UPDATE: Carrie Fisher died less than twenty-four hours after this list was posted. Clearly, I am responsible for that. Sorry, I’m trying to remove it.
UPDATE #2: Well, 2016, you finally did it. You claimed the top spot. I didn’t think you could do it in five days, but boy was I wrong. Cheers, you sick fuck.
This is a definitive ranking of the last 16 years, based on the celebrities who dieded that year. The bulk of people listed for each year are actors, musicians, athletes, film directors, and writers, as they are our most important humans. Care has been taken to only list scientists, politicians, and religious figures if absolutely necessary. The most important important person to die that year is listed last.
- 2016 - David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Prince, Glen Frey, George Kennedy, Nancy Reagan, Boutros-Boutros Ghali, Johan Cryuff, Patty Duke, Amber Rayne, Merle Haggard, Harambe, Doris Roberts, Chyna, Muhammad Ali, Kimbo Slice, Kenny Baker, Mr. Fuji, Gene Wilder, Arnold Palmer, Dario Fo, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Fidel Castro, Florence Henderson, John Glenn, Alan Thicke, ZsaZsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, Antonin Scalia, a man whose beliefs you may not have agreed with, but whose measured tone and thoughtful scholarship as a jurist you certainly had to respect.
- 2008 - Edmund Hillary, Brad Renfro, Paul Newman, Bobby Fischer, Suharto, Suzanne Pleshette, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Charlton Heston, Roy Scheider, William F Buckley, Jr., Jeff Healy, Arthur C Clarke, Dith Pran, Tim Russert, Stan Winston, Gary Gygax, Albert Hoffman, Sydney Pollack, Yves St. Laurent, Bo Diddley, Irena Sendler, George Carlin, Cyd Charisse, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Bernie Mac, Isaac Hayes, David Foster Wallace, Momofuku Ando, Studs Terkel, Miriam Makeba, Bettie Page, Harold Pinter, W. Mark Felt, Eartha Kitt, Michael Crichton, Heath Ledger. His performance in Dark Batman is the greatest in the history of cinema. Period.
- 2014 - Amiri Baraka, Ariel Sharon, Pete Seeger, Shirley Temple, Phillip Seymour-Hoffman, Sid Caesar, Harold Ramis, Frankie Knuckles, Mickey Rooney, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, The Ultimate Warrior, H.R. Giger, Ruby Dee, Casey Kasem, Eli Wallach, Robin Williams, Lauren Bacall, Richard Attenborough, Joan Rivers, Kevin Ward, Richard Kiel, Ralph Baer, PD James, Joe Cocker, Edward Hermann, Bob Hoskins. His fearless performance in Who Framed Roger Rabbit allowed a generation of kids to grow up feeling that it was finally okay to be horny as hell for cartoons.
- 2009 - Patrick McGoohan, Ricardo Montalban, John Updike, Andrew Wyeth, Ingmar Johanssen, Bea Arthur, Dom Deluise, David Carradine, Koko Taylor, Farah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Walter Kronkite, Robert McNamara, Les Paul, Ted Kennedy, John Hughes, Patrick Swayze, Brittany Murphy, Ron Silver. He was a baaad guy in Timecop.
- 2003 - Nell Carter, The Space Shuttle Astronauts, Michael Jeter, Nina Simone, Curt Hennig, Robert Stack, June Carter Cash, Gregory Peck, Katharine Hepburn, Strom Thurmond, Uday and Qusay, Bob Hope, Barry White, Idi Amin, Charles Bronson, Warren Zevon, Johnny Cash, John Ritter, Franco Modigliani, Althea GIbson, Elia Kazan, Robert Kardashian, Rod Roddy, Elliot Smith, Art Carney, Warren Spahn, Jonathan Brandis, Alan Bates, Leni Riefenstahl. She was one of the three most technically influential filmmakers of all-time. There’s nothing else in her biography I can think of worth mentioning. Nope. Nothing.
- 2015 - Leonard Nimoy, Michael Graves, BB King, Tariq Aziz, Ornette Coleman, Omar Sharif, Dick Van Patten, EL Doctorow, Roddy Piper, Wan Li, Yogi Berra, Alan Toussaint, Franzl Lang, Ahmed Chalabi, Melissa Mathison, Jihadi John, Scott Weiland, Lemmy, Natalie Cole, Anthony Mason. If you get name-checked in a Beastie Boys song, you’re not losing this competition.
- 2005 - Shirley Chisholm, Johnny Carson, Max Schmelling, Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Hans Bethe, Pope John Paul II, Saul Bellow, Luther Vandross, William Westmoreland, King Fahd, James Doohan, William Rehnquist, Peter Jennings, Rosa Parks, Pat Morita, Richard Pryor, George Best, Terri Schiavo. While there was some controversy surrounding her at the end, I choose to remember her vivacity and lust for living in her later years.
- 2012 - Etta James, Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, Ben Gazzarra, Adrienne Rich, Earl Scruggs, Dick Clark, Mike Wallace, Donna Summer, Ray Bradbury, Nora Ephron, Andy Griffith, Rodney King, Carlos Fuentes, Sally Ride, Gore Vidal, Celeste Holm, Marvin Hamlisch, Phyllis Diller, Neil Armstrong, Sun-Myung Moon, Michael Clarke Duncan, Hal David, Dave Brubeck, Ravi Shankar, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jack Klugman, Vidal Sassoon. Thank You, Vidal!
