Notable Deaths in 2024


Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, his wife Yulia, and others march in memory of murdered Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, in Moscow, February 29, 2020. | KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

A look back at the esteemed personalities who left us this year, who’d touched us with their innovation, creativity and humanity.

By senior producer David Morgan. The Associated Press contributed to this gallery.

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny (June 4, 1976-February 16, 2024) became an international symbol of freedom in an increasingly autocratic country, as he led a crusade against corruption in the Kremlin, specifically President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, which he labeled “the party of crooks and thieves.” And he never stopped railing against his government, even after he was targeted with politically-motivated prosecutions, imprisoned, and even poisoned with Novichok, in an attempt on his life that captured the attention of the world.

An attorney who did a fellowship at Yale University, Navalny gained notoriety by attacking corruption within Russia’s political and business worlds. By focusing on the notion of ordinary Russians being cheated rather than on human rights abuses, Navalny’s investigations (such as revealing the ostentatious country estates of the politically-connected) went viral on social media, resonating with younger Russians far from Moscow and St. Petersburg. It helped him establish a network of regional offices for his group, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, and allowed unprecedented rallies against the ruling party, protesting suspicious election results.

He was convicted in 2013 of embezzlement (he denounced the charges as political retribution) and was sentenced to five years in prison, but later released, his sentence suspended following protests in the capital.

Navalny did espouse an overt nationalism – he supported the rights of ethnic Russians, and the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia, a move decried by the rest of the world as illegal – but his continued attacks on Putin made him an internationally-known resistance figure. He ran for mayor of Moscow, coming in second.  

While in jail in 2019 for protesting an election, Navalny fell ill with what authorities said was an allergic reaction, but doctors said was poisoning.

In August 2020, Navalny became severely ill on a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. He later told “60 Minutes,” “I said to the flight attendant – and I kind of shocked him with my statement – ‘Well, I was poisoned, and I’m going to die.’ And I immediately laid down under his feet.”

The plane diverted to Omsk, where he was hospitalized. Supporters begged doctors to allow him to be taken to Germany for treatment. Once there, doctors surmised he’d been poisoned with a nerve agent similar to what nearly killed former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England two years earlier. Navalny remained in a medically-induced coma for around two weeks.

The Kremlin denied it was behind the poisoning, but Navalny released a recording of a phone call in which an FSB officer admitted the assassination attempt and subsequent attempt to cover it up. [The call was the centerpiece of the Oscar-winning documentary “Navalny,” filmed during his recovery and later return to Russia.]

His arrest upon arrival in Moscow in early 2021 sparked protests that resulted in more than 10,000 people detained by police. A court then outlawed the Anti-Corruption Foundation, deeming it an extremist organization.

While in prison, he protested, via social media, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and received an additional nine-year sentence. Later, on charges he called fabricated, Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison, which he understood was “a life sentence, which is measured by the length of my life or the length of life of this regime.”

Seiji Ozawa

Seiji Ozawa, chef d'orchestre japonais en 1981

Conductor Seiji Ozawa, photographed in Paris in 1981. | Marc BULKA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Born in China of Japanese parents, internationally-acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa (September 1, 1935-February 6, 2024) lived a life blending the cultures of East and West. He led the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973 to 2002 (longer than any other conductor in the orchestra’s history), and from 2002 to 2010 was music director of the Vienna State Opera.

While he was a student in Japan, Ozawa suffered a rugby accident in which he broke two fingers. It ended his piano playing, but his music teacher suggested he take up conducting instead.

In 1960 came to the U.S. and attended the Tanglewood Music Center, where he was spotted by New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein, who appointed him assistant conductor for the Philharmonic’s 1961-62 season. Making his New York debut at age 25, The New York Times praised Ozawa: “The music came brilliantly alive under his direction.”

Ozawa led various groups, including orchestras in San Francisco and Toronto, before being named head of the BSO in 1970. The first Asian conductor to reach such professional levels in the West, he brought star quality and a tremendous physicality to the podium, and helped raise the international reputations of both Boston’s orchestra and the music center at Tanglewood.

His presence extended beyond the concert hall. In 1998 he led choruses on five continents in a live-via-satellite performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for the opening of the Nagano Winter Olympic Games. He earned two Emmys for his TV broadcasts, and in November 2022 he beamed a performance of Beethoven’s “Egmont” Overture to Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata at the International Space Station, as part of the “One Earth Mission – Unite with Music” initiative.

