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People Who Died

They Changed The World a Little, Even If You've Never Heard of Them

Okan Arabacioglu

By Lee Gardner | Posted 12/26/2007

When Karlheinz Stockhausen died Dec. 5, we thought immediately of G.K. Chesterton's well-worn waggish quip that "Journalism consists largely in saying `Lord Jones is dead' to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive." Serious newspapers across the globe marked the composer's death with lengthy obituaries touting his vast influence on modern music, which, indeed, can't be understated. His radical experiments with electronics and his unorthodox composition, arrangement, and performance techniques shaped the 20th-century avant-garde as well as the musical consciousness of pop icons such as the Beatles, Miles Davis, and Frank Zappa, to name a few, and yet few outside of the more rarefied cadres of intellectuals and music nerds have ever heard his music unless by bizarre accident. (Nicolas Roeg used a snatch of Hymnen on the soundtrack to his 1971 film Walkabout, perhaps Stockhausen's widest audience exposure ever.) He's more widely known for a taken-out-of-context quip he made about the Sept. 11 attacks than any music he ever made. The world wouldn't be the same without Stockhausen, but now that people know he's dead, they still don't know how.

That's the sort of thing that inspired our annual salute to folks who somehow made a mark with their lives and yet didn't have those lives properly appreciated once they were done. Plenty of tears and ink were spilled when Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut passed, not to mention Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrew Hill and Max Roach, Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti, Marcel Marceau and Deborah Kerr, Evel Knievel and Boris Yeltsin, Ike Turner and Pimp C, Anna Nicole Smith and Jerry Falwell, not to mention notable deaths closer to home, from the likes of Wild Bill Hagy and Parren Mitchell on down to the too many homicides our city has seen since last New Year's Eve. But once again, we opt to celebrate a few lesser-known lives that ended over the past 12 months. (Ironically, Stockhausen was too famous.)

Used His Noodle: Momofuku Ando by Erin Sullivan
Bombshell: Liz Renay by Lee Gardner
Solar Sister: Alice Coltrane by Lee Gardner
Something Clicked: Robert Adler by Lee Gardner
The Normal Heart (and Mind): Barbara Gittings by Anna Ditkoff
Worker of The World: Ousmane Sembene by Bret McCabe
Mrs. Whasit: Madeleine L'Engle by Michael Byrne
Bon Vivant: Jean-François Bizot by Bret McCabe
Unflinching: Paul W. Tibbets by Edward Ericson Jr.

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