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Created by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014 at 4:18pm. Last updated by The Core DJ's Jul 6, 2014.

BLACK CELEBRITIES WHO DIED WITH LITTLE OR NO FANFARE pt.2

Ron O'Neal (September 1, 1937 in Utica, New York – January 14, 2004 in Los Angeles, California) was an actor, director and screenwriter.  O'Neal is most remembered for his starring role as Priest in the blaxploitation film "Superfly," although he also had a small recurring role on the television show "Living Single," as Synclaire's father.

He died in 2004 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 66 on the same day "Superfly" was released on DVD in the US.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zola Taylor (who Halle Berry portrayed in Why Do Fools Fall In Love) broke gender barriers as the first female member of the 1950s (original) R&B group The Platters and later became entangled in a public soap opera as one of three women claiming to be pop idol Frankie Lymon's widow, has died, her nephew reported Tuesday. She was 69.

Taylor, who had been bedridden following several strokes, died Monday at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside County from complications of pneumonia, said her nephew Alfie Robinson.

Founding Platters member Herb Reed said he spotted Taylor, the sister of Cornell Gunter of the Coasters, rehearsing with a girl group in 1955 and knew immediately she had the charisma and vocal chops the band needed.

"PLATTERS" LEAD SINGER SUCCUMBS TO AIDS:

The Platters-(not original Platters) frontman Curtis Bridgeforth (above) has quit the rock 'n' roll group to seek AIDS treatment. The 51-year-old singer released a statement two days ago, confirming he will leave the Platters at the end of the month. He said, "I found out in 1990 that I was HIV positive and I've been living with HIV for the last 17 years.

"Then two years ago, after suddenly losing 20 pounds and 30 percent of my eyesight, I learned that I had diabetes, in all probability stemming from my HIV medication. "Right now, my sugar count and cholesterol count are dangerously high, so to prevent a major heart attack or stroke, as well as deal with the HIV issue, I need to seek treatment in New York.

There is a program offered there for people like me who don't have health insurance. "Ninety-nine per cent of the people I work with every night knew nothing of my HIV until now, although our management company has been aware since 2003.

I don't want to hide it anymore - I'm an example of how to survive it and maybe I can help other people in the same situation. "After I get my health in check, I want to come back to performing. I've already been offered some opportunities.

The most important thing I do on this planet is sing to people - I can make people smile and that's a God-given gift." Bridgeforth joined the group in 1994 and has recently been performing with them at the Sahara in Las Vegas.

Sadly, Bridgeforth succumbed to AIDS in May of 2007.

Harry McGilberry joined the Temptations in 1995. McGilberry died on April 3, 2006 at the age of 56.  According to "Wikipedia," McGilberry died of an alleged drug overdose.

He was known by family members and friends as "Boom-Boom," because of his "bass" voice. McGilberry is pictured above on the far right.

By Erik Matuszewski

"NBA STAR KILLED"

Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Eddie Griffin, above, who played five seasons in the NBA, died last week when the sports-utility vehicle he was driving collided with a moving train in Houston, authorities said. He was 25.

Dental comparisons were used today to identify Griffin, whose body was badly burned in the crash, Jennifer Coston, deputy chief of investigations at the Harris County, Texas, medical examiner's office, said in a telephone interview.

Griffin disregarded a warning signal, drove through a railroad arm and struck the side of a moving freight train on Aug. 17, according to a news release from the Houston Police Department. Griffin's vehicle was consumed by flames, and he died at the scene.

The 6-foot-10 Griffin spent last season with the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, playing in 13 games as a reserve and averaging 1.4 points and 1.9 rebounds. He received a five-game suspension from the league in January for violating the NBA's anti-drug program.

Griffin had off-court problems since joining the NBA as a first-round pick in the 2001 draft out of Seton Hall University. He spent time at an alcohol-treatment center in 2003-04, was convicted of marijuana possession in January 2004, and got suspended for the first three games of the 2004-05 NBA season after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Griffin, who spent his first two NBA seasons with the Houston Rockets and New Jersey Nets, was released by the Timberwolves in March.

RIP.

Melanie Janene Thornton (May 13, 1967 – November 24, 2001) was an American-German pop singer who found fame in Germany and fronted the Eurodance group La Bouche, who formed hits such as "Be My Lover" and "Sweet Dreams" in the mid-1990s. She forged a moderately successful solo career in Germany before her death. Her hits include "Love How You Love Me", "Wonderful Dream." "Memories" and "Heartbeat." Thornton died in a plane crash near Bassersdorf, Switzerland in 2001.

