Fresh Flowers

Remembering the musicians, actors, and notable people who passed away in 2023.

Gangsta Boo

Gangsta Boo, 43

(August 7, 1979 – January 1, 2023)

A member of Memphis, Tennessee rap group, Three 6 Mafia, Lola Chantrelle Mitchell, professionally known as Gangsta Boo, played a prominent role in spotlighting the Southern rap scene. The group is best know for hits like, “Stay Fly”, and “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp”. On Jan. 1, 2023 Gangsta Boo was declared dead after being found unresponsive on her mother’s front porch in Memphis. Her cause of death was reportedly due to a fentanyl and cocaine overdose. She was 43.

Fred White

Fred White, 67

(January 13, 1955 – January 1, 2023)

Long time Earth, Wind & Fire dummer Fred White passed away on Jan. 1, 2023. White began drumming at age nine and earned his first gold record in 1972 at 16-years-old for his work on Donny Hathaway’s Live album. In 1974 he joined his brother Maurice White’s band, Earth Wind & Fire and can be heard playing drums on hits like, “Shining Star”, “September”, and “Boogie Wonderland”. In 2000, White and other members of Earth Wind & Fire were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Fred White was 67.

Gordy Harmon

Gordy Harmon, 79

(1943 – January 5, 2023)

A native of Watts in Los Angeles, Gordy Harmon was founding member of The Whispers, alongside Marcus Hutson, Nicholas Caldwell, and twin brothers Wallace and Walter Scott. The group made it’s debut in 1964 releasing albums, The Whispers/Planets of Life (1970), The Whispers’ Love Story (1971), and Life and Breath (1972). Harmon reportedly left the group in 1973 after his larynx was damaged in a car accident. He passed away in his sleep at home in L.A. on Jan. 5, 2023 at the age of 79.

Barrett Strong
Singer / Songwriter

Barrett Strong, 81

(February 5, 1941 – January 28, 2023)

Barrett Strong may be remembered best for his 1959 record, “Money (That’s What I Want)”, the first hit single for the newly formed Motown record label. Strong began singing at Detroit’s Hutchins Middle School, where his classmates included Aretha Franklin and Lamont Dozier. A gifted songwriter, Strong collaborated in the creation of classics like “War”, “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”, and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,”. Strong died on Jan. 28, 2023 at his home in San Diego, California. He was 81.

Charlie Thomas

Charlie Thomas , 85

(April 7, 1937 – January 31, 2023)

A member of one of the more popular R&B and Doo-Wop groups of the 50s and 60s, Charlie Thomas helped propel the Drifters to stardom with hits like, “Under the Boardwalk”, “Sweets for My Sweet”, “When My Little Girl Is Smiling”, and “There Goes My Baby”. In 1988 Thomas, along with the rest of the Drifters, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He toured with group from it’s inception in the 1950 until 2020. Thomas died of liver cancer on Jan. 31, 2023. He was 85.

Trugoy the Dove

Trugoy the Dove, 54

(September 21, 1968 – February 12, 2023)

David Jolicoeur, known to fans as Plug Two, Trugoy the Dove, and simply Dave, was one third of the seminal rap group De La Soul, releasing a sting of hit songs throughout the late 80s and 90s including “Me Myself and I”, “Saturdays”, “Buddy”, and “Keepin’ the Faith”. On Nov. 2017 the celebrated Emcee revealed his battle with congestive heart failure, even disclosing he wore a LifeVest defibrillator. On Feb. 12, 2023 his representative announced Trugoy had passed away at the age of 54. A cause of death was not provided.

Lance Reddick

Lance Reddick, 60

(June 7, 1962 – March 17, 2023)

During his lifetime Lance Reddick built an impressive resume in TV and film that included featured roles on The Wire, Oz, Fringe, and the John Wick film series. Though he was considered a character actor, Reddick was an intense presence on camera, with a large fan base for his voice acting on the ‘Destiny‘ video game series. Reddick was found lifeless in his NY hotel room on the morning of March 17, 2023. His representative revealed he “passed away suddenly of natural causes” at age 60.

Randall Robinson
Attorney / Human Rights Activist

Randall Robinson, 81

(July 6, 1941 – March 24, 2023)

Randall Robinson was noted for his strong opposition to the apartheid in South Africa, his campaigning for Haitian immigrants in the U.S., and for calling for the United States to make reparations to African Americans for the institution of slavery. In 1977 he founded the advocacy organization, TransAfrica with the goal of influencing the foreign policy of the United States concerning African and Caribbean countries and all African diaspora groups. Robinson died on March 24, 2023 in St. Kitts at the aged of 81.

