Rest in peace
October 17, 2019

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, died Thursday due to "complications concerning longstanding health challenges," his office said in a statement. He was 68. He gained prominence as chair of one of three House committees overseeing the impeachment inquiry of President Trump, though the two had clashed over the summer when Trump insulted Cummings' home city of Baltimore and said four congresswomen of color should "go back" to other countries.

Cummings' office did not disclose the nature of his health problems, but the congressman had been in Johns Hopkins Hospital when he died, and he had faced health challenges since at least 2017, when he underwent a minimally invasive heart procedure that led to an infection, The Baltimore Sun reports. He used a wheelchair to get around and a walker when he stood, but said over the summer that his health was fine.

Cummings was first elected to the House in 1995. Before that, he had served in the Maryland state Assembly since 1982, becoming the first African American speaker pro tem. Born in 1951, Cummings was one of seven children. His parents, Robert Cummings Sr. and Ruth Elma Cummings, were sharecroppers until the late 1940s, when they moved to Baltimore, where Cummings was raised and continued to live until his death. Cummings struggled in elementary school but went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in political science from Howard University and a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law. His wife, Maya Rockeymoore Cummings, was elected chairwoman of the Maryland Democratic Party last year. Peter Weber

October 9, 2019

Francis Currey, one of three living World War II Medal of Honor recipients, died on Tuesday, NEWS10 reports. He was 94.

Currey, from Selkirk, New York, joined the U.S. Army at 17, and was a technical sergeant. He was in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge, and because he wasn't given proper winter gear, was suffering from frostbite. On Dec. 21, 1944, German tanks approached Currey and his company while they were guarding a bridge crossing. A rifleman, Currey exposed himself to enemy fire as he shot and killed several Germans. During the intense fighting, he also used anti-tank grenades and a bazooka against the Germans, and was able to rescue five Americans who were taking fire inside a building.

Currey received the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and Medal of Honor, the highest decoration of valor. In 1998, his likeness was used to create the Medal of Honor G.I. Joe. Catherine Garcia

October 7, 2019

Ginger Baker, one-third of the blues-rock supergroup Cream and a percussionist known almost as much for his fiery temperament as his virtuosity on the drums, died Sunday in Britain. He was 80. Widely considered one of the best rock drummers of all time, Baker started off playing jazz. He formed Cream in the mid-1960s with bassist Jack Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton. The group became one of the most successful bands of the 1960s, with hits like "Sunshine of Your Love," "White Room," and "I Feel Free."

After Cream disbanded in 1968 amid enmity between Baker and Bruce, Baker and Clapton briefly joined with Steve Winwood and Ric Grech to form Blind Faith. Baker then moved to Africa, where he collaborated with Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and he later played with Public Image Ltd. and his own combos and groups, including Ginger Baker's Air Force. Cream was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the band reunited for a tour a decade later.

Baker was born Peter Edward Baker in 1939; his father, a bricklayer, died in World War II when Ginger was 4. Baker, who used two bass drums and pounded out complex polyrhythms, was often grouped with fellow iconic rock drummers John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and The Who's Keith Moon, but he considered himself better than both. "John Bonham once made a statement that there were only two drummers in British rock 'n' roll; himself and Ginger Baker," he wrote in his memoir Hellraiser: The Autobiography of the World's Greatest Drummer. "My reaction to this was, 'You cheeky little bastard!'" You can get a sense of his chops on the Cream song "Toad," featuring an extended drum solo.

And if you don't mind the NSFW language, you can learn more about Baker's influence and personality in the trailer to the 2012 documentary Beware Mr. Baker. Peter Weber

September 30, 2019

Legendary opera singer Jessye Norman died Monday in New York City, a spokesperson for her family said. She was 74.

Norman died from septic shock and multi-organ failure, secondary complications of a 2015 spinal cord injury. In a statement, her family said they are "so proud of Jessye's musical achievements and the inspiration that she provided to audiences around the world that will continue to be a source of joy. We are equally proud of her humanitarian endeavors addressing matters such as hunger, homelessness, youth development, and arts and culture education."

Born in Augusta, Georgia, Norman was a trailblazing black operatic soprano. She made her debut in Berlin in 1969 and went on to perform around the world, taking on the title roles in operas like Carmen and Aida. A member of the British Royal Academy of Music and Georgia Music Hall of Fame, Norman won four Grammy awards, a National Medal of Arts, and a Kennedy Center honor, and also has an orchid named after her in France. Catherine Garcia

September 15, 2019

Ric Ocasek, the lead singer of the new wave band The Cars, died Sunday in New York City. He was 75.