Joe Gilliam aka 'Joe Willy Gilly,' was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1972 in the 11th round after a college football career at Tennessee State University where he was a two-time All-American. He became the Steelers' starting Quarterback in 1974 but lost the job when Terry Bradshaw was chosen to lead the team after the first six games of the season, fueling speculation years later that Gilliam was removed because he was black. Bradshaw himself admits that Gilliam was more talented and deserving of the job that year than he was. Gilliam spiraled into a trap of severe alcoholism and substance abuse and was out of the National Football League at the end of 1975 and back on the streets in Nashville, Tennessee, where he battled his cocaine addiction on and off over the years.

His daughter Is R&B Singer Joi. His ex son-in-law is rapper Big Gipp of the Goodie Mob. On 1 July 96 his granddaughter Keypsiia Blue Daydreamer was born.

For the rest of his life, he battled cocaine addiction; but he did manage to run a football camp in Nashville at times. He was often homeless and on the streets in search of his next high. He earned the nickname "Jefferson Street Joe" for the boulevard that runs by Tennessee State University in Nashville.

Gilliam died of a heart attack on December 25, 2000. He had been sober for four years prior to his death and was able to attend the final Steelers game at Three Rivers Stadium.

MCFADDEN & WHITEHEAD (DUO DIED WITHIN TWO YEARS OF EACH OTHER)

McFadden and Whitehead were an songwriting, production, and recording duo, best known for their signature tune "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now." They wrote and produced some of the most popular R&B hits of the 1970s, and were primarily associated with Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International soul music record label.

When they were teenagers, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead formed a group called The Epsilons. They were discovered by Otis Redding and toured with him during the late 1960s until Redding's death in a plane crash in 1967.

The duo later joined Philly International Records, where they wrote hit after hit, the first being "Back Stabbers" in 1972 for the O'Jays. It became No. 1 across the board in one week.

McFadden and Whitehead also penned hits such as "For The Love Of Money," I'll Always Love My Momma," "Bad Luck," "Wake Up Everybody," "Where Are All My Friends," "The More I Want", and "Cold, Cold World". The production team also worked with Melba Moore, Freddie Jackson and Gloria Gaynor, Teddy Pendergrass, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes, Gladys Knight, The Jackson 5, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lou Rawls, Archie Bell & the Drells and The Intruders, just to name a few.

On May 11, 2004, Whitehead was murdered while working on his car with his nephew on the street outside of his Philadelphia home. He was shot by two unknown gunmen who fled afterwards. The case remains unsolved. Whitehead was 55 years old.

On January 27, 2006, McFadden died of liver and lung cancer. He was 56.

On March 12, 2003, actress Lynn Thigpen (above) was found dead at her home in Marina del Rey, California, by a friend; she had died of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 54. She had been complaining of headaches for several days. She had not been seriously ill, and her death was a surprise and shock. Drugs and foul play were ruled out by the coroner's autopsy, which found "acute cardiac dysfunction, non-traumatic systemic and spontaneous intraventricular hemorrhage and hemorrhage in the brain".

When Thigpen died, The District had a funeral for her character as well. (The show was canceled a short time later, but can be seen in reruns on the USA and A&E networks.) Her untimely death also led to the three-year hiatus of "Bear in the Big Blue House."

The film "Anger Management" (2003) starring Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson is dedicated to her memory.

An elementary school in her hometown is named in her memory.

Bobby Byrd was the original leader and founder of 'The Famous Flames,' the vocal group with which James Brown first became famous. Byrd is actually the man who discovered James Brown.

Bobby Byrd and James Brown met in a Georgia youth detention facility. Brown was an inmate, Byrd was not.

Byrd's local baseball team played the prison team of which Brown was a member. It was Bobby Byrd's family that sponsored his release and took him in afterwards.

He was married to soul singer Vicki Anderson, another James Brown collaborator. His step-daughter is Carleen Anderson.

In October 2004 Bobby Byrd's songs "I Know You Got Soul," and "Hot Pants," were featured on the "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," soundtrack.

On September 12th 2007, comforted by wife Vicki Anderson and a large, close family, Byrd died of cancer, he was 73.

Richard Biggs 44, 1960-2004, actor on TV series Babaylon 5. He died from aortic dissection.

