Boomers Lost Many Influencers in 2023

It has become tradition for Mister Boomer at the end of the year to take a look back at the many people who passed away, with a boomer filter. Throughout the lives of boomers, people in the world of the arts, politics, science, sports, technology and more, have helped shape the generation and boomer individuals in the process. Here are just some of those influential people we lost in 2023:

Fred White (January 13, 1955 – January 1, 2023)
Before joining Earth, Wind & Fire as their drummer, Fred White toured with Donny Hathaway. He was the primary drummer for EW&F from 1975 to 1983. The band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Jeff Beck (June 24, 1946 – January 10, 2023)
Boomers knew Jeff Beck as one the “guitar gods” of the 1960s. He was a guitarist for The Yardbirds when Eric Clapton left, and later formed The Jeff Beck Group. Beck was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice — for his work with the Yardbirds and The Jeff Beck Group.

David Crosby (August 14, 1941 – January 17, 2023)
Boomers know David Crosby, his trials and tribulations, and his music. He was the co-founder of The Byrds in 1964, and formed Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. In 1970, Neil Young joined the group.

Cindy Williams (August 22, 1947 – January 25, 2023)
Fellow boomer Cindy Williams was a fixture in classic boomer movies and TV. She played the character of Ron Howard’s girlfriend in American Graffiti (1973). In 1974, she joined Penny Marshall as recurring characters on TV’s Happy Days. The duos’ characters were so well received that the spin-off Laverne & Shirley (1976-82) was created. To many boomers, Cindy Williams will always be Shirley Feeney.

Barrett Strong (February 5, 1941 – January 25, 2023)
If the name doesn’t immediately strike a bell, surely his music does. A singer and songwriter, in 1960 Strong wrote and sang Money (That’s What I Want), Motown’s first hit single. Teaming up with Motown producer Norman Whitfield, the duo wrote such enduring classics as I Heard It Though the Grapevine (1967), plus War (1969), Psychedelic Shack (1970), and Just My Imagination (1971) for the Temptations.

Burt Bacharach (May 12, 1928 – February 8, 2023)
Burt Bacharach teamed up with Hal David in the early 1960s — Bacharach writing the music, and David, the lyrics — and together they had a series of blockbuster hits. Jackie DeShannon was the first to record What The World Needs Now in 1965. Boomers definitely remember the collaboration of Dionne Warwick with Bacharach. She had hits with several Bacharach-David tunes, including Don’t Make Me Over (1962), Walk On By (1964), I’ll Never Fall In Love Again (1969), and Make It Easy On Yourself (1970), to name a few.

Racquel Welch (September 5, 1940 – February 15, 2023)
After a series of TV appearances on McHale’s Navy, Bewitched and The Virginian in 1964, Racquel Welch took to the big screen in Fantastic Voyage (1966) and One Million Years B.C. (1966). Mister B had the poster! Boomer trivia: Welch appeared as Priestess of the Whip in The Magic Christian (1969) with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr.

Stella Stevens (October 1, 1938 – February 17, 2023)
Early in her career, Stella Stevens was featured as a blonde bombshell. Like Marilyn Monroe, she wanted to be known for more than her looks. Still, boomers most likely recall her appearances in movies in the 1960s, such as Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) with Elvis; The Nutty Professor (1963) with Jerry Lewis; The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963) with Glen Ford; The Silencers (1966) spy movie spoof with Dean Martin; and later, The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

Ricou Browning (February 16, 1930 – February 27, 2023)
Boomers may not immediately recall his name, but they knew Ricou Browning’s work. He was one of the men in the creature suit in Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Revenge of the Creature (1955) and The Creature Walks Among Us (1956). An accomplished swimmer and underwater stuntman, he performed all the underwater swimming scenes in the films. Later, he co-wrote and co-produced the film, Flipper (1963) and the TV series that followed. He also worked as stunt director and underwater sequence director on several films, including the James Bond films, Thunderball (1965) and Never Say Never Again (1983).

