By Paul Radford
Worldwide over 150,000 people die every day.
That’s a horrible statistic to ponder but you will be pleased to know the birth rate is way higher such that in the first week of 2021 there was a net population growth of about $1.5M – the human race is in no danger of extinction it would seem. For now anyway.
Advances in medical science means you will be able to be propped up for way longer than you may have been 50 or 60 years ago. What is interesting though is that the numbers of people living past 100 are not increasing. Science has not caught up just yet.
The broad categories of how you might die are:-
- Road accidents, homicides, conflict deaths, drowning, fire, natural disasters, and suicides;
- Non-communicable diseases (eg chronic long term illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, stroke, cancers, diabetes, pulmonary disease to name a few);
- Communicable diseases (eg AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, maternal deaths, neonatal deaths, and deaths from malnutrition).
Category (b) results in about 2/3rds of all deaths worldwide.
And in 2020, 1,880,000 died of Covid 19 (which falls into Category (c)) alone (that’s about 5000 of the 150,000 deaths per day worldwide).
When you look at the stats your own mortality is easily rationalised and put into perspective. One way or another something is going to get you. Anyway, rather than morbidly dwelling on our own morbidity and moving to a lighter note on a dark topic we are pleased to announce the Connolly Suthers 2020 Heaven, Hell and Limbo List for 2020. Many people (famous and not so famous) have lived interesting and fulfilling lives. Here are twenty of them (in descending order).
Dawn Wells unanimously made it to Number 1. Who was Dawn Wells?
- Little Richard
Singer, songwriter Little Richard, best known for his songs Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally, died from bone cancer on 9 May . He was 87.
One of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, his popularity heralded him as one of the first Black performers who could break down racial divides.
Famously, the Beatles opened for him during his tour of Europe in the sixties.
- Terry Jones
After a long battle with dementia British comedian and Monty Python co-founder Terry Jones died on 21 January at 77. He helped establish the British comedy group Monty Python, which led to his roles co-writing and co-directing the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail. In 1984, he received a BAFTA nomination for Best Original Song for 1983’s “The Meaning of Life.”
- John le Carré
John le Carré, was perhaps the most celebrated spy novelist of the 20th century. He died on 12 December at age 89 from complications of pneumonia. He defined the spy genre with his body of work, and coining terms like "mole," Le Carré revolutionized espionage storytelling through the eyes of George Smiley, his most well-known character at the center of the "Karla" trilogy: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (1974), The Honourable Schoolboy (1977), and Smiley's People (1979). Though he experienced a late-career boom in the 2000s, thanks to Hollywood adaptations of The Constant Gardener in 2005, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in 2011, A Most Wanted Man in 2014, and The Night Manager in 2016, he never mellowed in writing gripping spy stories and inventing his myriad characters.
- Kobe Bryant
NBA legend and former Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were traveling in a helicopter when it crashed near San Diego on 26 January, killing all on board.
Bryant won five NBA championships and played for the Lakers his entire career.
His career included 18 All-Star appearances and 15 All NBA selections.
- Spencer Davis
Spencer Davis, the British rock musician whose namesake band turned out such '60s hits as "Gimme Some Lovin'," "I'm a Man," and "Keep on Running," died from pneumonia on 19 October at 81. Davis found moderate success as a solo artist after the Spencer Davis Group split which led to him pivoting behind-the-scenes. He took a job with Island Records as an A&R where he helped develop artists like Bob Marley and Robert Palmer.
- Eddie Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen, influential guitarist and founding member of his namesake rock band Van Halen, died on 6 October from throat cancer. He was 65.
- Johnny Nash
Johnny Nash, the singer and songwriter best known for his 1972 hit "I Can See Clearly Now," died from natural causes at his home on 6 October. He was 80. Nash began his pop music career in the 1950s and made his major-label debut with the 1957 single "A Teenager Sings the Blues." His other notable songs included "Hold Me Tight," "You Got Soul," "Rock Me, Baby," and covers of Doris Day's "A Very Special Love" and Sam Cooke's "Wonderful World."
- Dean Jones
Dean Jones died on 24 September. The 59-year-old played 52 Tests for Australia, scoring 11 centuries in the Baggy Green, with a batting average of 46.55.
Jones also played 164 one-day internationals, scoring 6068 runs that included seven centuries and 46 half-centuries. After he retired Jones moved into media and coaching, helping him become a popular figure not only in his home country but also in the sub-continent.
