For many Irish people, 2023 will be remembered as the year we mourned the deaths of three irreplaceable Irish music greats – Christy Dignam, Sinéad O’Connor and Shane MacGowan.
The untimely loss of all three artists, O’Connor was only 56, while Dignam and MacGowan were in their sixties, added to the pain of their loss. As RTÉ Entertainment’s Alan Corr wrote in his tribute to MacGowan: “There goes some kind of Holy Trinity of Irish music.”
As the year comes to a close, we take a look back at the many icons of screen and stage who passed away in 2023.
Jeff Beck, the influential guitarist who rose to rock and roll stardom with 1960s supergroup the Yardbirds and later had a prolific solo career, died in January after an illness at the age of 78. “On behalf of his family, it is with deep and profound sadness that we share the news of Jeff Beck’s passing. After suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, he peacefully passed away yesterday,” a statement on the English-born musician’s website said.
Lisa Marie Presley
Singer-songwriter Lisa Marie Presley, the only child of rock and roll legend Elvis Presley, died on 12 January aged 54 hours after being hospitalised. Her cause of death was later revealed to be a small bowel obstruction as a delayed consequence of bariatric weight loss surgery,
US musician David Crosby, who co-founded two influential rock bands during his career, died at the age of 81 after a long illness. The singer-songwriter rose to fame in LA-based folk-rock group The Byrds, which he joined in 1964 and collaborated on chart-topping hits including Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!.
Tom Verlaine, the influential frontman of the band Television which emerged from the New York punk rock underground in the late 1970s with seminal album Marquee Moon, died at the age of 73 after a brief illness, his family said.
Legendary pop song composer Burt Bacharach died aged 94 at his home in Los Angeles from natural causes on 8 February. Throughout his storied career he delighted millions with the quirky arrangements and unforgettable melodies of songs such as I Say A Little Prayer, Walk On By, Do You Know The Way To San Jose and dozens of other hits.
Hollywood actress Raquel Welch, star of the films such as Fantastic Voyage, Bedazzled and 100 Rifles, died at the age of 82 following a brief illness. Her career, which spanned over 50 years, saw her star in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances.
TV and newspaper astrologer Margaret Lake, best known as Mystic Meg, died at the age of 80 after being admitted to hospital suffering from flu. She became a household name in the 1990s with her prediction segment on the National Lottery in the UK and wrote a horoscope column for The Sun for nearly 23 years.
Actor Lance Reddick, best known for his commanding presence as the no-nonsense police chief Cedric Daniels on the acclaimed television drama The Wire and for his supporting work in the John Wick action-film series, died suddenly at the age of 60 from natural causes.
TV presenter and comedian Paul O’Grady died “unexpectedly but peacefully” at the age of 67. The TV star, also known for his drag queen persona Lily Savage, hosted shows such as The Paul O’Grady Show, Blind Date and Blankety Blank, as well as ITV’s multi-award-winning For The Love Of Dogs.
S Club 7 singer Paul Cattermole died suddenly at the age of 46 at his home in Dorset. The cause of death was later revealed to be natural causes. Cattermole’s death came as the group was set to reform for a 25th-anniversary reunion tour.
Former Strictly Come Dancing head judge Len Goodman died “peacefully” at the age of 78. The dancer and choreographer, originally from London, had been diagnosed with bone cancer. Goodman became a judge on the BBC show in 2004 and his final appearance was on the 2016 Christmas Day special.
Mark Sheehan, guitarist with The Script, died in hospital after a brief illness. He was 46. A statement on the band’s social media pages said: “Much loved husband, father, brother, band mate and friend Mark Sheehan passed away today in hospital after a brief illness. The family and group ask fans to respect their privacy at this tragic time.”
Johnny Fean (17 November 1951 – 28 April 2023).
Johnny was a quiet and gentle soul but his guitar spoke with an enormous emotional force.
So, while he has passed from this world, he will live on forever through his music and through the much love that will alway remain for him! pic.twitter.com/7KI5ssLWIA
— Thiefdom Of Horslips (@THorslips) April 28, 2023
Guitarist and singer Johnny Fean of Irish trad rock band Horslips died at the age of 71. In a statement, the band said they are “deeply saddened” by the death of their bandmate, who passed away this morning at his home in Shannon, Co Clare. For well over 50 years, Johnny was our best friend, our creative collaborator, our guitar hero.”
Talk show host Jerry Springer died peacefully at his home in Chicago after a brief illness aged 79. He was best known for showcasing dysfunctional families on The Jerry Springer Show, which ran from 1991 until 2018 in the US.
Tina Turner, one of the biggest recording artists of all time, died peacefully at the age of 83 after a long illness in her home in Küsnacht near Zurich, Switzerland. Stars including Mick Jagger, Gloria Gaynor, Elton John and model Naomi Campbell were among the first to pay tribute to Turner, widely referred to as the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll, following the news of her passing. The Rolling Stones’ Jagger, who duetted with Turner during Live Aid in 1985, said she was an “enormously talented performer and singer”.