“Music can link the hearts of people – transcending words, borders, religion, and politics,”  Ozawa said in a statement. “It is my hope that through music, we can be reminded that we are all of the same human race living on the same planet … and that we are united.”

He also co-founded the Saito Kinen Orchestra in 1984 (they won a Grammy for best opera recording in 2016), and was artistic director and founder of the Seiji Ozawa Matsumoto Festival, a music and opera festival in Japan. He received a Kennedy Center Honor in 2015.

Speaking with “Sunday Morning” in 1998, Ozawa likened leading an orchestra to skiing. “When I conduct, concentration is most important that moment, and I forget everything but that moment, this music. Ski, I think, same, when you come down slow, you cannot think other things, just have to concentrate.”

Toby Keith

The 29th Annual American Music Awards - Show

Toby Keith performs at the 29th American Music Awards, January 9, 2002, in Los Angeles. | Michael Caulfield Archive/Wireimage via Getty Images

A singer, actor, and businessman, country artist Toby Keith (July 8, 1961-February 5, 2024) thought of himself first and foremost a songwriter. “God’s gift to me was to be a writer,” he told “Sunday Morning” in 2006, “and that’s what I do best of all, and I’m as gifted at that as anybody.” Gifted enough to sell 40 million records and run his own record label.

Keith grew up in Oklahoma, played a bit of semi-pro football, and worked in the oil fields until jobs dried up. All the while, he struggled to make it in country music. When his debut album was released in 1993, the song “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” went to #1 on the country charts.

He would log 42 Top 10 hits on the Billboard country charts, with 20 peaking at #1, including “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “I Wanna Talk About Me,” “I Love This Bar,” “Whiskey Girl,” “As Good As I Once Was,” “Red Solo Cup,” and “Beer For My Horses” (a duet with Willie Nelson).

But the song that made Keith a superstar was his emotional response to the attacks of 9/11. He said that he wrote “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” in 20 minutes, just days after the attacks, partly as a tribute to his father, a veteran. Subtitled “The Angry American,” the song doesn’t mince words:

You’ll be sorry that you messed with the US of A,
because we’ll put a boot in your ass,
it’s the American way.

The song brought him much attention, pro and con, including a public feud with the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines, who called it ignorant. Keith rode the song and the controversy all the way to the bank.

He followed with “American Soldier,” which become a favorite of U.S. forces overseas, many of whom attended his USO tours. But standing with the troops didn’t mean he stood with America’s decision to go into Iraq. “When the Iraq war started, I was a little mad because we didn’t finish what we started in Afghanistan,” he told “Sunday Morning.” “But our troops had to move on into Iraq, our government asked them to go do it for whatever reason. We won’t know for probably 20 or 30 years whether it was the right thing to do or not.”

And while the songs meant many pegged Keith as conservative, he said he disappointed many Republicans who called him for support: “They go, ‘You’re a Republican, right?’ And you go, ‘Well, I’m actually a lot of times Democrat.’ And then they go, ‘Oh, sorry.’ And the Democrats want so bad, the real liberals really want to hate me, and then they go, ‘I still hate you, but I can’t believe you’re a Democrat.’ … So, I’m not a real political guy. I’m a very patriotic guy.”

Carl Weathers

Sylvester Stallone And Carl Weathers In 'Rocky'

Sylvester Stallone boxes Carl Weathers in a scene from the 1976 film “Rocky.” | United Artists/Getty Images

After three years of playing professional football, Carl Weathers (January 14, 1948-February 2, 2024) transitioned to Hollywood action star, bringing a towering physicality and deft humor to roles in such films as “Rocky,” “Predator,” and “Happy Gilmore.”

Growing up in New Orleans, Weathers had performed in plays in grade school. But he pursued football, playing college ball at San Diego State University (while majoring in theater), and playing linebacker for the Oakland Raiders in 1970. Afterwards, he played two years in the Canadian Football League, while taking acting lessons in the offseason at San Francisco State University.

He had appearances in such TV series as “King Fu,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “S.W.A.T.,” and “Cannon,” and the blaxploitation film “Friday Foster,” before taking on his best-known role: Apollo Creed, the world-champion boxer whom the seemingly outmatched Rocky Balboa faces in the ring, in the 1976 Oscar-winner “Rocky.”

In a 2015 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Weathers recalled that he was asked to audition with the film’s writer, Stallone (an actor with few credits at that time). Weathers read the scene but felt it didn’t work. He remarked, “I could do a lot better if you got me a real actor to work with.”

