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Celebrities We’ve Lost in 2023

Remembering the stars who made a lasting impact

Jim Brown, football great, movie star, 87

spinner image Football Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown holding a gold football at the NFL Honors awards show
Ben Liebenberg via AP

(Feb. 17, 1936 — May 18, 2023)​ ​Proclaimed the greatest football player of his time, Jim Brown lived a life that combined sports, movies and activism. Although his professional football career lasted just nine years, Brown broke nearly every National Football League rushing record. The running back ran for more than 1,000 yards in each of seven seasons, never missed a game during his career and was on the Cleveland Browns team that won the NFL championship in 1964. Brown was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971, the first year he was eligible. But football wasn’t his only sport: At Syracuse University, he also lettered in lacrosse, basketball and track. He acted in more than 50 movies, including Ice Station Zebra100 Rifles and The Dirty Dozen. Brown was always conscious of racial equity issues — before and after his football career. He was among the athletes active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. He later started the Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change, designed to ease tensions and promote self-esteem, especially when it game to urban gang members.​

Len Goodman, dance judge, 78

spinner image Len Goodman poses for a photo behind the judge's desk on Dancing With the Stars
Christopher Willard/ABC via Getty Images

(April 25, 1944 — April 22, 2023) Dancing with the Stars judge Goodman owed his success to an injury when he was a young London welder and a foot injury ended his dreams of being a football star. A doctor recommended dance as therapy, and he became a professional at 19, then a dance teacher, and then, as he wrote in his memoir Better Late Than Never, a famous dance judge at 59 on the British original version of the show, Strictly Come Dancing. He was known for his ballroom acumen, colorful Cockney expressions (“Pickle me walnuts!”) and witty dance evaluations: “It was like a match — hot at the top, wooden at the bottom!” As a child, his school headmaster warned him, “If you think you are only in this world to have a laugh and enjoy yourself, you will be in for a big shock when you get a job.” He quite enjoyed the shock of his unexpected career, and so did his fans.

Al Jaffee, cartoonist, 102

spinner image Mad Magazine cartoonist Al Jaffee
Stephen Morton/AP Photo

(March 13, 1921 — April 10, 2023) Famed as the creator of Mad Magazine’s features “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions” and the Mad Fold-In — the inside back-page cartoon which, when folded, cleverly turned into a different satirical image — Jaffee held the Guinness World Record for the longest career as a comic artist, from 1942 to his retirement at 99 in 2020. From ages 6 to 12, when he lived in a poverty-stricken Lithuanian village with his mother, his father sent him American comics, which ignited his love of cartooning. He returned to New York and went to the High School of Music & Art with future Mad staffers, with whom he revolutionized American humor. “Al was, at heart, a rascal,” said Mad editor John Ficarra. Mad art director Suzy Hutchinson called him “the best of the Original Gang of Idiots.”

Bobby Hull, Hall of Fame hockey player, 84

spinner image Hockey legend Bobby Hull skates onto the ice during the Chicago Blackhawks home opener ceremony
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images

(Jan. 3, 1939 — Jan. 30, 2023) The third player in National Hockey League history to score at least 50 goals in a season, and one of the most popular hockey players of all time, Bobby Hull was an NHL Hall of Famer who played 15 years for the Chicago Black Hawks, now the Blackhawks. He led the league in goal scoring seven times, and he made the then-new slap shot his own offensive weapon. The winger was nicknamed the Golden Jet, referring to his blond locks and lightning fast shots. Hull ruffled a lot of feathers when he defected to the fledgling World Hockey Association in 1972 to be a player-coach for the Winnipeg Jets. He also had a run-in with the Blackhawks when he “retired” in an attempt to get a higher salary. His stunt didn’t work and he ended up returning to the team. While playing with the Jets — for far more money — he sat out a game in protest against the brutality of violence in the sport. He also promoted a merger between the NHL and the new league, which did finally happen in 1979.​ Hull’s on-ice celebrity was tarnished by his multiple assaults on two wives, an arrest for attacking a police officer and his racist views, including in praise of Hitler.

Jeff Beck, musician, 78

spinner image Jeff Beck playing his guitar onstage at the 02 Arena in London, England
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

(June 24, 1944 — Jan. 10, 2023) Beck is on a very short list of rock ’n’ roll’s most influential guitarists, but his eclectic, powerful style actually stretched across multiple genres. He first drew attention as a member of the Yardbirds in the 1960s — a band that, at different times, also featured guitar heroes Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. Never a massive commercial star, Beck nonetheless won eight Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as both a solo artist and a Yardbirds member. He could play with lightning speed or pull off slow, emotional passages with equal skill and expression. “Jeff Beck was on another planet,” sometimes-collaborator Rod Stewart tweeted, and Page said Beck “could channel music from the ethereal.” Beck died after suddenly contracting bacterial meningitis, his representatives said in a statement.