Coronavirus: The stars we lost to COVID-19 in 2020

About 1.5 million people to date have lost their lives in the COVID-19 pandemic that swept the world this year.

Among them are household names, many of whom found fame in the 20th century but succumbed to a disease that is particularly lethal to those of advanced age.

Some though were young, and arguably still in their prime - or denied the chance to reach it. 

Trini Lopez, singer

Trini Lopez.
Trini Lopez. Photo credit: Getty

Mexican-American singer Trini Lopez was best known for his early 1960s recording of Pete Seeger's protest song 'If I Had a Hammer', which hit the top 10 in the US and UK. 

He also acted in films, including The Dirty Dozen.

Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters fame was a big fan, owning a Trini Lopez signature guitar he's used on every Foo Fighters album to date. 

Lopez died of complications from coronavirus in August. He was 83.

Herman Cain, politician

Herman Cain.
Herman Cain. Photo credit: Getty

Donald Trump supporter and once a candidate for President himself, Herman Cain, had a successful career in business and computing before entering politics.

He was briefly a frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012, but ultimately lost to Mitt Romney. 

Before contracting COVID-19, Cain claimed the virus wasn't that bad and was strongly against mask mandates. It's believed he caught the virus at a Trump rally in June, and died in July at 74. 

Despite his death, his Twitter account has remained active - even once claiming the virus was "not as deadly as the mainstream media first made it out to be".

Roy Horn, magician

Siegfried and Roy.
Siegfried and Roy. Photo credit: Getty

Roy Horn was half of veteran magic and entertainment duo Siegfried and Roy. The pair performed regularly from the 1960s until 2003, when Horn was attacked by a white tiger used as part of their show.

Horn spent years in recovery, the duo performing one last show in 2009 for a television special before retiring.

Horn contracted the disease in April, and was reportedly responding well to treatment but - as is common in patients of an advanced age - complications set in, and he died aged 75 on May 8.

"The world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend," said his partner-in-magic Siegfried Fischbacher.

David Prowse, actor and body-builder

David Prowse.
David Prowse. Photo credit: Getty/Lucasfilm

Standing 2m tall and representing the UK in body-building, Prowse's impressive physique was near invisible in his most famous role - Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. He didn't provide the iconic voice - that belonged to James Earl Jones - his thick Bristol accent being deemed unsuitable for the Sith lord.

In addition to Star Wars, Prowse had roles in A Clockwork Orange and Doctor Who, and was the on-set trainer for Superman star Christopher Reeve and The Princess Bride's Cary Elwes.

"He might have looked quite scary but as a person he was a sweet, kind and generous man," his daughter Rachel told The Sun.

Prowse died at the end of November, aged 85. 

John Prine, singer-songwriter

John Prine.
John Prine. Photo credit: Getty

In April the world lost John Prine, "one of the most influential songwriters of his generation" according to the Recording Academy, which had just months earlier given him a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Prine began his career writing songs in his head as he delivered mail, and started performing at open mic nights - where he was spotted by none other than movie critic Roger Ebert, who reviewed one of his shows and set him on a course for fame.

Mixing social commentary and humour, Prine was a trailblazer - rejecting the mainstream record industry and setting his own independent label back in the days when that was more of a punk thing, than country.

He even found humour in his ongoing battles with lung and throat cancer, saying it made his voice better. 

Price was 73.

Adam Schlesinger, singer-songwriter

Adam Schlesinger
Adam Schlesinger. Photo credit: Getty

Adam Schlesinger, musician and Emmy-winning songwriter highly regarded for his work as a member of Fountains of Wayne and songwriter for TV's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, died of COVID-19 in April - one of the first famous names to succumb to the disease.

Schlesinger co-wrote Fountains of Wayne's 2003 hit 'Stacy's Mom', the video for which starred Kiwi supermodel Rachel Hunter.

Just 52, Schlesinger had been nominated for Academy, Tony, and Golden Globe Awards. He wrote the hit song 'That Thing You Do!' for the 1996 Tom Hanks movie of the same name. 

