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The artists we lost in 2021, in their words

This year, as pandemic deaths ebbed and flowed, a distinctive and eternal rhythm – that of artist deaths – continued as usual, bringing its own waves of collective mourning. Some, like Cicely Tyson and Stephen Sondheim, have held the limelight for generations. Others, like Michael K. Williams and Nai-Ni Chen, have left us with curtailed careers with mourning. Here is a tribute to a small number of them, in their own words.


Cicely Tyson, actress, born 1924 (Read the obituary.)


– Melvin Van Peebles, filmmaker, born in 1932 (Read the obituary.)


– Liam Scarlett, choreographer, born in 1986 (Read the obituary.)


– Nelson Freire, pianist, born in 1944 (Read the obituary.)


Bob Avian, choreographer, born in 1937 (Read the obituary.)


– Carla Fracci, dancer, born in 1936 (Read the obituary.)


– Emi Wada, costume designer, born in 1937


– Joan Didion, writer, born in 1934 (Read the obituary.)


– Larry McMurtry, novelist, born in 1936 (Read the obituary.)


Ed Asner, actor, born 1929 (Read the obituary.)


Olympia Dukakis, actress, born in 1931 (Read the obituary.)


Charlie Watts, drummer, born 1941 (Read the obituary.)


Jacques D’Amboise, dancer, born in 1934 (Read the obituary.)


Robert Downey Sr., filmmaker, born 1936 (Read the obituary.)


– Joe Allen, theater district restaurateur, born in 1933 (Read the obituary.)


Charles Grodin, actor, born in 1935 (Read the obituary.)


Jerry Pinkney, children’s book illustrator, born 1939 (Read the obituary.)


– Larry King, TV host, born 1933 (Read the obituary.)


Anna Halprin, choreographer, born in 1920 (Read the obituary.)


– Dave Hickey, art critic, born in 1938 (Read the obituary.)


Nai-Ni Chen, choreographer and dancer, born in 1959 (Read the obituary.)


– Virgil Abloh, designer, born in 1980 (Read the obituary.)


Yolanda López, artist, born in 1942 (Read the obituary.)


– Helen McCrory, actress, born 1968 (Read the obituary.)


– Michael K. Williams, actor, born in 1966 (Read the obituary.)


– bell hooks, writer and scholar, born 1952 (Read the obituary.)


– Norm Macdonald, actor, born in 1959 (Read the obituary.)


– Elizabeth McCann, theater producer, born in 1931 (Read the obituary.)


Eric Carle, author and artist, born in 1929 (Read the obituary.)


– Beverly Cleary, author, born in 1916 (Read the obituary.)


– Young Dolph, rapper, born in 1985 (Read the obituary.)


– Carlisle Floyd, composer, born in 1926 (Read the obituary.)


Louis Andriessen, composer, born in 1939 (Read the obituary.)


– Cloris Leachman, actress, born in 1926 (Read the obituary.)


Hung Liu, artist, born 1948 (Read the obituary.)


– Art Gensler, architect, born in 1935 (Read the obituary.)


Christopher Plummer, actor, born 1929 (Read the obituary.)


Lisa Banes, actress, born 1955 (Read the obituary.)


– Kaari Upson, artist, born 1970 (Read obituary.)


– Sophie, producer and pop performer, born in 1986 (Read the obituary.)


– Etel Adnan, author and artist, born in 1925 (Read the obituary.)


Michael Nesmith, musician, born 1942 (Read the obituary.)


Dottie Dodgion, drummer, born in 1929 (Read the obituary.)


– Jessica Walter, actress, born in 1941 (Read the obituary.)


Edita Gruberova, soprano, born in 1946 (Read the obituary.)


– DMX, rapper, born in 1970 (Read the obituary.)


Stephen Sondheim, composer and lyricist, born 1930 (Read the obituary.)


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