Remembering the celebrities we said goodbye to in 2020

Sir Sean Connery, Dame Barbara Windsor, Bill Withers, Chadwick Boseman and Caroline Flack were among the stars who died in 2020.

A year like no other began with the shock death of basketball star and Oscar-winner Kobe Bryant before a pandemic upended life as we knew it.

Here are some of the high-profile figures who we said goodbye to over the last 12 months:


Neil Peart

Peart, the drummer from Canadian prog-rock trio Rush, died aged 67 following a battle with brain cancer.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl led the tributes and Peart was lauded as one of the greatest drummers in rock ‘n’ roll history.

Kobe Bryant

The former basketball superstar, 41, was killed alongside his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others after their helicopter crashed in Calabasas, Southern California.

The five-time NBA champion was a fierce competitor and renowned for his desire to win, which lasted his entire 20-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers.

It all began at the age of just 18, when he became the youngest player to ever play in the NBA at the time and was soon considered by some as a potential successor to the great Michael Jordan.

Oscar-winner Bryant’s death sent shockwaves around the world and Barack Obama was among those who paid tribute.

Kobe Bryant died alongside daughter Gianna. Credit: AP

Nicholas Parsons

Parsons, a broadcaster known for hosting Radio 4’s Just A Minute, died aged 96 following a short illness.

Parsons enjoyed a long career in entertainment, remaining active until his 90s.

He presented the BBC's Just a Minute at its inception in 1967; the show, which is still broadcast, involves contestants speaking for 60 seconds without repeating themselves or hesitating.

Nicholas Parsons was awarded a CBE in 2014, which was presented by the Queen. Credit: PA

He also appeared at the helm of several other hits series, including ITV's Sale Of The Century, which was produced by Anglia Television.

Stephen Fry described Parsons as a "great institution" while Graham Norton said he was "truly the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever worked with".

Terry Jones

Monty Python star Jones, who had dementia, died at the age of 77.

The actor and comedian directed some of the comedy troupe’s best-loved works and his former colleagues were among those to pay tribute.

Mr Jones became a household name with Monty Python. Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/PA Images


Kirk Douglas

One of the last stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age died at the age of 103, bringing the curtain down on one of the industry’s great careers.

The patriarch of an acting dynasty and star of films Spartacus, Ace In The Hole and Champion, Douglas’ son Michael said he leaves a cinematic legacy that "will endure for generations to come".

Pop Smoke

The US rapper, 20, was shot and killed in Los Angeles in an alleged home invasion.

Tributes from across the music industry flooded in and his posthumous album, Shoot For The Stars, Aim For The Moon, topped charts around the world, including in the UK.

Caroline Flack

The Love Island host, 40, took her own life at her home in Stoke Newington, north-east London.

An inquest into her death heard she was concerned about a forthcoming trial for assaulting her boyfriend, former tennis player and model Lewis Burton.

Caroline Flack was a presenter on Love Island Credit: Ian West/PA

ITV's This Morning presenter Phillip Schofield paid tribute to Flack with a post on social media.

He added text above a message that Flack had posted on social media, which read: "In a world where you can be anything, be kind".

Schofield wrote: "You poor darling girl my heart is breaking #BeKind".


Kenny Rogers

The venerated country music star, known for his husky singing voice and hits such as Coward Of The County and The Gambler, died aged 81 from natural causes.

His collaborator and long-time friend Dolly Parton paid an emotional tribute and said: "I loved Kenny with all my heart. And my heart’s broken. A big old chunk of it has gone with him today."

Bill Withers

The soul singer, whose hits included Lean On Me, Lovely Day and Ain’t No Sunshine, died from heart complications aged 81.

Beach Boys star Brian Wilson remembered him as a "songwriter’s songwriter".

Bill Withers speaks at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2015. Credit: AP

Withers was awarded Grammys as a songwriter for “Ain’t No Sunshine” in 1971 and for “Just The Two Of Us” in 1981.

In 1987, Bill received his ninth Grammy nomination and third Grammy as a songwriter for the re-recording of the 1972 hit Lean On Me.

Chic's Nile Rodgers described him as "class, class and more class".


Honor Blackman

Perhaps the most famous Bond girl ever, Blackman played the provocatively named Pussy Galore alongside Sir Sean in Goldfinger.

