TIME remembrance

Rod McKuen, Mega-Selling Poet and Performer, Dies at 81

Poet/composer Rod McKuen attends ASCAP's reception honoring Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman at the Catalina Bar & Grill on Nov. 18, 2009 in Los Angeles.
Poet/composer Rod McKuen attends ASCAP's reception honoring Marvin Hamlisch and Alan and Marilyn Bergman at the Catalina Bar & Grill on Nov. 18, 2009 in Los Angeles. David Livingston—Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced “King of Kitsch” whose music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and ’70s won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81.

McKuen died Thursday morning at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills, California, where he had been treated for pneumonia and had been ill for several weeks and was unable to digest food, said his half brother, Edward McKuen Habib.

Until his sabbatical in 1981, McKuen was an astonishingly successful and prolific force in popular culture, turning out hundreds of songs and poems and records, including the Academy Award-nominated song “Jean” for the 1969 film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.”

Sentimental, earnest and unashamed, he conjured a New Age spirit world that captivated those who didn’t ordinarily like “poetry” and those who craved relief from the war, assassinations and riots of the time.

“I think it’s a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world,” he once said. “I mean, people are really all we’ve got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it’s a cliche, but it’s really true; that’s just the way it is.”

His best known songs, some written with the Belgian composer Jacques Brel, include “Birthday Boy,” ”A Man Alone,” ”If You Go Away” and “Seasons In the Sun,” a chart-topper in 1974 for Terry Jacks. He was nominated for an Oscar for “Jean” and for “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” the title track for the beloved Peanuts movie.

Frank Sinatra, Madonna, Dolly Parton and Chet Baker were among the many artists who recorded his material, although McKuen often handled the job himself, in a hushed, throaty style he had honed after an early life as a rock singer cracked his natural tenor.

TIME remembrance

Read TIME’s 1945 Report on the Horrors of Dachau

Hitler TIME cover
The May 7, 1945, cover of TIME Cover Credit: BORIS ARTZYBASHEFF

Jan. 27 is the U.N.-designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Holocaust Memorial Day is observed in many nations on the day of the liberation of Auschwitz — 70 years ago, on Jan. 27, 1945 — but it is designed to also encourage remembrance of those killed by Nazis elsewhere. (Some nations observe days of remembrance on other dates.)

When the May 7, 1945, issue of TIME was published, those memories were still fresh. The magazine’s correspondent Sidney Olson had just accompanied the U.S. Army during the liberation of Dachau, and the report he filed would have shocked even readers who were aware of the Nazis’ crimes.

This is what he wrote:

Beside the highway into Dachau there runs a spur line off the Munich railroad. Here a soldier stopped us and said: “I think you better take a look at these box-cars.” The cars were filled with dead men. Most of them were naked. On their bony, emaciated backs and rumps were whip marks. Most of the cars were open-top cars like American coal cars. I walked along these cars and counted 39 of them which were filled with these dead. The smell was very heavy. I cannot estimate with any reasonable accuracy the number of dead we saw here, but I counted bodies in two cars and there were 53 in one and 64 in another.

The main entry road runs past several largish buildings. These had been cleared; and now we began to meet the liberated. Several hundred Russians, French, Yugoslavs, Italians and Poles were here, frantically, hysterically happy. They began to kiss us, and there is nothing you can do when a lot of hysterical, unshaven, lice-bitten, half-drunk, typhus-infected men want to kiss you. Nothing at all. You cannot hit them, and besides, they all kiss you at the same time. It is no good trying to explain that you are only a correspondent. A half-dozen of them were especially happy and it turned out they were very proud: they had killed two German soldiers themselves.

