Obituaries of 2023: Five notable figures on the world stage who died this year

Matthew Perry and Tina Turner were among those who died in 2023


This year saw the loss of many notable figures abroad. They included the first woman on the US supreme court Sandra Day O’Connor, soccer player Bobby Charlton, the former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger and actor Raquel Welch. We remember some of the famous people whose deaths made the news here.

Matthew Perry, Actor

Matthew Perry, who was best known for playing Chandler Bing in the hit TV sitcom Friends, died on October 28th aged 54. His death by drowning at his home was ruled an accident from the acute effects of ketamine.

The actor played a sarcastic flatmate in the 10 seasons of the NBC comedy which ran from 1994. It catapulted him and his five co-stars into instant celebrity and saw them earning $1 million each per episode at one stage.

He received two Emmy nominations for his role as Joe Quincy, a Republican lawyer, in The West Wing in 2003. His own sitcom idea, Mr Sunshine, was dropped after a short run in 2011. He had recurring roles in The Good Wife and The Good Fight, and played Oscar Madison in a revival of The Odd Couple in 2015. He also wrote and starred in the play The End of Longing, which debuted in London’s West End in 2016.


In his 2022 memoir Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, he documented his history of alcoholism and drug addiction. When the Friends: The Reunion special was screened in 2021 he had been drug and alcohol-free for 18 months.

Tina Turner, Singer

Tina Turner, one of rock’s most famous voices, died on May 24th aged 83. She left behind a string of hits from a career spanning more than 60 years, including What’s Love Got to Do With It? Proud Mary and The Best.

She won 12 Grammy Awards and has a star on both the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the St Louis Walk of Fame. She sang the Bond theme track, co-written by Bono and The Edge, for 1995′s GoldenEye and starred in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, which featured her song We Don’t Need Another Hero.

She was one half of the Ike and Tina Turner duo for 16 years before fleeing from the abusive relationship with her husband in 1976. After forging her solo career she was celebrated as the queen of rock ‘n’ roll. Performers lined up to do duets with her, including Beyonce at the 2008 Grammy awards. She sang with Mick Jagger during Live Aid in 1985 and enjoyed collaborations with singers including David Bowie, Paul McCartney and Cher.

She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 2021, 30 years after her and Ike’s induction.

(Tina Turner obituary: A walking, strutting, shimmying ball of talent and contradiction – The Irish Times)

(Tina Turner: ‘I had a terrible life. I just kept going. You just keep going’ – The Irish Times)

Cormac McCarthy, Author

Celebrated American author Cormac McCarthy died on June 13th aged 89. He was best known for his 2006 novel The Road about a gruelling journey taken by a father and his son in a post-apocalyptic world. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize and was turned into a film. His 2005 book No Country for Old Men was turned into a film by the Coen brothers and won four Academy Awards.

His novels have been described as grim and violent tales of living in a hostile world. He published his first book The Orchard Keeper in 1965 but it wasn’t until 1985, when he published Blood Meridian, that he found critical acclaim. All the Pretty Horses, published in 1992, was the turning point for book sales. It won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was turned into a movie starring Matt Damon and Penelope Cruz. It was the first in the Border trilogy, and the two books that followed were also acclaimed.

On hearing of his death author Stephen King wrote that he may have been “the greatest American novelist of my time”.

Rosalynn Carter, First Lady

When she died on November 19th, Rosalynn Carter (96) was remembered as the most politically active US first lady since Eleanor Roosevelt.

Some 18 months before Jimmy Carter won the 1976 presidential election she began campaigning on her own, travelling by car to towns where no one knew her, before flying to 42 states to campaign for him. She was credited with bringing a modesty to the White House in contrast to the imperial presidency of Richard Nixon.

She attended cabinet meetings and had a particular interest in mental health, acting as honorary chair of the President’s Commission on Mental Health.

She stepped in as campaigner-in-chief when it came to Jimmy Carter’s re-election campaign in 1980, but while he won the Democratic nomination Ronald Reagan took the presidency with a resounding victory.

After the White House the couple took on new challenges, travelling the world in support of human rights, democracy and health programmes. They founded the Carter Centre; a human rights organisation and she established the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving. Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter were awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honour in the United States, in 1999.

Rosalynn Carter: US first lady who was practically co-president with Jimmy Carter

Former US first lady Rosalynn Carter dies aged 96 – The Irish Times

Silvio Berlusconi, Politician

Silvio Berlusconi, who died on June 12th, aged 86, was the Italian republic’s longest-serving prime minister. At one point he was Italy’s richest man and there was almost no area of life untouched by his influence. He was a media tycoon and the chairman of AC Milan, and his business empire encompassed property and insurance, debt financing and retail interests.

He founded his political party Forza Italia in 1994 and became the first prime minister to be elected without having held a government office. His second term in office, between 2001 and 2006, was marked by his government pushing through many laws that appeared to solely benefit his own businesses.

He returned to power in 2008 but was forced to resign in 2011 amid a debt crisis and allegations he had hosted “bunga bunga” sex parties with underage girls.

In 2013 he was convicted of paying a juvenile sex worker and then misusing his position to cover it up. He was acquitted of both charges on appeal. Later that year he was sentenced to four years in jail for tax fraud. He did not go to prison but did community service instead.

Silvio Berlusconi obituary: Brilliant at winning power, lethal at wielding it

Italy’s oligarch: Berlusconi’s death marks the end of an era

Read More