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The arts and culture stars who died in 2020

October to December

On 6 October, two American musical greats passed away: 65-year-old pioneering guitarist and co-founder of hard rock outfit Van Halen, Eddie Van Halen, and Johnny Nash, the 80-year-old reggae-pop star best known for his 1972 track I Can See Clearly Now. Another great guitarist we said goodbye to, two weeks later, on 19 October, was Spencer Davis, the 81-year-old Welsh musician who made his mark with influential 1960s Beat band The Spencer Davis Group. Then on 30 October, not just cinema, but popular culture more widely, lost a legend with the death, aged 90, of Sean Connery, the original (and many would argue, best) James Bond, Oscar-winner and all-round iconic Scotsman. 

On 6 November we lost 87-year-old author George Cockcroft, better known under his pen-name Luke Rhinehart for writing 1971’s The Dice Man, the cult philosophical novel about a man who makes decisions about his life according to the roll of a die. On 20 November, the historian and travel writer Jan Morris died, aged 94: a woman known for her exceptional, evocative prose style, as well as for being a transgender pioneer. Then on 28 November, Star Wars fans around the world mourned following news of the passing of Darth Vader actor Dave Prowse at 85: he played the bemasked villain through all three films in the original trilogy, while James Earl Jones provided the voice. 

On 3 December, US literature said goodbye to one of its most revered living novelists, Alison Lurie; the Pulitzer-Prize winning writer acclaimed for her Austen-ian comedies of manners was 94 years old. On 6 December came the death, aged 83, of a UK national treasure: Dame Barbara Windsor, the star of the saucy 1960s Carry On movies who later found a whole new fanbase in the 1990s with her role as pub-owning grande dame Peggy Mitchell on BBC soap opera EastEnders. On 12 December, we lost a man often referred to as the world’s greatest spy novelist: David Cornwell, aka John Le Carré, the former British intelligence agent who made his name with high-stakes thrillers such as The Spy Who Came In From the Cold and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and reached the age of 89. Finally, on 29 December, the fashion world mourned the loss of Pierre Cardin, the 98-year-old French fashion designer whose innovative, space-age creations changed what we wear.

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