…We went on, and the great size of the establishment of Dachau began to open before us. Buildings and barracks spread on and on. Outside one building, half covered by a brown tarpaulin, was a stack about five feet high and about 20 feet wide of naked dead bodies, all of them emaciated. We went on around this building and came to the central crematory. The rooms here, in order, were: 1) the office where the living and the dead were passed through and where all their clothing was stripped from them; 2) the Brausebad (shower) room, where the victims were gassed; and 3) the crematory. In the crematory were two large furnaces. Before the two furnaces were hooks and pulleys on rafters above them. Here, according to a number of Frenchmen, the SS men often hanged prisoners by the necks or by the thumbs or whatever their fancy dictated. From here the victims could watch while being whipped and tortured as their comrades were slid into the furnace.

Each of these pitiful, happy, starved, hysterical men wanted to tell us his home country, his home city, and ask us news and beg for cigarets. The eyes of these men defy my powers of description. They are the eyes of men who have lived in a super-hell of horrors for many years, and are now driven half-crazy by the liberation they have prayed so hopelessly for.

Read the full story here in the TIME Vault: Dachau

TIME Music

Renowned Greek Singer Demis Roussos Dead at 68

File photo of Greek singer Demis Roussos performing in Moscow
Greek singer Demis Roussos performs in Moscow in September, 2006. Anton Denisov—Reuters

Roussos first came to prominence in the late 1960s with the band Aphrodite's Child before moving on to a solo career

(ATHENS, Greece) — Renowned Greek singer Demis Roussos, a household name in the 1970s and 1980s across Europe and beyond, has died in Athens at the age of 68, a hospital confirmed Monday.

The hospital said the singer died following a lengthy hospitalization, but did not give an exact cause of death.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, in June 1946, Roussos first came to prominence in the late 1960s with the band Aphrodite’s Child before moving on to a solo career.

“He had a superb voice, he traveled in the world … he loved what he was doing,” singer Nana Mouskouri told French radio RTL in a tribute. “He was an artist, a friend. I hope he is in a better world.”

TIME Baseball

Chicago Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks Dies at 83

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason

Even as the Chicago Cubs lost one game after another, Ernie Banks never lost hope.

That was the charm of “Mr. Cub.”

Banks, the Hall of Fame slugger and two-time MVP who always maintained his boundless enthusiasm for baseball despite decades of playing on miserable teams, died Friday night. He was 83.

The Cubs announced Banks’ death, but did not provide a cause.

Banks hit 512 home runs during his 19-year career and was fond of saying, “It’s a great day for baseball. Let’s play two.” In fact, that sunny finish to his famous catchphrase adorns his statue outside Wrigley Field.

And on a cold winter night Friday in Chicago, the ballpark marquee carried the sad news for the entire town to see: Ernie Banks. “Mr. Cub.” 1931-2015.

“Words cannot express how important Ernie Banks will always be to the Chicago Cubs, the city of Chicago and Major League Baseball. He was one of the greatest players of all time,” Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts said in a statement. “He was a pioneer in the major leagues. And more importantly, he was the warmest and most sincere person I’ve ever known.”

“Approachable, ever optimistic and kind hearted, Ernie Banks is and always will be Mr. Cub. My family and I grieve the loss of such a great and good-hearted man, but we look forward to celebrating Ernie’s life in the days ahead.”

In a statement Saturday, President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama expressed their condolences “to the family of Ernie Banks, and to every Chicagoan and baseball fan who loved him.” The president said Banks became known as much for his optimism and love of the game as his home runs and back-to-back National League MVPs.

“As a Hall-of-Famer, Ernie was an incredible ambassador for baseball, and for the city of Chicago,” President Obama said. “He was beloved by baseball fans everywhere, including Michelle, who, when she was a girl, used to sit with her dad and watch him play on TV. And in 2013, it was my honor to present Ernie with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“Somewhere, the sun is shining, the air is fresh, his team’s behind him, and Mr. Class — “Mr. Cub” — is ready to play two.”

Though he was an 11-time All-Star from 1953-71, Banks never reached the postseason. The Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series since 1908, finished below .500 in all but six of his seasons and remain without a pennant since 1945.

Still, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977, the first year he was eligible, and was selected to baseball’s All-Century team in 1999.

Banks’ infectious smile and non-stop good humor despite his team’s dismal record endeared him to Chicago fans, who voted him the best player in franchise history. One famous admirer, actor Bill Murray, named his son Homer Banks Murray.