- 2011 - Gerry Rafferty, Sargent Shriver, Pete Postelthwaite, Elizabeth Taylor, Geraldine Ferraro, Sidney Lumet, Osama Bin-Laden, Randy Savage, Gil Scot-Heron, Jack Kevorkian, Peter Falk, Betty Ford, Bubba Smith, Anne McCaffrey, Steve Jobs, Muammar Gaddafi, Joe Friazier, Kim Jong-Il, Christopher Hitchens, Vaclav Havel, Nate Dogg. “Smock weed, everyday,” indeed, you golden-voiced angel.
- 2002 - Princess Margaret, Chuck Jones, Billy Wilder, Milton Berle, Dudley Moore, Thor Heyerdahl, Lisa Left Eye Lopes, Sam Snead, Stephen Jay Gould, John Gotti, Dee Dee Ramone, Rosemary Clooney, Ted Williams, John Frankenheimer, Alan Lomax, Bob Hayes, Chaim Potok, Jam Master Jay, Richard Harris, James Coburn, Joe Strummer, Linda Lovelace. Two-words, Piss Orgy. You thought I was gonna say, Deep Throat, didn’t you? Yeah, well, I’m not a kink-shamer, you troglodyte.
- 2007 - Alice Coltrane, BamBam Bigelow, Gian Carlo Menotti, Sidney Sheldon, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Kurt Vonnegut, Boris Yeltsin, Wally Schirra, Tom Poston, Jerry Falwell, Charles Nelson Reilly, Beverly Sills, Lady Bird Johnson, Ingmar Bergman, Laszlo Kovacs, Merv Griffin, Max Roach, Madeliene L’Engle, Lucianno Pavarotti, Marcel marceau, Robert Goulet, Evel Kneivel, Paul Tibbets, Deborah Kerr, Henry Hyde, Pimp C, Benazir Bhutto, Anna Nicole Smith. If there is a day that goes by where you don’t think about Anna, give me your name, because I’m reporting you to the cyber police. You done goofed.
- 2006 - Shelly Winters, Chris Penn, Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett, Coretta Scott-King, Betty Friedan, J Dilla, Don Knotts, Kirby Puckett, Slobodan Milosevic, Maureen Stapleton, John Kenneth Galbraith, Desmond Dekker, Katherine Dunham, Floyd Patterson, Billy Preston, Red Buttons, Jack Warden, Bruno Kirby, Glenn Ford, Jack Palance, Saddam Hussein, James Brown, Gerald R. Ford, Augusto Pinochet, Milton Friedman, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Steve Irwin. The population of human-crocodile genetic hybrids born in the wild has decreased precipitously in the decade since Steve’s death. (Note to Irwin Estate: In no way does this imply that Steve was amorous with crocodiles, you litigious scumbags.)
- 2001 - Dale Earnhardt, Robert Ludlum, Joey Ramone, Douglas Adams, Anthony Quinn, Jack Lemmon, John Lee Hooker, Carol O’Connor, Chet Atkins, Imogen Coca, Herbert A. Simon, Pauline Kael, George Harrison, Ken Kesey, Aaliyah. All killer no filler in 2001, except for the extra two-thousand pounds of production equipment they stuck on Aaliyah’s plane. That was filler.
- 2004 - Uta Hagen, Daniel J Boorstein, Pat Tillman, Estee Lauder, Ronald Reagan, Marlon Brando, Paul Winfield, Francis Crick, Rick James, Fay Wray, Julia Child, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, Rodney Dangerfield, Janet Leigh, Johnny Ramone, Christopher Reeve, Russ Meyer, Czeslaw Milosz, Peter Usitinov, Tony Randall, Yassir Arafat, Reggie White, Susan Sontag, Jerry Orbach, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Stieg Larsson, Dimebag Darrell. Basically the white Ol’ Dirty Bastard or something. I don’t know.
- 2013 - Sergiu Nicolaescui, Ed Koch, Patti Page, Chinua Achebe, Roger Ebert, Maria Tallchief, Margaret Thatcher, Jack Vance, Richie Havens, Jean Stapleton, Bobby Bland, George Duke, Ken Norton, Seamus Heaney, David Frost, Julie Harris, Tom Clancy, Lou Reed, Doris Lessing, Paul Walker, Peter O’Toole, Nelson Mandela, James Gandolfini. Madon gabagool oobatz goomah, rigot pie.
- 2010 - Teddy Pendergrass, JD Salinger, Howard Zinn, Jean Simmons, Alexander Haig, Robert Culp, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Guru, Lena Horne, Dennis Hopper, John Forsythe, Malcolm McClaren, Manute Bol, Harvey Pekar, Patricia Neal, Tony Curtis, Stephen J Cannell, Jill Clayburgh, Leslie Nielson, Blake Edwards, Gary Coleman. That thing Willis was talkin’ bout? Love. It was always love.