Harry Belafonte
Entertainer / Humanitarian

Harry Belafonte, 96

(March 1, 1927 – April 25, 2023)

The first artist to ever sell a million albums with his 1956 LP, Calypso, Harry Belafonte was a star the moment he stepped into the public’s consciousness, with hit recordings such as “Day-O”, and “Jump in the Line”. His film credits include Carmen Jones (1954), Buck and the Preacher (1972), and Uptown Saturday Night (1974). Belafonte was close friends with Martin Luther King Jr., and help organize the “We Are the World,” record to benefit famine relief in Africa in the 1980s. He was 96 when he died of congestive heart failure in NY on April 25, 2023.

Vida Blue

Vida Blue, 73

(July 28, 1949 – May 6, 2023)

At one time, Vida Blue was one of Major League Baseball’s hottest players. A six-time All-Star, in 1970, at the age of 21, Blue became the fourth-youngest player in history to throw a no-hitter. In 1971 he won the American League Cy Young Award and was voted league MVP after going 24-8 with a 1.82 ERA and 301 strikeouts. From 1972-74 Blue’s pitching helped propel the Oakland Athletics to three consecutive World Series titles. On May 6, 2023 Blue passed away at the age of 73 at a San Francisco hospital from cancer complications.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown, 87

(February 17, 1936 – May 18, 2023)

One of the greatest running backs of all-time, Jim Brown spent his 9-year NFL with the Cleveland Browns (1957 — 1965) before launching his acting career in 1964, starring in 58 films including, ‘Rio Conchos‘, ‘Any Giving Sunday‘, ‘Original Gangstas‘, and ‘Three the Hard Way‘. In the 1960s Brown, along with Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Carl Stokes, served as archetypes for activist athletes for their Civil Rights work. Brown died of natural causes at his home in Los Angeles on May 18, 2023. He was 87.

Tina Turner

Tina Turner, 83

(November 26, 1939 – May 24, 2023)

Undoubtedly one of the most influential women in music history, Tina Turner‘s prolific career stretched over 40 years. Born Anna Mae Bullock, she was introduced to the world as Tina Turner with the debut single “A Fool in Love” in July 1960. Turner is recognized for her music as much as she is for surviving a torturous relationship with Ike Turner, as immortalized in the 1993 film, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It‘. Turner suffered from a number of illnesses including intestinal cancer. She died on May 24, 2023 at her home in Küsnacht, Switzerland at 83.

John Beasley

John Beasley, 79

(June 26, 1943 – May 30, 2023)

John Beasley was a familiar face to film goers, appearing in movies like, The General’s Daughter (1999), The Sum of All Fears (2002), Walking Tall (2004), The Purge: Anarchy (2014), and television programs like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2000), The Mandalorian (2019), and House of Payne (2006). Beasley was being treated for a liver illness when he died at a Omaha, Nebraska hospital at the age of 79.

Mutulu Shakur

Mutulu Shakur, 72

(August 8, 1950 – July 7, 2023)

While many know Mutulu Shakur as Tupac Shakur’s stepfather, Mutulu built a life around support of the Black community before Tupac’s fame. Associated with the Black Panther Party, the Revolutionary Action Movement, the Republic of New Afrika, and the Black Liberation Army, in the 1970s Mutulu’s work focused on providing healthcare to Bronx, NY residents. His involvement in a 1981 armored car robbery in Nanuet, NY that resulted in the deaths of two cops and a guard landed him 60 years in prison. He was freed after 37 years, dying of cancer months after his release on Jul. 7, 2023 at age 72.

Sheila Oliver

Sheila Oliver, 71

(July 14, 1952 – August 1, 2023)

Born and bred in New Jersey, Sheila Oliver pursued a life in public service and education. Before rising to become lieutenant Governor of New Jersey, Oliver served on the faculty at Essex County College and Caldwell University. Prior to becoming lieutenant Governor, Oliver served six terms on the New Jersey State Assembly, from 2004 to 2018. Sheila Oliver passed away on Aug. 1, 2023 after being hospitalized at Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, NJ for a suffered a medical event the day before. She was 71.

DJ Casper
DJ / Performer

DJ Casper, 58

(May 31, 1965 – August 7, 2023)

“Left foot, two stomps” You would be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t familiar with DJ Casper‘s work. His infectious “Cha Cha Slide” record has been played at countless BBQs, weddings, and other gatherings. Born William Perry Jr. in Chicago, DJ Casper created his magnum opus as a favor a nephew in 1998. It’s since grown in popularity to become a reliable go-to for anyone looking to energize a dance floor. DJ Casper had battled cancer since 2016. He succumbed to kidney and liver cancer on Aug. 7, 2023, at 58.


