On January 20, the music world lost one of its most treasured vocalist, Etta James. The blues and soul singer lost her battle with leukemia at 73. James's best known song, "At Last," earned her a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2008, "At Last" made its way into the history books once again when Beyoncé sang it for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama during their first dance at his inaugural ball. Watch James sing her greatest hit live.
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For 23 years, it was nothing but peace, love and soul for Don Cornelius's on Soul Train. Week after week, we welcomed him into our home for the grooviest dance party we knew. Legendary guests Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Diana Ross and more set the stage on fire with their performances. Soul Train was the longest-running nationally syndicated show in TV history. Cornelius died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on February 1. He was 75. Check out this special fan-created tribute to Cornelius.
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Singer Whitney Houston tragically died of an accidental drowning on February 11. In the months leading up to Houston's death, it appeared she had conquered all her troubles and was on the road back to success. The Grammy award-winning singer wrapped up shooting Sparkle just weeks prior and was in the studio recording new music. What fans will miss most about Houston won't be her quick wit or sassy commentary, but her iconic voice. To date, her most famous song, "I Will Always Love You," from The Bodyguard soundtrack, remains the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time—selling more than 42 million copies.
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Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, who went by "MCA" on stage, lost his battle with cancer on May 4. He was 47. The Beastie Boys are the third hip-hop group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yauch co-founded the group, which later made history when its album, License to Ill, became the first hip-hop album to hit number one on the Billboard charts.
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Disco diva Donna Summer passed at 63 after a long battle with cancer. The five-time Grammy winner, who is known for disco hits like "Hot Stuff" and "Bad Girls," kept her ailing condition under wraps. She was, however, working on new material at the time of her death. But until new music is released, fans will have to relive the magic of her voice and her greatest hits—like "Last Dance."
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Sherman Hemsley died of lung cancer on July 24. He was 74. Hemsley's body was held on ice for some four months while the beneficiary of his estate, valued at $50,000, was disputed in court. Hemsley's became everyone's favorite funny man in the '70s and '80s during the Jeffersons and Amen. Who could forget his comedic dance—a mixture of break dancing and James Brown moves!
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Beloved actor Michael Clarke Duncan died on September 3. He never fully recovered from a heart attack he suffered on July 13—which he was resuscitated from by his fiancé, Omarosa Manigualt Stallworth. He remained hospitalized until his death. Duncan rose to fame in 1999 after an Academy Award-nominated performance in The Green Mile. What fans will miss most about the actor are his courageous onscreen performances—both big and small. His final film, The Hive, opens this Friday.
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