Michelle Thomas 29, 1969-1998. She played Myra on "Family Matters." Thomas died of stomach cancer in 1998.   Thomas' father is one of the original members of Kool & The Gang and she once dated actor Malcolm Jamal Warner. 

Carlton Williams II who played Clinton in the movie "Crooklyn," died in October of 2003 from complications of Sickle Cell Anemia.

Nell Ruth Hardy aka Nell Carter
Born: 13-Sep-1948
Birthplace: Birmingham, AL
Died: 23-Jan-2003
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Diabetes complications
Remains: Buried, Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery, Culver City, CA
Gender: Female
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: Black
Sexual orientation: Bisexual
Occupation: Actor, Singer

Musician David Cole (very top photo, red hair) and Robert Clivillýs formed the musical group C + C Music Factory in 1990. The duo had several hits, including their most popular Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now). They went on to win a Producers Grammy in 1993 for their work on the original soundtrack album "The Bodyguard." In 1995 Cole died of spinal meningitis although rumors persist that he died of AIDS.

If you were listening to rap in the early '90s, there's no doubt you heard the provocative Professor X and his New York-based group X-Clan. "Professor X" Carson, whose best-known records are "Funkin' Lesson" and "Fire & Earth (100% Natural)," died in a New York hospital after succumbing to spinal meningitis at the age of 49. Although X-Clan released just two albums and never enjoyed the commercial success of their politically minded contemporaries (particularly Public Enemy), X and his crew still carved out a slice of hip-hop history for themselves with their funky beats and rhymes about afrocentrism and activism.

In the 1990s, actress Mabel King (What's Happening!), front row, far right) battled diabetes, and eventually lost both of her legs and an arm to the disease. In 1999, she died from complications of diabetes and a stroke. Her only child, a son, Larry King (from her marriage to Melvin King; no relation to the talk show host) predeceased her by three years.

Eugene Record (December 23, 1940 – July 22, 2005) was lead vocalist of Chicago based The Chi-Lites during the 1960s and 1970s. He also released three solo albums (entitled Eugene Record, Trying to Get to You, and Welcome to My Fantasy) via the Warner Music Group before rejoining the Chi-Lites in 1980. He wrote and produced many of the group's hits, such as "Have You Seen Her" and "Oh Girl", frequently in collaboration with other songwriters. He also wrote and produced for other artists, including Barbara Acklin, Jackie Wilson, and The Dells. Record left the Chi-Lites again in 1988 before eventually becoming a gospel singer. He died on July 22, 2005, after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

Brock Peters (July 2, 1927 – August 23, 2005) was an actor, perhaps best known for the roles in "To Kill a Mockingbird," and "Star Trek VI."  Mr. Peters died in Los Angeles, California of pancreatic cancer on August 23, 2005 at the age of 78. He was survived by his daughter Lise Jo Peters.

Julius "Nipsey" Russell (September 15, 1918 – October 2, 2005) was an African-American comedian, best known today for his many appearances as a guest panelist on game shows from the 1960s through the 1990s, especially Match Game, Password, Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth and Pyramid.  During the 1990s Mr. Russell gained popularity with a new generation of television viewers as a regular on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Russell would often appear during comedy sketches between scheduled guests and deliver his trademark rhymes. Russell's final TV appearance was as a panelist for one week (specifically, a game show-themed week) on the final season of the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares.

He died at age 87 in New York City, after suffering from stomach cancer.

Tyrone Davis made numerous records for the Dakar and Columbia record labels from the 1970s, right through the disco and funk booms, and into the 21st century. Davis' best-known hits were "Turn Back the Hands of Time," "Can I Change My Mind," and "In The Mood." He died in a Chicago hospital in 2005 of complications following a stroke in October 2004, from which he never fully recovered.

Natasja Saad (October 31, 1974 - June 24, 2007), also known as Lil T, Little T and Natasja, she was a Danish rapper and reggae singer whose vocals on a popular U.S. and European remix of "Calabria" gained her fame and a number one spot on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart six months after her death in a car accident.

Natasja died on June 24, 2007 in a car accident in Spanish Town, Saint Catherine, Jamaica. Two other passengers were critically injured, but Saad's friend, Danish singer Karen Mukupa, was relatively unhurt. She and the other injured were rushed to the Spanish Town Hospital where the singer was pronounced dead.

