Stardom is no safeguard to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Over the past two weeks, the list of celebrities revealing COVID-19 infections grew to include A-listers ranging from legendary actor Tom Hanks, 63, and England’s Prince Charles, 71, to Brooklyn Nets player Kevin Durant, 31, and late-night talk show host Andy Cohen, 51.
Now, much like the rest of the population, the number of musicians, thespians, comedians and writers succumbing to the novel coronavirus is beginning to mirror the more than 42,100 deaths reported so far around the world.
The following is a growing list of high-profile celebrities whose deaths were confirmed to be related to the coronavirus complications.
Jazz singer and saxophonist
Manu Dibango, best known for his 1972 B-side hit “Soul Makossa,” died on March 24 from complications of the coronavirus.
“It is with deep sadness that we announce the loss of Manu Dibango, our Papy Groove, who passed away on 24th of March 2020, at 86 years old, further to covid 19,” according to a March 24 statement on the jazz great’s official Facebook page. “His funeral service will be held in strict privacy, and a tribute to his memory will be organized when possible.”
A “world music” pioneer in the 1970s, Dibango was a leader in the Afro-jazz movement and also fused funk with traditional music from Cameroon. His biggest hit was the B-side of a recording made to support the Cameroon soccer team in the Africa Cup of Nations, but it went on to score radio play by influential New York DJs.
The singer and saxophonist died in a hospital near Paris, his music publisher Thierry Durepaire told Agence France-Presse.
Mark Blum, best-known for playing opposite Madonna in the iconic 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan,” passed away March 26. He was 69.
A New Jersey native, Blum also co-starred in the 1986 hit “Crocodile Dundee,” followed by guest roles on a string of TV series, including “NYPD Blue,” “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing.” Most recently he appeared as bookseller Mr. Mooney on the Netflix cult hit “You.” He was also a veteran of the Broadway stage.
“With love and heavy hearts, Playwrights Horizons pays tribute to Mark Blum, a dear longtime friend and a consummate artist who passed this week,” the theater company tweeted. “Thank you, Mark, for all you brought to our theater, and to theaters and audiences across the world. We will miss you.”
His “Desperately Seeking Susan” co-stars Rosanna Arquette and Madonna also shared their condolences via social media.
“I’m so deeply sad for his family and for his fans,” Arquette tweeted. he was a wonderful actor and a very good and kind man. May you Rest In Peace and power mark. God bless you.”
Terrence McNally, a prolific playwright whose love of opera and compassion for human frailties wove their way into many of his works, died March 24 from complications of the coronavirus in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital. He was 81, and had lived with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for some time.
For a while, it seemed as if there were hardly a Broadway season that didn’t have a McNally show running.
Starting out with 1965’s “And Things That Go Bump in the Night,” the St. Petersburg, Fla., native went on to win five Tony Awards in total, two of them back to back: for 1995’s comedy drama “Love! Valour! Compassion!” and the following year’s “Master Class,” in which Audra McDonald, 49, starred as a tormented opera student of a fictionalized diva Maria Callas.
Tonys also went to his books for the musicals “Kiss of the Spider Woman” (1993) and “Ragtime” (1998).
McDonald appeared again in the revival of his 1982 drama “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune,” which opened the same year McNally received a Tony for lifetime achievement.
“A huge part of me is gone,” said Chita Rivera, 87, who starred in McNally’s “The Rink,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “The Dancer’s Life” and “The Visit,” in a statement. “He helped to make me who I am as a person . . . Only God knows how much I will miss him.
Floyd Cardoz, the man behind acclaimed NYC restaurants Tabla and Bombay Bread Bar, died March 25. The Mumbai, India-born chef was 59.
Cardoz was admitted to a New York hospital last week, according to a recent post on his Instagram account, following his return from a trip to India on March 8. He told his followers that a fever had prompted him to see a doctor. A statement on social media from his hospitality group, Hunger Inc., confirmed the news of his hospitalization March 17.
The eclectic chef and Season 3 winner of “Top Chef Masters” made his name with the groundbreaking Tabla, opened in 1998, as one of the few Indian fine-dining establishments in the city. In partnerships with Danny Meyer and Union Square Hospitality Group, the restaurant enjoyed an instant buzz after receiving three stars in the New York Times. Tabla closed in 2010 but remains one of the city’s most groundbreaking restaurants to this day, known especially for its bread.
He also worked with Meyer in opening North End Grill, then went on to open several other eateries in India and New York. His Bombay Canteen as well as Goan-Portuguese fusion restaurant O Pedro remain popular in Mumbai today. Soho’s Paowalla, which was later transformed into Bombay Bread Bar, closed last year.
Cardoz’s friend and former business partner shared his sorrow today on Twitter.
“Love you so much @floydcardoz,” wrote Meyer.
Country singer Joe Diffie, who had a string of hits in the 1990s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man,” died March 29. He was 61.
Diffie announced two days prior that he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis. Diffie’s publicist Scott Adkins confirmed that the singer died in Nashville, Tenn., due to complications from COVID-19.
