Remembering those who made us laugh, dance and think


Here’s a glance at just some of the beloved African-American celebrities who died in 2017.

Lee O’Denat, 43
The founder of the popular music and urban culture website died on Jan. 23 in San Diego of heart disease. Known as “Q,’’ he was born in Queens, New York.

Al Jarreau, 76
Jazz legend Al Jarreau died Feb. 12 at a Los Angeles hospital. A week earlier, he had had been hospitalized for exhaustion and was told by doctors that he had to retire from touring. He was best known for hits “Breakin’ Away,” “We’re in This Love Together” and the theme song to the popular 1980’s TV show, “Moonlighting.’’

Clyde Stubblefield, 73
Clyde Stubblefield died of kidney failure on Feb. 18 at a Madison, Wisconsin hospital. A drummer for James Brown, he was sampled “on 1000-plus songs, including Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power,’ Dr. Dre’s ‘Let Me Ride’ and George Michael’s “Freedom ’90.’’

Joni Sledge, 60
Songstress Joni Sledge, a member of the group Sister Sledge, was discovered dead on March 10 at her home Phoenix, Arizona. The group of sisters recorded the dance anthem “We Are Family” in 1979.

Chuck Berry, 90
Considered by many to be the father of rock ’n roll, this pioneer’s hits included “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Rock and Roll Music” and “Johnny B. Goode.” He died on March 18 after being found unresponsive at his house in St. Charles, Missouri.

Charlie Murphy, 57
The stand-up comedian and actor died from complications of leukemia on April 12. He was best known as the writer and performer on the comedy series, “Chappelle’s Show.’’ He also was the older brother of Eddie Murphy.

Dick Gregory, 84
The iconic standup comedian turned his cutting satire into a weapon in the struggle for civil rights and anti-Vietnam War activism. He was America’s first Black nightclub comic star and the first Black to sit on the “Tonight Show’’ couch. Gregory, who often resorted to hunger strikes, died of heart failure in a Washington hospital on Aug. 19.

Robert Guillaume, 89
Known for his role as Benson DuBois on the TV series “Soap’’ and its sitcom spinoff “Benson,’’ his acting and musical career was groundbreaking. He was the first Black to win comedy Emmys and the first to sing the title role of “Phantom of the Opera.’’He died on Oct. 24.

Fats Domino, 89
Antoine Dominique “Fats” Domino Jr., the trailblazing singer and pianist, sold more than 65 million records, including “Blueberry Hill,” “I’m Walkin,’” and “Ain’t It a Shame.” Elvis Presley credited Domino for his groundbreaking role in rock ‘n’ roll. He died on Oct. 24 at his home in Harvey, Louisiana.

Della Reese, 86
The singer and actress died on Nov. 19. She began her pop, jazz and gospel musical career in 1959. The star of stage and screen was perhaps best known as Tess on the TV series, “Touched by An Angel.’’ She also starred in “Chico and the Man’’ and the “The Royal Family.”

Information from AARP and were used in this report.



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