The verbal jab – instead of putting him off – made Stallone feel it was in character with Apollo Creed. “Sometimes the mistakes are the ones that get you the gig,” Weathers said. Or, the falsehoods (he lied that he had boxing experience).

Weathers returned to the character of Creed in three “Rocky” sequels, meeting his end against the steroid-infused Soviet boxer Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV.”

Weathers also played an imposing military policeman in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and appeared in “Semi-Tough,” “Force 10 From Navarone,” and “Death Hunt,” before starring opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1987 sci-fi actioner “Predator.” The following year he had top billing in “Action Jackson.”

He starred in the series “Chicago Justice,” played a thrifty Hollywood star named Carl Weathers who becomes an acting coach in “Arrested Development,” and earned an Emmy nomination for the “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian.” He also provided the voice of Combat Carl in Pixar’s “Toy Story” franchise. 

Weathers also directed episodes of “Silk Stalkings,” “Sheena,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “FBI,” “Law & Order,” “Chicago Med,” and “The Last O.G.” 

Chita Rivera


Chita Rivera as Anita in the original production of “West Side Story,” in November 1957. | AP Photo

“I always used to think that we should have two lifetimes: one to try it out, and the second one to know what’s coming,” Broadway star Chita Rivera (January 23, 1933-January 30, 2024) told “Sunday Morning” in 2023. But no one would mistake Rivera’s life for a rehearsal. The theatrical legend won three Tony Awards, received a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was the first Latina Kennedy Center Honoree. Rivera became a star playing Anita in the original Broadway production of West Side Story.” She followed that with performances in the original productions of “Chicago,” “Bye Bye Birdie,” and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero Montestuco Florentina Carnemacaral del Fuente, in Washington, D.C., her Puerto Rican father died when she was seven years old; her mother was left to raise five kids. As a small child, Dolores jumped from one piece of living room furniture to another. “I missed one time, and I went through the coffee table,” said Rivera. “And my mother said, ‘That’s it, you’re out of here. You’re going to a ballet school.'”

At 16, Rivera was accepted into New York’s elite School of American Ballet. But she soon abandoned ballet for Broadway, appearing in “Guys and Dolls,” “Can-Can,” “Seventh Heaven,” and “Mr. Wonderful,” starring Sammy Davis, Jr. He told Rivera not to sell herself short, that she had the talent to be a star, which she soon proved in “West Side Story,” dancing, acting and singing.

She would star in “Bye Bye Birdie,” “Chicago,” “Bring Back Birdie” (a fated sequel), “Merlin,” “The Rink” (with Liza Minnelli), “Jerry’s Girls,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman,” “Nine,” “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” “The Visit,” and the revue, “Chita Rivera: The Dancer’s Life.” She appeared in the movies “Sweet Charity,” “Chicago,” and “Tick … Tick … Boom!,” and on TV in “The Marcus-Nelson Murders” (the pilot for “Kojak”), “Mayflower Madam,” “Will & Grace,” and was the voice of the Witch in “Dora the Explorer.”

In 1986, a car accident left her with 12 pins and two plates in her left leg. Rivera not only recovered; she went on to win a Tony, dancing the title role in “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” “I do believe that being a dancer gave me the ability to fight, and to withstand, and to cope,” Rivera said. “If I come back, I want to come back a dancer. That would be my second life.”

Charles Osgood

CBS News

“Sunday Morning” anchor Charles Osgood in 2004. | John Paul Filo/CBS via Getty Images

Award-winning journalist Charles Osgood (January 8, 1933-January 23, 2024) was anchor of “CBS Sunday Morning” for 22 years, and for more than four decades was writer and host of the long-running radio program “The Osgood File.”

In his near-half-century at CBS News, Osgood worked on virtually every broadcast on the network, including the “CBS Morning News,” the “CBS Evening News with Dan Rather,” and the “CBS Sunday Night News,” and interviewed such luminaries as chef Julia Child, graffiti artist-turned-gallery star Keith Haring, painter Andrew Wyeth, sculptor Louise Nevelson, and singer-songwriter Sting.

A gifted newswriter (he was often referred to as the network’s poet-in-residence) with his trademark bowtie, Osgood was called “one of the last great broadcast writers” by Charles Kuralt, whom Osgood succeeded as host of “Sunday Morning” in 1994. During his run on the magazine program, it reached its highest ratings levels in three decades, and three times earned the Daytime Emmy as Outstanding Morning Program.

He continued writing his “Osgood File” radio reports up to four times a day, five days a week. “Short words, short sentences, short paragraphs,” Osgood said. “There’s nothing that can’t be improved by making it shorter and better.”

