If you go to The New York Times' obituary page, you will see the list of deaths of famous people who died in any given month and were written about in the paper since it was founded 160 years ago. Every month has fascinating people, but this month is a doozy.
Of the twelve months, April has the most people who are absolutely number one in their categories. Among them are the 20th century's most famous painter, composer, scientist, philosopher, architect, villain, economist, car-maker and newsman:
- Pablo Picasso, the most famous painter of the 20th century
- Igor Stravinsky, the most famous composer of the 20th century
- Albert Einstein, the most famous scientist of the 20th century
- Jean-Paul Sartre, the most famous philosopher of the 20th century
- Frank Lloyd Wright, the most famous architect of the 20th century
- Adolf Hitler, the most famous villain of the 20th century
- John Maynard Keynes, the most influential economist of the 20th century
- Henry Ford, the most famous car-maker of all time
- P. T. Barnum, the most famous circus impresario of all time
- Edward R. Murrow, the most influential television newsman of all time
- Then there is Greta Garbo, in her own category
- General Douglas MacArthur in his own
- Ginger Rogers, doing everything Fred Astaire did, but backward and in heels
- Cesar Chávez, Mexican-American labor organizer
- Richard Nixon, one of the most villainous American presidents
I do not know what to make of all this. Perhaps readers will think up some answers.
T. S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruelest month," and if you are number one in your category, you might try to be extra careful in this cruelest month.
But then, as one of the April laureates said at age 73, two years before his death, "Death? I don't think about it. It has no place in my life, it will always be outside. One day, my life will end, but I don't want it to be burdened by death. I want that my death never enter my life, nor define it, that I be always a call to life."
Can you guess which most-famous dead person said that?