The Tulsa, Okla., native was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years. His hits included “Honky Tonk Attitude,” “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” “Bigger Than the Beatles” and “If the Devil Danced (In Empty Pockets).”
Diffie’s mid-’90s albums “Honkey Tonk Attitude” and “Third Rock From the Sun” went platinum and scored 18 top 10 singles — with five going all the way to No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
He is survived by his wife, Tara Terpening Diffie, and seven children from his four marriages.
Beloved Japanese comedian Ken Shimura died March 27, a week after contracting the coronavirus. He was 70.
The Tokyo native was revered in his home country, where he is a household name and has been called “Japan’s Robin Williams.”
“He was popular among a wide range of generations and was the No. 1 source of pride for locals,” Minoru Hasegawa, 69, a fellow native of Shimura’s home city, told the Japan Times.
Shimura was hospitalized on March 20 after developing a fever and being diagnosed with pneumonia. He tested positive for the virus on March 23, becoming the first Japanese celebrity to announce his infection, and to pass from the disease.
Shimura was known for his parodies and slapstick comedy bits, including the “mustache dance,” and a song about his home city of Higashimurayama in western Tokyo. Following his high school graduation, he joined the well-known Japanese comedy group the Drifters in 1974. Among Japan’s best-known comedy troupes, the group had opened for the Beatles when they performed in Japan in 1966. The group’s surviving members were too shocked to yet issue statements regarding Shimura’s death.
“I am sure he was working hard with a sense of mission to deliver laughter to people,” a representative from Shimura’s agency says. “I don’t think he imagined he would die a death like this.”
The funnyman stayed active until his death, starring in numerous TV programs, and was to begin work on a movie in April. He was set to run the Tokyo Olympic torch relay representing Higashimurayama in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until they were postponed until next year.
“I cannot think anything now. I can no longer see Ken-chan. This is too sad,” Japanese singer Naoko Ken tweeted of Shimura’s death.
Another Tokyo resident bemoaned the laughter Shimura would no longer be able to bring. “He was our hero. I wish he could entertain us more,” says Toshio Takazawa, 70, who recalled going to see the Drifters live in his childhood.
Japan’s health ministry recorded 173 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, with 68 in Tokyo, the biggest single-day spike for the capital, CNN reports.
Alan Merrill, who co-wrote the Joan Jett banger “I Love Rock and Roll,” died March 29 at 69.
“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out,” his daughter Laura Merrill wrote in a heartbreaking Facebook post. “He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen. I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart….By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone.”
“How could this be?” she added. “I was just at his show a couple of weeks ago,” she continued. “I had just photographed his portrait for his new album. Texted with him earlier. He played down the ‘cold’ he thought he had. I’ve made a million jokes about the ‘Rona’ and how it’ll ‘getcha’… boy do I feel stupid.”
The Bronx-born rocker penned “I Love Rock and Roll” for his band The Arrows and recorded it in 1975 — but it became legendary when former Runaways frontwoman Jett covered it in 1982.
“I’ve just learned of the awful news that Alan Merrill has passed,” Jett, 61, tweeted Sunday. “My thoughts and love go to his family, friends and music community as a whole. I can still remember watching the Arrows on TV in London and being blown away by the song that screamed hit to me. With deep gratitude and sadness, wishing him a safe journey to the other side.”
The actor died in Britain’s Surry Hospital on Tuesday. Jack starred in both “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” as Resistance General Caluan Ematt.
He also worked as a dialect coach on many other films such as “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and many Marvel films, as well as the upcoming Batman movie.
His agent, Jill McCullough, confirmed his passing to the Evening Standard, saying that he passed in a hospital bed while his family was stuck in quarantine in Australia.
“Andrew lived on one of the oldest working houseboats on the Thames, he was fiercely independent but madly in love with his wife; also a dialect coach: Gabrielle Rogers,” said McCullough.
“Andrew was full of life, he was tall and striking with flowing white hair. You wouldn’t miss him if he walked into a room.”
His wife later posted a tribute to Jack.
Anthony Daniels, the actor behind the droid C-3PO, who also worked with Jack on “Star Wars,” also expressed his grief.
Wallace Roney, a trumpeter renowned for his interpretations of Miles Davis’ iconic jazz compositions, died at 59, his fiancée Dawn Felice Jones confirmed on April 1.
Roney passed at a hospital in Paterson, NJ, where he was admitted last week, the Guardian reports.
The Grammy winner — a leader in a post-bop or fusion style — trained at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, Howard University and Berklee College of Music.
After working clubs in New York City, Roney was recruited by the Jazz Messengers, a famed hard bop band led by Art Blakey. He was later hired by Tony Williams, the drummer who played alongside Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter in Miles Davis’ second great quintet.
Roney went on to perform with Ornette Coleman, Chick Corea, Pharoah Sanders and other jazz legends.
He is survived by two children, Barbara and Wallace Jr., from his marriage to late pianist Geri Allen.
Source: New York Post