
“Passion is the most important thing in life, because it ends quickly, and my desire is to grow up with my son.”
– James Caan, actor, born 1940 (Read the obituary.)
“Words are unnecessary when movement and feeling and expression say it all.”
– Tina Ramírez, dancer and founder of Ballet Hispanico, born 1929 (Read the obituary.)
“I don’t do anything about flies. It’s something that might interest me. In fact, anything might interest me.”
– Claes Oldenburg, artist, born 1929 (Read the obituary.)
“A skull is a beautiful thing.”
– Lee Pontekov, artist, born 1931 (Read the obituary.)
“I like to write characters that are better or worse than anyone else on earth.”
– Charles Fuller, playwright, born 1939 (Read the obituary.)
“In a review I played a mean, heartless, cold person, and you didn’t really care. Well! I like it; that’s what I played.”
– Ray Liotta, actor, born 1954 (Read the obituary.)
“There’s a difference between an event and a stylist. I’m a stylist, Elvis is an event, don’t you forget that.
– Jerry Lee Lewis, musician, born 1935 (Read the obituary.)
“Something in all of our ears comes from where we grew up and where we were as children.”
– George Crump, composer, born 1929 (Read the obituary.)
“People wonder why I reveal so much about the truths that have happened in my life, because the lies that surrounded me and the denial that I was raised with, good or bad, gave birth to the child of truth and love. .”
– Anne H, actress, born 1969 (Read the obituary.)
“That’s my goal every night: I hope that at some point in my act, you forget whatever problems you had when you came in.”
– Louie Anderson, comedian and actor, born 1953 (Read the obituary.)
“Older people live with the certainty of grief, which deepens us and opens us to other people who have been there.”
– Peter Straub, writer, born 1943 (Read the obituary.)
“I believe in the importance of the unimportant – in code pathos.”
– Ned Rorum, composer, born 1923 (Read the obituary.)
“not for me Always Offensive material. Only me some times Offensive material.”
– Gilbert Gottfried, comedian, born 1955 (Read the obituary.)
“Merce Cunningham is quoted somewhere as wanting a company that danced the way she danced. I continued to do the same. I began to wonder why I insisted on them being as limited as I was.
– David Gordon, choreographer, born 1936 (Read the obituary.)
“My paintings are stories, but they are not stories, they have no past and no future.”
– Paula Rego, artist, born 1935 (Read the obituary.)
“When you talk to your fellow citizens, even if you want to say that everything is terrible and that we are ruled by a mob, sometimes you have to give some hope. In a novel, you can be very desperate. You’re so wild, you’re wild, you’re free, you think true, you think well.
– Javier Marías, writer, born 1951 (Read the obituary.)
“Art is not innocent. Art can cause evil.”
– Richard Taruskin, composer, born 1945 (Read the obituary.)
“I am a worker, like any other Cuban worker, doing what I know best in my own way, working with songs. I am loyal to my reality, my revolution and the way I was raised.
– Pablo Milanes, musician, born 1943 (Read the obituary.)
“Winning is very difficult. No one prepares you for that. You think you are infallible. You pretend you know more than you do.
– Peter Bogdanovich, director, born 1939 (Read the obituary.)
“I think the highest point of my career was in the late ’70s. I had number 1 songs, a best-selling book and a movie about my life. But I think it was also the lowest point for me. When you’re moving fast life gets away from you very fast.
– Loretta Lynn, singer-songwriter, born 1932 (Read the obituary.)
“Many of us have been running all our lives. Get used to stopping.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh, monk and writer, born 1926 (Read the obituary.)
Photos above by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images; Anthony Barbosa/Getty Images; Evening Standard/Halton Archive, via Getty Images; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images.
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