In 2013, Banks was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom — by a noted Chicago White Sox fan, President Barack Obama. The award is one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.

“Ernie Banks was more than a baseball player. He was one of Chicago’s greatest ambassadors. He loved this city as much as he loved — and lived for — the game of baseball,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. “This year, during every Cubs game, you can bet that No. 14 will be watching over his team. And if we’re lucky, it’ll be a beautiful day for not just one ballgame, but two.”

Banks’ No. 14 was the first number retired by the Cubs, and it hangs on a flag from the left-field foul pole at the old ballpark.

“I’d like to get to the last game of the World Series at Wrigley Field and hit three homers,” he once said. “That was what I always wanted to do.”

But even without an opportunity to play on the October stage, Banks left an indelible mark that still resonates with fans and athletes from all sports.

“Ernie Banks… We are going to all miss you. #Legend,” quarterback Russell Wilson tweeted as he and the Seattle Seahawks were getting ready to defend their Super Bowl title.

Banks was playing for the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Leagues when the Cubs discovered him in 1953, and purchased his contract for $10,000. He made his major league debut at shortstop on Sept. 17 that year, and three days later hit his first home run.

Tall and thin, Banks didn’t look like a typical power hitter. He looked even less so as he stood at the plate, holding his bat high and wiggling it as he waited for pitches. But he had strong wrists and a smooth, quick stroke, and he made hitting balls out of the park look effortless.

When he switched to a lighter bat before the 1955 season, his power quickly became apparent. He hit 44 homers that season, including three against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Aug. 4. His five grand slams that year established a major league record that stood for more than 30 years before Don Mattingly hit six in 1987.

Banks’ best season came in 1958, when he hit .313 with 47 homers and 129 RBIs. Though the Cubs went 72-82 and finished sixth in the National League, Banks edged Willie Mays and Hank Aaron for his first MVP award. He was the first player from a losing team to win the NL MVP.

Banks won the MVP again in 1959, becoming the first NL player to win it in consecutive years, even though the Cubs had another dismal year. Banks batted .304 with 45 homers and a league-leading 143 RBIs.

He led the NL in homers again in 1960 with 41, his fourth straight season with 40 or more. His 248 homers from 1955-60 were the most in the majors, topping even Aaron and Mays.

“Mr Cub. What you have done for the game of baseball the city of Chicago and everyone you have ever touched will never be forgotten. RIP,” tweeted Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo.

Though Banks didn’t break the 40-homer barrier again after 1960, he topped the 100-RBI mark three more times, including 1969, his last full season. Then 38, he hit .253 with 23 home runs and 106 RBIs, and was chosen an All-Star for an 11th time.

On May 12, 1970, he hit his 500th home run at Wrigley Field, becoming only the eighth player at the time to reach the plateau.

Banks retired after the 1971 season. He owned most of the Cubs’ career slugging records, some of which still stand today.

Known mostly for his power at the plate, Banks was a solid fielder, too. He is best known as a shortstop, where he won a Gold Glove in 1960, but he switched to first base in 1962. He played 1,259 games at first and 1,125 games at shortstop.

Born and raised in Dallas, Banks would be bribed to play catch by his father, who always wanted him to be a baseball player. Banks grew to love the game and was a standout in high school, along with participating in football, basketball and track and field.

He joined a barnstorming Negro Leagues team at 17 and was spotted by Cool Papa Bell, who signed him to the Monarchs in 1950. Banks played one season before going into the Army. He returned to Kansas City after he was discharged, playing one more season before joining the Cubs.

“He was one of the great crossover baseball players of his day,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson said. “His personality was a racial bridge builder. He treated all people with dignity and respect. He never stopped reaching out to bridge the racial chasms.”

