Notable deaths: Mouse, 'Annoying Music Show' creators
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Doug Engelbart, a visionary who invented the computer mouse and developed other technology that has transformed the way people work, play and communicate, died late Tuesday. He was 88.
His death of acute kidney failure occurred at his home in Atherton, Calif., after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease, according to one of his daughters, Diana Engelbart Mangan.
Back in the 1950s and '60s, when mainframes took up entire rooms and were fed data on punch cards, Engelbart already was envisioning a day when computers would empower people to share ideas and solve problems in ways that seemed unfathomable at the time.
Engelbart considered his work to be all about "augmenting human intellect" — a mission that boiled down to making computers more intuitive to use. One of the biggest advances was the mouse, which he developed in the 1960s and patented in 1970. At the time, it was a wooden shell covering two metal wheels: an "X-Y position indicator for a display system."
Jim Nayder, 59, the accidental creator of "The Annoying Music Show," died June 27 at his home in Chicago, it was announced last week. Bette Davis singing "Feliz Navidad," Donald Duck quacking "Amazing Grace," a jingle for American Standard toilets and nearly anything by Slim Whitman were fodder for the public radio show, which ran on public radio from 1996 to 2012.
The cause of death was a heart attack, said his daughter, Blair Nayder Botti.
Nayder's popular five-minute program, which perversely celebrated music that irritates its listeners, had an unlikely and highly accidental premiere. The show, which originated on WBEZ in Chicago, was eventually heard on 197 public radio stations nationwide, including WAMU.
When Nayder was announcing a show that didn't air on time, his producer asked him to cue some music to fill the dead air. He played a record of the renowned country yodeler Whitman, caterwauling through the Disney song "It's a Small World."
At the end of the song, Nayder announced "Welcome to 'The Annoying Music Show,' " and a new career was born.
Paul Smith, a jazz pianist who accompanied many top singers and who provided the sensitive touch and rhythmic spark behind many of Ella Fitzgerald's most acclaimed performances, died June 29 at a hospital in Torrance, Calif. He was 91.
He had cancer and died of heart ailments, his publicist, Alan Eichler, said.
Smith, whose career lasted more than 70 years, worked with two of the biggest musical acts of the 1940s, the Andrews Sisters and the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, before settling in Hollywood, where he performed on the soundtracks of hundreds of films and television shows.
Charles Carr, who was just a college freshman when he drove country music legend Hank Williams on his final, lonesome journey six decades ago, has died.
The director of the Hank Williams Museum in Montgomery, Beth Petty, said Carr, a retired investor, died Monday after a brief illness. He was 79.
Carr's son, Charles Lands Carr, said his father didn't talk much about being Williams' driver on that final trip, until late in his life.
Williams died at the age of 29 just before or on Jan. 1, 1953. He died during the night in the back of his 1952 blue Cadillac near Bluefield, W.Va., while he and Carr were on their way to a show in Canton, Ohio.
Former U.S. Rep. William H. Gray III, who rose to influential positions in Congress and was the first black to become majority whip, died Monday at 71.
Gray passed away suddenly Monday while in London with one of his sons to attend the Wimbledon tennis championships, said William Epstein, a former aide to Gray.
Born in Baton Rouge, La., Gray graduated from Franklin & Marshall College and Drew Theological Seminary in Madison, N.J., before being elected as a Democrat to Congress in 1978. He served as chairman of the powerful budget committee and became the first African-American in the 20th century to become majority whip of the U.S. House. During his tenure, he authored legislation implementing economic sanctions against South Africa.
In 1991, he surprised colleagues by resigning to run the United Negro College Fund.
Actor Jim Kelly, who played a glib American martial artist in "Enter the Dragon" with Bruce Lee, died June 29. He was 67.
Marilyn Dishman, Kelly's ex-wife, said he died of cancer at his home in San Diego.
Sporting an Afro hairstyle and sideburns, Kelly made a splash with his one-liners and fight scenes in the 1973 martial arts classic. His later films included "Three the Hard Way," "Black Belt Jones" and "Black Samurai."
During a 2010 interview with salon.com, Kelly said he started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California. He said the role in the Bruce Lee film came about when his agent called him and he met with producers. It was his second film role.
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