News

Final Chapters: Walter Becker, Don Williams, Kate Millett, Troy Gentry

Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, who died Sept. 3, performed with the group June 23, 2016, at Starlight Theatre.
Steely Dan co-founder Walter Becker, who died Sept. 3, performed with the group June 23, 2016, at Starlight Theatre. Special to the Star

Walter Becker was a guitarist, bassist and co-founder of Steely Dan, one of the most successful and adventurous rock groups of the 1970s and early ’80s. He died Sept. 3. His death was announced on his official website, which gave no other details. He was 67. Becker met Donald Fagen when they were students at Bard College in 1967, and Steely Dan’s first album, “Can’t Buy Me a Thrill” was released in 1972. The group sold more than 40 million albums and produced such hit singles as “Reelin’ In the Years,” “Rikki Don’t Lose that Number” and “Deacon Blues.” Steely Dan was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.

Don Williams was an award-winning country singer with love ballads such as “I Believe in You.” He died Sept. 8 after a short illness, a statement from his publicist said. He was 78. Williams had 17 No. 1 hits before retiring in 2016. His hits also included “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good,” “You’re My Best Friend,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “Till the Rivers All Run Dry” and “Back in My Younger Days.” He won the Country Music Association’s awards for best male vocalist and best single for “Tulsa Time” in 1978. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.

Kate Millett was an activist, artist and educator whose best-selling work “Sexual Politics” was a landmark of cultural criticism and a manifesto for the modern feminist movement. She died Sept. 6 in Paris from cardiac arrest, said her spouse. She was 82. Millett’s book was among the most talked-about works of its time and remains a founding text for cultural and gender studies programs. Through her own Women’s Liberation Cinema production company, she directed the acclaimed feminist documentary “Three Lives.” She also founded the Women’s Art Colony Farm in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in 2013.

Troy Gentry was one half of the award-winning country music duo Montgomery Gentry. He died Sept. 8 in a helicopter crash in Medford, N.J. He was 50. Gentry and bandmate Eddie Montgomery had success on the country charts and country radio in the 2000s, scoring No. 1 hits with “Roll With Me,” “Back When I Knew It All,” “Lucky Man,” “Something to Be Proud Of” and “If You Ever Stop Loving Me.” Some of the songs even cracked the Top 40 of the pop charts. The duo’s latest album was 2015’s “Folks Like Us.”

John Ashbery was an enigmatic giant of modern poetry. He died Sept. 3 at his home in Hudson, N.Y. He was 90. Ashbery was the first living poet to have a volume published by the Library of America dedicated exclusively to his work. His 1975 collection, “Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror,” was the rare winner of the book world’s unofficial triple crown: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle prize. He was given a National Humanities Medal in 2011 and credited with changing “how we read poetry.”

Gene Michael was a former New York Yankees shortstop, manager and executive. He died Sept. 7 at his home in Oldsmar, Fla., of a heart attack, his wife said. He was 79. Michael hit just .229 with 15 home runs in 10 seasons, including seven with the Yankees, during 1966-75. He managed the Yankees in 1981-82 and the Chicago Cubs in 1986-87. He had two terms as general manager of the Yankees, putting together the core of a roster that won World Series titles in 1996 and during 1998-2000.

Susan Vreeland was a popular and well-regarded novelist who blended her love for literature and visual art in “Girl in Hyacinth Blue” and other works of fiction. She died Aug. 23 in San Diego after undergoing heart surgery, according to her agent. She was 71. Vreeland wrote about everyone from Pierre-Auguste Renoir to the Canadian painter Emily Carr and centered “Girl in Hyacinth Blue” on the journeys of an alleged Vermeer painting. Her other novels included “The Passion of Artemisia” and “Clara and Mr. Tiffany.”

Novella Nelson was a versatile actress whose long career included prominent roles in the hit Broadway musical “Purlie” in 1970 and the film “Antwone Fisher” more than 30 years later. She died Aug. 31 in Brooklyn of cancer, her daughter said. She was 78. Nelson appeared in such films as “An Unmarried Woman” (1978) and “The Cotton Club” (1984) and in television shows that included “Law & Order,” “The West Wing,” “30 Rock” and “Sex and the City.”

Rick Stevens was the former lead singer of Oakland’s Tower of Power rhythm and blues band. He died Sept. 5 after a short battle with cancer, KTVU-TV reported. He was 77. Stevens joined the band in 1969 and sang lead on the group’s first two albums, including on the hit songs “Sparkling in the Sand” and “You’re Still a Young Man.” He was convicted of murder for killing three people in 1976 during a drug deal gone wrong and spent 36 years in prison before he was paroled.

Jim McDaniels was a 7-footer who led Western Kentucky to the NCAA Final Four in 1971. He died Sept. 6 in Bowling Green, Ky., the school said. He was 69. McDaniels was a consensus All-American during the 1970-71 season while leading the Hilltoppers to third place at the Final Four in Houston.His 2,238 career points are tied for the most in the school’s history. He played professionally in the NBA and ABA during 1971-78.

Sugar Ramos was a Cuban featherweight champion whose fists led to two deaths in the ring. He died Sept. 3 in Mexico City from cancer complications, the World Boxing Council said. He was 75. Ramos was best known for a 1963 fight at Dodger Stadium with Davey Moore in which he first won the featherweight title. Moore left the ring on his own but lost consciousness in his dressing room and went into a coma. He died two days later, sparking an outcry about the safety of boxing. Five years earlier in Cuba, Ramos stopped a fighter named Jose Blanco, who also died. Ramos defended the title that he won from Moore three times before losing it by knockout to Carlos Ortiz in 1966.

Murray Lerner was an Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker who captured Bob Dylan going electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival and preserved legendary music acts such as Jimi Hendrix and Leonard Cohen on film. He died Sept. 3 in New York, his son said. He was 90. Lerner was nominated for an Oscar in 1967 for “Festival,” his examination of the Newport Folk Festival, and won the best documentary statuette in 1981 for “From Mao to Mozart,” which followed violinist Isaac Stern in China. He was the filmmaker behind the 3D film “Magic Journeys” at Walt Disney’s Epcot center in Florida. He also made documentaries about the Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Jethro Tull and others.

Gin D. Wong was an architect whose iconic works have helped shape the look of Los Angeles for more than half a century. He died Sept. 1 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 94. Wong’s notable projects include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles International Airport, CBS’s Television City complex and such high-rises as the USC Tower at South Park Center and the 33-story downtown building formerly known as the ARCO Tower.

John “Jack” Keil was an advertising executive who led the team that created McGruff the Crime Dog and who also voiced the character. He died Aug. 25 at his home in Westminster West, Vt., his family said. He was 94. Keil was creative director at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample advertising agency when he and his team created the trench coat-wearing animated dog, with Keil himself saying the slogan “Take a Bite Out of Crime.”

Compiled from news service reports by Chris Carter, ccarter@kcstar.com.

  Comments