Tina Turner, 83, a powerhouse singer capable of squeezing every possible emotion out of songs such as “Proud Mary,” “River Deep, Mountain High” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” died Wednesday at her home in Küsnacht, near Zurich, Switzerland. Turner’s death was announced in a statement from her manager, Bernard Doherty, who said she died following a long illness.
The Grammy-winning vocalist overcame an abusive marriage and decades of adversity before being fully embraced as a rock ’n’ roll original who exuded a raw sensuality with her commanding yet soulful voice, million-dollar legs and iconic hair.
For Oprah Winfrey, bearing witness to one of Tina Turner’s frenetic, high-octane performances was nothing short of a spiritual experience. “Each electrifying swing of her miniskirt, every slide of her 3-inch Manolos across the stage, sends a message: I am here. I have triumphed. I will not be broken,” Winfrey said.
Bill Lee, 94, a jazz bassist and composer who accompanied such artists as Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and Harry Belafonte and scored four of his son Spike Lee’s early films, including the hit “Do the Right Thing” and two songs for “Jungle Fever,” died Wednesday at his home in Brooklyn, said Theo Dumont, a publicist for Spike Lee.
He recorded extensively on Strata-East Records, a musician-owned label, and founded and directed the New York Bass Violin Choir, a troupe of seven basses, sometimes accompanied by piano or saxophone. In a review of the group’s performance in 1971, John S. Wilson of The New York Times wrote: “Mr. Lee served as bassist, singer and narrator of his sketches of small-town life in Snow Hill, Ala., building both his stories and his music from a rich vein of folk sources. His team of bassists, bending over their unwieldy instruments, produced ensemble passages that were by turns gorgeously warm and singing or so surprisingly light and airy that one suspected a couple of flutes might be hiding among them.”
Don Bateman, 91, a legendary and inspirational figure in aviation, who created critical safety systems saving thousands of lives, died May 21, surrounded by his family in his Bellevue home, from complications of Parkinson’s disease.
As late as the 1970s, the most common type of fatal aviation accident happened when a pilot in full control of the aircraft, but flying in poor visibility conditions or at night, lost awareness of the plane’s position and unwittingly either landed short of the runway or flew straight into a mountain. Such accidents on commercial jets are very rare now, thanks to Bateman’s work.
Bateman’s original invention in the early 1970s was an electronic box that delivered to flight crews a “ground-proximity warning system.” It would warn pilots with an audible command to “Pull up! Pull up!” if they approached obstacles or terrain. In the 1990s, the system was made more accurate through the addition of GPS aircraft positioning data and detailed, globe-spanning terrain data that was constantly updated. In 2001, the Federal Aviation Administration made it mandatory for all new planes carrying more than six passengers.
Ray Stevenson, 58, the Irish actor who played the villainous British governor in “RRR,” an Asgardian warrior in the “Thor” films, and a member of the 13th Legion in HBO’s “Rome,” died May 21 on the Italian island of Ischia, where he had been filming a movie, according to the Italian newspaper la Repubblica. No further information was available. A looming presence at 6-foot-4, Stevenson, who played his share of soldiers past and present, once said in an interview, “I guess I’m an old warrior at heart.”
Stevenson, who also did voice work in “Star Wars Rebels” and “The Clone Wars,” as Gar Saxon, will be seen in the upcoming “Star Wars” live-action series “Ahsoka,” in which he plays a bad guy, Baylan Skoll. The eight-episode season is expected on Disney+ in August.
C. Boyden Gray, 80, the former White House counsel and ambassador, who personified the conservative legal establishment as a lawyer involved in legal strategy, judicial appointments, policy, diplomacy or fundraising for every Republican president since Ronald Reagan, died May 21 at his home in the Georgetown section of Washington, D.C.
Gary Snyder, 57, Seattle restaurateur and Geraldine’s Counter co-owner, died at home from lymphoma May 19.
He was a vibrant presence at Geraldine’s Counter, a bustling spot he opened with longtime business partner Stacey Hettinger in 2005 that quickly became a community hub in Columbia City. There could be a line out the door, but he would be oblivious, chatting with customers. He was as adored as the biscuits and gravy and French toast that graced many a table.
Geraldine’s — named for Gary’s mom — is a space filled with color, from the brightly painted walls to the vibrant Fiestaware plates. Hettinger recalls it being important to them to open in Columbia City because of the diversity of the neighborhood. “We really wanted to be a part of a community with a diversity of young and old families, mixed races and languages. That was something we really jived with, and it’s been fascinating to watch [the neighborhood] grow,” Hettinger says.
Martin Amis, 73, a British novelist who brought a rock ’n’ roll sensibility to his stories and lifestyle, died May 19 at his home in Florida, from cancer of the esophagus. Among his best-known works were “Money,” a satire about consumerism in London, “The Information,” “London Fields” and his 2000 memoir, “Experience.” In his later work, he investigated Josef Stalin’s atrocities, the war on terror and the legacy of the Holocaust. A keen observer, Amis once described “all writers [as] Martians,” in a Paris Review interview. “They come and say, ‘You haven’t been seeing this place right.’ ”
Andy Rourke, 59, the bass player who provided the drive behind the darkly poetic musings of the Smiths, one of the most influential bands of the 1980s, died May 19 of pancreatic cancer in New York. Rourke’s playing, influenced by Paul McCartney and John Entwistle of the Who, was always “habitually unsung,” David Cavanagh, an Irish journalist, wrote in 1993, but it was also “incontrovertibly top drawer.”
Robert Marion Berry, 80, the former Democratic congressman from Arkansas who served seven terms and was known for his blunt rhetoric and advocacy for farmers and older residents, died May 19, his family confirmed in a statement. A cause of death was not provided.
The Rev. Timothy J. Keller, 72, bestselling author and theorist of Christianity who performed a modern miracle of his own — establishing a theologically orthodox church in Manhattan that attracted thousands of young professional followers — died May 19 at his home in Manhattan of pancreatic cancer. Keller, whose only previous experience in the pulpit had been at a blue-collar congregation in a rural Virginia parish, built five thriving churches in Manhattan over the past 20-plus years.
Gloria Molina, 74, a groundbreaking Chicana politician at the city, county and state levels in California who was a fierce advocate for the communities she represented, even though that often meant defying entrenched political structures, died on May 14 at her home in the Mount Washington neighborhood of Los Angeles. The cause was cancer.
Jonathan Sugarman, 69, a retired Seattle doctor and experienced mountaineer, died May 1 at Camp 2 on Mount Everest while attempting to reach the world’s highest summit. “His loss left a massive impact,” his daughter Maya Sugarman said, noting he died of altitude-related sickness.
With a medical career spanning over four decades, Jonathan Sugarman was dedicated to improving health care systems to ensure they followed a “patient first” approach, his daughter said. He was also instrumental in founding the Seattle Indian Health Board’s residency program roughly 30 years ago.
His passion for high places was rekindled in 2010 when he took a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro with his daughter, former college roommate and the roommate’s son. He joined The Mountaineers that same year, and went on to climb Mount Rainier 13 times. After climbing to Africa’s highest point on Kilimanjaro, he reached two of the other so-called Seven Summits: North America’s Denali and South America’s Aconcagua. Everest was his latest goal.