TIME remembrance

King Abdullah’s ‘Special Relationship’ With the U.S.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Dead
U.S. President Barack Obama and Saudi Arabian King Abdullah laugh as they speak to the media after their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, D.C., on June 29, 2010 Getty Images

Read TIME's take on the Saudi monarch's relationship with President Obama

Saudi state TV reported Friday morning, local time, that King Abdullah had died at 90. The monarch’s health was a known concern last April, when TIME took a long look at the state of affairs between Saudi Arabia and the U.S., and the relationship between the King and President Barack Obama.

Though interactions between the two nations were showing signs of stress, they still provided a window into the world of the King:

The King requires a certain amount of TLC. “This is a very personalized relationship. It’s always the King and the President,” says Elliott Abrams, a former Bush White House national-security aide who has met Abdullah many times. The special relationship between Washington and Riyadh has endured since 1945, when Franklin Roosevelt met with Abdullah’s father Abdulaziz ibn Saud and established an informal deal: the U.S. provides for the kingdom’s security in exchange for reliable oil supplies. (History buffs will note that Roosevelt saw the King on his way home from the Yalta conference, held in Crimea.)

To this day, there is nothing quite like dinners with the Saudi monarch in his Riyadh palace. The King and the President are seated at the head of a massive U-shaped table, flanked by dozens of people, most of whom can’t see either leader because of the large flat-screen televisions that are placed in front of them. The King enjoys dining with his TV tuned to the news channel al-Arabiya, Abrams says.

That may not be Obama’s idea of a good time. But communication with the King, now 89, comes much more easily in person than the grouchy mumbling one gets from afar. “The King doesn’t like to talk on the phone,” says a diplomat who knows Abdullah. Despite such obstacles, Obama has maintained a workmanlike, if not quite hand-holding, relationship with Abdullah. In their past meetings, says Jim Smith, Obama’s ambassador to Riyadh until last October, “Obama was deferential and respectful of the King’s age, and the King was respectful of the President’s position and his brainpower.”

Read the full story here, on TIME.com: The King and O

TIME

Coronation Street Star Anne Kirkbride Dies at 60

Coronation St actress Anne Kirkbride in 2014.
Coronation Street actress Anne Kirkbride in 2014. Christopher Furlong—Getty Images

Kirkbride starred in the British soap opera for more than 40 years

(LONDON) — Actress Anne Kirkbride, a star of British soap opera Coronation Street for more than 40 years, has died at the age of 60.

Network ITV says Kirkbride, who played the long-suffering, much-married Deirdre Barlow, died Monday in a hospital in Manchester, northwest England, after a short illness.

Set in the fictional working-class community of Weatherfield, Coronation Street has been chronicling its characters’ lives since 1960, with an enduringly popular mix of social realism, melodrama and humor. Kirkbride’s character — renowned for her oversized spectacles and romantic travails — was at the heart of some of the soap’s most dramatic story lines for decades.

The show is so popular that when Deirdre was wrongly imprisoned for fraud in 1998, newspapers campaigned for her release and Prime Minister Tony Blair was among those who proclaimed her innocence.

Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts said the program makers “know only too acutely how much Anne meant to the millions of people who watched her create the legendary character of Deirdre Barlow.”

William Roache, who played her onscreen husband Ken Barlow — the characters married, divorced then remarried years later — said the show had lost “one of its iconic characters.”

He said Kirkbride “was an impeccable performer with superb comedy timing and an immense gift for really heightened drama. We had some rows over the years as Ken and Deirdre and it was wonderful to play those scenes opposite her.”

Kirkbride is survived by her husband, David Beckett.

TIME remembrance

Inventor of TV Instant Replay Dies at 81

Tony Verna poses in his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Nov. 26, 1999.
Tony Verna poses in his home in Pacific Palisades, Calif. on Nov. 26, 1999. Chris Pizzello—AP

Tony Verna's lasting legacy pulling back the curtain on sports and revealing what really goes on

PALM DESERT, Calif. — Tony Verna, a television director and producer who invented instant replay for live sports 51 years ago, has died. He was 81.

Verna died Sunday at his Palm Desert home after battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia, daughter Tracy Soiseth said.

