On Oct. 24, 2008, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s world was turned upside down when her mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29 were shot dead in their Southside Chicago home. Her nephew Julian King, 7, was found dead days later. On Dec. 2, William Balfour, 27, the estranged husband of her older sister Julia, was charged with the triple homicide.
Our hearts went out to Grammy-winning star Kanye West when news broke of his mother’s passing in November 2007. Donda West, 58, an author and lifelong educator, died from complications associated with plastic surgery. The bond between Kanye and his mom was undeniable. His 2005 song “Hey Mama” was an ode to her unconditional love and support.
R&B music fans mourned with O’Jays great Eddie Levert following the sudden death of his son Gerald Levert in November 2006. Gerald, 40, died of a heart attack at his home in Cleveland. A year and a half later in March 2008, Eddie was struck again by tragedy when younger son Sean—who suffered from high blood pressure—fell ill while serving jail time for failing to pay child support. Sean, 39, reportedly pleaded with officials to give him medication, but officers told him he’d have to wait to see a doctor. He was later rushed to a hospital, where he died. Police continue to investigate the case.
Eddie went on to write “I Got Your Back: A Father and Son Keep It Real About Love, Fatherhood, Family and Friendship.”
VENUS AND SERENA WILLIAMS
In 2003, Venus and Serena Williams experienced the ultimate grief and trauma. The tennis superstars lost their sister Yetunde Price, who was shot in the head as she drove through the same Compton neighborhood where their family once lived. Price, a divorced mother of three, was just 31 years old when she was killed. A suspected member of the Crips street gang was later arrested.
The Price and Williams families issued a statement at the time saying, “It is our hope that all involved in this heinous crime will be brought to justice.”
TLC and FAMILY OF LISA “LEFT EYE” LOPES
The lyricist of the best-selling female trio TLC was killed car accident while vacationing in Honduras on April 26, 2002. Known for playful spirit, Left Eye, is survived by her mother, Wanda, sister and brother, who are set to release a Left Eye album in 2009.
“Making this album has been therapeutic for my children,” said Wanda. “I miss her so much but I think it’s gotten better with time. The center in Honduras that we made into a foster home is my therapy. I’m glad that I got to be a part of that and work with her on it.”
FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF AALIYAH
The 2001 sudden passing of R&B favorite Aaliyah at age 22 was a shock to her family, friends and the entire entertainment industry. After filming the music video for her hit single “Rock the Boat,” her plane crashed shortly after takeoff, killing her and eight others in the Bahamas. Investigators believe the plane was 700 pounds overweight, and in 2003, the pilot’s autopsy results revealed cocaine and alcohol were in his system.
“We could not have asked for more from Aaliyah’s worldwide fans,” her mother, Diane, and brother, Michael, wrote on her memorial site. “She felt you, she needed you, she performed the arts she loved for you.”
Rapper and activist Wyclef Jean lost his father, the Reverend Gesner Jean, in September 2001. He died from injuries resulting from a freak accident after being trapped between the garage door and a car at their New Jersey home. Wyclef’s younger sister and brother, Melky and Sedeck, of the duo Melky Sedeck, were featured on the soundtrack of “Two Can Play That Game.” The unexpected passing of their father continues to shape Wyclef’s music and life.
He posted the following message on his Web site: “The unexpected passing of my father brought great spiritual reflection on what matters in life. God’s gift of my daughter reminded me love is the greatest way to heal. I have traveled the world and seen the issues in my native land. This has given me a second wind, so to speak. Inspiration.”
We think of him as the quintessential, all-American father. So when actor and comedian Bill Cosby lost his only son, Ennis, during a botched robbery in 1997, the whole country felt his pain.
Ennis was in the midst of pursuing a doctoral degree at Teachers College of Columbia University when he was slain on a freeway in Los Angeles. One of his dreams was to teach children with learning disabilities. The night of his death, Cosby mourned for his son saying, “Ennis was my hero.”
The most dynamic and influential basketball player of our generation, Michael Jordan has also suffered through tremendous loss in his own family. James Jordan, Michael’s father, was shot to death on July 23, 1993, in an attempted robbery while he napped in his car. The 56-year-old had apparently pulled over on the side of the highway in Lumberton, North Carolina, before the murder. Jordan’s father was his main confidant and could be seen with his son regularly as he climbed the ladder of success.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS OF MARVIN GAYE
Motown legend Marvin Gaye was killed by a single gunshot wound fired by the very man who helped give him life. On the afternoon of April 1, 1984, just one day before his 45th birthday, Gaye was murdered by Marvin Gay, Sr., after a heated argument in their Los Angeles home. Gaye reportedly had cocaine in his system when he died. Marvin Sr. was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and given a six-year suspended prison sentence. He died some 14 years later after developing pneumonia at a retirement home in Long Beach, California.