Sean Connery and Honor Blackman on the Goldfinger set in 1964 Credit: PA

After her death at 94, Blackman, also known for TV roles in The Avengers and The Upper Hand, was hailed a "film icon".

Blackman was also well known for playing Cathy Gale in The Avengers and the vengeful goddess Hera in the Ray Harryhausen and Charles H. Schneer production of Jason And The Argonauts, as well as as Laura West on the TV series The Upper Hand.

Tim Brooke-Taylor

The Goodies star Brooke-Taylor died aged 79 after contracting coronavirus.

Tributes flooded in from across the entertainment world and Bill Oddie, his former comedy partner, described him as a “true visual comic and a great friend”.

Eddie Large

The comedian, who delighted audiences for decades as part of his Little And Large partnership with Syd Little, died at the age of 78 after contracting coronavirus while being treated for heart failure in hospital.

Little said he was “devastated”.


Little Richard

Rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Little Richard, who blazed a trail in popular music that paved the way for the Beatles, David Bowie and many more, died aged 87 after being diagnosed with bone cancer.

American rock 'n' roll star Little Richard performing on stage during the Legends of Rock 'n' Roll one-off concert in 2000. Credit: PA

Tributes flooded in following his death and Sir Paul McCartney said: "I owe a lot of what I do to Little Richard and his style; and he knew it."

Michael Angelis

Angelis, best known as the long-term narrator of Thomas The Tank Engine series Thomas And Friends, died at the age of 76.

Among those paying tribute was comedian Matt Lucas, who described Angelis as “one of the greatest TV actors I’ve ever seen”.


Joel Schumacher

Hollywood director Schumacher, whose films included classics St Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys, as well as the much-derided Batman & Robin, died at the age of 80 after a year-long battle with cancer.

Among those paying tribute was Corey Feldman, who told how Schumacher tried to stop him doing drugs on the set of The Lost Boys.

Sir Ian Holm

Sir Ian, whose distinguished career on stage and screen included films Chariots Of Fire and The Lord Of The Rings, died at the age of 88.

The actress Samantha Morton, Sir Ian’s daughter-in-law, described him as “inspiring, funny, generous”.

Dame Vera Lynn

The adored singer, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died aged 103 on June 18.

Dame Vera Lynn, with a cardboard cutout of her younger self, pictured in the year 2000.. Credit: PA

Dame Vera, born in East Ham, east London, rose to popularity while performing for troops during the war in countries including Egypt, India and Burma.

Her best-known songs include The White Cliffs Of Dover and There’ll Always Be An England - and, of course, We'll Meet Again.

Dame Vera had her own television show and toured the world - she remained an outspoken supporter of military veterans throughout her life.

In the final months of her life, Dame Vera witnessed We’ll Meet Again, the track she is best known for, become a rallying cry to help the country through lockdown.


Sir Alan Parker

Hollywood mourned British filmmaker Sir Alan following his death at the age of 76 and praised his varied output, which included Bugsy Malone, Fame, Midnight Express and Mississippi Burning.

Antonio Banderas starred in Evita and described Sir Alan as a “great director”.

Dame Olivia de Havilland

Another star of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Dame Olivia died in Paris at the age of 104.

Dame Olivia de Havilland received two best actress Oscars Credit: PA

As well as winning two best actress Oscars, the Gone With The Wind star played a pivotal role in breaking the studio system after winning a legal battle to end her contract with Warner Bros in 1944.

Peter Green

Green, who co-founded Fleetwood Mac in London in 1967, died at the age of 73.

He left the influential group following struggles with his mental health. Mick Fleetwood and Stevie Nicks led the tributes.

Naya Rivera

The former Glee actress, 33, drowned at a Southern California lake while on a boating trip with her four-year-old son.

Naya Rivera (pictured) rose to stardom for her role in the musical Glee. Credit: AP

Rivera played cheerleader Santana Lopez on the musical drama and following her death she was praised for the portrayal of an LGBT character.

Ennio Morricone

Italian composer Morricone, who created The Good, The Bad And The Ugly’s main theme over a varied career, died aged 91.

Fellow composer Hans Zimmer paid tribute and said: "Ennio was an icon and icons just don’t go away, icons are forever."


Chadwick Boseman

Boseman was best-known for his portrayal of Marvel superhero Black Panther, a blockbuster hailed as a landmark moment for representation in Hollywood.

