The year 2016 has not been a good one for celebrities. We started the year off with David Bowie passing away. Soon after, Alan Rickman joined him. Later that year, Prince died. Singers and actors weren’t the only ones to go, though. Supreme Court justice Anton Scalia passed away as did Morley Safer, Muhammad Ali, and Elie Wiesel. Most recently (as of this writing), George Michael died. At every turn, it seemed like 2016 was robbing the world of another celebrity. I began to wonder if this was true. Is 2016 a celebrity killer? Or were we so acutely tuned to celebrity deaths that it seemed like a lot when it was really a normal amount?
To answer this question, I did some searching. At first, I tried Wikipedia, but they listed many people that seemed to be unknown outside of a small area. I was more concerned with names that most people would recognize – not ones that would require a repeat visit to Wikipedia to explain who they were. After some more searching, I found the website FiftiesWeb.com. They had a handy listing of deaths by year starting in 2000. The result was quite intriguing.
As you can see, 2016 did indeed see a spike in celebrity deaths. In fact,it has had almost 40% more celebrity deaths than the closest nearest year (2005). The good news is that I think 2016 is an aberration. Next year will likely see fewer celebrity deaths than 2016. The bad news is that it looks like the “normal level of celebrity deaths” is increasing. This makes sense as many people who became celebrities in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and 1980’s are now 60’s or older. As the years go on, this crop of celebrities will die off resulting in more and more years like 2016 – albeit years with slightly fewer deaths.
Someone please keep an eye on our remaining celebrities. Although this year is days away from finishing, I have a feeling that we’re in for a rough 2017 as well.
EDIT: Unfortunately, after this post went live, it was announced that Carrie Fisher passed away. This brings the number of celebrity deaths in 2016 to 140 – or 46% more than the second place year (96 in 2005). If no more celebrities die this year, there will have been an average of one death every 2.6 days. No wonder it seems like the death notices have been coming so fast.
Here’s a Google Docs Spreadsheet with all of the data. I’ve also updated the graph above. The 2016 spike is now more prominent than ever.