Rudy Pardee was born and Raised in Cleveland, OH on June 29, 1957. His love for music took him to Los Angeles, in pursuit of the musical dream. He found a partner and was half of the duo called the L.A. Dream Team, the group coined the hits "Rockberry Jam," and "The Dream Team Is In The House."  Sadly, on August 30, 1998, Rudy died in a freak scuba diving accident.

Reggae star Lucky Dube, 43, was shot and killed in an apparent carjacking attempt after dropping his son off in suburban Johannesburg, yesterday.  We will provide more details as they come in.

La La Brown (on the right) pictured with Lyfe Jennings was recently murdered. She sang on Jenning's S.E.X. She was found dead with her boyfriend in the basement of a recording studio. She leaves behind a young daughter.

Jermaine Stewart and Gene Anthony Ray are not included in this feature because they are featured in our "Scandals & Tragedies," segment.  Click the following link to read their stories as well as other celebrity stories.  Scandals & Tragedies

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June Pointer died in 2006. She was 52. She died of cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, with her sisters Ruth and Anita at her bedside.

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King Floyd died from a stroke and complications with diabetes in California. He was 61. He was best remembered for his single 'Groove Me', which hit the number one spot on the R & B charts in 1971.

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Lou Rawls died on January 6, 2006 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He was 72 and was suffering from lung cancer and later brain cancer.

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Edward Patten, far right, a member of Gladys Knight and The Pips, died early on Friday the 25th of February at St. Mary's Mercy Hospital in Livonia, Michigan, in 2005. He was 65.

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Tony Sylvester, of the group-Main Ingredient, has died.  A reader, describing themselves as an relative of Sylvester's recently emailed us, informing us, that Sylvester allegedly died of a form of bone cancer.

In 2005, a Baton Rouge blues singer was killed and another woman was wounded after the singer's ex-boyfriend opened fire in a crowded beauty salon before turning the gun on himself.

Police say James White walked into T'Nails and Hair Salon and shot singer Jackie Neal and critically wounded Angela Myers, who was running away from the shooting.

Baton Rouge Police Major Pat Tauzin says Neal, who was in her late 30s, died at the scene, and both Myers and White were rushed to a hospital with critical injuries.

Tauzin says White faces counts of first-degree murder and attempted first-degree murder. She termed the shooting a "domestic" incident.

Tauzin says White had gone into the salon to talk to Neal earlier in the evening. Family and friends of Neal said White is Neal's ex-boyfriend and Neal had broken off the relationship about three months ago.

Neal was the daughter of internationally known Baton Rouge blues man Raful Neal and the brother of musician Kenny Neal. She released three CDs between 1995 and 2002 that veered between blues, funk and pop.

The Neal family is one of the most prominant blues family's in this country.  Similar to what the Hawkins and Winans families are to gospel.

During her career, Jackie recorded four albums.

Jackie's career was on the rise at the time of her murder.  She had just launched a independent record label.

Jackie was extremely popular in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and all surrounding Southern states.

(WILLIE HUTCH)

Willie McKinley Hutchinson, known professionally as Willie Hutch (December 6, 1944 – September 19, 2005) was an singer, guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. Hutch, born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Dallas, Texas, is notable as both a performer and songwriter/producer for the Motown label during the 1970s. Before joining Motown, Hutch worked as a producer for acts such as The 5th Dimension. Besides writing hit songs such as The Jackson 5's "I'll Be There." Hutch also recorded several albums for Motown (and later for Whitfield Records, run by former Motown producer Norman Whitfield), and had top 20 R&B hits with singles such as "Brother's Gonna Work It Out" from the "Mack," soundtrack and "Slick" (both 1973). Following in the tradition of Curtis Mayfield, he recorded the soundtrack album for the blaxploitation films The Mack (1973) and Foxy Brown (1974) and he also contributed to the "Cleopatra Jones," soundtrack.

Hutch died on September 19, 2005 of reasons yet to be disclosed. He was 60.

Having played a leading role in the Broadway production of Hair, Ronnie Dyson pursued his thespian ambitions in "Salvation," a less infamous musical, from 1970. One of its songs, "(If You Let Me Make Love To You Then) Why Can't I Touch You?", was a US Top 10 hit, while the singer reached the R&B chart with several subsequent singles, including "I Don't Wanna Cry" (1970) and "The More You Do It (The More I Like It Done To Me)" (1976). In 1971 "When You Get Right Down To It" reached the UK Top 40. Despite switching labels from Columbia Records to Cotillion, Dyson was unable to achieve another major success, and "All Over Your Face" (1983) was his last chart entry. He died of heart failure in 1990.

