Sunday, 9 August 2015

A Sky Full of Stars

Those of you who are my age group - early twenties fifties - may well be reflecting that 2015 has been something of a sad year. By this, I mean the demise of so many people - celebrities as they're known as these days - who have shifted off this mortal coil this year.

When I was a boy - no, bear with me on this - there were nowhere near the number of television channels there are in these satellite times. In Aberdeen in the 1970s there was BBC1, BBC2 and ITV - which in Aberdeen's case was Grampian TV. And, er, that was it. But this wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

I spent many a contented Sunday afternoon watching the likes of Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and The Avengers on our small black and white telly. The Avengers featured Patrick Macnee as the suave and sophisticated John Steed, a debonair fellow who tackled any challenge thrown at him with good humour and his trademark bowler hat and umbrella. The man who created The Avengers - Brian Clemens - died earlier this year and his death was soon followed by Patrick Macnee himself. I still fondly remember the show with its instantly recognisable theme tune and opening sequence and it's sad that its main star is no longer with us (I also had a fascination with Diana Rigg aka Mrs Peel but I won't go into that...)

At the beginning of 2015, another actor who began to make her mark in the 1970s - Anne Kirkbride - also passed away at the far too early age of 60. Anne played Deirdre Barlow in the UK's best known soap opera - Coronation Street - and was involved in some of the programme's most famous storylines for over 40 years.

A well-known Scots actor, Geraldine McEwan, was famous for her role in the television adaptation of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie in the 1970s. This programme was set in Edinburgh and was filmed in Scotland's beautiful capital city. She passed away, aged 82, a couple of weeks after Anne Kirkbride.

The film Oliver! from the 1960s is one of the most famous British films ever produced. One of its stars, Ron Moody, who famously played Fagin, died this year at the age of 91. In the same week another legend of the British screen and stage - Christopher Lee - died aged 93.

I was never a fan of the US television sci-fi series Star Trek. Nonetheless, I was still saddened to hear of the passing of perhaps the show's most iconic member Leonard Nimoy, aka Mr Spock, who died in February.

Talking of iconic US television series, the creator of The Simpsons - Sam Simon - died in March aged just 59.

A famous film star from when I was growing up was Omar Sharif, star of landmark films such as Dr Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif died in July aged 83.

Back in the UK, Keith Harris, the ventriloquist who brought us Orville the Duck - yes, he's the one - died in April.

A feature of Saturday evenings in the 1970s was Irish singer Val Doonican who had his own BBC1 television show and was a staple of Saturday night television for many years. Doonican died this year aged 88.

On the music front one of the major players in the new romantic age in the late 1970s/early 1980s - Steve Strange of Visage - died in February following a heart attack. He was just 55. His biggest hit - Fade to Grey - is still played regularly on the radio today.

One of the songs I most associate with the 1970s is Free's All Right Now, co-written by Andy Fraser. Andy died in March at the age of 62.

A singing voice of the 1970s - although I use the term singing loosely in his case, rather like the kaftan's that were his trademark - was Greek star Demis Roussos. He also passed away in January this year.

When a Man Loves a Woman was one of the biggest hit songs of the 1960s. Its singer, Percy Sledge died in April. Ben E King, who famously recorded Stand By Me also died this year at the age of 76.
And BB King, the legendary blues singer, died in May at the age of 89.

The UK had a band called Hot Chocolate, famous for a number of songs such as So You Win Again in the 1970s/80s. Their lead singer, Errol Brown, passed away in May.

In the last week the procession of stars from the 1970s and 80s to the stage 'upstairs' has continued with the passing of British television and singing star Cilla Black and distinguished actor George Cole - star of stage and screen and who had a huge television hit with Minder in the 1980s.

We're only in August but already this year, far too many stars from my childhood/teenage years have departed, some far too early. There are others who have passed away this year who I haven't mentioned but those names above are the those who meant something to the Auld Reekie Ranter as he grew up (some might say I still haven't grown up)

Perhaps I'm at that age but I always feel a twinge of sadness when someone or something from my childhood is taken away.

There was a song by Coldplay called A Sky Full of Stars a few months ago. Sadly, that certainly seems to be the case in 2015.

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