All the world’s a stage | WORLD
Sound journalism, grounded in facts and Biblical truth | Donate

All the world’s a stage


WORLD Radio - All the world’s a stage

Remembering musicians, actors, and other cultural influencers who died in 2023

Actor Matthew Perry Associated Press/Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision, File

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, December 29th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.

Coming next on The World and Everything in It: WORLD arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino with notable deaths in 20-23 in arts and culture. ***

MUSIC: [Banana Boat (Day-O)]

In 1956, Harry Belafonte’s husky voice and exotic calypso music vaulted him into stardom. But the lyrics in the Banana Boat song demonstrated Belafonte’s roots in civil rights activism: he liked to say that he was simply an activist-turned-artist. Here’s Belafonte in a 1981 interview with Good Morning America.

BELAFONTE: The stardom and the public response was a coincidence to something else. I’ve always been opposed to injustice, having been a victim of it.

Belafonte was close friends with Martin Luther King Jr and gathered with fellow activists at his Manhattan mansion. He often used his wealth to bail civil rights leaders out of jail. Audio here from a 1972 interview with the BBC.

BELAFONTE: Or at least I felt it was incumbent upon me as well as many others to involve ourselves in trying to reshape the national priorities and the national attitude towards blacks and the black experience.

Belafonte became the first African American producer to win an Emmy Award. He died on April 25th at 96.

Next, singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet also left an anthology of catchy island tunes behind after he passed away on September 1st.


Buffet’s first album in 1970 was a flop, but he began to see some commercial success after moving to Key West, Florida in 1972. Buffet’s lyrics glorified the life of a beach bum, and his songs made listeners want to kick back in the sand. He eventually became a household name thanks to the 1977 release of “Margaritaville.”

MUSIC: Wastin’ away in Margaritaville, searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt …

Other hits such as “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “It’s 5 O’Clock Somewhere” revealed his unique island twang. In 1989 The Washington Post quipped that Buffet’s music was “a combination of tropical languor and country funkiness.” Here’s Buffet in a 1982 interview with Entertainment Weekly.

BUFFET: Contrary to popular belief, I’m not on the beach every day with a margarita.

Buffet died from cancer at 76 years-old.

Next, author Cormac McCarthy passed away at 89 on June 13th. McCarthy was a recluse who regularly declined interviews. He once said that everything he knows is already on the page. McCarthy’s Western crime novel No Country For Old Men was adapted into a movie and is regarded as one of the best films of 2007.

MCCARTHY: This country’s hard on people. You can’t stop what’s comin’.

In 2007 McCarthy won the fiction Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Road. It describes a brutal, post-apocalyptic journey of a father and young son.

In a rare 2014 interview, McCarthy spoke with Oprah about his writing process.

MCCARTHY: You always have that hope that today I’m going to do something better than I’ve ever done.

McCarthy was hailed as one of the greatest American novelists.

Japanese author Kenzaburo Oe also made major contributions to the literary world. He was most famous for writing about personal and national tragedies: the bombing of Hiroshima and his own disabled son born with a brain hernia. Here’s Oe in a 1999 interview at UC Berkeley.

OE: I didn’t choose the story of a handicapped son, or we didn’t choose the theme of a handicapped boy’s family. I wanted to escape from that if it were possible, but something choosed me to write about it.

In 1994, Oe was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his book: A Personal Matter. It explored Oe’s struggle with his son’s condition and his eventual acceptance of it.

OE: All of literature has some mystic tendency. So when we write about our family, we can link ourselves to the cosmos, our cosmos. But I wanted to link myself and my family with society.

Oe died on March 3rd aged 88.

Next, we remember actor Matthew Perry, who played Chandler Bing on the popular sitcom Friends. Here’s Perry in his first interview on the set with Entertainment Tonight.

PERRY: We just kind of sit around and make fun of each other and laugh and have a good time.

In his 2022 memoir, “Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing,” Perry candidly admitted to hating himself, having a fragile ego, and battling drug and alcohol addiction for 40 years. Perry talked about his struggles with ABC News last year.

PERRY: By the time I was 18, I was drinking every day.

He eventually earned over a million dollars per episode of Friends while spiraling deeper in addiction.

PERRY: I guess the weirdest thing I did was, on Sundays, I would go to open houses and go to the bathrooms in the open house and see what pills they had in there and steal them.

Perry was undergoing ketamine therapy to treat his addiction. He accidentally overdosed on the drug at home on October 28th at 54 years old.

Actor Ryan O’Neal also battled substance abuse over the course of his career. Born in 1941 in L.A., O’Neal caught his big break in the soap opera “Peyton Place.” He went on to star in several critically and commercially successful films, including such as Love Story, the biggest film of 1970, and What’s Up, Doc? alongside fast talking Barbra Streisand.

STREISAND: What’s up, Doc?

O’NEAL: I beg your pardon?

STREISAND: We’ve got to stop meeting like this.

But stardom plagued O’Neal, who was a serial womanizer and alcoholic. The media dogged him for his tumultuous and strained relationships with his family, including his connection to Farrah Fawcett. In a 2011 interview with Piers Morgan, O’Neal blamed his children for their estrangement from him.

O’NEAL: My pride is here too.

O’Neal and his daughter Tatum made some steps toward reconciliation before he died on December 8th from prostate cancer at 82.

Next, Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor’s troubled past led to her controversial persona. She frequently spoke out against sexual abuse because of her own experiences. In 1992, she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live to protest misconduct in the Catholic church. She spoke with CBC News about the controversy in 2010.

O’CONNOR: To me this isn’t about you or me or anybody else—it’s about the victims.

The incident caused a major uproar in the U.S. and her career took a dive. But she didn’t seem to care.

O’CONNOR: It’s about these poor children who actually went through the violence and horror that we can’t even begin to imagine.

O’Connor frequently shaved her head and wore modest clothing in performances to protest exploitation in the music industry. In 2018, O’Connor converted to Islam, saying that all other scriptures were redundant aside from the Quran. She wore a hijab only occasionally, claiming there were “no rules” when it came to Muslim dress. She died on July 26th aged 56.

And finally, Peter S. Fischer first began his literary career in editorial work, but developed a passion for writing screenplays at 35 years-old.

AUDIO: What happened?

It’s the fish! They’ve been poisoned!

Fischer co-created the hit murder mystery show: Murder, She Wrote, in 1984. The series ran for 12 seasons and won two Golden Globes for Best TV Drama two years in a row. Star of the show Angela Lansbury also won four Golden Globes for her performance. After retirement, Fischer wrote over 20 murder mystery novels set in the backdrop of the Hollywood Golden Age. He died on October 30th aged 88.

For WORLD, I’m Collin Garbarino.

*** with research and writing from WORLD Radio intern Emma Perley

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.


Please wait while we load the latest comments...