These individuals and others pushed the boundaries of their expertise, the public’s expectations — and our own culture.
For the genuine contributions they made, we can forever be grateful. Here’s a nod to some whose work will live on long after their time on this earth — many of whom LifeZette profiled previously.
Born Cassius Clay, the gifted and controversial boxer joined the Nation of Islam in 1964, eventually earning nearly as many victories in court as he did in the ring: He fought against the draft during the war in Vietnam and against having his title and boxing license revoked.
Ali retired from boxing in 1981 with a record 56 wins, five losses, and 37 knockouts. He died at age 74 on June 3 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease caused by head injuries during his career.
With a career spanning 40 years, Prince sold more than 100 albums and left behind a vast collection of unreleased material. He was 57.
The actress best known for the iconic character Princess Leia in the famed “Star Wars” franchise died Tuesday, Dec. 27, after suffering cardiac arrest aboard a flight from London to Los Angeles last week. She was 60.
Simon Halls, a family spokesperson, shared a statement with People Magazine on behalf of Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd: “It is with a very deep sadness that Billie Lourd confirms that her beloved mother Carrie Fisher passed away at 8:55 this morning,” reads the statement. “She was loved by the world and she will be missed profoundly. Our entire family thanks you for your thoughts and prayers.”
Fisher made her film debut in “Shampoo,” with Warren Beatty. The daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, she grew up in the world of film, theater, and television. Her battles with addiction and bipolar depression were well-known through her own writings, including her book, “Postcards from the Edge.”
The flamboyant co-founder of the pop duo Wham! died peacefully at home in Oxfordshire on Christmas Day at age 53. No cause of death has yet been released; police classified his death as “unexplained but not suspicious.” Michael’s personal life often eclipsed his singing career; rumors about his sexuality swirled in the ’80s and ’90s, culminating with his arrest for a lewd act in a public bathroom and subsequent announcement that he was gay.
The well-liked star of “The Godfather,” “Barney Miller,” and “Fish” fought rumors of his demise for more than 30 years, after People Magazine accidentally referred to his death in 1982. He took the gaffe in good humor — even posing in a casket with a copy of the magazine. In 2001, abevigoda.com was launched with the sole purpose of reassuring his fans he was still alive; sadly, it was updated for the last time when Vigoda passed away from natural causes on Jan. 26. He was 94.
Prince Rogers Nelson’s legions of fans were shocked at his untimely death on April 21, 2016, after an overdose of fentanyl, a powerful narcotic. The pop superstar had struggled secretly for years with an opioid addiction stemming from chronic hip pain, despite his public persona as a sober musician who abstained from drugs and alcohol.
Prince died at home in Minneapolis — even as a prominent California physician specializing in addiction was racing to meet him for treatment. With a career spanning 40 years, Prince sold more than 100 albums and left behind a vast collection of unreleased material. He was 57.
The last surviving of the original “Mercury Seven,” Glenn hailed from the dawn of the Space Age, becoming the first American to orbit the Earth and the fifth person to travel into outer space in 1962. Glenn was a heavily decorated fighter pilot in both World War II and Korea, earning six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 18 clusters to the Air Medal, and later NASA’s Distinguished Service Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. After leaving NASA, Glenn was a U.S. senator for 24 years.
He became the oldest person to travel to space, serving on the Space Shuttle Discovery in 1999. Glenn died Dec. 8 at age 95.
The legendary session musician passed away Nov. 13 at age 74 while recovering from heart surgery — leaving a legacy of more than 430 songs recorded during his 60-year career. His career had been revived in 2010 after recording a tribute album with Elton John, a former protégé.
Palmer was generally regarded as one of the greatest players in golf history. Starting in 1955, he won 62 PGA Tour titles from 1955 to 1973, placing behind only Sam Snead and Ben Hogan and still fifth on the tour’s all-time victory list. He collected seven major titles in a six-plus-year domination, from the 1958 Masters to the 1964 Masters. Palmer also won the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and in 1974 was one of the 13 original inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He died on Sept. 25 at age 87.
Glam/experimental rocker Bowie displayed an amazing ability to reinvent himself during his five decades in the spotlight. Born David Robert Jones, Bowie changed his name in 1967 to avoid being confused with Davy Jones of The Monkees. In addition to music, Bowie also experimented with choreography, art, dancing, and acting, creating stage personas such as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke.
Bowie was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014, keeping it secret from all but a few close friends. He died at age 69 on Jan. 10.
Dr. Henry Heimlich
The inventor of the Heimlich maneuver, a method of saving choking victims, was credited with saving countless lives. He also invented the Heimlich valve, a one-way chest drainage valve that saved thousands of lives during the Vietnam War and in emergency rooms. Heimlich died Dec. 17 of a heart attack. He was 96.
The iconic matriarch of the Brady Bunch, “America’s Mom” died Nov. 24 of heart failure. The longtime actress was 82. Her early career included musicals like “Oklahoma!” and 1952’s “Wish You Were Here.” She went on to guest star on shows like “I, Spy” and headline commercials for Oldsmobile. She also became the first woman to guest host “The Tonight Show” before Johnny Carson took over the late-night gig.
Zsa Zsa Gabor
The Hungarian actress and socialite passed away Dec. 18 of a heart attack at age 99. Gabor was often mistaken as Lisa Douglas in the sitcom “Green Acres”; the part was actually played by her sister Eva.
This article was updated to reflect the passing of Carrie Fisher on Dec. 27, 2016.