2018: The Year That Was

The year that was: Famous personalities who left us in 2018

Filed on December 25, 2018 | Last updated on December 25, 2018 at 08.04 pm
The year that was: Famous personalities who left us in 2018

All of them touched our lives in many ways, made them so much richer, changed the way we think and even made us better human beings.

There's always a lump in your throat when you think about those who passed on this year - leaving their imprint indelibly on our minds... and hearts. There were some who had led full lives, there were some who went too soon. But all of them touched our lives in many ways, made them so much richer, changed the way we think and even made us better human beings.

George H.W. Bush

Died: 30 November, 2018

Aged: 94

The 41st US president, in office from 1989 to 1993, will be best remembered for helping end the  Cold War, and warding off the nuclear threat - and, of course, taking on Saddam Hussein in the 1991 Gulf War. Before taking on the highest office, Bush Sr was a Congressman, ambassador, and director of Central Intelligence.

Bernardo Bertolucci

Died: 26 November, 2018

Aged: 77

In 1988, at the 60th Academy Awards, The Last Emperor won all nine Oscars for which it was nominated - just an endorsement of multiple award-winning Italian director and screenwriter Bertolucci's creative enterprise. His movies were mostly exotic and expensive, lavishly mounted - and yet he managed to make a political statement each and every time. Bertolucci hit the big league with the hugely-controversial The Last Tango In Paris in 1972, and never looked back. "I left the ending ambiguous, because that is the way life is" is often attributed to be one of his most abiding life observations.

Paul Allen

Died: 15 October, 2018

Aged: 65

The Microsoft co-founder lived a large part of his life under the shadow of the threat of recurring cancer (that claimed him finally). Allen said, "It makes you that much more focused on realising your dreams and hopes, because all of our times on this planet are limited" - and showed the way. He was the ultimate billionaire philanthropist, doing the world a world of good with his cultural initiatives, donations and foundations. He believed in giving back - even as he stacked up a pile of yachts, and bought sports teams.  

Stan Lee

Died: 12 November, 2018

Aged: 95

The one who said "Comic books to me are fairy tales for grown-ups", Lee will live on in our hearts as the man who gave pop culture a whole new meaning as the co-creator of iconic superheroes like Spider-Man and The Hulk. Marvel Comics' primary creative leader leaves us with "If you are interested in what you do, that keeps you going!"

Burt Reynolds

Died: 6 September, 2018

Aged: 82

Much before the term 'swag' was invented, Reynolds had it. In huge doses. If nothing else worked for him, he had the capacity to charm you senseless. The 'fast and loose' Hollywood actor the industry had written off as being a B-grade star, made it a point to keep the hits rolling - and, soon, he was too captivating to let go. "If you hang onto something long enough, it will come back in style. Like me," he had famously remarked. All of us who are fans of Smokey and the Bandit, Evening Shade and Boogie Nights will hold on to him!

Neil Simon

Died: 26 August, 2018

Aged: 91

Who can forget Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple and Lost in Yonkers? They have been indelibly imprinted in our minds by Simon - American playwright, screenwriter and author who wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. "I love living. I have some problems with my life, but living is the best thing they've come up with so far." He'll live on, we daresay.

AB Vajpayee

Died: 16 August, 2018

Aged: 93

Indian statesman-politician Vajpayee, who was part of the nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, was the moderate face of the party. He was prime minister of India for three terms: 13 days in 1996, 13 months from 1998 to 1999, and, finally, for a full term from 1999 to 2004. India carried out the Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998 under him. He sought to improve diplomatic relations with Pakistan, travelling to Lahore by bus to meet prime minister Nawaz Sharif. In 1991, he invited president Pervez Musharraf to India for a summit at Agra.

Rachid Taha

Died: 12 September, 2018

Aged: 93

Many would say that he was "Algeria's answer to Johnny Cash" - after The Independent called him that. Born in Algeria, he moved to France as a child, where, as a teenager, he started DJ-ing, and, then, founded his own band Carte de Séjour, before flying solo; he went on to become a bestselling singer across the Arab world. A worldwide hit was his cover of Ya Rayah, that dealt with the "working conditions and the way that immigrants are treated". Taha had no problems proclaiming his "outsider" status, and, through his music, fought for immigrant rights. That crusade will continue.


Died: 24 February, 2018

Aged: 54

The actress who gave Bollywood its first 'female superstar' left us way too early by dying in a freak accident in Dubai. Sridevi, it was said, had the power to ride the box-office wave single-handedly - such was her talent, exuberance and popularity. She taught us what it truly means to be a star.

