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Life In Legacy - Week ending Saturday, April 4, 2020

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Philip W. Anderson, Princeton physicistJoe Diffie, country singerAlan Merrill, guitarist and singerKrzysztof Penderecki, Polish conductor and classical composerDavid Schramm, actor on 'Wings'Ken Shimura, Japanese comedian

Business and Science

Philip W. Anderson (96) physics professor at Princeton University whose explorations of electronic behavior in solid materials like glass, crystals, and alloys led to a 1977 Nobel Prize and deepened science’s understanding of magnetism, superconductivity, and the structure of matter. Much of Anderson’s most influential work concentrated on randomly structured, or “disordered,” materials that lack the regular crystalline composition of most matter. He was especially interested in the behavior of electrons within those disordered materials, which include certain kinds of semiconductors. In 1958 he published a paper in which he showed how electrons in disordered materials can either move freely or become fixed in a specific position, as if stuck in glue, depending on the degree of disorder. His finding of how electrons behave when trapped, or localized, became known as Anderson localization and was later extended to the properties of light and sound waves. Anderson died in Princeton, New Jersey on March 29, 2020.

News and Entertainment

Joe Diffie (61) country singer who had a string of hits in the ‘90s with chart-topping ballads and honky-tonk singles like “Home” and “Pickup Man.” Diffie was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 25 years. His hits included “Honky Tonk Attitude,” “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die),” “Bigger Than the Beatles,” and “If the Devil Danced (in Empty Pockets).” His mid-‘90s albums Honky Tonk Attitude and Third Rock from the Sun went platinum; 18 of Diffie’s singles landed in the top 10 on the country charts, with five going No. 1. He shared a Grammy award for best country collaboration for the song “Same Old Train,” with Merle Haggard, Marty Stuart, and others. His last solo album was The Bluegrass Album: Homecoming (2010). Diffie announced on March 27 that he had contracted the coronavirus, becoming the first country star to go public with such a diagnosis. The singer died two days later in Nashville, Tennessee on March 29, 2020.

Alan Merrill (69) guitarist and singer who cowrote the song “I Love Rock & Roll” that became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett, who scored a major hit with it in 1982. Merrill wrote the song for his band The Arrows and recorded it in 1975. He was born in New York and grew up in Switzerland, Los Angeles, and Japan before starting his music career in New York, where he died of complications from the coronavirus on March 29, 2020.

Krzysztof Penderecki (86) award-winning conductor and one of the world’s most popular contemporary classical music composers whose works have been featured in Hollywood films like The Shining and Shutter Island. Penderecki was best known for his monumental compositions for orchestra and choir, like “St. Luke Passion” and “Seven Gates of Jerusalem,” although his range was much wider. Rock fans know him from his work with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood. A violinist and an educator, Penderecki built a music center across the road from his home in southern Poland, where young virtuosos have the chance to learn from and play with world-famous masters. His international career began at age 25, when he won all three top prizes in a young composers’ competition in Warsaw in 1959—writing one score with his right hand, one with his left, and asking a friend to copy out the third score so that the handwriting wouldn’t reveal they were all by the same person. Penderecki died in Krakow, Poland on March 29, 2020.

David Schramm (73) veteran stage actor best known for playing rival airline owner Roy Biggins on Wings. Besides his eight seasons on the ‘90s NBC comedy opposite Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Tony Shalhoub, Thomas Haden Church, and Rebecca Schull, Schramm also appeared in the TV movie The Dreamer of Oz: The L. Frank Baum Story (1990) and the miniseries Kennedy (1983; as Robert McNamara). His film credits include Let It Ride, Johnny Handsome, and A Shock to the System. Over 40 years Schramm appeared in multiple Broadway productions, including The Acting Company’s 1975 repertory productions of The Three Sisters, The Time of Your Life, Edward II, and The Robber Bridegroom. He died in New York City on March 29, 2020.

Ken Shimura (70) popular Japanese comedian who drew inspiration from American comedic icon Jerry Lewis. Shimura attracted fans of all generations with his slapstick comedy and funny faces. The news of his death came as new cases of coronavirus have spiked in Tokyo, with the city’s governor warning of an explosive spread of the virus in the region. Tokyo had 68 new cases on March 29, bringing its total to 430. Nationwide, Japan has confirmed 2,578 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship. Shimura’s death sent shock waves throughout Japan, where many people, especially the younger population, are seen as lacking a sense of urgency about the virus. Shimura was diagnosed with pneumonia after contracting the coronavirus. He was hospitalized on March 20 after developing a fever and breathing troubles and was put on a ventilator. He died in Tokyo, Japan, becoming Japan’s first known celebrity victim of the virus, on March 29, 2020.

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