Celebrities who died in 2021

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Jason Guerrasio
·12 min read
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jessica walter

Hank Aaron, 87

Hank Aaron Focus on Sport Getty
Hank Aaron. Focus on Sport/Getty

"Hammerin' Hank" had a 21-season Major League Baseball career, most of that time with the Milwaukee (and later Atlanta) Braves.

The hall of fame player hit his 715th career home run in 1974, breaking the record Babe Ruth held for close to 33 years. Aaron would end his career with 755 home runs (a record that would hold until Barry Bonds surpassed it in 2007).

"A breaker of records and racial barriers, his remarkable legacy will continue to inspire countless athletes and admirers for generations to come," said former president Jimmy Carter in a statement to the Associated Press, who attended Braves games and called Aaron "a personal hero."

Aaron died of natural causes on January 22.

Dustin Diamond, 44

screech dustin diamond
Dustin Diamond. Archive Photos/Movie Pix via Getty Images

Diamond was known best for playing the bumbling comic relief Samuel "Screech" Powers in the beloved 1990s TV series "Saved by the Bell."

"We are saddened to confirm of Dustin Diamond's passing on Monday, February 1st, 2021 due to carcinoma," Diamond's representative said in a statement provided to Insider.

"He was diagnosed with this brutal, relentless form of malignant cancer only three weeks ago. In that time, it managed to spread rapidly throughout his system," the statement continued. "The only mercy it exhibited was its sharp and swift execution. Dustin did not suffer. He did not have to lie submerged in pain. For that, we are grateful."

DMX, 50

DMX Jarod Harris Getty
DMX. Jardo Harris/Getty

Rapper DMX (born Earl Simmons) moved a generation thanks to the pain and anguish he put into all his songs.

Nominated for a Grammy, his songs like "Get at Me Dog" and "X Gon' Give It to Ya" made him a major fixture in the gritty 1990s rap scene. But his talents went beyond music, as his performance as a drug dealer trying to get to kingpin level in 1998's "Belly" put him at cult icon status.

"DMX was a brilliant artist and an inspiration to millions around the world," Def Jam Records, the record label where DMX recorded some of his biggest hits, wrote in a statement following his death. "His message of triumph over struggle, his search for the light out of darkness, his pursuit of truth and grace brought us closer to our own humanity... DMX was nothing less than a giant. His legend will live on forever."

DMX died on April 9, a week after having a heart attack at his home in New York.

Larry Flynt, 78

Larry Flynt Ron Galella Getty
Larry Flynt. Ron Galella/Getty

The controversial publisher came into prominence in the early 1970s when he created the pornographic magazine, Hustler. Flynt went on to became a First Amendment cult hero in his continued court battles over regulations on pornography, leading to one of those cases being reviewed by the US Supreme Court in 1981.

That case would go on and become the basis of the 1996 movie "The People vs. Larry Flynt," starring Woody Harrelson in the lead role.

In 1978, while walking out of a Georgia courtroom fighting an obscenity charge, he and his lawyer were shot by a gunman. It left Flynt paralyzed with permanent spinal cord damage.

Flynt died of heart failure on February 10.

Hal Holbrook, 95

Hal Holbrook Jason Kempin Getty
Hal Holbrook. Jason Kempin/Getty

The veteran actor was beloved in the industry for his work on movies, TV, and the stage. He won a Tony in 1966 for his one-man stage show, "Mark Twain Tonight!" and took home five Emmys over his career. He was also nominated for an Oscar for his performance in 2007's "Into the Wild."

In movies he's best known for are his commanding performances in movies like "Wall Street," "The Firm," and most memorably playing Deep Throat in 1976's "All the President's Men."

Holbrook died at his home in Beverly Hills on January 23. No cause was given.

Larry King, 87

Larry King Georges Merillon Getty
Larry King. Georges Merillon/Getty

The renowned broadcaster had been on radio or TV since the 1950s speaking to all types of people, and was regarded as one of the best interviewers ever thanks to his friendly style with his subjects.

He's most known for his "Larry King Live" show on CNN that ran from 1985 to 2010 and is the network's most-watched and longest-running show of all time. On it, King spoke to the most prominent figures of the time, including celebrities and presidents.

