A Tribute to Those Who Have Passed in 2011

Few years in modern history have been so dense with news as 2011, and in sifting through the grim headlines of financial meltdown, Murdoch scandal and riots, there have been some notable figures gracing the obituaries. At the end of 2011, LTW takes a look at a few of those from various walks of life who have passed on during this year, and pays tribute to the colour they have injected into our culture.

2011 brought with it many sad passings, but none with such a sense of waste and unfulfilled promise as the passing of Amy Winehouse (LTW Obituary). ’27 club’ analogies and rock’n’roll clichés mean very little and look a little embarrassing when one thinks of the sadness of this death. Winehouse was, by most accounts, well on the road to recovery and had put the worst behind her. Progress was being made on the follow up to ”˜Back to Black’ and things were seemingly looking up. As is so often the case, we can only ever speculate on her mental state in the days leading up to her death from alcohol poisoning. In dicing with substance abuse and slipping into addiction some get lucky and some do not, but with this very few leave a work as remarkable as the seminal LP ”˜Back to Black’ and for that let her be remembered. In life, Winehouse had acquired the icon status that most can only gain after their death, and in death her image and now even more haunting voice carries a unique poignancy and importance.

October 2011 saw the death of British institution Sir Jimmy Savile. Every generation has had their own incarnation of Savile in their lives, and aside from his uncountable achievements Savile was simply a true one off and original of the species. Jimmy Savile in many ways was pop music, and the symbolism of his passing speaks for itself. Eccentricities such as Savile simply could not exist on today’s sanitised and image-centric world of drab television presenters and the wealth of originality and charm he brought to music broadcasting was priceless. Savile began his music industry career as an often heavy handed and feared dancehall promoter, and in this capacity he set the blueprint for modern DJ’ing and the use of twin turntables. With every institution he tried his hand to, from Radio One to Top of the Pops, he re-inventing the field. Sir Jimmy raised millions upon millions for charities close to his own heart such as Stoke Mandeville Hospital and as well as money he gave up huge amounts of his own time and energy. Much attention has fallen on the Savile behind closed doors, purported by many to be a tortured loner, obsessed with his late mother ”˜The Duchess’ and married only to his charity work, but whatever the case Savile was and forever shall be an icon, an inspiration and an originally British phenomena.

Manchester’s Betty Driver passed at the age of 91, a woman who became as much a part of Coronation Street as its cobbles, but considerably harder to be walked all over. Hard as nails yet with a gentle and maternal centre, Driver captured the imaginations of generations of television viewers in her role as Betty Turpin behind the bar of the Rovers Return for decades. Driver by no account had a happy start to life; she was thrust into the limelight as a child by her bullying and unaffectionate mother, who squandered much of her fortune, as did Driver’s philandering ex-husband some years later. A staunch vegetarian, show-stealing comic actress yet notably solitary figure, Driver was a triumph in the face of adversity and will be remembered as a Manchester legend for years to come.

On 20th November 2011, Shelagh Delaney died aged 71 of cancer. Best known for her play ”˜A Taste of Honey’, first performed in 1959, Delaney left behind a vast cultural legacy forever imprinted in theatre, film, music and literature. ”˜A Taste of Honey’ was the story of a restless young girl aching for an escape from her wayward alcoholic mother and her string of sordid men and sordid bedsits. Delaney’s story is as punk as any, spearheading the cultural renaissance of kitchen sink realist literature and cinema that in many ways paved the way for punk some fifteen or so years more. The 17 year old Shelagh Delaney vivaciously penning a classic state-of-the-nation work in her working class home could be Lydon or Weller in the late 1970’s, and almost certainly Morrissey in the early 1980’s. Many, myself included, came to ”˜A Taste of Honey’ through Morrissey’s endorsement. ”˜Honey’ is the pulse that beats through the Smiths early years, songs such as ”˜This Night Has Opened My Eyes’, ”˜Reel Around the Fountain’ and ”˜Sheila Take a Bow’ openly shoplifted huge chunks from ”˜A Taste of Honey’. Morrissey, on his fansite True-To-You, paid tribute to Delaney in a written statement, explaining how Delaney proved ”˜a perfect example of how to get up and get out and do it’ with her work that was ”˜far more real than life’ in its depiction of ”˜the Salford of sagging roofs, rag and bone men, walk-up flats, derelict sites, rear-entrance buses, and life in tight circumstances’.Post-”˜Honey’, Delaney continued to write for theatre, television, radio and cinema, and though never quite matching the success of ”˜A Taste of Honey’ her body of work remains much to be proud of. If you want to find the basis of Coronation Street, look to Delaney. If you want to find the inspiration behind The Smiths, look to Delaney. If you want the point when the working class finally got their cultural voice, look to Delaney.

Rest In Peace.

3 COMMENTS

  1. NOTE February 2013: The Jimmy Savile scandal has been and gone and obviously everybody who ever reads this archived article will be fully aware of what has come to light about the revolting Jimmy Savile. It’s important to keep this obituary up here as it is a reminder of the attitudes towards Savile that allowed him to maintain his campaign of abuse. All that pains me is to see Savile marked as an equal with Amy Winehouse, Betty Driver and – and this one pains me the most – Shelagh Delaney.
    Regards, the author

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