Passings of 2018

With the start of 2019, let us look back at some of the notable people who passed away last year.  When possible, I have linked to works in our catalog for the individuals. 

Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, two legends of comics, primarily known for their works for Marvel.  Lee was considered by many to be the face and voice of Marvel (“Excelsior!”). He created or helped create many classic super heroes—we would have no Marvel Cinematic Universe without him.  Ditko co-created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange with Lee, but also contributing to competing publishers Charlton and DC. 

The Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin was not only an amazing singer, she was an activist for civil, women’s, and Native American rights.  She had numerous hits throughout the years, and made appearances not only in shows and concerts, but sang patriotic songs for such varied venues as President Obama’s inauguration in 2009 and Wrestlemania III back in 1989.  I will bet that you will hear her voice in your head should you see a pink Cadillac roll by, too. 

A name unfamiliar to most Western audiences, Jin Yong was a prodigious writer in his native China, known for elevating martial arts fiction beyond simple genre conventions.  Also published under the name Louis Cha, interested readers can find some translated works through various online retailers or via Inter-Library Loan.  Chinese readers can find some of his novels at the West Windsor and Lawrence branches. 

Ursula K. Le Guin’s works have touched readers of all ages.  Most first encounter her when young though her Earthsea series, but for me it was the television production of The Lathe of Heaven, seen back in 1980 on PBS.  For a kid whose previous exposure to science fiction pretty much consisted of Star Trek/Star Wars/Star Blazers, the lucid dreamer affecting reality in The Lathe of Heaven was quite the memorable and engrossing concept! 

John Young participated in many events in the history of the American space program.  He was pilot of the first Gemini mission in 1965, commanded Gemini 10 the following year, flew around the Moon in Apollo 10, and landed on the Moon in Apollo 16 (and got to drive the Rover there, too!).  Young commanded the first Space Shuttle flight in 1981 and again in 1983, flying Columbia on both missions.  He remained at NASA until retiring in 2004. 

Indian superstar and producer Sridevi began acting at age four and was cast in hundreds of films before her untimely passing fifty years later.  Her roles and private self were practically polar opposites. At her passing, CNN-IBN correspondent Rajeev Masand tweeted “I have never known anyone who was so painfully shy, so quiet off screen, who just transformed into a force of nature when the cameras came on. She was an interviewer’s nightmare, but the movie-buff’s dream.” 

Since your author is a metalhead, we end with “Fast” Eddie Clarke, longtime guitarist of the band Motörhead.  He was part of the classic trio from 1977 to 1982, then left and continued performing both solo and with his group Fastway, formed with Pete Way of UFO.  Clarke was the last surviving member of the classic lineup, drummer Phil “Philthy Animal” Taylor having died in 2015 and band leader Lemmy later that same year.  Like Sridevi was an inspiration for Indian actresses, Clarke and Motörhead were for countless musicians. 

- Dennis B., West Windsor Branch