Magoo, 50

(July 12, 1973 – August 13, 2023)

News of the passing of Magoo was shocking for many fans. The Virginia native, real name Melvin Barcliff, to hip hop fans as half o a rap duo that included producer Timbaland. The two release three albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Magoo died of a heart attack at the age of 50 on Aug. 13, 2023 in Virginia.

Clarence Avant

Clarence Avant, 92

(February 25, 1931 – August 13, 2023)

Clarence Avant‘s prolific career in the music industry earned him the title, the “Black Godfather”. His role as manager to a number of music acts Tom Wilson, Little Willie John, Freddie Hubbard, Sarah Vaughan, Curtis Fuller, Kim Weston, Luiz Bonfa, and Wynton Kelly propelled his career ascension. He was instrumental in the creation of Venture Records Inc., the first joint venture African American artist and a major record label (MGM Records) and a Black artist. His business dealings became a blueprint later artists, particularly Hip Hop artists, would follow. Clarence Avant, 92, passed away at his Los Angeles on Aug. 13, 2023.

Ron Cephas

Ron Cephas, 66

(January 8, 1957 – August 19, 2023)

The impact Ron Cephas, born Ron Cephas Jones, made in his lifetime was reflected by the many tributes he received in death. The award winning actor died on Aug. 19, 2023 of a pulmonary condition at the age of 66. Cephas started acting in 1994 and appeared in 78 films and TV shows including, ‘New York Undercover‘ (1996), ‘Paid in Full‘ (2002), ‘The Get Down‘ (2016), ‘Dolemite Is My Name‘ (2019).

Nathan Louis Jackson
Screenwriter / Playwright

Nathan Louis Jackson, 44

(December 4, 1978 – August 22, 2023)

Nathan Louis Jackson was a regarded playwright, starting his stage career at the Ebony Theatre at Kansas State. He later wrote the play, Broke-ology, which premiered in 2008. Jackson’s talents earned him the Mark Twain Comedy Playwriting Award, the Kennedy Center’s Gold Medallion, and was a 2-time recipient of the Lorraine Hansberry Award. His television writing and producer credits include 13 Reasons Why, S.W.A.T., and Luke Cage. The 44-year-old had heart issues and died on Aug. 22, 2023 at his Lenexa, Kansas home.

Irish Grinstead

Irish Grinstead, 43

(June 2, 1980 – September 16, 2023)

The late 1990s is regarded as the golden age of hip hop music, but it was also a hotbed of R&B talent. Among the accomplished groups to come up during that time was 702 (named after the area code of their Las Vegas hometown), an all-female group that included Irish Grinstead, her twin sister Orish, and Kameelah Williams. The group released a string of hits including “Steelo”, and “Where My Girls At?”. Grinstead passed away on Sept. 16, 2023 at age 43. Cause of death was not disclosed, but Grinstead had been battling a serious medical issue.

Katherine Anderson

Katherine Anderson, 79

(January 16, 1944 – September 20, 2023)

Katherine Anderson co-founded the Marvelettes in 1960 along with four classmates from Inkster High School. By 1961 they were signed to Motown and released their first song, “Please Mr. Postman”, which skyrocketed to the top of the charts. The group would go on to release a number of hits throughout the 60s. After leaving the group in 1969, Anderson returned to Detroit where she worked with troubled teens. Heart failure took Katherine Anderson’s life on Sept. 20, 2023. She was 79.

Hughes Van Ellis

Hughes Van Ellis, 102

(January 11, 1920 – October 9, 2023)

Hughes Van Ellis was only an infant in 1921 when a white mob stormed his thriving Black community of Greenwood in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Approximately 300 people died in the Tulsa Race Massacre, with more than 35 city blocks of homes, businesses and churches left in ruins in the multi-day terror attack. Ellis spent decades seeking restitution, even testifying on Capitol Hill in 2021 in a hearing marking the centennial anniversary of the attack on Greenwood, known as Black Wallstreet. Hughes Van Ellis died on Oct. 9 in Denver, Colo. at the age of 102.

Rudolph Isley

Rudolph Isley, 84

(April 1, 1939 – October 11, 2023)

As a founding member of R&B group The Isley Brothers, Rudolph Isley had a front row seat to the legendary group’s meteoric rise. The hits created by Rudolph and his brothers are too many to list, but include “Footsteps in the Dark”, “Fight the Power”, “Pop That Thang”, “For the Love of You”, “That Lady”, and “Caravan of Love”. Rudolph left the group for the Christian minister in 1989 following the death of his older brother, Kelly. On Oct. 11, 2023 Rudolph died of a suspected heart attack in Illinois at 84 years old.

