The new year of 2016 began, as most years do, with a sad necrology in its first two weeks:the distinguished stage and screen actor Brian Bedford, the brilliant poet C.D. Wright, the beloved "Grizzly Adams" star Dan Haggerty.
Most of the public mourning, however, was directed at two men who died within three days of each other, at the same premature age.
Others are far better equipped than I to assess the impact of David Bowie on music and popular culture. But you don't have to be a rock critic to appreciate Bowie's daring, panache, and resilience as he reinvented himself countless times, yet always remained completely, recognizably himself. Eulogies from various sources, as well as numerous clips from interviews, attest to Bowie's keen intelligence and self-deprecating sense of humor. The release of his final album, "Black Star," just two days before his death attest to his determination and courage. But it was his music that made him important, and David Bowie changed our aural landscape in a way few other rock musicians have. And there are not many among the succeeding generations of rock musicians who don't owe an enormous debt to David Bowie.
Bowie seemed as if he would always be among us, So did Alan Rickman, a star character actor whose sepulchral voice and ravenlike presence made him unique and unforgettable. Rickman was the natural heir of James Mason in portraying elegant villains, as he proved beyond doubt in "Die Hard," "Sweeney Todd," and "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." (The mantle now passes to Ralph Fiennes, Rickman's "Harry Potter" co-star, and to Benedict Cumberbatch.) Like the aforementioned actors, Rickman also was a persuasive good guy, as he showed in "Sense and Sensibility" and "Truly, Madly, Deeply." My own favorite Rickman performances, however, were those in which he played equivocal, ironic characters, basically good but with obvious flaws and a generally disenchanted view of life. There were many such characters in Rickman's filmography: the long-married man wistfully considering an affair in "Love, Actually;" the actor forever typecast as an alien in "Galaxy Quest;" the wine seller trying to drum up business by hosting a California-vs.-France tasting in "Bottle Shock." For succeeding generations of filmgoers, of course, he will always be Severus Snape, whose angry and sinister demeanor was inextricable from his romantic, heroic heart.
There are many testimonials, from Rickman's co-stars and others, about his kind heart, generous spirit and thoughtful, philosophical approach to life. It seems impossible to imagine that he is no longer among us; that is the supreme accolade for any performer.