A List of Five Famous Groups of Persons Who Have Mostly Passed Away
1 – The Mercury Seven
Chosen in 1959 in a fanfare of publicity, America’s first astronauts flew that nation’s first manned spacecraft, the tiny single-seat Mercury capsule. Alan Shepard was the first to fly, performing a sub-ortbital flight in 1961; John Glenn’s more famous orbital flight followed in 1962. Their story was related in the 1983 movie The Right Stuff.
As of April 2014, only Glenn (lower second from right), the oldest of the men, remains with us. He became a Senator, and eventually flew in space again in 1998 aboard a Space Shuttle.
- Gus Grissom (top centre) followed Shepard in a sub-orbital flight (his capsule famously sunk after landing), flew the first two man Gemini flght, and died in the Apollo launch pad fire in 1967.
- Donald Slayton (lower, second from left) was grounded but stayed as Astronaut chief; he flew the joint US and Soviet mission in 1975 and died in 1993.
- Alan Shepard (top, left) flew to the moon in 1971 as the commander of Apollo 14 and became the oldest moonwalker aged 47. He died in 1998.
- Gordon Cooper (top, right) flew the final Mercury mission and a Gemini flight but lost his seat on a Moon mission to Shepard. He died in 2004.
- Walter Schirra (bottom, left) flew in Mercury, Gemini and the first manned Apollo, he died in 2007.
- Scott Carpenter’s solo flight in 1962 went badly (he was blamed for an off-target landing) and he never flew in space again. He died in 2013. He is pictured at the right of the lower row.
2 – The Mamas and The Papas
Only originally together from 1965-1968, the American folk harmony vocal group left a legacy of work that remains renowned and popular to this day.As of April 2014 only Michelle Phillips (lower centre) remains with us. She has had a sucessful TV and film acting career.
- Cass Elliot (top centre) died in London in 1974 during her sucessful solo career. The untrue story that she choked on a sandwich (she suffered a heart attack) is mirrored by the actual coincidence of Keith Moon’s death in 1978, in the same flat.
- John Phillips (lower right), the group’s leader and Michelle’s former husband, released a couple of solo albums, was convicted of drug trafficking, revived the group in the 1980s, had a liver transplant, and died in 2001 aged 65.
- Denny Doherty (lower left) had a faltering solo career, went sober in the 1980s, joined the revived group and died in 2007.
Here is a clip of the band performing their most famous song live in Monterey in 1967.
3 – Dad’s Army Cast
The show ran originally from 1968 to 1977. As might be expected, the elderly cast members passed away in the years that followed, and in April 2014 only Frank Williams, who played the vicar, and Ian Lavender playing the teenage Frank Pike, are still with us.
- James Beck (Private Walker) died in 1973 aged just 44.
- Edward Sinclair (The Verger) died in 1977.
- John Laurie (Private Frazer) died in 1980.
- Arthur Lowe (Captain Mainwaring) died in 1982.
- John Le Mesurier (Sergeant Wilson) died in 1983.
- Arnold Ridley (Private Godfrey) died in 1984.
- Clive Dunn (Corporal Jones) was much younger than the role he played; he died in 2012.
- Bill Pertwee (Hodges) died in 2013
Here is a short clip of the most famous scene from the series. The platoon have been ordered to guard a captured U-Boat crew.
4 – T-Rex
The classic lineup of T-Rex, that recorded their hits in the early 1970s, is pictured above. Formed originally in 1967 by singer-songwriter and guitarist Marc Bolan, T-Rex continued to record and perform until 1977.
As of April 2014 only the drummer Bill Legend (left) is still with us.
- Marc Bolan (second from right) had divorced, had gained a son, and hosted a sucessful TV show in 1977, when he was sadly killed in a car accident.
- Steve Currie (right) played bass and left the band in 1976. He was also killed in a car accident, in 1981.
- Mickey Finn (second from left) was the percussionist. He left the band in 1975, but played with a revived T-Rex from 1997 until his passing in 2003.
Here is a clip of the above lineup performing “Jeepster” in London in 1972.
5 – The Great Train Robbers
The stopping and seizure of the millions of pounds from the mail train in 1963 rocked the establishment more than any activities of the young in the later 1960s. Most of the gang were caught and jailed, and none had a long and happy young retirement as a result of the raid. Their “gentleman thieves” image was forever damaged by the premature death of the train driver, badly injured during the robbery.
As of April 2014, of the known criminals involved in the robbery (three were never caught), only Douglas “Gordon” Goody (the “brains” behind the operation) and Thomas Wisbey remain alive.
The fates of some of the more (in)famous members of the gang are recorded here:-
- Charles Wilson, regarded as the most dangerous of the robbers, was murdered in Spain in 1990.
- Buster Edwards, famously portrayed by Phil Collins in the 1988 movie Buster, was found dead in 1994; the verdict was “open” but suicide was suspected.
- James Hussey died in 2012. He had made a deathbed confession to being the robber who attacked the uncooperative train driver Jack Mills. The validity of the confession has been disputed.
- Bruce Reynolds was the gang leader. He hid overseas until being captured in 1968. He died in 2013.
- Ronald Biggs was the most famous of the gang members due to his escape and long residence in Brazil. He finally returned to the UK, was re-imprisoned, released on compassionate grounds and died in 2013, having attended Reynolds’ funeral earlier in the year.