Edwin Starr (January 21, 1942 – April 2, 2003) was an soul music singer. Born Charles Edwin Hatcher in Nashville, Tennessee, Starr is most famous for his Norman Whitfield produced Motown singles of the 1970s, most notably the number one hit "War." Edwin Starr died of a heart attack at the age of 61 in his home in Beeston near Nottingham. His brother Angelo Starr is now fronting "The Team," the band that Edwin Starr toured with until his death.

Trevor Berbick briefly held the WBC heavyweight title in 1986, before losing it to Mike Tyson. He was also noted for being the last man to fight Muhammad Ali, winning their 10-round contest in Nassau, Bahamas on December 11, 1981.  Berbick was arrested on a number of occasions throughout his life and was sentenced in Florida to 5 years in prison (he served only 15 months) for sexually assaulting his children's babysitter in 1992. In 1997, he violated his parole and was ordered to be deported from the United States. One of the more memorable sports events in Berbick's life was his well publicized feud with Holmes, whom he fought in 1981. Their feud culminated in a public brawl in 1991 which was caught on tape (see link below) in which Larry Holmes landed a flying drop kick on Berbick off the hood of a car while Berbick was being escorted by police. He retired in Florida to be with his wife and three children (he also had three children with his first wife in Montreal) and started to train boxers at Kenny Barrett's Gym (Tamarac Florida). However, Berbick's problems only escalated. He was again ordered deported from the U.S. on December 2, 2002.

On October 28, 2006, he was murdered at a church in Norwich, Jamaica by an assailant wielding a 2 inch thick steel pipe. He suffered multiple blows to the head which resulted in him dying at the scene of the attack.  Police have arrested 2 men (one of the men arrested and charged is Berbick's 20-year-old nephew in connection with the death, and were interrogating him at the Port Antonio police station in Portland as of early in the morning of October 29. Local residents have indicated that the suspect was involved in a land dispute with Berbick. On November 3 it was reported that Berbick's nephew, 20-year-old Harold Berbick, and an unidentified 18-year-old man had been charged with his murder by Jamaican police. On December 20, 2007 Harold Berbick was found guilty of the murder of his uncle. His alleged accomplice, Kenton Gordon, was found guilty of manslaughter. Both will be sentenced on January 11, 2008.

Oscar Emmanuel Peterson (15 August 1925 – 23 December 2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist and composer. Called the "Maharajah of the keyboard" by Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson is considered to have been one of the greatest piano players in the history of jazz. He played to audiences worldwide in a career lasting more than 60 years.  His work has earned him seven Grammy awards over the years and he was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1978. He also belongs to the Juno Awards Hall of Fame and the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame.  Peterson had to cancel his performance at the 2007 Toronto Jazz Festival, and attendance at a June 8 Carnegie Hall all-star performance in his honor, due to illness. On December 23, 2007, he died of kidney failure at his home in Mississauga, a western suburb of Toronto, he was 82.

OSCAR BROWN, JR.

Oscar Brown, Jr. (October 10, 1926 – May 29, 2005) was a singer, songwriter, playwright, poet, humanitarian and civil rights activist. He ran for office in the Illinois state legislature and U.S. Congress, both unsuccessfully.  Brown recorded 11 albums.  He also wrote/co-wrote 10 musicals which he also starred in.  Lena Horne and Mahalia Jackson recorded compositions written by Brown.  Brown married Jean Pace (sister of actress Judy Pace).  Two of his seven children grew to become performers, with whom he regularly worked until his son, Oscar "Bobo" Brown III, an accomplished bassist, vocalist, and composer, died in a tragic automobile accident on August 12, 1996, at the age of 39.  Oscar Brown, Jr., died in 2005 at the age of 79, cause of death unknown.  He is survived by his wife Jean, their one son and four daughters.