Mark The 45 King
Music Producer / DJ

Mark The 45 King, 62

(October 16, 1961 – October 19, 2023)

Born Mark Howard James in New York, Mark The 45 King had a unique view into Hip Hop’s birth as the music genre evolved right at his front door in the Bronx. That exposure led to a career that saw him produce hits for some of music’s most celebrated artists like, Eric B. & Rakim (“Microphone Fiend”), Eminem (“Stan”), and Jay-Z (“Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”). He produced Queen Latifah’s debut album, All Hail the Queen and his 1987 track, “The 900 Number”, is a cornerstone of Hip Hop. Mark The 45 King was 62 when he died on Oct. 19, 2023.

Richard Roundtree

Richard Roundtree, 81

(July 9, 1942 – October 24, 2023)

Possibly the most important figure during the Blaxploitation era, Richard Roundtree became an icon after his starring role in Gordon Parks’ 1971 film Shaft. Roundtree went on to star in other big production like Roots, and a slew of television programs including Soul Food, Roc, CHiPs, A Different World, and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper. Roundtree, 81, was being treated for pancreatic cancer when he passed away on Oct. 24, 2023 in Los Angeles.

George ‘Funky’ Brown
Musician / Songwriter

George ‘Funky’ Brown, 74

(January 15, 1949 – November 16, 2023)

Drummer George ‘Funky’ Brown, a founding member of Kool & The Gang, died on Nov. 16, 2023 at age 74. In his nearly 60 years with the band, Brown wrote or co-wrote a number of the band’s hits like “Celebration”, “Ladies Night”, “Jungle Boogie, “Cherish”, and “Get Down On It”, among others. Brown had officially retired from the band in early 2023 after revealing he had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.

Jean Knight

Jean Knight, 80

(January 26, 1943 – November 22, 2023)

While Jean Knight released five albums during her career, it was 1971’s Mr. Big Stuff that she will be most remembered for. The album’s lead single of the same name dominated the charts, spending five weeks at #1 on the R&B charts and #2 on the Pop charts. It ultimately went double-platinum, and was nomination for a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female. The record remains a popular mainstay. The New Orleans-born soul singer was living in Tampa when she passed away of natural causes on Nov. 22, 2023. She was 80.

Richard Hunt

Richard Hunt, 88

(September 12, 1935 – December 16, 2023)

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Richard Hunt grew to become a master sculptor, with his work appearing in public spaces in 24 states across the U.S. during his 7-decade career. Hunt utilized many mediums for his art. From copper and bronze to welded and cast steel. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has called Hunt “the foremost African-American abstract sculptor and artist of public sculpture”. He passed away at his Chicago home on Dec. 16, 2023 at the age of 88.

Leslie McCann
Jazz Pianist / Vocalist

Leslie McCann, 88

(September 23, 1935 – December 29, 2023)

With a discography that includes over 50 albums, Les McCann‘s legacy of musical compositions reached beyond the Jazz genre. His 1969 version of Roberta Flack’s “Compared to What” was a gritty, soulful Vietnam protest song that would eventually be sampled by the likes of Nas (“The World Is Yours”), The Notorious B.I.G. (“Ten Crack Commandments”), Dr. Dre (“The Next Episode”), and many others. McCann died of of pneumonia on Dec. 29 at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 88.

André Braugher

André Braugher, 61

(July 1, 1962 – December 11, 2023)

Glory (1989), Homicide: Life on the Street (1993), The Tuskegee Airmen (1995), Get on the Bus (1996), 10,000 Black Men Named George (2002), and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (2013) are among the long list of classic film and television accomplishments André Braugher leaves behind after his passing. The Chicago native and 2-time Emmy Award winner died on Dec. 11, 2023 of lung cancer, just months after being with the disease. André Braugher was 61.

Maurice Hines
Choreographer / Singer

Maurice Hines, 80

(December 13, 1943 – December 29, 2023)

Born in New York City in 1943, Maurice Hines‘ contributions to the stage began in 1954 when he made his Broadway debut in The Girl in Pink Tights. But long before then, Hines was an entertainer, studying tap dance, alongside his brother Gregory Hines at age 5. An accomplished dancer, choreographer, and actor, Hines’ stage credits included Guys and Dolls, Eubie!, Sophisticated Ladies, Bring Back Birdie, Uptown… It’s Hot!, Hot Feet. Maurice Hines died on Dec. 29, 2023 of natural causes at the age of 80 at the Actors Fund Home in New Jersey.

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