The Common Good

Passings 2012

PASSINGS, 2012

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I always begin a new year by remembering those who passed in the just concluded year.  These aren’t necessarily the most famous, and I didn’t know them personally (or, at best, had met several briefly), but their lives touched mine in three of my passions.

American roots music

Etta James, 73, January 20. One of the giants of the blues, she is in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Blues Hall of Fame.

Louisiana Red (Iverson Minter), 79, February 25. A bluesman unable to find success in the U.S., he moved to Germany, and found European audiences more receptive.

Earl Scruggs, 88. March 28. His three-fingered picking style on the banjo was foundational in creating bluegrass music.

Levon Helm, 71, April 19. As drummer and singer with The Band, and then with his own groups, a “roots-music patriarch.”

Donald “Duck” Dunn, 70, May 12. As the session bassist at the Stax studio in Memphis, he played on a long list of classic soul and rock records.

Arthel Lane “Doc” Watson, 89, May 28. Blind since a baby, his “flat-picking style elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass and country music.”

Kitty Wells, 92, July 15.  One of the pioneer women in country music, she was known as the Queen of Country Music and opened the door for the female singers who followed.

Mike Auldridge, 73, December 29. A founding member of D.C.’s Seldom Scene bluegrass band, he defined the steel-topped guitar known as the dobro.

Writers

Anthony Shadid, 43, February 16.  A reporter for The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and The New York Times; his understanding of and passion for the Middle East, along with his lyrical writing, made him one of the best reporters of his era. Died of an asthma attack while on a reporting assignment in Syria.

Maurice Sendak, 83, May 8. Children’s book writer who “wrenched the picture book out of the safe, sanitized world of the nursery and plunged it into the dark, terrifying and hauntingly beautiful recesses of the human psyche.”

Walter Wink, 76, May 10.  Sojourners called him “one of the most important social and political theologians of the 20th century.” His trilogy on the Powers was a masterful analysis of the myths of violence and the power of “militant nonviolence.”

Maurice S. Friedman, 90, September 25.His English translation of Martin’s Buber’s writing, and the dozen books he wrote on Buber, helped inspire the civil rights and antiwar movements.

Activism and public life.

George McGovern, 90, October 21.  A three-term U.S. Senator who ran on an antiwar platform and lost to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, his lifelong passion in and out of office was working for programs to feed hungry people.

Lawrence Guyot, 73, November 23. One of the heroes of the civil rights movement, he suffered beatings and arrests as director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s 1964 Freedom Summer Project in Mississippi. Since 1971, he was an active advocate in the D.C. area.

Walter Sullivan, 84, December 11. A leading “peace bishop” in the U.S. Catholic church, he was also committed to interfaith and ecumenical work, anti-poverty advocacy and prison ministry.

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