If you were a kid in the 70’s, you didn’t miss the Year Without a Santa Claus on TV during the holidays. It’s about the holiday that almost wasn’t and I think I’ve belted out the Heat Miser song at least a hundred times (if not more) in my lifetime. Yesterday, George S. Irving, the Heat Miser, passed away at 94. Irving also narrated Underdog so he was one of the voices of my childhood and boy did my childhood take a hit this year.
First up? David Bowie. Too young to remember his Ziggy Stardust days, my love affair with Bowie came in high school. I can still do all the moves to a drill team routine to Let’s Dance. That song was a pivotal part of my sophomore year. He died way too young of liver cancer but his legacy lives on with an album released a couple days before his death.
Prince’s death shocked me. I can still remember watching Purple Rain with my sister in Chicago (crazy the things you remember). Prince’s music was another big part of the soundtrack of high school. I remember giggling to how dirty Raspberry Beret was (as a teen, I’d be shocked at how filthy some of the music is today) and wondering if he and Vanity were really a thing. A prolific songwriter, his talent touched many musicians. His accidental overdose was a tragedy.
Next, we lost Gene Wilder, a brilliant comedian who will always be Willy Wonka to me (for the record, I think Johnny Depp was a creepy one). While, I was only three when Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out, I watch it every single time it’s on TV. One of my favorites and Wilder was a brilliant comedian who went on to star in Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and so much more. His death was unexpected since he kept his Alzheimers a secret.
Florence Henderson will forever be America’s mom. I, and everyone else my age, grew up watching the Brady Bunch because it played for years in syndication. Although the show was cheesy, I often wondered what it might be like to be the daughter of Mrs. Brady because she seemed so perfect (which she wasn’t. Was she widowed? Divorced? They never told us). Although in her 80’s, her death of heart failure was unexpected.
Growing Pains was a classic 80’s sitcom and Alan Thicke was the perfect TV dad. Prior to the show, Thicke wrote the theme songs to Diff’rent Strokes and the Facts of Life (more childhood faves. I can still sing all the lyrics). Rosie and I had just watched him on Fuller House when the news came that he collapsed playing hockey with his son. Heart failure.
High School wouldn’t have been the same without George Michael. I remember blasting Wham’s All She Wants in the car with one of my besties and making gestures to it (that I still remember to this day). But when he went solo and Faith came out, I was blown away. I Want Your Sex. My teenage self couldn’t believe that you could actually say that. The entire album was amazing and George Michael was brave coming out. He died alone in bed last month.
Yesterday, Carrie Fisher passed away after having a heart attack last week. I remember seeing her in Star Wars as a kid but it really wasn’t my thing. I loved her in When Harry Met Sally. Hollywood Royalty, she owed the public nothing yet she was open and honest about her struggles with mental illness, addiction and fame. Her death wasn’t a shock as she was without oxygen for minutes after her cardiac arrest.
All of these stars, were part of my childhood and while I didn’t know them personally, I mourn each and every one. Like it or not, the shows that we watch and songs that we listen to as kids shape us. They’re part of our history and the soundtrack of our lives. 2016 was a rough year for my childhood. Now, let’s hope we make it through the next few days without another loss. Am I right?