Junior Walker (born Autry DeWalt Mixon, Jr., June 14, 1931 – November 23, 1995) & the All Stars were signed to the Motown label in the 1960s, and became one of the label's signature acts.  Their first and signature hit was "Shotgun", written by Junior Walker and produced by Berry Gordy. "Shotgun" reached #4 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart in 1965, and was followed by many other hits, such as "(I'm A) Road Runner", "Shake and Fingerpop" and covers of the Motown classics "Come See About Me" and "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)." In 1969 the group had another hit entering the top 5. "What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)" reached #4 on the Pop chart and #1 on the R&B chart. From that time on Walker sang more on the records than earlier in their career. In 1983, Walker was re-signed with Motown. He died on November 23, 1995 in Battle Creek, Michigan of cancer. Drummer James Graves died in 1967 in a car accident, and guitarist Willie Woods in 1997 at age 60.

Roebuck "Pops" Staples died after a brief illness in 2007, he was 85.  Daughter Cleotha is currently suffering with Alzheimers disease.

Jimmy Smith, (December 8, 1925 (year of birth is disputable & is often stated as 1928) – February 8, 2005) was a jazz musician whose Hammond B-3 electric organ performances helped to popularize this instrument.  In 2005, Jimmy Smith was awarded the NEA Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest honors that the United States bestows upon jazz musicians.  While the electric organ was used in jazz by Fats Waller and Count Basie, Smith's virtuoso improvisation technique on the Hammond helped to popularize the electric organ as a jazz and blues instrument.   Smith influenced bands such as the Beastie Boys, who sampled the bassline from "Root Down (and Get It)" from Root Down—and saluted Smith in the lyrics—for their own hit "Root Down," Medeski, Martin & Wood, and The Hayden-Eckert Ensemble.  Smith and Joey DeFrancesco later played together on the collaborative album" Legacy," released in 2005 shortly after Smith's death.

The Following Celebrities Who Died In 2007, courtesy of: Jackie Jones @ Black America Web.com:

Darrent Williams of the Denver Broncos was killed in a drive-by shooting just hours into the New Year after leaving a nightclub in Denver. Williams, a second-round pick in the 2005 draft out of Oklahoma State, started nine games as a rookie due to injuries. This season, he took over as the starter for Lenny Walls alongside Champ Bailey and was second on the team with four interceptions and tied for third with 86 tackles.

Billy Henderson, 67, (above, center) a member of the band The Spinners, whose voice was heard most prominently on "I'll Be Around," died on Feb. 2.

Alice Coltrane, the jazz pianist and organist who was closely linked with the music of her late husband, legendary saxophonist John Coltrane, died Jan. 14. She was known for her contributions to jazz and early New Age music, including bringing the harp into jazz music and featuring astral compositions, as well as being the keeper of her husband’s archive and musical legacy. A convert to Hinduism, Coltrane was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune in the Los Angeles area.

Singer-actress Barbara McNair, 72, who gained fame as a nightclub singer and Broadway star in the ‘60s, died on Feb. 4. After strong reviews in a musical called “The Body Beautiful” in 1958, McNair starred in the Broadway musical “No Strings” in 1963. She hosted her own TV variety show from 1969 to 1971 and starred with Sidney Poitier in the 1970 films “They Call Me Mister Tibbs” and “The Organization” in 1971.

Dennis Johnson, 52, a five-time All-Star and star defensive guard who was part of three NBA championships, died Feb. 22. He played on title teams with the Boston Celtics in 1984 and 1986 and the Seattle SuperSonics in 1979, a series in which he won the finals MVP title. Johnson was coach of the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League.

Damien Nash, 24, was a running back for the Denver Broncos, died Feb 24. The fifth-round draft choice by Tennesee in 2005 played in just three games for the Titans. The Broncos signed him as a free agent last season. He played in three games, rushing for 66 yards on 18 carries. In his two-year career, he had 24 carries for 98 yards and seven receptions for 55 yards.

Percy Rodrigues’ role as a neurosurgeon in the 1960s television series "Peyton Place" broke ground because he was cast as an authority figure when relatively few black actors were given such parts. When Rodrigues was added to the "Peyton Place" cast in 1968 as Dr. Harry Miles, the headline in The New York Times read, "A Doctor's Role for Negro Actor." Rodrigues, 89, who died Sept. 6, also had a long career as a voice over actor. About the same time as his breakthrough on "Peyton Place," Rodrigues, a Canadian of African and Portuguese descent, played a commodore in a Star Trek TV episode and an embittered doctor in the 1968 film, "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter." From the 1950s through the 1980s, he acted in more than 80 film and television productions, including the 1979 miniseries "Roots: The Next Generation."