Chadwick Boseman died aged 43 Credit: PA Images

He died at the age of 43 following a private four-year-battle with colon cancer and Barack Obama was among those to pay tribute, describing him as “blessed”.


Helen Reddy

Reddy, best known for the feminist anthem I Am Woman, died aged 78.

The Australia-born singer enjoyed a prolific career and earlier this year her life was the subject of a biopic.

Dame Diana Rigg

Veteran actress Dame Diana, known for her roles in The Avengers, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Game Of Thrones, died at the age of 82.

With Diana Rigg in 1975 Credit: BBC History/PA

She had been diagnosed with cancer earlier in the year and died peacefully at home, her daughter said.


Margaret Nolan

Bond girl Nolan was the gold-painted model in the Goldfinger title sequence, the movie in which she also played 007’s masseuse Dink.

She died aged 76.

Eddie Van Halen

Van Halen was lauded as one of the greatest rock music guitarists ever after he died at 65 following a battle with cancer.

His son Wolfgang announced the death and said “my heart is broken and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover from this loss”.

Frank Bough

Former TV presenter Bough, one of the best-known hosts of the 1970s and 1980s, died at the age of 87.

Gary Lineker was among those to pay tribute, describing Bough as "a brilliant presenter who made it all look so easy".

Bobby Ball

The comedian, known for his double act with Tommy Cannon, died at the age of 76 after testing positive for Covid-19.

Cannon said: "Rock on, my good friend, I can’t believe this, I’m devastated."

Sir Sean Connery

Sir Sean, who died peacefully in his sleep aged 90, was seen in the eyes of many as the ultimate James Bond.

Sir Sean was the first to play the role of 007 on the silver screen in Dr No in 1962.

He went on to appear as Bond in five other official films and once more in the unofficial Never Say Never Again in 1983.

An undated British Film Institute handout of Scottish actor Sean Connery in a 1962. Credit: PA

Connery, from Fountainbridge in Edinburgh, also appeared as historical figures King Arthur, Robin Hood and Richard the Lionheart during his illustrious career.

He picked up an array of awards during his illustrious career, including an Oscar, two Bafta awards and three Golden Globes.

Among the world leaders and celebrities to pay tribute, Pierce Brosnan, one of Sir Sean’s 007 successors, said he "cast a long shadow of cinematic splendour that will live on forever".


Geoffrey Palmer

Palmer, perhaps best known for his role as Lionel Hardcastle in As Time Goes By, died aged 93.

Among those to pay tribute was his As Time Goes By co-star Dame Judi Dench, who described Palmer as a “master of comedy”.

Des O’Connor

O’Connor, an all-round entertainer whose career and popularity spanned decades, died at the age of 88, days after he suffered a fall at home.

Des O’Connor worked with Melanie Sykes on an afternoon ITV show Credit: ITV/PA

In recognition for his career in entertainment, in 2008 he was awarded a CBE from the Queen.

Melanie Sykes, who fronted Today With Des And Mel alongside O’Connor, paid tribute to him, saying it was an "education and a privilege to work with him".

Countdown panelist Susie Dent paid tribute to "true gent" O'Connor, having worked with him when he presented the show for two years.

She said: "We have lost a true gent, one who was never more than a note away from a song or a laugh, and who never failed to say ‘piddle, bum, and stocking tops’ if any of us fluffed a line."

Comedian Paul Chuckle tweeted: “RIP the brilliant Des O’Connor. From Butlins Redcoat to one of the best comedians AND singers in the business, and such a lovely guy. Sleep peacefully my friend."


Dame Barbara Windsor

Dame Barbara, who found fame in the 1960s starring in the Carry On films before becoming a national treasure playing Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, died at 83, six years after being diagnosed with dementia.

Barbara Windsor after being made a Dame by the Queen

One of Britain’s most beloved entertainment stars, she first found fame in her role as a buxom blonde in the Carry On films and later became a household name playing Peggy Mitchell, the Queen Vic’s battle-axe landlady in BBC soap EastEnders.

Dame Barbara made her debut as Peggy in 1994 and soon became one of the small screen’s best-loved characters as she yelled at rogue drinkers to "get outta my pub!".

Tributes flooded in and Ross Kemp, who played her on-screen son Grant, described her as "the woman who always had time for everybody", adding: "I will miss Bar always."

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