CBS used instant replay for the first time in the Dec. 7, 1963 Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, afterVerna developed a method to cue the tape to pinpoint the play he wanted to immediately air again. He said he was looking for a way to fill those boring gaps between plays during a football telecast.

The concept was so new that when Army quarterback Rollie Stichweh scored a touchdown, announcer Lindsey Nelson had to warn viewers: “This is not live! Ladies and gentlemen, Army did not score again!”

Instant replay quickly became a staple of sports broadcasting, and Verna’s innovation gave fans a new way to look at the games.

“Not many things you can do in life where you can change the way things were happening before,” Verna told The Associated Press in 2008.

Verna would go on to produce or direct five Super Bowls, the Olympics, the Kentucky Derby and even “Live Aid.”

His lasting legacy, though, is pulling back the curtain on sports and revealing what really goes on.

Verna is survived by his wife of 45 years, Carol, daughters Tracy Soiseth and Jenny Axelrod, son Eric Verna and three grandchildren.

TIME remembrance

Bess Myerson’s Original Victory

Miss America winner Bess Myerson
Miss America winner Bess Myerson Alfred Eisenstaedt—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

The 1945 Miss America winner has died at 90. She was one of the few in the competition's history to outlast the fame given by her crown

TIME once wrote of Bess Myerson that “few people have paraded before the public in quite as many guises.” Myerson — who, it was recently announced, died in December at age 90 — made headlines for a breathtaking number of reasons.

In the 1950s it was for TV appearances and a custody battle. In the 1970s, as New York City’s Commissioner of Consumer Affairs, when she campaigned against non-pure hamburger meat, advocated for honesty from retailers and supported Ed Koch’s run for mayor. In 1980 it was when she lost her run for Senate; in 1987 when she resigned her position as she faced charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, bribery and obstruction of justice (and, the next year, for shoplifting a few bottles of nail polish). In 1989, it was for being cleared of the conspiracy and bribery charges.

But it all started with Miss America. Myerson, who won the crown in 1945, was the first Jewish Miss America, and one of the few in the competition’s history to hold onto the spotlight for the rest of her life.

Here’s how TIME first reported on the news:

Atlantic City, once a mecca for giggling cuties in Mack Sennett bathing suits, abandoned itself for five days last week to a ponderous appraisal of the female mind. The occasion: the annual Miss America contest. The prize: a $5,000 college scholarship offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. The winner: Miss New York City, a Hunter College graduate named Bess Myerson, who excels at the flute and pianoforte.

The proceedings were conducted in an atmosphere reminiscent of a Southern female academy, vintage 1845. Super-chaperones shooed off men, warned each of the 40 contestants not to drink, smoke or chew gum. Stiffly genteel throughout, the chaperones simply ignored a man with field glasses who peered from a nearby sundeck into the solarium of the Senator Hotel when the girls assembled there (fully clothed). At one point the young ladies were inducted into a “sorority” called Mu Alpha Sigma, which was invented by the contest directors solely for Miss America entrants. Its motto: Modesty, Ambition, Success.

On the last two counts at least, Myerson proved worthy of belonging — and that was clear from the beginning. “It was obvious,” TIME wrote, “that the winner had deserved her victory.”

See the full story, here in the TIME Vault: Brains, Brains, Brains

TIME remembrance

Beverly Hillbillies Star Donna Douglas Dies at 81

Actress, Donna Douglas from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies in 1964.
Actress, Donna Douglas from the TV show The Beverly Hillbillies in 1964. Bettmann/CORBIS

Douglas’ cause of death has not yet been released

Donna Douglas, best known for playing Elly May Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, died Friday morning, according to NBC 12. She was 81.

Douglas, who most recently made her way into the press for her 2011 lawsuit against Mattel Inc. claiming they used her likeness for a Barbie doll without authorization, was also known for starring alongside Elvis Presley in 1966’s Frankie and Johnny. She appeared on a number of television shows, from Mister Ed to 77 Sunset Strip.

Douglas’ cause of death has not yet been released.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

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