Alan Merrill, singer-songwriter

Alan Merrill.
Alan Merrill. Photo credit: Getty

Few know that Joan Jett's 1982 classic 'I Love Rock'n'Roll' was actually a cover version. The original - by British group The Arrows - came out in 1975, and was written by bassist Alan Merrill. 

His solo career saw him working with a wide range of names, including Meat Loaf, Steve Winwood and Mick Taylor, and also a bit of acting.

He died at the end of March, aged 69. 

Tim Brooke-Taylor, comedian

Tim Brooke-Taylor.
Tim Brooke-Taylor. Photo credit: Getty

Tim Brooke-Taylor's comedy career began in the 1960s alongside the likes of the future Monty Python crew. It took a bit longer for Brooke-Taylor to become a household name - but his show The Goodies was a mainstay on British television throughout the 1970s.

He also had appearances in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, Bananaman and One Foot in the Grave

He died of complications from COVID-19 in April, aged 79.

Toots Hibbert, singer

Toots Hibbert.
Toots Hibbert. Photo credit: Getty

Toots Hibbert led reggae group Toots and the Maytals on and off throughout his life. A pioneer of the genre, he's also credited with giving it its name. 

He was named by Rolling Stone magazine as having one of the 100 greatest voices in music, and had 31 number ones in his native Jamaica.

Toots was placed in an induced coma after falling sick with COVID-19 in August, and didn't recover. He was 77.

Charley Pride, singer

Charley Pride.
Charley Pride. Photo credit: Reuters

Charley Pride was a trailblazer, one of the first African-Americans to become a star in the world of country music.

The Grammy-winner had dozens of top 10 country hits between 1967 and 1987, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2000.

Dolly Parton - who made headlines recently after it emerged she'd helped fund one of the successful COVID-19 vaccines - paid tribute to her friend.

"It's even worse to know that he passed away from COVID-19. What a horrible, horrible virus."

He was 86.

Li Wenliang, doctor

Li Wenliang.
Li Wenliang. Photo credit: Supplied

Not a well-known name before the pandemic, Chinese ophthalmologist Li Wenliang made headlines in early January after talking about the mysterious appearance of a SARS-like virus in Wuhan.

The 33-year-old worked at Wuhan Central Hospital, and heard reports of patients suffering an unknown illness that appeared to be SARS, a disease which killed hundreds of people in the early 2000s. 

He shared information about the cases on a WeChat group, telling others to take precautions. Screenshots of the chat went viral on social media, and Dr Wenliang was investigated by the police, labelled a "rumour monger" and made to promise he wouldn't publish "untrue statements" about the virus again.

After returning to work a few days later, Dr Wenliang contacted the virus. At the end of January he went public with the censorship, at the same time telling the world about his own battles with the deadly virus. 

As the disease began to spread and the death toll mounted, China's top court ruled police had got it wrong, saying "it might have been a fortunate thing if the public had believed the 'rumours' then and started to wear masks and carry out sanitisation measures, and avoid the wild animal market".

Dr Wenliang died on February 7, and was later honoured as a "martyr" by the Chinese government. 

Since then, almost another 1.5 million have lost their lives and tens of millions - at minimum - infected. 

Other notable deaths from COVID-19 in 2020

  • Joe Williams, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
  • Bruce Williamson, former lead singer for The Temptations
  • William Pursell, two-time Grammy-nominated composer
  • Ty Chijioke, rapper
  • John Horton Conway, mathematician
  • Tommy DeVito, singer 
  • Tom Seaver, baseball star
  • Chris Trousdale, boy band star
  • Lee Fierro, Jaws actor
  • Fred The Godson, rapper
  • Joe Diffie, country singer
  • Ellis Marsalis Jr, jazz pianist
  • Mark Blum, Succession actor
  • Terrence McNally, playwright
  • Matthew Seligman, Thompson Twins musician and bass guitarist for David Bowie
  • Ken Shimura, Japanese comedian
  • Floyd Cardoz, celebrity chef
  • Princess Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Parma, royal
  • Jay Benedict, actor
  • Frank Cullotta, mobster
  • Nick Cordero, award-winning Broadway actor
  • Troy Sneed, gospel singer
  • Mahmoud Jibril, former Libyan Prime Minister
  • Wallace Roney, jazz trumpeter