Farewells of 2016

One fairly consistent news trend for 2016 was the astonishing run of celebrity deaths, a trend that did not let up in the final week of the year with the passing of pop musician George Michael and screen icons Carrie Fisher and her mother, Debbie Reynolds. The trio join the likes of David Bowie, Harper Lee and Gene Wilder on a list of 118 farewells from 2016 (as of December 30th) that CNN had posted on their website. While they may be gone, their work lives on and can be found in the collection of the Mercer County Library System.
George Michael died on Christmas day, which almost seems fitting considering one of his best-known hits is the holiday song “Last Christmas,” which he recorded with Andrew Ridgeley as a member of the pop duo Wham! The song has become a modern classic and can often be heard on TV, in commercials, on most shopping mall holiday playlists and on compilation albums such as Now That’s What I Call Merry Christmas! Like most of Wham!’s hits, Michael’s earlier solo work features tunes with fast beats and fun lyrics that are catchy enough to find yourself singing or dancing along (they are also good to walk or run to if you need to kick up your workout). Perhaps the solo work he is best known for is Faith, which won a Grammy in 1989 for Album of the Year. Michael spent the latter part of his career on retrospective albums and tours, but also worked on some unique sounds, such as 2014’s tour and live album, Symphonica, which featured a full backing symphony to his pop music.

Star Wars
While Carrie Fisher, who passed away on December 27th, may be most recognized for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movie series, her career was varied and included work on screen, stage and in literature.

Film was Fisher’s main artistic avenue, where she was of course Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy and revived the role in 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The actress also starred in Hannah and Her Sisters and When Harry Met Sally… while she took on smaller roles and guest spots in almost three dozen films ranging from the dramatic Wonderland to the comedic Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.

 Wishful Drinking
On television, Fisher was a guest star on shows such as 30 Rock, Frasier, and Sex and the City.  On Family Guy, Fisher was the voice of Angela, one of Pete Griffin’s co-workers at the brewery. Her biggest role on the small screen, however, was as herself in the HBO special Wishful Drinking. Drinking is a recording of Fisher’s one-woman stage show that was later made into a book recounting her life as the child of famous Hollywood parents and later as a celebrity herself.
The Princess Diarist

In addition to acting, Fisher was a writer who detailed her celebrity and life experience in a series of semi-autobiographical novels and autobiographies. The first novel by Fisher, 1987’s Postcards From the Edge, follows a fictional famous actress trying to get back on her feet after a drug overdose. That novel was later made into a film starring Meryl Streep with a screenplay written by Fisher. Fisher’s latest book was released in November, the memoir The Princess Diarist, which is based on diaries the actress kept while working on the original Star Wars film, A New Hope.

Debbie Reynolds passed away a day after her daughter, Fisher.  Known mostly for her performances in musicals on film and stage, Reynolds was very much like Fisher in that she enjoyed acting so much that she appeared in dozens of roles, some minor or as guest stars, during her lifelong career.  Some of those roles include appearing as Grace’s mom on Will and Grace, voicing the Granny Squirrel in Penguins of Madagascar, as Granny Mazur in the film version of Janet Evanovich’s Two for the Dough, and as Liberace’s mother in Behind the Candelabra.

Reynolds was also a singer, so it was no surprise she took on mostly song and dance roles in her early career, including her breakthrough role starring with Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain.  Reynolds also appeared as the title characters in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar, and The Singing Nun.  Other notable films starring Reynolds include How the West Was Won, The Affairs of Dobie Gillis and Tammy and the Bachelor.  The latter film included the song “Tammy ” which earned Reynolds a number one hit on the Billboard charts in 1957.  On stage, Reynolds made her Broadway debut in 1973 in Irene, a play which also featured Fisher.  She also appeared in Annie Get Your Gun and reprised her role in The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Reynolds also wrote three memoirs during her lifetime - Debbie - My Life, Unsinkable: A Memoir, and Make 'Em Laugh: Short-term Memories of Longtime Friends.

Finally, you can catch Fisher and Reynolds in an HBO special airing next week, Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.  The documentary will likely be released on DVD later this year, so check our catalog if you miss it.

—Laura N.


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