Notes from West London

Dead at 59, another list

I have been deliberately vague on this Blog about many things and very specific about others. My birthday, for example, is something I have mentioned many times (21 September) but I have not been specific in any post about the year I was born. It’s not a secret. I have simply chosen to leave some things more vague than others. Careful reading of a handful of posts on this site will reveal exactly how old I am, but I’ll save you the bother. I was born in 1962. I turned 60 in September.

In August, writing about the Dusty Springfield song “Goin’ Back” (“Live my days, instead of counting my years”) I noted that I was, to the day, the same age that Dusty was when she died. I included a photo of a green plaque at a school here in West London which displays her birth name and the years she was alive (Mary O’Brien 1939-99). I wrote that I have enough material for a piece about people who died aged 59, to accompany this one from March 2022 (“Dead at 52, and a list”). That earlier piece listed a dozen people who have been in the public eye for one reason or another, from William Shakespeare and Yootha Joyce through to Helen McCrory and Shane Warne. It was Warne’s death that prompted my reflections.

The list at the end of this post features 21 names, including the most recently deceased, the rapper Coolio (otherwise known as Artis Leon Ivey Jr) who died a week after my 60th birthday.

Today is my son’s 18th birthday and I am, to the day, the age that the actor John Thaw was when he died (60 years and 7 weeks old, on 21 February 2002). But I am not ready to reflect for too long about people who died at 60, apart from my mother. She is never far from my thoughts. She died two weeks before her 61st birthday, way too young, but she lived at least a year longer than all of the following people. They are listed in order of when they died.

  • Robert FitzRoy, naval officer, founder of the Meteorological Office (5 July 1805 to 30 April 1865)
  • Albert Grossman, music manager (to Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin among others) [He died of a heart attack while travelling on Concorde] (21 May 1926 to 25 January 1986)
  • John Cassavetes, film-maker (9 December 1929 to 3 February 1989)
  • Bernard Bresslaw, actor [he died after a heart attack in his dressing room at the Regents Park Open Air Theatre] (25 February 1934 to 11 June 1993)
  • Mark McManus, actor, best known as Taggart (21 February 1935 to 6 June 1994)
  • Dennis Potter, screenwriter (17 May 1935 to 7 June 1994)
  • Willy Rushton, cartoonist and satirist (18 August 1937 to 11 December 1996)
  • Dusty Springfield, singer (16 April 1939 to 2 March 1999)
  • Robin Cook, politician (28 February 1946 to 6 August 2005)
  • George Best, supremely talented footballer (22 May 1946 to 25 November 2005)
  • Peter Osgood, Chelsea FC footballing legend (20 February 1947 to 1 March 2006)
  • Jeremy Beadle, TV presenter (12 April 1948 to 30 January 2008)
  • John Hughes, film-maker (18 February 1950 to 6 August 2009)
  • Teddy Pendergrass, singer with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (26 March 1950 to 13 January 2010)
  • Andrew Gold, singer and songwriter (2 August 1951 to 3 June 2011)
  • Iain Banks, writer (16 February 1954 to 9 June 2013)
  • Mike Smith, DJ and TV presenter (23 April 1955 to 1 August 2014)
  • Gary Rhodes, chef (22 April 1960 to 26 November 2019)
  • Nick Kamen, model and pop star (15 April 1962 to 5 May 2021)
  • Tony Armatrading, actor [brother of Joan Armatrading] (24 August 1961 to 10 May 2021)
  • Coolio, rapper (1 August 1963 to 28 September 2022)

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