"For 63 years and across the platforms of radio, television, and digital media, Larry's many thousands of interviews, awards, and global acclaim stand as a testament to his unique and lasting talent as a broadcaster," read the statement in a tweet from his handle the day of his death.

King died on January 23. He had been battling COVID-19 in the hospital for over a week before his death, but on February 13 it was announced that the cause of death was sepsis and two underlying conditions.

Yaphet Kotto, 81

Yaphet Kotto NBCU Getty
Yaphet Kotto. Getty/NBCU

The veteran character actor was known best for playing Bond villain Mr. Big in 1973's James Bond movie "Live and Let Die" and Parker in the sci-fi classic "Alien."

Known for his physically imposing characters, Kotto was a fixture in movie and TV for decades, including roles on the series "Homicide: Life on the Street" and FBI agent Mosely in the beloved comedy "Midnight Run" opposite Robert De Niro.

His wife, Thessa Sinahon, announced Kotto's passing in a Facebook post. It was confirmed by Kotto's agent, Ryan Goldhar, The New York Times reported.

Kotto died on March 15 near Manila in the Philippines. No cause of death was given.

Tommy Lasorda, 94

Tommy Lasorda Jayne Kamin Oncea Getty
Tommy Lasorda. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty

The hall of fame Major League Baseball manager is known best for leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to two World Series championships. He did it with a love of the game and a colorful personality that led to him showing up in several movies and TV shows.

"I believe Tommy Lasorda had no boundaries," former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser told the Los Angeles Times when learning of his passing. "On a daily basis there were no boundaries to something positive, something about winning, that he could do."

Lasorda died on January 7 due to a cardiac arrest.

Cloris Leachman, 94

Cloris Leachman Phyllis Lindstrom CBS Getty
Cloris Leachman. Phyllis Lindstrom/CBS/Getty

The versatile actress was known best for her comedic work, especially on TV ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "Malcolm and the Middle") and in Mel Brooks movies ("High Anxiety," and the memorable Frau Blücher in "Young Frankenstein").

She won an Oscar for her performance as a timid school teacher in 1971's "The Last Picture Show" and her work on television earned her an astounding eight Emmy wins.

"Cloris was insanely talented," Brooks tweeted following her death. "She could make you laugh or cry at the drop of a hat. Always such a pleasure to have on set. Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris' unforgettable Frau Blücher. She is irreplaceable, and will be greatly missed."

Leachman died of natural causes on January 27.

Rush Limbaugh, 70

Rush Limbaugh in His Studio During His Radio Show.
Rush Limbaugh. Mark Peterson / Corbis / Getty

Listened to by millions on his political call-in radio show since the 1980s, Limbaugh was a force in American media thanks to his right-wing views.

Vilified as much as he was revered over his career, Limbaugh was a controversial figure over the decades in which he was often accused of saying sexist and racist remarks. He also promoted the false theory that former president Barack Obama was not born in the US, something that Donald Trump also subscribed to before he became president.

Limbaugh would be a major voice in Trump's run for the presidency. In 2020, then president Trump awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"It is with profound sadness, I must share with you directly, that our beloved Rush, my wonderful husband, passed away this morning due to complications from lung cancer," Limbaugh's wife, Kathryn, announced on his radio show on February 17. "As so many of you know, losing a loved one is terribly difficult, even more so when that loved one is larger than life. Rush will forever be the greatest of all-time."

Prince Philip, 99

prince philip
Prince Philip. PA

Prince Philip, the husband to Queen Elizabeth II, became the longest-serving British consort in history.

"It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh," the palace said in a statement obtained by Insider. "His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle."

Philip died on April 9, according to Buckingham Palace.

Christopher Plummer, 91

Christopher Plummer Silver Screen Collection Getty
Christopher Plummer. Silver Screen Collection/Getty

Plummer's storied career was far-ranging, as he found acclaim on the stage, and both the small and big screens.

He received two Tony awards, two Emmys, a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in the 2010 drama "Beginners" at the age of 82 (making him the oldest person ever to win an Academy Award), and had a slew of memorable roles in movies including playing Mike Wallace in "The Insider" and a wealthy author in "Knives Out."