VS Naipaul

Died: 11 August, 2018

Aged: 85

Winner of the Nobel Prize (for Literature) and the Booker, Naipaul was one who courted both fame and notoriety. Fame for his incredible story-telling abilities (A House for Mr Biswas remains a literary masterpiece), and his merciless honesty. and notoriety for what many felt was his deeply-entrenched bigotry and his struggle for identity. Be that as it may, he transcended his personal bitterness to emerge magical each time he wrote. The Nobel academy compared him to Joseph Conrad, and praised his capacity to "transform rage into precision".

Nancy Wilson

Died: 13 December, 2018

Aged: 81

Frequently referred to as the 'The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice', Wilson was labelled a singer of blues, jazz, R&B, pop, and soul, a "consummate actress", and "the complete entertainer"; she was also considered one of the greatest concert performers in America. She never wanted to be identified as a "jazz singer" though, preferring to be called a 'song stylist'. "I take a lyric and make it mine. I consider myself an interpreter of the lyric," she'd explained famously. Her career spanned over five decades, and she recorded more than 70 albums and won three Grammies.

John McCain

Died: 25 August, 2018

Aged: 81

He was the Vietnam war hero, who didn't quite make it to the American presidency - losing to his Democrat opponent Barack Obama in 2008. Later, he was in news for being a fierce critic of President Donald Trump, even though both were Republicans. But overall, he'll be remembered for his decency and his courage.

Asma Jahangir

Died: 11 February, 2018

Aged: 66

"I had to face imprisonment and house arrests, but it made me tougher," Jahangir said. And, till the end, she never gave up on her crusade. The gutsy Pakistani human rights lawyer, who co-founded and chaired the Human Rights Commission in her country, left behind a huge vacuum. TIME magazine included her in its list of '100 most influential women in the world. "We have lost a human rights giant. She was a tireless advocate for inalienable rights of all people and for equality - whether in her capacity as a Pakistani lawyer in the domestic justice system, as a global civil society activist, or as a Special Rapporteur," António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, said in a statement.

Philip Roth

Died: 22 May, 2018

 Aged: 85

When the author who definitively defined social norms in modern-day America with books such as American Pastoral, The Human Stain and Everyman passed on, the literary world was rife with the debate: why was Roth passed up for the Nobel prize over and over again? His books were shockingly honest, he never held back his punches - and he made an entire generation of readers squirm in their skins. it was like a mirror was held up before them. Roth, also an academic, told one interviewer, "I did the best I could with what I had." Well, he did better than his best. 

Anthony Bourdain

Died: 8 June, 2018

Aged: 61

Considered one of the most influential chefs in the world, Bourdain - also an author and travel documentarian -  starred in programmes focusing on the exploration of international culture, cuisine, and the human condition. "Context and memory play powerful roles in all the truly great meals in one's life," he said, as he took food to a new level altogether.

Alyque Padamsee

Died: 17 November, 2018

Aged: 90

The man who was widely referred to as "Brand Father of Indian advertising", Padamsee created some Indian advertising's most-loved ad campaigns when he was the lead of the agency Lintas: for instance, he's the one who brought the 'Liril Girl' into Indian households, and made the iconic 'Lalita-ji' a family member of all television-owning families. The Advertising Club in Mumbai bestowed him the honour of being named 'Advertising Man of the Century'. Padamsee had a stronghold in Mumbai's theatre scene, and will be remembered fondly for playing Muhammad Ali Jinnah in Sir Richard Attenborough's 1982 Gandhi.

Aretha Franklin

Died: 16 August, 2018

Aged: 76

Rolling Stone magazine had rated her the greatest singer of all time. Franklin, who was trained in gospel, and then branched out into jazz, blues, soul and rhythm, notched up 20 Grammies in her 50-year-long singing career. "Being a singer is a natural gift. It means I'm using to the highest degree possible the gift that God gave me to use. I'm happy with that." Inspirational.

Tom Wolfe

Died: 14 May, 2018

Aged: 88

He coined the word "radical chic" for brand-pretentious liberals. American author and journalist, often referred to as 'The Man in the White Suit' and the 'great dandy', Wolfe's satirical novel The Bonfire of the Vanities captured what was quintessentially him. His obsession? The mood and culture of America. Through his journalism (he was an early practitioner of "new journalism") and his books (The Right Stuff, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test etc), he captured zeitgeist. "This is the artist, then, life's hungry man, the glutton of eternity, beauty's miser, glory's slave," he said.

Anam Tanoli

Died: 1 September, 2018

Aged: 26

A rising star in Pakistan's fashion firmament fell victim to the bane of online bullying. Anam Tanoli allegedly took her life - months after returning home to Lahore from Italy - after posting a selfie video on social media wearing a T-shirt with the words: "Back off bullies". The young model-cum-designer had been creating waves, and had quickly rustled up a legion of fans and admirers. She left behind a strong - and heart-breaking - message: "Bullying is bad. Don't do it, OK? It's just a coward's way out, and it's a pathetic way out, quite frankly." We hear you, Anam. 

