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Words to live by: Artists we lost in 2019
The opera singer Jessye Norman performs at Carnegie Hall in New York on May 1, 2008. Norman, the majestic American soprano who brought a sumptuous, shimmering voice to a broad range of roles at the Metropolitan Opera and houses around the world, died on Sept. 30, 2019 in New York. She was 74. Richard Termine/The New York Times.

by Sara Aridi and Peter Libbey



NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE ).- At their best, the artists who died this year could make us see the world in new ways — even as they made us laugh and cry. Here is a tribute to some of them, in their own words.

“A writer’s life and work are not a gift to mankind; they are its necessity.”

— Toni Morrison

Author, born 1931

——

“Architecture is the very mirror of life. You only have to cast your eyes on buildings to feel the presence of the past, the spirit of a place; they are the reflection of society.”

— I.M. Pei

Architect, born 1917

——-

“In my films I always wanted to make people see deeply. I don’t want to show things, but to give people the desire to see.”

— Agnes Varda

Filmmaker, born 1928

——-

“I felt like I belonged on a screen. I don’t know why. I guess because I related to the people up on that screen much more than the people around me.”

— Luke Perry

Actor, born 1966

——

“Pigeonholes are for pigeons.”

— Jessye Norman

Opera singer, born 1945

——

“It may be a waning art, the art of reading closely, lovingly, scrupulously with the excitement of seeing how the text will unfold.”

— Harold Bloom

Literary critic, born 1930

——

“I believe that my dancing is the most eloquent testament that I shall leave.”

— Alicia Alonso

Ballet dancer, born 1920

——

“There is never a question of what to paint, but only how to paint. The how of painting has always been the image — the end product.”

— Robert Ryman

Painter, born 1930

——

“I cherish every minisecond of this life.”

— Juice WRLD

Rapper, born 1998

——

“I really don’t spend time thinking about the past. I think about the future.”

— Hal Prince

Theater producer and director, born 1928

——

“I write these lyrics, and sometimes I read them afterwards on the album sleeve and think to myself, ‘God, what an attitude!’”

— Ric Ocasek

Singer, guitarist and songwriter, born 1944

——-

“Different films resonate with viewers for different reasons, but the common thread seems to be that my films are uplifting.”

— Doris Day

Actress, born 1922

——

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life

I was a bride married to amazement.

I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

— Mary Oliver, “When Death Comes”

Poet, born 1935

——

“The job of a drummer is to make the singer or guitarist sound really good. So it’s all about listening, and it’s all about improvising, responding to what’s going on around you.”

— Ginger Baker

Drummer, born 1939

——

“How many actresses receive a call at 50 to play an overdressed black bitch on an international hit show like ‘Dynasty?’”

— Diahann Carroll

Actress, born 1935

——

“The desire to reach for the sky runs very deep in the human psyche.”

— Cesar Pelli

Architect, born 1926

——

“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”

— Robert Hunter, “Truckin’,” the Grateful Dead

Lyricist, born 1941

——

“We had the right to vote as American citizens. We didn’t have to be granted it by some bunch of guys.”

— Cokie Roberts

Journalist, born 1943

——

“I have thought of myself as a star since I was about 15.”

— Mable Lee

Tap dancer, born 1921

——

“The cinema saved me from being a delinquent.”

— John Singleton

Filmmaker, born 1968

——

“I am not a decorator. The only place I decorate is my own house.”

— Florence Knoll Bassett

Designer, born 1917

——

“Let the other guys do the crybaby stuff. Go for the laughs.”

— Rip Torn

Actor, born 1931

——

“I’m having an affair with dance, and it’s the best thing I ever could have done. It’s like water to a duck; it’s natural.”

— Mel A. Tomlinson

Ballet dancer, born 1954

——

“You know, if you’re lucky enough to have two smash hit shows, the traffic of the world goes through your dressing room.”

— Carol Channing

Actress, born 1921

——

“My films are the celebration of reality, of life, of my friends, of actual daily life that passes and is gone tomorrow.”

— Jonas Mekas

Filmmaker, born 1922

——

“I have always believed that opera is a planet where the muses work together, join hands and celebrate all the arts.”

— Franco Zeffirelli

Opera and film director, born 1923

——

“Rhoda, like most of us, was a victorious loser.”

— Valerie Harper

Actress, born 1939

——

“In many instances I am reminding actors of things that they knew but had forgotten, and in other instances I am asking them to forget that they have learned beforehand if it is obstructing a way forward.”

— Jonathan Miller

Theater and opera director, born 1934

——

“Jazz to me is a lifelong quest, because you never finish searching for that high you can reach when everything’s clickin’ and the audience is right there with you.”

— Clora Bryant

Musician, born 1927

——

“I don’t feature myself as being the head man. I would much rather stand in the background and make small, funny things go than be up at the head of the class.”

— Tim Conway

Comedian, born 1933

——

“I don’t think any musician plays anything that is new. Everything musical has been played.”

— Dr. John

Musician, born 1941

——

“I like to write for the so-called pedestrian people.”

— C.Y. Lee

Author, born 1915

——

“You have to judge a director by his very best work, and then get it out of him.”

— Robert Evans

Film producer, born 1930

——

“You no longer have to do just Broadway shows, or movies, or conduct — you can do any or all of them.”

— André Previn

Musician, born 1929

——

“I never thought I was shocking. I say this all the time and it sounds disingenuous, but I always thought: ‘This is something they need. My culture is going to recognize it’s missing something.’”

— Carolee Schneemann

Performance artist, born 1939

——

“I’ll never be able to explain why these vibrating frequencies have the power to transport us to levels of consciousness that defy words — I simply accept the fact that music has this miraculous power for me and for myriad other people I have known.”

— Christopher Rouse

Composer, born 1949

——

“Every person can look back on their life and see a great opera.”

— John Giorno

Poet, born 1936










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