Olympic medalist Willye White, 67, a two-time Olympic medalist in track and field and the first woman to compete for the United States in five Olympics, died Feb. 6. White competed in five consecutive Olympic Games between 1956 and 1972. She won a silver medal in the long jump at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia, at age 16 and won her second silver medal in 1964 as a member of the 4x100-meter relay team in Tokyo.

Ronnie Wells, a popular jazz vocalist based in Washington, D.C. who came to prominence in the mid-1960s, making several television appearances and singing on stage with a number of luminaries, including Billy Eckstine, Lonnie Liston Smith and Oscar Brown, Jr., died March 7. She appeared semi-annually for five years, beginning in 1992, at Blackbeard’s Castle in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and also performed on a number of occasions with the U.S. Airmen of Note, the U.S. Navy Commodores Orchestra and appeared at the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian Institution and other concert halls nightclubs and jazz festivals in the U.S. and abroad. She also had taught jazz vocal techniques in a program she created at the University of Maryland’s Department of Music.

Actor Carl Wright, 75, began his career as a tap dancer and comedian and later appeared in movies including "Barbershop" and "Big Momma's House." His film credits also included "Soul Food," "Barbershop 2: Back in Business" and "The Cookout." He died May 19.

Yolanda Denise King, 51, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s eldest child, pursued her father's dream of racial harmony through drama and motivational speaking. King, who died May 15, appeared in a number of films, including a role as civil rights martyr Medgar Evers’ daughter in "Ghosts of Mississippi," and as Rosa Parks in the 1978 television miniseries "King." King also ran a film production company. King, who was 12 when her father was slain, learned of his death from a television news bulletin while washing dishes at her family’s home in Atlanta.

New England Patriots defensive end Marquise Hill, 24, spent much of his free time and his NFL paycheck helping loved ones in New Orleans rebuild in the hurricane-damaged city where he grew up.The former LSU star died in a jet ski accident on Lake Pontchartrain on May 27.

Rhythm-and-blues singer Bill Pinkney, 81, the last survivor of the original members of the musical group The Drifters, died July 4. Pinkney was among the seven significant contributors to The Drifters inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including original members Clyde McPhatter and Gerhardt Thrasher, and subsequent members Ben E. King. Charlie Thomas, Rudy Lewis and Johnny Moore.

Max Roach, 83, a master percussionist whose rhythmic innovations and improvisations defined bebop jazz during a wide-ranging career where he collaborated with artists from Duke Ellington to rapper Fab Five Freddy, died Aug. 15.

Frank Morgan, 73, a jazz saxophonist whom critics likened to Charlie Parker, but whose fame was diminished by a three-decade struggle with drug addiction, died Dec. 14. He debuted as a solo artist in 1955 with a hard bop collection before slipping into addiction. He played off and on, but after a prison conversion to Islam, Morgan produced his second album in 1985 and in 1986 played a series of acclaimed performances at the Village Vanguard in New York, maintaining a rigorous schedule of performances even after he suffered a stroke in 1998. He was the lead instrumentalist on more than a dozen albums, playing with noted musicians including Wynton Marsalis, McCoy Tyner, Kenny Burrell and singer Abbey Lincoln.

Clarinetist Alvin Batiste toured with Ray Charles and Cannonball Adderley, recorded with Branford Marsalis and taught pianist Henry Butler. Though his age was not precisely known, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival officials said he was born in New Orleans in 1932. Batiste suffered a heart attack and died May 6, just hours before he was to perform at the festival with Marsalis and Harry Connick, Jr.

The legendary former Grambling State University football coach Eddie Robinson, 88, sent more than 200 players to the NFL, including Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner, Buck Buchanan, Willie Davis and Willie Brown. Robinson, who died April 3, won 408 games in 45 winning seasons, nine National Black College championships and 17 Southwestern Athletic Conference titles during a 57-year career. Robinson’s tenure spanned 11 presidents, several wars and the civil rights movement.

Donda West, 58, mother of rapper Kanye West, was the former chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department and was the inspiration for the song, "Hey Mama," on Kanye West's 2005 album, "Late Registration." In May, she published the book, "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star," in which she paid homage to her famous son. She died Nov. 10.

Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor, 24, died on Nov. 27, a day after he was shot at home during a botched burglary at his Florida home. An All-American at the University of Miami, Taylor was drafted by the Redskins as the fifth overall selection in 2004.

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