The new year is all about one thing: contemplating the creeping black hand of death that waits to claim us all. And while the rest of pop culture will spend the next week or so talking about the Nelson Mandelas and Paul Walkers of the world, every year we like to stop and remember those whose passing didn't make headlines, despite the fact that each changed your life in some small way.
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16 Jan. 21: The Guy Who Started the Vigilante Revenge Genre
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Michael Winner, director of Death Wish.
Liver issues, age 77.
Did you like that Liam Neeson movie where his daughter gets kidnapped and he responds by beating the shit out of half of Europe with his bare hands? Well, there would have been no Taken if there hadn't been Death Wish -- the 1974 Charles Bronson film that made the world fall in love with vigilante revenge stories.
It was directed by Winner, who began his film career in Britain with movies like the cleverly titled nudism romp Some Like It Cool. Soon enough, Hollywood came calling and Winner shot to fame, quite literally, with the hugely successful Death Wish -- a revenge killfest that was just what a crime-ridden 1970s America was in the mood to see.
Winner tried his hand at a lot of other genres, but every movie he made from then on was an abject failure -- except for Death Wish 2 and, of course, Death Wish 3.
15 Feb. 4: The Singer/Crazy Person Who Gave Us "Wild Thing"
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Reg Presley, lead singer of The Troggs.
Lung cancer, age 71.
As songwriter for popular '60s U.K. rockers The Troggs, Presley's cheeky proto-punk cover of "Wild Thing" went to No. 1 in the U.S. Later, an unintentionally hilarious recording of the British band members cursing at each other in the studio (around what they didn't know was a live microphone) would serve as inspiration for This Is Spinal Tap.
Unfortunately, though, Presley's most enduring legacy may wind up being a cover of the Troggs' "Love Is All Around," which took the world by storm when recorded by the appropriately named Wet Wet Wet and featured in the floppy-haired-girlish-rom-com Four Weddings and a Funeral.
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Hugh Grant accounted for 28 percent of all sex in 1994.
In true insane-rock-star style, Presley spent his truckloads of Four Weddings royalties funding research into alien spacecraft, alchemy, and crop circles. He even published a book about that stuff titled Wild Things They Don't Tell Us. What, the publisher couldn't talk him into Love Is All Around, and So Are Fucking Aliens?