This year claimed the lives of many Black notables who will remain close to our hearts long after their passings. Here, we remember some of 2012's greatest losses:
Etta James (Jan. 25, 1938 – Jan. 20, 2012)
Etta James, a name that immediately sparks us into our own renditions of “At Last” created a new genre that was a mix of R&B and rock and roll. Before the vocal “rawness” of Mary J. Blige, Etta James made the pains of loves and losses come to life. She wrote from personal heartache and battles with addiction. Rolling Stone listed her on the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. In 2011 she was diagnosed with leukemia. She passed just 5 days before her 74th birthday.
Don Cornelius (September 27, 1936 – Feb. 1, 2012)
In 1970, Soul Train entered national syndication and Don Cornelius brought “soul” to the masses. During a time of racial tension in the U.S., Soul Train salved the soul and bridged the gap through music, fashion and dance. Don Cornelius committed suicide in his home after suffering with severe pain and seizures according to his son. He was 75.
Whitney Houston (August 9, 1963- Feb. 11, 2012)
Guinness cites Whitney Houston as "The Most Awarded Female Act of All Time" and she's sold over 170 million albums. Houston is one of the few iconic artists that bridged generational and racial gaps through music and acting. Her 1992 version of Dolly Pardon's "I Will Always Love You" became the best selling single in music history. Though criticized for her battle with addiction, Whitney will always be remembered as "The Voice." She passed at the age of 48 from accidental drowning in LA.
Chuck Brown (August 22, 1936 – May 16, 2012)
Renowned guitarist and heralded as the "Godfather of Go-Go," Brown was known as the force that catapulted the funk genre to the forefront of music. He died of multiple organ failure at the age of 75.
Donna Summer (Dec. 31, 1948- May 17, 2012)
5 time Grammy award winner, Summer charted 4 number one singles in the US in a little over a year. She brought us hits like "Love to Love You Baby," "Hot Stuff," and "Bad Girls." She was given the title of "Queen of Disco." She passed of lung cancer in Florida at the age of 63. W w
Herb Reed (Aug. 17, 1928- June 4, 2012)
A founding member of The Platters, Reed had the epic rags to riches story! Notably, he was the only member to sing all 400 records by the group. He died of a combination of health complications including heart disease.
Yvette Wilson (March 6, 1964 – June 14, 2012)
Best known for her role as Andell Wilkerson on TV sitcoms Moesha and The Parkers, Wilson also appeared on Def Comedy Jam and in films such as House Party II & III and Friday. She passed away of cervical cancer and kidney disease at the age of 48.
Rodney King (April 2, 1965 – June 17, 2012)
King was one of the most iconic figures to rise out of the explosive racial tensions of the early 1990s, as his videotaped brutal beating by 5 LA police officers— and their subsequent acquittal—sparked the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which left 53 dead and thousands injured. King was pronounced dead after being found at the bottom of his swimming pool.
Sherman Hemsley (Feb. 1, 1938 – July 24, 2012)
We loved him for the sarcasm he gave us as George Jefferson in The Jeffersons and the "deacon's walk" he made popular as Deacon Ernie Frye on NBC's Amen. Hemsley passed of lung cancer at the age of 74.
Al Freeman Jr. (March 21, 1934 – August 9, 2012)
The seasoned actor transferred seamlessly from Broadway stages, to soap opera stardom on as a groundbreaking star of ABC's One Life to Live. Freeman, who was perhaps best known for his flawless portrayal of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad in Spike Lee's Malcolm X, also served as a professor of acting at Howard University for 24 years. He was 78.
Michael Clarke Duncan (Dec. 10 1957- Sept. 3, 2012)
The kind hearted giant who left us waving our tissues at the screen in his academy award nominated role in The Green Mile. He's also recognized for his roles in Armageddon, The Whole Nine Yards, The Skorpion King and Daredevil. Off screen, he was engaged to the infamous Omorosa. He passed after suffering from complications of a heart attack.
Natina Reed (Oct. 28, 1979 – October 26, 2012)
A member of R&B group Blaque, she was the protégé of TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Reed was struck by a car while crossing US Highway 29. She was 32.