Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Confirming the obvious - 2016 a record year for celebrity deaths

So many well-known figures have toppled this year that as we approach December 31 people are almost willing more to cark it just for the narrative. But was 2016 really the worst year in living memory for famous people? As you may have gathered from the title of this post, yes.

We worked with scientists from the Ponds Institute to scientifically rank the Celebrity Death Impact of every year since 2000. By trawling the deaths section of Wikipedia's Year in Review pages we compiled the top 20 celebrity passings, assigned them a rating out of 10 based on their influence and gave 3, 5 or 7 shock points depending on whether the death was expected, plausible due to age/circumstances, or made us sit up and go "cor blimey, that's unusual".

Sometimes (as you will no doubt quickly realise) it was a struggle to find 20, sometimes there were a dozen contenders for the last spot - so if your favourite didn't get a mention you can be comforted by knowing they wouldn't have changed the overall score.

Your top 17 is as follows - and if there's any big names who I've missed please let me know and I'll reassess. Out of respect to the people involved we won't be revealing individual ratings. It should also be noted that not all the names considered were people that you'd necessarily want to keep alive, but who am I to tell you how to feel about Idi Amin?

P.S - Complaints on an envelope to PO Box 999 in your capital city.

17th place - 2000
Influence: 62
Shock value: 72
Total: 134 points

Deaths considered: Hafeez Al-Assad, Steven Allen, Don Budge, Sir Robin Day, Ian Dury, Sir Alec Guinness, Screaming Jay Hawkins, Reginald Kray, Hedy Lamar, Tom Landry, Kristy MacColl, Walter Matthau, Sir Stanley Matthews, Charles Perkins, Tito Puente, Jason Robards, Charles M Schultz, Pierre Trudeau, Yokozuna, Emil Zatopek

When I had to include a wrestler well known for using his incredible bulk to sit on people I knew this year was going to struggle. An overall lack of star power and shock value sees it finish at the bottom of the rankings by some considerable margin.

16th place - 2008
Influence: 61
Shock value: 68
Total: 139 points

Deaths considered: Cyd Charisse, Arthur C Clarke, Michael Crichton, Bo Diddley, Bobby Fischer, Estelle Getty, Jorge Haider, Isaac Hayes, Jesse Helmes, Charlton Heston, Sir Edmund Hillary, Eartha Kitt, Yves Saint Lauren, Heath Ledger, Bernie Mac, Paul Newman, Bettie Page, Sydney Pollack, Roy Schneider, Jorn Utzon

Despite significant top end talent like Heston, Hillary and Newman a sheer lack of volume made this our equal lowest ranking year for influence - which is pretty obvious when the guy who designed the Sydney Opera House qualifies for the top 20.

15th place - 2006
Influence: 69
Shock value: 74
Total: 143 points

Deaths considered: Syd Barrett, PW Botha, Gerald Ford, Pierre Gemayel, Saddam Hussein, Steve Irwin, Don Knotts, Freddie Laker, Floyd Patterson, Wilson Pickett, Augusto Pinochet, Gene Pitney, Anna Politkovskaya, Billy Preston, John Profumo, Ferenc Puskas, Aaron Spelling, Clay Regazzoni, Alfredo Stroessner, Shelley Winters

The top star power of Saddam Hussein, and the instance on dispatching him on December 30 instead of doing the Australian thing and skiving off until early January, was the saving grace of an otherwise weak year for influence. Dual assassinations and a rogue stingray provided our highest shock points score so far, but all in all a slow season.

14th place - 2012
Influence: 67
Shock: 78
Total: 145 points

Deaths considered: Neil Armstrong, Ernest Borgnine, Ray Bradbury, Dick Clark, Michael Clarke Duncan, Hal David, Phyllis Diller, Nora Ephron, Robin Gibb, Andy Griffith, Larry Hagman, Whitney Houston, Sun Myung Moon, Patrick Moore, Murray Rose, Vidal Sassoon, Yitzhak Shamir, Donna Summer, Gore Vidal, Mike Wallace

Even with a couple of influence headliners 2012 still scored equal fifth lowest out of all years, but even with fewer complete surprises the overall figure held up due to a lot of mid-range scores.

13th place -  2010
Influence: 60
Shock: 96
Total: 156 points

Deaths considered: Captain Beefheart, Manute Bol, Stuart Cable, Gary Coleman, Tony Curtis, Ronnie James Dio, Eddie Fisher, Michael Foot, Alexander Haig, Corey Haim, Dennis Hopper, Lena Horne, Lech Kaczynski, Malcolm McLaren, Alexander McQueen, Leslie Nielsen, Lynn Redgrave, JD Salinger, Jean Simmons, Joan Sutherland

With respect to the above this was the lowest year for influence rating, but they were lifted out of the bottom four due to several passings that we didn't see coming.