Andy Rourke, the bass guitarist with the iconic band The Smiths, died aged 59 after a lengthy illness with pancreatic cancer. His passing was announced by his Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr, who wrote: Guitarist Marr said: “Andy will be remembered as a kind and beautiful soul by those who knew him and as a supremely gifted musician by music fans.”
Renowned British author Martin Amis died aged 73 at his home in Florida. The novelist and screenwriter published a series of novels and non-fiction works over his lifetime, with his best-known arguably being 1984’s Money and 1989’s London Fields.
The Irish music industry mourned the loss of one of its greats with the death of Aslan frontman Christy Dignam on 13 June following a long illness. The 63-year-old Finglas-born singer entered palliative care last January and spent the last few months at home where he was cared for by his family. President of Ireland Michael D Higgins led the tributes, saying Dignam and his Aslan bandmates “made an enormous contribution to the cultural life of our nation”.
Double Oscar winner Glenda Jackson died peacefully after a brief illness at the age of 87. The screen star won the Oscar for best actress in 1970 for Women in Love and again three years later for A Touch of Class – although opted not to attend the ceremony on either occasion.
Oscar-winning American actor Alan Arkin death at the age of 89 was confirmed in a statement from his sons that read: “Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man. “A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed.” The New-York born actor’s career spanned over 60 years and included a Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for the comedy-drama Little Miss Sunshine at the age of 72 in 2007.
Jane Birkin, the British-born singer and actress who became a style icon in her adopted France, died aged 76. Birkin was best known overseas for the 1969 hit Je T’aime… Moi Non Plus in which she duetted with her then-partner, the late French singer and songwriter Serge Gainsbourg.
Legendary singer Tony Bennett died at the age of 96 at his home in New York. No less than Frank Sinatra called the former singing waiter “the best singer in the business” after he became a star in the 1950s. Bennett went on to win 20 Grammy awards throughout his career, including a lifetime achievement award.
There was widespread shock and sorrow at the news of singer-songwriter Sinead O’Connor’s death at the age of 56. The Dublin-born star, who was propelled to international stardom in 1990 with her version of Nothing Compares 2 U, was a fearless and outspoken artist who left an indelible mark on Irish music history. Christy Moore was among those paying tribute, describing her as a “warrior woman – fearless yet fragile” and saying her passing was “such a profound loss”.
There was an outpouring of sadness at the news of Eurphoria star Angus Cloud’s death at the age of 25, days after he buried his father. Angus Cloud, whose full name was Conor Angus Cloud Hickey, played Fezco, an intense drug dealer with a moral code, in the series starring Zendaya in the lead role of Rue Bennett.
Irish-born actor Michael Gambon died peacefully in hospital aged 82 following a bout of pneumonia, his family announced. Gambon, who was born in Dublin’s Cabra, won four TV Baftas, and is known for his extensive back catalogue of work across TV, film, radio and theatre over a career spanning five decades.
The Hustler and Carrie actor Piper Laurie, who was thrice nominated for an Oscar, died aged 91 at her Los Angeles home, with her manager Marion Rosenberg giving the cause as old age. She received Academy Award nominations for three distinct films: the 1961 poolroom drama The Hustler; the film version of Stephen King’s horror classic Carrie in 1976; and the romantic drama Children Of A Lesser God in 1986.
Richard Roundtree, the trailblazing actor who starred as the titular private detective in several Shaft films beginning in the early 1970s, died at the age of 81. He had been battling pancreatic cancer. Roundtree was considered the first black action hero and became one of the leading actors in the “blaxploitation” genre through his New York street smart John Shaft character in the Gordon Parks-directed film in 1971.
Hollywood was stunned and grief-stricken by the news that Matthew Perry, best known for playing Chandler Bing in the hit ’90s TV sitcom Friends, died at the age of 54 after being found unconscious in a hot tub at his Los Angeles home. The actor, who had spoken about his struggle with substance abuse in his frank memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, said that after he died he wanted to be remembered for helping others who were battling the disease of addiction. The month after his passing, the Matthew Perry Foundation was set up to continue this commitment.
On November 30, music fans across Ireland and the world mourned the death of Pogues frontman and songwriter Shane MacGowan aged 65. The Irish music great had been ill for some time. Perhaps best known for The Pogues’ 1987 hit festive song Fairytale Of New York, MacGowan was acclaimed for his unique gravelly voice, his songwriting prowess, and his potent lyricism.
The Cork-born actor and television presenter Frank Twomey died on 11 December, his family confirmed. The TV personality was much loved as a presenter on the Irish children’s afternoon show Bosco, in which he appeared alongside the inquisitive puppet throughout the show’s original 1980s run. Twomey also appeared on the RTÉ comedy shows Bull Island and Nighthawks.