Jones died of a heart attack in Mumbai, where he was based while performing commentary duties for the Indian Premier League.
Renowned for his skill and tenacity on the field, Jones was also known to be as uncompromising off it, with blunt honesty that saw him fall out with fellow cricketing great Merv Hughes.
- Trini Lopez
Trini Lopez, the singer and actor known for his rendition of "If I Had a Hammer" and his role in The Dirty Dozen, 11 August from complications of COVID-19 in Palm Springs, California. He was 83.
- Jerry Stiller
Jerry Stiller, the character actor who comprised half of a beloved husband-and-wife comedy team with Anne Meara and went on to have an unlikely late-career run playing barking TV curmudgeons on Seinfeld and The King of Queens, died of natural causes, his son, actor Ben Stiller, announced on 11 May. He was 92.
- Bill Withers
Bill Withers, the singer-songwriter behind such beloved '70s soul hits as "Lean On Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine," died on 30 March of heart complications. He was 81.
- Kirk Douglas
Silver-screen legend Kirk Douglas died 5 February at 103. With more than 92 acting credits to his name, Douglas starred in Hollywood classics like Spartacus, The Bad and the Beautiful, Out of the Past, and Paths of Glory. He also helped push Hollywood forward, working to end the Black List by giving Dalton Trumbo full-screen credit on Spartacus.
- Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on 18 September at the age of 87 from complications of metastatic pancreas cancer. Ginsburg was the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court and a longtime legal champion of gender equality. In her later years, she became a pop culture icon, referred to as "The Notorious RBG." Ginsburg was portrayed in 2018's On the Basis of Sex and in the same year was the subject of the documentary RBG.
- Pierre Cardin
Fashion designer Pierre Cardin died on 29 December at 98. Cardin designed costumes for Jean Cocteau’s film, Beauty and the Beast, before starting his own brand, the House of Cardin, in 1950. He designed collections well into the 21st century (including a creation for Lady Gaga), opened the Past-Present-Future museum in Paris in 2014 to display his work, and was last seen in September toasting 70 years of his brand where he hosted a special screening of the documentary, House of Cardin.
- Kenny Rogers
Country music legend Kenny Rogers, known for hits like “Island in the Stream” and “The Gambler,” has died aged 81 on March 20 from natural causes.
- Sean Connery
Sean Connery, the Scotland-born actor who was the first star to play (and regarded by many as the best) James Bond died at the age of 90 on 31 October.
- Charley Pride
Charley Pride, the trailblazing performer considered country music's first Black superstar, died on 12 December of complications from COVID-19. He was 86. Known for his rich baritone voice, Pride was one of the most successful country musicians of all time, and the first Black artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Charlie performed in Townsville and played golf at the Townsville Club with then golf pro Jim Weber several times.
- Chuck Yeager
Test pilot Charles E. Yeager, was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound, died aged 97.
In October 1947, Yeager disproved the long-held fear that any plane flying at or beyond the speed of sound would be torn apart by shock waves, by breaking the sound barrier over California's Mojave Desert.
Another Yeager feat, flying a jet under a Charleston bridge in 1948, was not reported by the local media.
He served in World War II as a fighter ace and successfully downed five German planes in a single day.
- Diego Maradona
Football Icon Diego Maradona died on 25 October from a stroke at the age of 60. Widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, he was one of the two joint winners of the FIFA Player of the 20th Century award. Maradona's vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling skills were combined with his small stature, which gave him a low center of gravity allowing him to manoeuvre better than most other players. His presence and leadership on the field had a great effect on his team's general performance, while he would often be singled out by the opposition. In addition to his creative abilities, he possessed an eye for goal and was known to be a free kick specialist. A precocious talent, Maradona was given the nickname "El Pibe de Oro" ("The Golden Boy"), a name that stuck with him throughout his career. He also had a troubled off-field life and was banned in both 1991 and 1994 for abusing drugs.
- Dawn Wells
The actress Dawn Wells was best known for portraying Mary Ann Summers on 1960s CBS sitcom Gilligan's Island, died on 30 December at 82 from COVID-19. Summers would be associated with the lovable Kansas farm girl character her entire life, reprising the role in reunion specials and on episodes of Baywatch and Roseanne. She also appeared in small roles in television shows like The Love Boat and Bonanza.