Vic Chesnutt, singer-songwriter
Athens, Ga. – Vic Chesnutt, a singer-songwriter of spare, idiosyncratic folk songs tinged with melancholy, died Christmas Day in Athens, Ga., after an intentional overdose of prescription muscle relaxants, a family spokesman said.
Chesnutt, 45, had been admitted to Athens Regional Medical Center on Wednesday and died surrounded by “devastated” friends and family, according to Jem Cohen, a filmmaker and friend who produced Chesnutt’s 2007 album “North Star Deserter.”
Paralyzed after a 1983 single-car accident when he was driving drunk at age 18, Chesnutt had limited use of his arms and hands but nonetheless carved out a career as a songwriter, singer and guitarist. He was discovered in the late 1980s by REM frontman Michael Stipe, who championed his early recordings, and he gained the respect of music critics and fellow musicians who were struck by his darkly humorous songs.
Dennis Brutus, poet, activist
Cape Town, South Africa – South African poet and former political prisoner Dennis Brutus, who fought apartheid in words and deeds and remained an activist well after the fall of his country’s racist system, has died. He was 85.
Brutus’ publisher, Chicago-based Haymarket Books, said the writer died in his sleep at his home in Cape Town on Saturday.
Brutus was an anti-apartheid activist jailed at Robben Island with Nelson Mandela in the mid-1960s. His activism led Olympic officials to ban South Africa from competition from 1964 until apartheid ended nearly 30 years later.
Connie Hines ‘Mr. Ed’ co-star
Los Angeles – Connie Hines, an actress in the 1960s TV show “Mr. Ed,” has died. She portrayed Carol Post, whose husband, Wilbur, was the only person who could converse with Mr. Ed, the eponymous talking horse. Hines, 78, died Dec. 18 at her home in Beverly Hills from complications of heart problems.
In the show, which ran from 1961-1966 on CBS, the Posts moved into a rambling country home only to find a horse in their barn. The center of the show became the banter between Young and Mr. Ed, which left Hines trying to make the most of her opportunities.
After “Mr. Ed” finished, Hines worked on television sporadically in such shows as “Medical Center,” “Mod Squad” and “Bonanza.”
In 1970, she married Lee Savin, an entertainment lawyer and producer. Hines hosted a local cable access show about animals, interviewing veterinarians and animal behaviorists and offering animals for adoption.
‘Ike’ Ahronovitch, Exodus captain
Jerusalem – Yitzhak “Ike” Ahronovitch, the captain of the Exodus ship whose attempt to take Holocaust survivors to Palestine built support for Israel’s founding, has died. He was 86.
He died Wednesday in northern Israel after a long illness.
The Exodus 1947 ship left France in July 1947 carrying more than 4,500 people – most of them Holocaust survivors and other displaced Jews – in a secret effort to reach Palestine. At the time, Britain controlled Palestine and was limiting the immigration of Jews. The British navy seized the vessel off Palestine’s shores, and after a battle on board that left three people dead, turned the ship and its passengers back to Europe, where the refugees were forced to disembark in Germany.
The ship’s ordeal was widely reported worldwide, garnering sympathy for the refugees.
It inspired a fictionalized account by American writer Leon Uris and a classic 1960 film directed by Otto Preminger and starring Paul Newman.
James Gurley, rock guitarist
Los Angeles – James Gurley, a virtuosic guitarist with Big Brother & the Holding Company, the psychedelic rock band that launched Janis Joplin to stardom, died Dec. 20, two days before his 70th birthday.
Gurley was pronounced dead at a Palm Springs hospital after having a heart attack at his Palm Desert home.
In 1965, Gurley was playing guitar on San Francisco’s coffeehouse circuit when Chet Helms, Big Brother’s manager, invited Gurley to jam with the nascent band. Gurley “was the star of Big Brother,” the group’s drummer, Dave Getz, said on the band’s Web site, “and then Janis came along.”
With Joplin joining the group from Texas as lead singer in 1966, Big Brother soon turned into one of the San Francisco Bay Area’s leading attractions.
Big Brother became a sensation with its 1968 “Cheap Thrills” album, which featured Gurley’s intense, raw sound on such hits as “Piece of My Heart” and “Ball and Chain.”
Since moving to Palm Desert in the 1970s, Gurley had performed with a new-wave band with his oldest son, Hongo, and recorded with New Age drummer Muruga Booker.