Andy Johns 1951 to two-weeks-ago Saturday
Englishman Andy Johns spent a fateful summer on the French Riviera where he engineered the recording of the Rolling Stones’s classic Exile on Main Street. He – very indirectly – leaves behind this (bizarre?) Linda Ronstadt cover of ‘Rolling Dice’:
Chinua Achebe 1930 to five-weeks-ago Thursday
“As a boy Chinua Achebe so loved reading that his friends called him ‘Dictionary.’” It might have been better to call him a revolutionary. His fifty-five-year-old novel, Things Fall Apart, has sold 12 million copies and has never been out of print. It also helped usher the shift of the role of the African in English-language literature: from Conrad’s objectified tribesman “jumping up and down on the river bank” to protagonists like warrior, wrestler, and man-of-wisdom Okonkwo. He leaves behind a trail – at least partially-blazed by him – to success for other African writers like Chimanda Nogozi Adiched who, thanks to him, recognized that “people like me, girls with skin the color of chocolate, whose kinky hair could not form ponytails, could also exist in literature.”
Margaret Thatcher 1925 to two-weeks ago Monday
Ms. Thatcher leaves behind a contested legacy: the continued British possession of the Falkland Islands, the demise of trade unions in the UK, and her prominent international role at the close of the Cold War. More recently, she leaves behind a well-deserved, long-overdue best-actress Oscar for Meryl Streep who portrayed the former PM decline into dementia with abundant verve.
David McKay 1936 to two-months-ago Wednesday
He may not be from another country, but Mr. McKay had a thing for aliens. The space kind. He leaves behind the definitive interpretation of the microfossils found on Martian meteorites (exactly what this means is an excellent question) which comes as close as we’ve come to proving there’s life – albeit more single-celled than Klingon – on Mars.
Victor Carranza 1936 to three-weeks-ago Friday
It was cancer that did in Señor Carranza, which is remarkable since Pablo Escobar had been trying to kill him for two decades (failing at least twice). Indeed, Victor was a lucky man. Emeralds punched his ticket from poverty to plutocracy. Finding his first green jewel in the sixties, he eventually dug up the world’s largest (11,000 carats) and most valuable (which Escobar prized more than you or I, probably). Carranza’s miners “claimed that emeralds would jump out whenever he passed by.” Naturally, Victor raised a paramilitary army to protect his vast Colombian land holdings. At least 6,000 fell in the so-called ‘Green War’ between he and the drug kingpin who so despised (or is that envied?) him. Carranza leaves landholdings totalling more than 1 million hectares (that’s a lot of acres), quite different from the small potato field on which he grew up.
Anna Merz 1932 to three-weeks-ago Friday
Ms. Merz was a global leader in the fight against black rhino extinction. Having moved to Ghana as a youth, she was so appalled by the Rhino carcasses (minus, of course, their ivory horns) that littered the national parks, she set out to create a Rhino refuge of her own. One Rhino (whom she raised) was so grateful that it followed her around like a puppy – which is some sight, Samia (the pet Rhino’s appellation) being a wild animal that weighs a ton. Anna leaves behind the world’s (at-the-date-of-this-printing) 4,880 living specimens of those double-tusked mammals, 10% of whom find a home in her wildlife preserve.
Shakuntala Devi 1929 to Sunday
Ms. Devi was called the human calculator. She leaves behind this recording that to me never ceases to amaze.
Cover image of Chinua Achebe via WikiCommons.