And his reports often rhymed, offering piquant commentary on the day’s events. He said some stories were just naturals that he knew right away he could make rhymes of in the rushed 60 to 90 minutes he had each morning to compose them. He said, “Some news is good and some is worse, and some news goes from bad to verse.”

In 1984 he offered this report on the Nut Tree Harvest Festival’s scarecrow decorating contest in Vacaville, Calif.:

When it’s time for Halloween-ing,
there’s one thing you should know,
You should stay away from Nut Tree,
that is, if you are a crow.

For they go to endless trouble there
to get crows off their backs,
And to make crows feel unwelcome,
And to give crows heart attacks. 

But not everyone in the audience was a fan. “We actually had a death threat in the newsroom,” Osgood recalled in 2016. “Somebody called up and he said, ‘Tell Osgood that if he does any more of those stupid poems, I’m gonna kill him!'”

Among his broadcasting honors, Osgood received the George Foster Peabody Award, the National Association of Broadcasters Distinguished Service Award, and five Emmys, including a lifetime achievement honor in 2017. He was inducted into the National Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1990, and the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2000.

He also wrote numerous books, including “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House,” “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis That Is Minor in the Morning,” “There’s Nothing I Wouldn’t Do if You Would Be My POSSLQ,” and his childhood reminiscence, “Defending Baltimore Against Enemy Attack.”

But he was more than a storyteller; he could also play piano, organ, banjo, violin, and was an accomplished composer and lyricist. (He had a Top 40 hit in 1966 with his ballad for the armed forces, “Gallant Men.”) He also performed with The New York Pops, The Boston Pops and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

Peter Schickele

The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour

Peter Schickele, the discoverer of P.D.Q. Bach, appearing on “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” March 30, 1968. | CBS via Getty Images

Musical satirist Peter Schickele (July 17, 1935-January 16, 2024) made a name for himself as a performer and a composer of music for the concert hall and films. But his name was overshadowed by that of his creation: P.D.Q. Bach, described as the least talented of Johann Sebastian Bach’s 20-ish children, whose compositions would, in the words of Schickele, “catapult him into obscurity.” No one knew the composer even existed until Schickele said he discovered one of P.D.Q. Bach’s manuscripts being used as a coffee strainer at a castle in Bavaria.

The satirist actually created P.D.Q. while on the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music in New York, creating works for the concert hall that lampooned classical music tropes, while adding unusual instruments (shower hose, police siren) in the mix. Schickele’s musical heroes included Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Spike Jones. “I grew up with the Three Stooges, as well as Bach and Mozart, and it’s all there,” he told “Sunday Morning” in 1984.

“Most satirists make fun of what they like, not what they don’t like; and so, musically, it’s very much a satire of love,” Schickele said. “I think the only aspect of it that I wouldn’t mind seeing changed a bit is the aura of sort of sacredness that surrounds the concert scene.”

The titles were punny enough: “Hansel & Gretel & Ted & Alice” (which Schickele called “an opera in one unnatural act”), “Concerto for Horn and Hardart,” “Eine Kleine Nichtmusik,” “Erotica Variations,” “Fanfare for the Common Cold,” “The Short-Tempered Clavier,” “Concerto for Piano vs. Orchestra,” “The Only Piece Ever Written for Violin and Tuba,” and a “simply grand” opera titled “The Abduction of Figaro.”

He would spend half the year writing serious compositions, and the other half doing P.D.Q. Bach music, which was released as albums, such as “The Stoned Guest,” “Music You Can’t Get Out of Your Head,” and “1712 Overture and Other Musical Assaults.” His book, “The Definitive Biography of P.D.Q. Bach,” sold 100,000 copies.

If there is one characteristic of P.D.Q. Bach’s music that stands out above all others, it’s what Schickele referred to as “manic plagiarism.” “Now, many 18th century composers, sometimes even the greatest ones, like Haydn and Mozart, would occasionally use a theme by one of their colleagues, but I think P.D.Q. Bach was the only composer who worked on tracing paper,” Schickele said, introducing one of P.D.Q.’s pieces.

Classical music may be serious business, but not when Schickele was involved. At performances in which he introduced the discoveries of yet more P.D.Q. works, he might arrive via a rope dangling from the balcony.