But his most memorable role came as Captain Von Trapp in the 1965 movie adaptation of "The Sound of Music."

"Chris was an extraordinary man who deeply loved and respected his profession with great old fashion manners, self-deprecating humor and the music of words," Plummer's longtime manager, Lou Pitt, told Deadline. "He was a national treasure who deeply relished his Canadian roots. Through his art and humanity, he touched all of our hearts and his legendary life will endure for all generations to come."

Plummer died on February 5, no cause was given.

Tanya Roberts, 65

tanya roberts a view to kill bond
Tanya Roberts. Keith Hamshere/Getty Images

The actress and model is best known for playing Bond girl Stacey Sutton in 1985's "A View to a Kill." Roberts also starred in the final season of "Charlie's Angels" in 1980 as Julie Rogers and played Midge Pinciotti in "That '70s Show."

"She was the sweetest person you'd ever meet and had a huge heart," said her longtime rep Mike Pingel. "She loved her fans, and I don't think she realized how much she meant to them."

Roberts died on January 4 due to complications from a urinary tract infection.

Joseph Siravo, 66

Joseph Siravo Jason LaVeris Getty
Joseph Siravo. Jason LaVeris/Getty

Siravo's tough guy roles found him doing work in everything from the stage, to Brian DePalma's "Carlito's Way" (marking his movie debut), and playing Tony Soprano's dad in "The Sopranos."

Siravo mainly found work in theater, where he was part of Tony Award-winning productions of "Oslo" and "The Light in the Piazza." Most notably on television, he played Johnny Soprano in flashback scenes in "The Sopranos." Recently, he also played Fred Goldman, the father of Ronald Goldman in the FX mini-series, "The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."

The actor died on April 11 following a "long, courageous" battle with colon cancer, according to his agent.

Phil Spector, 81

Phil Spector Michael Ochs Archives Getty
Phil Spector. Michael Ochs Arvhives/Getty

Known in the music world as a producer who worked alongside everyone from the Beatles to the Ronettes, Spector was known later in life for being convicted of murder.

In 2009, he was sentenced to 19 years to life in prison for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson in 2003.

He died on January 16 of natural causes according to California state prison officials inside the San Joaquin General Hospital. Spector's daughter, Nicole Audrey Spector said he died due to complications of COVID-19.

Cicely Tyson, 96

Cicely Tyson Robyn Beck AFP Getty
Cicely Tyson. Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty

In a career that spanned more than 70 years, Cicely Tyson made her mark in every form of entertainment medium having won three Emmy awards, a Tony, honorary Oscar, and Peabody Award.

She's most known for her Oscar-nominated performance in the 1972 drama "Sounder," her Emmy-winning role as Ophelia Harkness in "How to Get Away with Murder," and her countless stage performances.

"My heart breaks in one beat, while celebrating her life in the next," Tyler Perry wrote in a statement on the loss of Tyson on his Instagram. Tyson starred in several of his movies.

"To think that she lived for 96 years and I got to be a part of the last 16 brings me great joy," he continued. "She called me son. Well, today your son grieves your loss and will miss our long talks, your laughter from your belly, and your very presence."

Tyson died on January 28, the cause of death was not announced.

Jessica Walter, 80

Jessica Walter Stan Moore Leigh Weiner Walt Disney Television Getty
Jessica Walter. Stan Moore/Leigh Weiner/Walt Disney Television/Getty

The Emmy-winning actress was known best for her memorable roles in "Arrested Development" and "Archer" later in her career. But her work spans decades and also includes starring opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1971 thriller "Play Misty for Me" and voicing a character in the popular 1990s series "Dinosaurs."

"It is with a heavy heart that I confirm the passing of my beloved mom Jessica," Walter's daughter, Brooke Bowman, told Deadline. "A working actor for over six decades, her greatest pleasure was bringing joy to others through her storytelling both on screen and off. While her legacy will live on through her body of work, she will also be remembered by many for her wit, class and overall joie de vivre."

Walter died in her sleep at her home in New York City on March 24, according to Bowman.

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