Deke Richards 1944 to Sunday
Deke composed what Pitchfork Media called “possibly the best chord progression in pop music history” (I / IV / vi / iii / IV / I / ii / V / I). You can hear that on the guitar that backs the chorus of The Jackson 5’s first single, the ever-so-sweet and addictive, “I Want You Back.” Thanks to that number, we all came to know and love Michael who, arguably went on to become the greatest entertainer of the 20th century. Beyond that, Mr. Richards leaves behind one of the only current sources of income for Gary, Indiana–pilgrims to the original Jackson home.
Rabbi Herschel Schacter 1917 to Thursday
Rabbi Herschel was a great connector. He accompanied the US troops that liberated Buchenwald, the Nazi death camp. There, he brought the orphaned then-child and now-author Elie Wiesel back to the US where he would pen his famous Holocaust memoir, Night. Schachter also went back and forth from the States to the Soviet Union, advocating for Jewish rights in both places. He leaves behind more than his contribution to arguably the most important English-language piece of Holocaust literature. Indeed, as Obama’s visit to the Middle East reveals, he may have been the symbol of that historical diplomatic relationship–Israel’s favorite American.
Jim Barrett 1926 to two weeks ago Thursday
Barrett vinted the first California Chardonnay that beat out the French variety in taste tests popping American wines to international prominence. He leaves behind that Paul Giamatti flick ‘Sideways,’ which would never have been possible without the Napa wineries that Barrett put on the map.
Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist 1922 to two weeks ago Friday
Herr von Kleist bore a military heritage–his family had been cavalrymen since the 12th century. At 18, he carried on the tradition, joining the Wehrmacht and serving two stints on the Eastern front in WWII. Between the two deployments he twice tried to blow up Hitler. A man of honor, von Kleist couldn’t bear to serve a ‘criminal.’ Needless to say, his attempts were foiled, but Ewald-Heinrich’s distaste for unjust war remained. Two decades later, he set up a think tank in Munich where Western leaders to gather would gather every year and “talk candidly together about “what was worth fighting and dying for.” Among his illustrious (if controversial) alums were Helmut Schmidt, Henry Kissinger and Donald Rumsfeld. E-HvK leaves behind those attempts at Herr Fuhrer’s life and that stab at world peace, reminding us that the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
Joe Weider 1919 to Saturday
This ‘Godfather of Fitness’ won his first bodybuilding competition at 17, but he will always be remembered as the man who brought one Arnold Schwarzenegger from Germany to the US of A. Weider leaves behind Kindergarten Cop, a dead Predator, and–of course–the Governator.
Cover photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger via WikiCommons.