Schickele told “Sunday Morning” that rehearsals are important, if only to prevent fits of laughter from affecting the musicians’ playing: “One of the reasons we have rehearsals is so that musicians can laugh. But, hopefully, in the performance, musicians are going to have heard the music enough so that they can control themselves, particularly the wind players, of course, we’re concerned about, because the string players can laugh and still keep going, but the wind players definitely pose a problem.”

Joyce Randolph

The Jackie Gleason Show

Joyce Randolph and Art Carney as Trixie and Ed Norton on “The Honeymooners” (1955). | Photo by CBS via Getty Images

Veteran stage and television actor Joyce Randolph (October 21, 1924-January 13, 2024) was best remembered as Trixie, the wife of the dim Ed Norton, on the classic sitcom “The Honeymooners.” She was the last surviving cast member of the beloved sitcom that also starred Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows and Art Carney.

Originating as a skit on Gleason’s 1950s variety show, “Cavalcade of Stars,” “The Honeymooners” became a series of its own in 1955. Its one season on CBS, comprised of 39 episodes, would entertain generations in syndicated reruns.

Randolph retired from acting once the show ended, partly because the oversized impact of the character meant she was typecast. Active with fundraisers, Broadway openings and the U.S.O., Randolph said she didn’t fully realize the impact of the show until her son attended college in the early 1980s. “He came home and said, ‘Did you know that guys and girls come up to me and ask, ‘Is your mom really Trixie?'” she told The San Antonio Express in 2000. “I guess he hadn’t paid much attention before then.”

In a 2007 interview with The New York Times, Randolph said she received no royalties from the syndication of the original episodes, but did so once “lost” episodes – sketches repackaged from Gleason’s variety shows – were aired.

Glynis Johns

Portrait of Glynis Johns

A 1962 portrait of actress Glynis Johns. | De Carvalho Collection/Getty Images

British actress Glynis Johns (October 5, 1923-January 4, 2024) was best-known on screen for her portrayal of a suffragette and mother in the Disney classic “Mary Poppins,” and on stage for her Tony-winning turn in Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music.”

Johns was the fourth generation of actors in her family (she was born in Pretoria, South Africa, because her parents were touring at the time), and was first carried on stage at age three weeks. She was performing on London’s West End by age 14. Her early film credits included “49th Parallel,” “The Magic Box,” “The Sword and the Rose,” “Rob Roy: The Highland Rogue,” “The Beachcomber,” “The Court Jester,” “Around the World in 80 Days,” “Loser Take All,” “Another Time, Another Place,” “Shake Hands with the Devil,” “The Spider’s Web,” “The Chapman Repot,” and “The Sundowners,” for which she received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress.

In 1963 she starred in the comedy series “Glynis,” playing a mystery writer-turned-amateur sleuth.

The following year she played Mrs. Banks opposite Julie Andrews’ magical nanny in “Mary Poppins.” Meeting with Walt Disney (who had produced a couple of her ’50s films), she agreed to consider taking the role if she had a solo number in the musical. Disney promised her that he had one specially for her – and then, raced over to the Sherman Brothers to ask them to hurriedly write a solo number for Mrs. Banks.

On stage Johns starred in a 1956 Broadway production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara,” directed by Charles Laughton, and, in 1963, Shaw’s “Too True to Be Good.” She also starred in a stage version of the comedy “Harold and Maude.” In 1973 she won a Tony for “A Little Night Music,” starring as Desiree Armfeldt, an actress whose fame is fading. Sondheim wrote the show’s breakout song, the melancholy “Send in the Clowns,” for Johns’ distinctive husky voice, while she was in rehearsals.

“I’ve had other songs written for me, but nothing like that,” Johns told the AP in 1990. “It’s the greatest gift I’ve ever been given in the theater.”

She also starred in the 1989 Broadway revival of W. Somerset Maugham’s romantic comedy “The Circle,” with Rex Harrison and Stewart Granger.

Known as a perfectionist, she took roles that were complicated and multi-faceted. “As far as I’m concerned, I’m not interested in playing the role on only one level,” she told The Associated Press in 1990. “The whole point of first-class acting is to make a reality of it. To be real. And I have to make sense of it in my own mind in order to be real.”

Though she had, by her accounts, retired “many times,” she kept returning to acting, with appearances on TV (“Batman,” “Little Gloria … Happy at Last,” “The Love Boat,” “Cheers,” “Murder, She Wrote”) and films (“The Ref,” “While You Were Sleeping,” “Superstar”). “The theater is just part of my life,” she told the AP. “It probably uses my highest sense of intelligence, so therefore I have to come back to it, to realize that I’ve got the talent. I’m not as good doing anything else.” 

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