Ocasek was found unconscious and unresponsive in his Manhattan home late Sunday afternoon, and was pronounced dead at the scene, police said. He appears to have died of natural causes, people with knowledge of the situation told Page Six, and was discovered by his estranged wife, model Paulina Porizkova.

The Cars, known for their hits "Drive," "Just What I Needed," and "It's All I Can Do," were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. Ocasek was also a successful producer, working with everyone from Weezer to No Doubt to Bad Brains. Catherine Garcia

September 11, 2019

Daniel Johnston, a cult singer-songwriter who inspired Kurt Cobain, Tom Waits, and Jeff Tweedy, died on Wednesday, his family confirmed. He was 58.

Johnston died of natural causes in his home near Houston. In a statement, Johnston's family said he was a "friend to all" and "although he struggled with mental health issues for much of his adult life, Daniel triumphed over his illness through his prolific output of art and songs."

Johnston's first album, Songs of Pain, came out in 1980, and his most famous songs include "True Love Will Find You in the End," "Walking the Cow," and "Life in Vain." Cobain called him one of the "greatest" songwriters, and his songs have been covered by Beck, Lana Del Rey, Bright Eyes, Death Cab for Cutie, and the Flaming Lips. In 2005, a documentary about Johnston was released, called The Devil and Daniel Johnston, and another movie about his life, Hi, How Are You: A Short Film, was made in 2015.

Johnston was also an artist, and his pieces have appeared in galleries around the world, but his most beloved work is the "Hi, How Are You" mural in Austin, Texas. Johnston's brother, Dick, told Rolling Stone on Wednesday that after their father died two years ago, he found boxes filled with his brother's unreleased recordings and documents. "We'll be spending a long time sorting out what he's left behind," he said. "We have lots more to share." Catherine Garcia

August 27, 2019

Fashion designer Isabel Toledo, the creator of former first lady Michelle Obama's 2009 inaugural parade outfit, died Monday in Manhattan. She was 59.

Her husband, artist Ruben Toledo, said she died of breast cancer. Toledo was known for focusing on the construction of her garments; she said she engineered her clothes. She started sewing at age 8, the same time her family moved to the United States from Cuba, and she launched her own line in 1984 after interning for Diana Vreeland at the Costume Institution of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Toledo was later creative director for Anne Klein from 2006 to 2007 and collaborated with Lane Bryant. She received many accolades, including a National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt museum in 2005 and a Tony nomination in 2014 for her costume work on After Midnight.

The spotlight shone brightest on Toledo in 2009, when Obama wore her design to walk in the inaugural parade. In an email to The New York Times, Obama said she requested "something that would not only live up to the moment, but would also stand up to the freezing cold of that January day. With her incredible creativity and masterful talent, Isabel designed a beautiful lemongrass outfit that I just loved. She more than met the moment — for that day and for all of history." Catherine Garcia

August 5, 2019

Police in Dayton, Ohio, have identified the nine people killed early Sunday outside a popular bar, Ned Peppers, and profiles are emerging of the 20 confirmed casualties from the mass shooting 13 hours earlier at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Police shot and killed the Dayton gunman, identified as 24-year-old Connor Betts, and one of his first victims was his 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts. Also killed in Dayton were Lois Oglesby, 27; Nicholas Cumer, 25; Thomas "Teejay" McNichols, 25; Beatrice Warren-Curtis, 36; Saeed Saleh, 38; Derrick Fudge, 57; Logan Turner, 30; and Monica Brickhouse, 39. Six of the victims were black, but "we have no evidence to suggest that there's a bias motive to this crime," said Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl. But police, he added, are still trying to answer "the question that everyone wants to know: Why?”

Federal prosecutors say they are investigating the El Paso shooting as "domestic terrorism" and possible hate crime, given evidence of the suspected shooter's racial animus against Latinos. Five of those killed in the El Paso shooting were identified as Mexican citizens — Sara Esther Regalado, Adolfo Cerros Hernández, Jorge Calvillo García, Elsa Mendoza de la Mora, and Gloria Irma Márquez — and among his other victims were Jordan and Andre Anchondo. Jordan Achondo, 24, appears to have died shielding their 2-month-old son, Paul, said a cousin, Monique Terry. They had two other children. The infant, who survived, was grazed by a bullet and suffered two broken fingers, probably from when his mother's body fell on him, she added. Dayton victim Oglesby had also recently given birth, relatives said.

Nicholas Cumer, slain in the Dayton shooting, was a graduate student earning his master of cancer care at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania, and had been interning at a cancer care facility in Dayton. Arturo Benavides, a 60-year-old Army vet, was killed in El Paso while shopping with his wife, The New York Times reports. Peter Weber

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