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Those Who Have Died will Live on Through Movies and Music

May 21, 2012

By John C.

We aren’t even halfway through the year, and the world has already lost far too many important names in the entertainment industry.  Although some of these people weren’t directly involved in filmmaking, the mark that they left on the world of movies will continue to be felt for a long time.

Pop singer Whitney Houston had a short career as an actress, and The Band’s Levon Helm was part of what is arguably the greatest concert documentary of all time.  Adam Yauch didn’t just bring hip-hop music to the mainstream with The Beastie Boys, but was also an independent film distributor.  Maurice Sendak wrote the beloved book behind one of best modern movies about childhood, and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees gave us one of the great soundtracks of all time with Saturday Night Fever.

The untimely death of Whitney Houston on February 11th brought her music to a new generation, and renewed interest in her generally short career as a movie star.  She had one of the most memorable voices in pop music throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and in 1992 she starred alongside Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard.  But even more influential than the film was the soundtrack, which opened with her heartbreakingly powerful cover of “I Will Always Love You.”  The album remains one of the biggest selling and best soundtracks of all time.  Before her death, Whitney Houston was able to complete her final performance in the upcoming musical drama Sparkle, a film that was meant to be her comeback and looks to have undertones of life imitating art.

When Levon Helm of The Band passed away on April 19th, many people celebrated his lasting legacy by watching The Last Waltz.  Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film is widely considered one of the best concert documentaries of all time.  Perfectly capturing the final concert of a great band with one of the most brilliantly simple names in music history, the film is a time capsule of excellent performances that only grows more poignant in the wake of Levon Helm’s death.  Like Whitney Houston, Levon Helm also enjoyed a second career as an actor, with unforgettable roles in such classics as Coal Miner’s Daughter and The Right Stuff.

Equally felt around the music and film industry was the unexpected death of Adam “MCA” Yauch on May 4th.  The Beastie Boys made history when they brought hip-hop music to the top of the charts in the 1980s with the influential album Licensed to Ill and their diverse range of songs continue to be played on numerous soundtracks.  But Adam Yauch’s Oscilloscope Laboratories was a quickly rising force in the world of modern independent distribution, taking a chance on numerous films that would have been seen as a hard sell for bigger studios.  It was a gamble that paid off with awards nominations.

Maurice Sendak’s immortal picture book Where the Wild Things Are has always been a personal favourite of mine, and the news of the author’s death on May 8th struck me as quite unexpected.  His crowning achievement was also turned in to one of the best modern movies about childhood back in 2009, and the controversy that director Spike Jonze dealt with to deliver the film that he wanted to make mirrored Maurice Sendak’s own challenges of getting the book published.  No matter what the form, Where the Wild Things Are will live forever as a classic.

Yesterday, the news broke that Robin Gibb, co-founder of the Bee Gees, had passed away after a long battle with cancer.  The soundtrack to Saturday Night Fever will always be remembered as one of the greats, and from now on it will be impossible to hear “How Deep is Your Love” without feeling the poignancy of the classic song.  We’ve already lost far too many important people in the entertainment industry this year, but through numerous movies and music the legacies of Whitney Houston, Levon Helm, Adam Yauch, Maurice Sendak and Robin Gibb will be able to safely live on.

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