12th place - 2007
Influence: 67
Shock: 90
Total: 157 points

Deaths considered: Chris Benoit, Ingmar Begman, Benazir Bhutto, Joey Bishop, Jerry Falwell, Robert Goulet, Lee Hazlewood, John Inman, Evel Knieval, Norman Mailer, Marcel Marceau, Luciano Pavarotti, Charles Nelson Reilly, Anna Nicole Smith, Ike Turner, Kurt Vonnegut, Kurt Waldheim, Tony Wilson, Bob Woolmer, Boris Yeltsin

More star power in this group that 2010, but despite four top shock value ratings the number of unsurprising deaths leaves this year floundering in lower mid-table.

11th place - 2005
Influence: 76
Shock: 82
Total: 158 points

Deaths considered: Don Adams, Ann Bancroft, Ronnie Barker, James Callaghan, Johnny Carson, Robin Cook, John DeLorean, Rafic Hariri, Edwarth Heath, Peter Jennings, King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, David Lange, Arthur Miller, Pat Morita, Rosa Parks, Pope John Paul II, Richard Pryor, King Rainer III of Monaco, Hunter S Thompson, Simon Wiesenthal

With a diverse field containing two kings, a pope, a Nazi hunter, the guy who invented the Back To The Future Car and Mr Miyagi it's no surprise that this year scored what is to date our highest influence rating. Where it loses out is in shock value, with not one surprise ending to be had by the contenders.

10th place - 2002
Influence: 69 
Shock: 90
Total: 159 points

Deaths considered: Milton Berle, Rosemary Clooney, James Coburn, John Entwistle, Pim Fortuyn, Richard Harris, Thor Heyerdahl, Stephen Jay Gould, Jam Master Jay, Wayon Jennings, Chuck Jones, Peggy Lee, Linda Lovelace, Princess Margaret, Spike Milligan, Dudley Moore, Queen Mother, Dee Dee Ramone, Davey Boy Smith, Ted Williams

A light on year for influence given a significant kick along by a pair of royals and several out of the blue dismissals.  Respectable mid-table finish given that I was scraping for a top 20 and had to include both dog related figures Davey Boy Smith and Linda Lovelace.

9th place - 2009
Influence: 61
Shock: 100
Total: 161 points

Deaths considered: Corazon Aquino, Bea Arthur, JG Ballard, David Carradine, Walter Cronkite, Dom DeLuise, Farrah Fawcett, John Hughes, Michael Jackson, Maurice, Jarre, Jack Kemp, Ted Kennedy, Al Martino, Patrick McGoohan, Les Paul, Natasha Richardson, Bobby Robson, Patrick Swayze, John Updike, Abdurrahman Wahid

A year that finished equal second last on influence alone is nearly boosted into the top eight courtesy of its equal first shock rating. Surprise passings, including Michael Jackson and that guy out of Kill Bill in a potential stranglewank scenario pushed this year higher than it would have gone on merit alone.

8th place - 2004
Influence: 75
Shock: 94
Total: 169 points

Deaths considered: Yasser Arafat, Marlon Brando, Laura Branigan, Ray Charles, Eddie Charlton, Brian Clough, Rodney Dangerfield, Jacques Derrida, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Rick James, Stieg Larsson, Janet Leigh, Marco Pantani, John Peel, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Johnny Ramone, Tony Randall, Ronald Reagan, Harold Shipman, Theo van Gogh

Welcome to the top eight, where things really start heating up. After a tight mid-table tussle this year left a surprisingly large gap to ninth, with Reagan bringing the star power and a number of surprise passings both accidental and otherwise providing much needed shock points. Wasn't much of a year for volume but ended up putting in a decent overall showing.

7th place - 2001
Influence: 77
Shock: 94
Total: 171 points

Deaths considered: Aaliyah, Douglas Adams, Michele Alboreto, Chet Atkins, Christiaan Barnard, Sir Donald Bradman, Perry Como, Morton Downey Jr, Dale Earnhardt, George Harrison, John Lee Hooker, Lauren-Desire Kabila, Pauline Kael, Ken Kesey, Stanley Kramer, Jack Lemmon, Robert Ludlum, Anthony Quinn, Joey Ramone, Joan Sims.

Remember this year? I don't due to barely ever going outside. Thankfully I had an internet connection, otherwise I'd a) have had to go outside and b) might not have known that these people had passed away. In a consistent year for influence a few surprise dispatches lift this one to its lofty heights.