Wayne Shorter (August 25, 1933 – March 2, 2023)
An extraordinary saxophonist, Wayne Shorter began his career playing jazz in the 1950s. By the mid-60s, he was playing with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. In the 1970s, he co-founded the jazz-fusion band, Weather Report. Shorter was the winner of 12 Grammy Awards.

Mark Russell (August 23, 1932 – March 30, 2023)
Political satirist Mark Russell lampooned politicians and presidents of both parties since Eisenhower was President. Mister Boomer first heard him on his TV specials on PBS, beginning in 1975.

Al Jaffee (March 13, 1921 – April 10, 2023)
A writer and cartoonist, Al Jaffee was working at Mad magazine in 1964 when he came up with the idea for “fold-ins” as a counter to “fold-outs” that appeared in Playboy, Sports Illustrated and in photo essays in Life magazine. Each of Jaffee’s fold-ins pictured a scene, with a question posed above it. When the two sides of the page were folded in, a different image was formed to answer the question. He also wrote Mad’s Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions segments.

Mary Quant (February 11, 1930 – April 13, 2023)
For boomers, Mary Quant’s name is synonymous with the miniskirt. A British fashion designer, she is credited with making the miniskirt a worldwide phenomenon. Her Mod fashion epitomized a break from previous decades to represent the freedom of the 1960s.

Harry Belafonte (March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023)
Boomers remember Harry Belafonte bursting onto the music scene with Day-O (The Banana Boat Song), which displaced Elvis from the number one spot on the charts in 1956. Yet he was an actor and lifelong activist for a variety of civil rights and human rights causes.

Gordon Lightfoot (November 17, 1938 – May 1, 2023)
Boomers well remember Canadian Gordon Lightfoot when he took the music charts by storm with If You Could Read My Mind in 1971.

Newton Minow (January 17, 1926 – May 6, 2023)
As chairman of the Federal Communications Commission during the first two years of the Kennedy Administration, Newton Minow gave a now-famous speech. On May 9, 1961, speaking to a group of television executives, he praised television by saying, “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.” Then he added the warning, “But when television is bad, nothing is worse.” He challenged TV executives to improve by watching a full day of their own programming. Newton said, “I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.” He went on to champion the launch of the U.S. communications satellite program. Boomer trivia: The writers of Gilligan’s Island heard Minow’s pronouncement, and as a “tribute,” named the doomed ship on the show the S.S. Minnow.

Tina Turner (November 26, 1936 – May 24, 2023)
Tina Turner first came to boomers’ attention when she sang with Ike Turner in the 1960s. The couple was married in 1962. By all accounts, Ike was controlling and abusive. In 1969, Ike and Tina were the opening act for The Rolling Stones tour. Tina left Ike in 1976 and their divorce was finalized in 1978. Tina was then free to take her music career solo. Tina was twice inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: first with Ike in 199, and as a solo performer in 2021.

Daniel Elsberg (April 7, 1931 – June 19, 2023)
An economist by trade, Daniel Elsberg made front-page news as a government whistleblower. While working as an analyst at the Pentagon in 1971, Elsberg was privy to a huge document that chronicled, in detail, the actions of the U.S. during the Vietnam War. Having served in the Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1965, Elsberg returned opposed to the escalation of the war. He took portions of the document to several senators in the hope that they would call for official hearings, but instead, he was encouraged to release it to the public. On June 13, 1971, The New York Times ran the first story of The Pentagon Papers.

Tony Bennett (August 3, 1926 – July 21, 2023)
Boomers knew Tony Bennett from radio and TV. The 1950s and early 60s were times when crooners like Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby shared the charts and airtime with rock & rollers. Bennett had multiple hit songs on the charts in the early 1950s. It was 1962 when I Left My Heart In San Francisco (written by George Cory) was released as the B side to Once Upon a Time. The song quickly became Bennett’s signature tune.

Brice Marsden (October 15, 1938 – August 9, 2023)
When Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Op Art had run their course in the late 1960s, many art critics proclaimed that painting was “dead” as artists moved toward Minimalism and media other than paint. It was abstract artist Brice Marsden who is credited with rejuvenating American painting with his combination of modern and minimal characteristics.

