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Rankin (The Spokesman-Review)
Rankin (The Spokesman-Review)

Kenny Rankin, popular singer

Kenny Rankin, a singer-songwriter and musician whose song “Peaceful” was a hit for Helen Reddy and who had popular covers himself of a pair of Beatles hits, has died. He was 69.

Rankin died June 7 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The cause of death, according to his management company, was lung cancer, which was diagnosed just three weeks ago.

His career, which spanned more than five decades, almost defied categorization. A well-regarded guitarist, he played in Bob Dylan’s backup band on the influential 1965 album “Bringing It All Back Home.” He also spent several years on the road opening for comedian George Carlin.

Rankin appeared on the “Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson more than 25 times. Carson was such a fan that he wrote the liner notes for Rankin’s 1967 debut LP “Mind Dusters.”

Norman Brinker, restaurateur

Norman Brinker, 78, an innovative restaurant entrepreneur who shaped Americans’ eating-out habits by exploiting a niche between fast-food and upscale restaurants with casual, full-service eateries including Chili’s Grill and Bar and Bennigan’s, died Tuesday at a Colorado Springs, Colo., hospital.

The longtime Dallas resident was in Colorado Springs to celebrate his 78th birthday with his wife, Toni, and aspirated food while dining out a week ago. Brinker, who had battled throat cancer, died of aspiration pneumonia.

Brinker, the retired chairman of Dallas-based Brinker International, was credited with inventing the salad bar at his Steak & Ale restaurants in the 1960s and the singles-oriented “fern bar” concept when he created Bennigan’s. Steak & Ale set the prototype for subsequent Brinker ventures: dependable quality, relatively modest prices, casual dining.

He was known not only for emphasizing friendly customer service, but also for quick calibrations in response to changing customer tastes. Chili’s, for example, was one of the first chains to respond to consumer concerns about health and nutrition by offering an array of chicken and fish items.

Jack Lewis, Marine, writer

Jack Lewis, a decorated Marine Corps officer, screenwriter, pulp-novelist, movie stuntman, co-founder of Gun World magazine and self-described “reporter, drunk, editor and hobo,” has died. He was 84.

Lewis died May 24 of lung cancer in Hawaii, a week after marrying his longtime companion, Stephanie Gonsalves.

By his own account, Lewis was a man of many careers, some of which overlapped. After World War II he earned a degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and returned to the Marines to help with training films.

While at California’s Camp Pendleton, he was assigned as a technical adviser to the 1949 movie “Sands of Iwo Jima.” Lewis and the film’s star, John Wayne, struck up a friendship, solidified by a mutual love of guns, strong drink and all things military.

As a screenwriter, Lewis’ biggest credit may have been for “A Yank in Vietnam,” starring Marshall Thompson in 1964. He wrote hundreds of magazine profiles of Hollywood stars and acted as a ghostwriter for some. The heroes of his novels were western gunslingers and modern detectives – often with an autobiographical tinge.

His stuntman gigs included diving off the ship in the 1955 film “Mister Roberts” along with other liberty-starved sailors.