Equal 5th place - 2015
Influence: 86
Shock: 91
Total: 177 points

Deaths considered: Jules Bianchi, Cilla Black, Ron Clarke, Wes Craven, Anita Ekberg, Malcolm Fraser, Lesley Gore, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, BB King, Lee Kuan Yew, Lemmy, Jonah Lomu, Patrick Macnee, Leonard Nimoy, Maureen O'Hara, Terry Pratchett, Ruth Rendell, Omar Sharif, Percy Sledge, Rod Taylor, Scott Weiland.

Remember back to an era where celebrities never passed away and... oh, it was just 12 month ago when we were on the verge of the top four. Try telling the people listed above that 2016 was a worse year (spoiler - you won't get very far).

Equal 5th place - 2013
Influence: 79
Shock: 98
Total: 177 points

Deaths considered: Ronnie Biggs, JJ Cale, Hugo Chavez, Tom Clancy, Ray Dolby, David Frost, James Gandolfini, George Jones, Nelson Mandela, Ray Manzarek, Cory Monteith, Tommy Morrison, Ken Norton, Peter O'Toole, Lou Reed, Mel Smith, Jean Stapleton, Margaret Thatcher, Rafael Jorge Videla, Paul Walker

This study is not like a music festival, you can't get away with a couple of massive headliners if the rest of the lineup isn't pulling their weight. Neither was 2013's case helped by the complete lack of surprise at some of the big name passings. Still, a strong effort and worthy of its top five finish even if I had to scrape for a 20th man and ended up including the guy who played Tommy Gunn in Rocky V.

4th place - 2003
Influence: 92
Shock: 92
Total: 184

Deaths considered: Idi Amin, Charles Bronson, June Carter Cash, Johnny Cash, Marc Vivien-Foe, Maurice Gibb, Curt Hennig, Katherine Hepburn, Bob Hope, Qusay Hussein, Uday Hussein, Elia Kazan, Herbie Mann, Robert Palmer, Gregory Peck, Nina Simone, Elliot Smith, Robert Stack, Barry White, Warren Zevon

The perfect balance of influence and shock, a worthy top four finish and a double chance going into the finals. Not the most star-studded cast considering the guy from Unsolved Mysteries and Mr. Perfect are playing the Clay Sampson style role of accidental premiership players but consistency the key.

3rd place - 2014
Influence: 88
Shock: 98
Total: 186 points

Deaths considered: Maya Angelou, Richard Attenborough, Lauren Bacall, Jack Brabham, Sid Caeser, Joe Cocker, Eusebio, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Hoskins, Casey Kasey, Rik Mayall, Harold Ramis, Mickey Rooney, Ariel Sharon, Eduard Shevardnadze, Shirley Temple, Ultimate Warrior, Gough Whitlam, Robin Williams, Bobby Womack.

Oh so close for a year that took its fair share of victims but has been forgotten in the wake of people telling 2016 to fuck off and die. Certainly not the highest influence, but the shock value of a few completely random demises leaves it on the podium.

2nd place - 2011
Influence: 90
Shock: 98
Total: 188 points

Deaths considered: Seve Ballesteros, Osama Bin Laden, Nate Dogg, Peter Falk, Betty Ford, Joe Frazier, Muammar Gadaffi, Vaclav Havel, Gil-Scott Heron, Steve Jobs, Kim Il-Jong, Sidney Lumet, Pete Postlethwaite, Gerry Rafferty, Jane Russell, Ken Russell, Randy Savage, Gary Speed, Elizabeth Taylor, Amy Winehouse

The mastermind behind 9/11, a pair of brutal dictators and the guy who did Stuck In The Middle With You together at last. I suspect Gerry would sit on the bench next to Nate Dogg for most of the day in a cast like this, with well known players on every line. All 20 players made a positive contribution to the score in one way or another, and we'll be forwarding a silver medal on to all their next of kin.

1st place - 2016
Influence: 106
Shock: 88
Total: 194 points

Deaths considered: Muhammad Ali, Boutrous Boutros-Ghali, David Bowie, Fidel Castro, Leonard Cohen, Johan Cruyff, Carrie Fisher, Glenn Frey, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Merle Haggard, Joao Havelange, Harper Lee, George Martin, George Michael, Arnold Palmer, Shimon Peres, Prince, Nancy Reagan, Alan Rickman, Gary Shandling

And here we are, the year where seemingly the only celebrity who didn't kick it was the Grim Reaper himself. The strange thing is that even though 2016 thumped the influence level of all other seasons by a massive margin it almost lost due to lack of shock value - lower than the nine spots below it. Maybe everything just feels more shocking when it suddenly appears on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram simultaneously, but as much as you love a celebrity it's hard to call it a top shelf shocker when a 70-year-old who spent years having cocaine for breakfast pulls the plug.

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