Lata Mangeshkar to Pele: The legends who departed in 2022

The dark clouds of Covid may have dissipated a bit in 2022 with growing vaccine coverage stemming the mass fatalities, but, the continuing pandemic, along with other diseases and age, continued to take its toll on several stellar figures from various spheres spanning politics to arts to sports.

In India, the passing away, on February 6, of Lata Mangeshkar (92), the voice of generations of Hindi film heroines from Madhubala to Madhuri Dixit and many more, ended a long standing melodious career, while the death of United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II (96) – for many generations of Britons, the only monarch they knew – on September 8 after a record over 70-year-long reign ended the second Elizabethan era.

Then, the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (67) on July 8 came as a shock, coming in a nation where political violence is largely absent.

Last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev (91), feted in the West for ending the Cold War (temporarily, as it emerged) but not particularly liked at home for presiding over the Soviet Union’s dissolution, also passed away on August 30.

Interestingly, Stanislav Shushkevich (87), the last Soviet leader/first leader of Belarus, and Leonid Kravchuk (88), the last leader of Soviet Ukraine/first President of Ukraine — a duo who went behind Gorbachev’s back to strike a deal with his bete noire Boris Yeltsin to dissolve the Soviet Union — also passed away this year — on May 3 and May 10, respectively. So did Ayaz Mutallibov (83), who declared Azerbaijan’s independence, on March 27.

Other leading political luminaries who passed away in 2022 were Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (95), on January 22, Madeleine Albright (84), the first woman US Secretary of State, on March 23, the UAE’s second President and Abu Dhabi ruler Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (73), on May 13, Angolan freedom fighter and long-time President, Jose Eduardo dos Santos (79), on July 8, Chinese leader Jiang Zemin (96), who presided over China’s economic boom, and veteran Indian socialist leader, three-time Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and former Defence Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav (82), on October 10.

The world also lost a range of feted actors and directors this year, beginning with Bahamian-American actor and ambassador Sidney Poitier. The first Black to win the Oscar for Best Actor (for “Lilies of the Field”, 1963) and showing his prowess with inter-race dramas “To Sir, with Love”, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”, and “In the Heat of the Night” (all 1967), Poitier passed away at the age of 94 on January 6.

Hardy Kruger (93), a fervent anti-Nazi who ironically played dyed-in-the-wool Nazi German officers in films like “A Bridge Too Far” (1977), but was best known for his roles in romantic adventure “Hatari” (1962) and war drama “Wild Geese” (1978), died on January 19, while Italian actress Monica Vitti (90) passed away on February 2, and accomplished actor William Hurt (71) on March 13.

Also passing away this year were James Caan (82) or Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather” (1972), on July 6, Greek actress Irene Papas, known as the tough woman resistance fighter in “The Guns of Navarone” (1961), and the widow in “Zorba The Greek” (1964), on September 14, and Scottish actor Robbie Coltrane (72), who portrayed both Hagrid in the movie adaptations of the Harry Potter series as well as James Bond foe and reluctant friend Valentin Zukovsky in “Golden Eye” (1995) and “The World is Not Enough” (1999), on October 14.

Indian cinema will miss Marathi and Bollywood actor Ramesh Deo (96), who passed away on February 2, and actor Salim Ghouse (70) of the intense gaze and mesmerising voice on April 28.

French film director Jean-Jacques Beineix (75), who spearheaded the ‘cinema du look’ movement, and the acclaimed ‘New Wave’ director Jean-Luc Godard (91), also walked off stage on January 13 and September 13, respectively.

The world of music lost Michael Lee Aday aka Meat Loaf (74) on January 20, Greek composer Vangelis (79), who brought electronic music into the mainstream with his evocative score for Oscar-winning sports drama “Chariots of Fire” (1981), on May 17, Australian band “The Seekers” vocalist Judith Durham (79), most famous for her “The Carnival is Over”, on August 5, and pop singer Dame Olivia Newton-John (73), known for her musicals like “Grease” (197) with the young John Travolta, on August 8.

Indians bid adieu to pianist Neil Nongkynrih (51), the founder of Shillong Chamber Choir, on January 5, music composer Bappi Lahiri (69), on February 15, santoor maestro Pandit Shivkumar Sharma (84), who had teamed up with ace flautist Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia as Shiv-Hari, which gave soulful music for several iconic Bollywood films, on May 10, playback singer Krishnakumar Kunnath or KK (53) on May 31, and ghazal maestro Bhupinder Singh (82) on July 18.

In the world of books, author Harry Patterson aka ‘Jack Higgins’ (92), best known for “The Eagle Has Landed” and other thrillers set in World War II and later, passed away on April 9, Spanish author Javier Marias (70), who breathed his last on September 11, and English author Dame Hilary Mantel (70), known for bringing the age of King Henry VIII alive in books like “Wolf Hall”, who died on September 22.

English scientist, and environmentalist James Lovelock (103), known for his ‘Gaia’ hypothesis or the earth being a self-regulating organism, passed away on July 26, historian J.S. Grewal (95), famous for his works on Sikh history, died on August 11, while American philosopher and logician Saul Kripke (81) breathed his last on September 15.

In the field of sports, the most unexpected death was that of Australian spin wizard Shane Warne, aged 52, on March 4. Coincidentally, the same day, wicketkeeper Rodney Marsh (74), part of the celebrated Australian team of the 1970s along with the Chapell brothers, and pacers Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thompson, also passed away the same day.

In another shock, former Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds (46) died in a car crash on May 14.

Heavyweight Soviet weightlifter Yury Zaitsev (71), who won gold in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, passed away on September 30.

Another high-profile passing was of Brazilian legend Edson Arantes do Nascimento ‘Pele’ (82), whose fame transcended football, on December 29.

In India, several veteran hockey players passed away this year – Jaswant Singh (90), member of the silver-winning team at the 1960 Rome Olympics, on January 14, Charanjit Singh (90), who led the team to gold medal at 1964 Tokyo Olympics, on January 27, and Varinder Singh (75), member of the bronze-winning team at the 1972 Munich Olympics, on June 28.

Former women’s hockey captain Elvera Britto (81) also passed away on April 26.

Among others who bid adieu was soldier and avid mountaineer Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia (retd), 85, who climbed atop Mount Everest as part of the first Indian expedition in 1965 and was undeterred by a paralysing battlefield injury to continue adventure sports and work for the disabled, on January 14.

Asian and Commonwealth Games medal-winning discus thrower Praveen Kumar Sobti (74), who went to carve a new career in Bollywood, notably in Amitabh Bachchan’s “Shahenshah”, and then as Bhim in B.R. Chopra’s TV serial “Mahabharat”, passed away on February 7.

Noted India industrialist Rahul Bajaj (83) passed away on February 12, while engineer and architect Mahendra Raj (98), who contributed to structural design of buildings like the Hall of Nations in Delhi’s Pragati Maidan and the Salar Jung Museum in Hyderabad, breathed his last on May 8. – IANS

(Vikas Datta can be contacted at

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