Kate Spade

Died: 5 June, 2018

Aged: 55

"Playing dress up begins at age five and never truly ends," she said. Spade, whose untimely death left the world shocked, will be remembered for building a fashion empire comprising of her signature handbags. Hand it to her: a Kate Spade handbag is a must-have accessory - and will remain so.

Jamal Khashoggi

Died: 2 October, 2018

Aged: 59

The death of this noted Saudi journalist, who was living in the United States, was a popular columnist for The Washington Post, and was allegedly murdered by rogue elements in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, triggered a barrage of investigations. It brought the matter under the scanner of the international community and became a much-politicised issue. But what Khashoggi's death also reinforced was the power of media relations in an age when journalism is being viewed through the prism of tokenism.

Kofi Annan

Died: 18 August, 2018

Aged: 80

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former UN secretary-general worked  towards making the world a better place, and spearheaded efforts to end global conflicts. The foundation that Annan started aims to transform the agricultural landscape in Africa. "Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family," he'd say.

Stephen Hillenburg

Died: 26 November, 2018

Aged: 57

The creator of the Nickelodeon cartoon series SpongeBob SquarePants had said he wanted to make animation "because I like to draw and create things. I have no real interest to be on camera or to be a celebrity", and also that "wanted to do a show about a character that was an innocent, and so I focused on a sea sponge because it's a funny animal, a strange one". Hillenburg bravely fought ALS for more than a year before finally succumbing to it - but had maintained he'd keep working on the SpongeBob SquarePants show for as long as he can. The show will go on!

Margot Kidder

Died: 13 May, 2018

Aged: 69

"Thank you for being the Lois Lane so many of us grew up with," DC Comics tweeted when she passed away. As long as we believe in superheroes, we'll never forget Kidder - who'll always be identified as being Superman's love interest (in the 1970s and 1980s films which, till date, reign large in everyone's consciousness), while also being an accomplished actress. "My grandson sees me as Lois on TV every Christmas, and that scores me points," Kidder said, which is a thumping endorsement of her super powers!

Stephen Hawking

Died: 14 March, 2018

Aged: 76

The most brilliant mind of our times - who continued his pursuit to demystify the universe even as he grappled with ALS for more than 50 years - this theoretical physicist and cosmologist will be remembered as a prized scientific marvel. "Be curious," he had said.

Mankind will never stop being that.

Winnie Mandela

Died: 2 April, 2018

Aged: 81

In South Africa, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela was called 'Mother of the Nation'. Although she split up with Nelson Mandela, and later got mired in controversy, her involvement in the country's freedom movement was never in doubt. As a young activist, when she was imprisoned, her mettle was shaped. "The years of imprisonment hardened me... I no longer have the emotion of fear... There is no longer anything I can fear. There isn't any pain I haven't known." A member of the African National Congress (ANC) political party, she served on the ANC's National Executive Committee and headed its Women's League.

M Karunanidhi

Died: 7 August, 2018

Aged: 94

The political powerhouse whose popularity never seemed to wane, Karunanidhi was chief minister of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu five times. A long-standing advocate and leader of the local Dravidian movement and 10-time president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) political party, he lobbied for rights of state governments, state autonomy and federalism in India; he is the man who fought for and secured the right for chief ministers in India to hoist the national flag on Independence Day.

Hubert de Givenchy

Died: 10 March, 2018

Aged: 91

Couturier to the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Kennedy, Givenchy created a fashion brand that will live forever. He's famously known to have designed the little black dress - and what would the world be without the LBD? "It's the most beautiful job in the world to give happiness to people," he'd say. He did it remarkably!


Died: 20 April, 2018

Aged: 28

The young Swedish DJ and music producer changed the face of electronic dance music (EDM) - and got everyone on the dance floor; it was like he had kickstarted an entire movement. Born Tim Bergling, he preferred to be called Avicci; the notoriously shy Grammy-nominated superstar, whose nightly fees were estimated to be in the region of $250,000 or more, maintained "I love what I do, but I've never liked being recognised or being in the spotlight". According to The Guardian, "his songs have been streamed more than 11bn times on the music platform Spotify". 

Gamil Ratib

Died: September 19, 2018

Aged: 91

The Egyptian-French actor - best known for his role as Majid in David Lean's 1962 classic Lawrence of Arabia (that also saw the emergence of another Egyptian actor on the world stage: Omar Sharif) - had a career that spanned six and a half decades, and more than 100 films, both Arabic and French (for the latter, he was awarded the Legion of Honour). If one ever wants to be inspired by the term "crossover", and zest for life till into the 90s, look no further.

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