Robbie Robertson (July 5, 1943 – August 9, 2023)
A lead guitarist and songwriter for the Hawks, the group backed up Rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins when Bob Dylan heard them. In 1965, he added the band to his tour. Robertson played with Dylan when he “went electric” in 1965-66, being booed by folk music purists. The group became known as The Band in 1968 with the release of Music From Big Pink. Robertson remained chief songwriter for The Band for eight years. The final performance of The Band was documented in the Martin Scorsese film, The Last Waltz (1978), which is considered by many to be one of the greatest concert movies ever filmed.

Bob Barker (December 12, 1923 – August 26, 2023)
Boomers mostly remember Bob Barker as the game show host for Truth or Consequences (1956-75) and The Price Is Right (1972-2007). He began his career as a host of his own radio program, and was a lifelong animal rights activist.

David McCallum (September 19, 1933 – September 25, 2023)
Though he played a medical examiner on NCIS for the past 20 years, to boomers David McCallum will always be Illya Kuryakin on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964).

Mark Goddard (July 24, 1936 – October 10, 2023)
Best known as Major Don West on the TV series, Lost In Space (1965-68), Mark Goddard appeared on dozens of popular TV shows, including The Virginian (1964), The Fugitive (1965), Perry Mason (1963 and 1965) and even The Beverly Hillbillies (1964), among many others.

Phyllis Coates (January 5, 1927 – October 11, 2023)
Boomers will recall Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane for one season of the TV series, Adventures of Superman (1952) with George Reeves. Coates also guest starred in many TV shows, including Rawhide (1959 and 1961), Gunsmoke (1958 and 1964), Perry Mason (1958 and 1964), The Patty Duke Show (1963), and more.

Richard Roundtree (July 9, 1942 – October 24, 2023)
To boomers, Richard Roundtree will forever be the title character in Shaft (1971). He went on to appear in dozens of TV shows and movies, including everything from Roots (1977) to The Love Boat (1980).

Frank Borman (March 14, 1928 – November 7, 2023)
It was Christmas of 1968 when Frank Borman was the Commander of the Apollo 8 mission to circle the moon and return home. Prior to that, Borman piloted the Gemini VII spacecraft. With Jim Lovell, Gemini VII was in space for two weeks, the longest any human had been in space at that time. The mission demonstrated for the first time the ability to dock with another spacecraft (Gemini VI).

Henry Kissinger (May 27, 1923 – November 29, 2023)
Foreign policy villain to some boomers and hero to others, Henry Kissinger was Secretary of State during the Nixon and subsequent Ford administrations (1969 to 1977). His work was instrumental in forming U.S. policies during the Cold War through his beliefs based on “peace through strength.” While many recall his support for increasing bombing campaigns in Vietnam and Cambodia, he is also credited with opening China to the western world. He was given the Nobel Peace Prize (1973) while at the same time others accused him of war crimes.

Norman Lear (July 27, 1922 – December 5, 2023)
Though he developed and produced over 100 television shows, Norman Lear is especially remembered by boomers for All In the Family (1971-79), Maude (1972-78), Sanford and Son (1972-77), The Jeffersons (1975-85), Good Times (1974-79) and One Day At A Time (1975-84). Lear enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942, and became a radio operator/gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress plane during World War II.

Denny Laine (October 29,1944 – December 5, 2023)
Singer, songwriter and guitarist, Denny Laine will be remembered by boomers as a co-founder of the Moody Blues and Wings. Laine sang lead on the Moody Blues’ first hit, Go Now! (1964). Laine left the band in 1966, and was replaced by Justin Hayward. Laine joined forces with Paul McCartney in 1971 to form Wings, where he remained for ten years.

Tom Smothers (February 2, 1937 – December 26, 2023)
Comedian and musician Tommy Smothers was the funny half of the Smothers Brothers. Together the duo played the folk music circuit in the early 1960s with their blend of comedy and folk music. They were tapped for TV, hosting The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on CBS (1967-70). Strong anti-war proponents, the brothers clashed with CBS censors and eventually it led to the show being cancelled.