We said goodbye to some phenomenal talents in 2011. From the twin blows of losing Doctor Who stalwarts Elisabeth Sladen and Nicholas Courtney to the shocking (but sadly unshocking) death of Amy Winehouse, as well as pioneers like Ken Russell, Bert Jansch and Shelagh Delaney, the raging intellect of Christopher Hitchens, the producer and director John Howard Davies and beloved actors like Anna Massey, Pete Postlethwaite and Susannah York.
Here’s a brief gallery in tribute to just some of the blazing lights that were sadly snuffed out in 2011. Starting with dear Amy, who struggled with the twin burdens of perilous addiction, and overwhelming (and prurient) public interest in her life and work. There were more surprising deaths this year, but few were quite as sad. (Rex Features via AP Images)
After making his name in Australian film and TV, 39-year-old Andy had just developed a wider audience via the Starz TV show Spartacus: Blood and Sand when he had to bow out, due to treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He died in September, only 18 months after his original diagnosis.
Bert was to the folk guitar was Eric Clapton is to the electric, an inspiring and nimble-fingered genius. Working either solo, on in the band Pentangle, his dextrous playing, and deadpan voice, influenced countless other players, most notably Jimmy Page and Johnny Marr. (Press Association via AP Images)
Having won the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 – the first win for an Englishman since Graham Hill in 1966 – and 2011, Dan Weldon was a driver at the peak of his career. Sadly, he died in a 15-car crash at the Las Vegas MotorSpeedway, when his car left the track during the 11th lap. (AP Photo/Dave Parker, File)
One of the most famous people of the 20th Century. A screen icon, former child star, and possessor of legendary violet eyes. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)
As Sarah Jane Smith, Elisabeth was the best-loved of all the companions on Doctor Who, so much so that she was given two spin-off shows, the latter of which, The Sarah Jane Adventures was beginning to rival Doctor Who itself in robust popularity on its home channel, CBBC.
Scottish musician and songwriter, former band-mate of Billy Connolly, and writer of at least two of the more enduring songs of the rock era. “Stuck In The Middle With You,” as performed in his band Stealer’s Wheel (pictured) and “Baker Street.”
Writer and full-time controversialist. Christopher Hitchens walked a fine line between being a rigorous intellectual, and pugnacious shock jock, without picking up too many of the unappealing characteristics of either. Often characterised a neoconservative, he came out of radical left-wing journalism, and occupied his own ground, in which the search for God equalled totalitarianism and the Iraq war was not just politically expedient, but necessary. (Rex Features via AP Images)
To a generation of British kids, Jet Harris was the most glamorous musician in pop. In between the arrivals of rock ‘n’ roll in the late ’50s and the Beatles in 1962/3, the Shadows were the sound of pop music, with their early hits like “F.B.I” and “Apache,” and Jet was their heartthrob.
The first man to present Top of the Pops, the self-professed inventor of the club DJ’s double-deck system, children’s TV presenter, eccentric, marathon runner and a singular broadcaster. (Press Association via AP Images)
Composer, conductor, and dandy about town. He wrote (among many other things) the theme to Born Free, the soundtracks to Midnight Cowboy and Out of Africa, and the James Bond theme, cinema’s most iconic piece of musical characterisation. (Copyright Bettmann/Corbis / AP Images)
Whether you consider Ken Russell to be a visionary or a pornographer is neither here nor there. His films – most notably Women In Love, The Devils, and the adaptation of the Who’s rock-opera Tommy – are not for the faint-hearted, but they remain true to a fiery and flamboyant cinematic vision. (AP Photo)
Welsh character actress with over 50 years of TV experience. She played the swearing, dope-smoking, randy neighbour Doris in Gavin and Stacey, as well as Granny Connolly in the Doctor Who story The Idiot’s Lantern.
British character actor with an astonishing pedigree, having appeared in over 150 films. He’s probably best know for playing the butler Alfred in the four pre-reboot Batman movies, beginning with Batman in 1989. And look, he also appeared in Doctor Who.
The Brigadier. Arguably the second most-loved of the Doctor’s companions after Sarah Jane Smith, if only because of his reluctance to indulge the Doctor’s various nonsenses, and played to perfection by this son of a diplomat. .
Actor of rare passion. Star of Inception, The Usual Suspects, The Shipping News and Brassed Off, among many others. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Punk goddess. Her band X Ray Spex challenged the three-chord idiot thrash of the punk movement with songs about identity, being hemmed-in by social expectation, and obsessive-compulsive cleanliness. She had just made her return to music making, after a long break, when cancer struck. (Press Association via AP Images)
Mancunian dramatist and screenwriter, much beloved of Morrissey, who put her face on the cover of the Smiths’ single “Girlfriend In A Coma” (see pic). The film of her play A Taste of Honey won the Best Screenplay BAFTA in 1962.
Actress with astonishing eyes, made famous by her work in such hit films as Jane Eyre, Tom Jones, Battle of Britain, Images and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? She also played Superman’s mother in the ’70s/’80s film franchise. (Press Association via AP Images)
Guitarist in Motorhead, real name Michael Burston. He acquired his nickname in the army, because of his resemblance to the children’s TV scarecrow Worzel Gummidge, as played on screen by Jon Pertwee. He went on to enjoy 11 successful years with the band before leaving in 1995.
Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.
He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.
Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic