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March 20, 2010 2:49 AM   Subscribe

Who are the living legends?

When Claude Lévi-Strauss passed away last year, I thought: wow, an era is over. And I began reading about him; and I was sad that he was gone. I want to know more about legends that are still living, so that I don't feel as sad. Can you help me compile a list?
I'm talking about the kind of people that revolutionized their field. The people who would hopefully inspire eulogy MeFi posts with a thousand dots. Like:

Jean-Luc Godard
Bob Dylan
Mick Jagger
Paul McCartney
Steve Jobs
Bill Gates
Tim Berners-Lee
Raoul Vaneigem (a little obscure, maybe)
Umberto Eco
Thomas Pynchon
Noam Chomsky
Licio Gelli (an infamous legend)
Giulio Andreotti (ditto)

Who else?
posted by Baldons to Society & Culture (110 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
Diego Maradona
The guys from Kraftwerk
Joan Didion
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:52 AM on March 20, 2010


Pele
posted by the cuban at 2:55 AM on March 20, 2010


Ali
posted by bunglin jones at 3:12 AM on March 20, 2010


Benoît Mandelbrot
Mandelbrot’s in heaven, at least he will be when he’s dead
Right now he’s still alive and teaching math at Yale
He gave us order out of chaos, he gave us hope where there was none
And his geometry succeeds where others fail
posted by anaelith at 3:17 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mandela
posted by genesta at 3:27 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Leonard Cohen
posted by slightlybewildered at 3:38 AM on March 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


Computing being a relatively young discipline, many of the heavyweights are still around. Donald Knuth is a good example, but there's lots of others as well.
posted by Dr Dracator at 3:41 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Woody Allen
Grace Jones
Richard Williams
Dick Butkus
Abe Vigoda
Cheney, and I don't mean that in a nice way.
posted by biddeford at 3:47 AM on March 20, 2010


Henry Kissinger
Margaret Thatcher
Rupert Murdoch
posted by bunglin jones at 3:58 AM on March 20, 2010


Manny Pacquaio
posted by cheemee at 4:10 AM on March 20, 2010


Eddy Merckx!
posted by fire&wings at 4:11 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


The Amazing James Randi
posted by ursus_comiter at 4:15 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh god, I forgot the part about trying to NOT make you sad. Sorry.
posted by bunglin jones at 4:23 AM on March 20, 2010


Meatbomb: I'm afraid there is bad news...
posted by biffa at 4:28 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bruno Sammartino
posted by maurice at 4:49 AM on March 20, 2010


(I'm ignoring the metafilter dots criteria, because metafilter has its biases. I'm including sports figures because you included musicians.)

Michael Jordan
Tiger Woods
Doyle Brunson
Donald Knuth
Roger Federer
Garry Kasparov
Barack Obama
Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Stephen Hawking
Paul McCartney
B. K. S. Iyengar
Oprah Winfrey
posted by callmejay at 5:03 AM on March 20, 2010


Well, at least because of the widespread memes surrounding him:
Chuck Norris
posted by shesaysgo at 5:10 AM on March 20, 2010


Tom Waits
Gordon Lightfoot (at least in Canada)
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:16 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm going to narrow this down by sticking to music. I'm not taking your Metafilter dots criterion that literally, but these are people who either would or should get a thousand dots or comments when they die.

Rock (this list may show my bias as a guitarist):

Chuck Berry
Little Richard
Pete Townshend
Ringo Starr
Ray Davies
Lou Reed
Keith Richards
Robert Plant, Jimmy Page
John Lydon (a.k.a. Johnny Rotten)
Prince
Brian May
Eddie Van Halen
Bono, The Edge
Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon

R 'n' B:

Stevie Wonder
Aretha Franklin

Jazz:

Ornette Coleman
Sonny Rollins

Classical composers:

Steve Reich
Terry Riley
Arvo Pärt
posted by Jaltcoh at 5:19 AM on March 20, 2010


Ursula Le Guin. Stephen King
posted by arha at 5:22 AM on March 20, 2010


George Jones
Merle Haggard
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:28 AM on March 20, 2010


fourchesemac - George and Merle are good, but gotta include the Red Headed Stranger Willie Nelson. I would include William Shatner too
posted by aggienfo at 5:36 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Tom Wolfe
Jack Welch
posted by sexymofo at 5:47 AM on March 20, 2010


Werner Herzog
Silvio Berlusconi
Osama Bin Laden
Phillip Glass
Rush Limbaugh
Joseph Stiglitz

Legend here, obviously, used amorally.
posted by stepheno at 5:49 AM on March 20, 2010


Patti Smith
Germaine Greer
Jane Goodall
Hilary Clinton
Gloria Steinem
Angela Davis
Václav Havel
posted by carrienation at 6:04 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are living legends to me.
posted by fx3000 at 6:05 AM on March 20, 2010


This far down the list and no David Bowie? Surely some mistake?
posted by merocet at 6:11 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Bill Watterson
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:11 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have to think MetaFilter's Own Steve Wozniak's passing would be the most "dot-worthy" around here, at least, even more so than for Jobs or Gates.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:20 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


George W Bush
posted by dfriedman at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2010


Alice Munro!!!!!!
John McPhee
Art Spiegelman
Seconding Joan Didion
Sister Helen Prejean

And of course The Fabulous and Wonderful Helen Thomas
posted by sallybrown at 6:29 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Neil Gaiman for his pioneering work in comics, if nothing else.
Garth Ennis
Alan Moore
posted by BigLankyBastard at 6:35 AM on March 20, 2010


Steven Spielberg
John Williams
Meryl Streep
Roger Waters
David Gilmour
Betty White
Brett Favre
Alton Brown
Al Gore
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:43 AM on March 20, 2010


Elizabeth Taylor
Martin Scorsese
Robert DeNiro (?)
Marlon Brando
Jack Nicholson
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:48 AM on March 20, 2010


Ralph Bakshi
John Krickfalusi

(whenever I feel depressed about the fact that I left animation, I can always cheer myself up a bit by remembering that I worked with both of these guys)
posted by egypturnash at 6:50 AM on March 20, 2010


David Attenborough
Terry Pratchett
posted by Jilder at 6:52 AM on March 20, 2010


Uh, Brando is dead.

And Jordan should totally be on the list.

Mikhail Gorbachev and Elie Wiesel too.
posted by Max Power at 7:03 AM on March 20, 2010


Dovery Roundtree
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:04 AM on March 20, 2010


Maaayybe Mr. Steve Martin too.

Definitely Johnny Carson.
posted by Max Power at 7:04 AM on March 20, 2010


Martha Stewart - without her, the world would still be decorated in Avocado Green, Harvest Gold, and Burnt Orange.

Ellen Degeneres, for coming out on the Oprah show in 1997. That was a big deal.

Oprah Winfrey

Grace Slick

Barbara Walters - she ran the gauntlet in her earlier years.

Penny Marshall

Loretta Lynn

Carrie Fisher - for her work as Princess Leia

Tina Turner

Cindy Sheehan
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:10 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Definitely Johnny Carson.

Bad news, dude. Carson passed in '05.
posted by elizardbits at 7:22 AM on March 20, 2010


Carla Fracci
Mikhail Baryshnikov
posted by romakimmy at 7:26 AM on March 20, 2010


Close call : previously.
posted by nicolin at 7:37 AM on March 20, 2010


OH! I was going to add Erich Kunzel, and when I went to check the spelling, I discovered he died last year. :(

He led the Cincinnati Pops for years and years, and he was the person most responsible for getting me into classical music. Nobody could get an orchestra fired up the way he could. I used to love to listen to CPO's marches on our local NPR station in the morning before I went to work. It was about the only thing that could wake me up enough to face the day.


.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:44 AM on March 20, 2010


Martin Gardner
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:45 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I think some of you would be surprised just how quickly your "living legends" will be forgotten. I work with a lot of younger people and just the other day had a conversation in which I discovered that most of them had never heard of Stevie Nicks or Fleetwood Mac, Ann and Nancy Wilson or Heart, Grace Slick or Nina Simone.

Don't even get me started about when the conversation turned to actors and TV personalities.

Oh, and Cindy Sheehan? A living legend? Seriously?
posted by JaredSeth at 7:48 AM on March 20, 2010


Stephen Sondheim (who turns 80 on Monday)
posted by elkerette at 7:52 AM on March 20, 2010


Mel Brooks
Sid Caesar
Kirk Douglas
Gene Hackman
Stanley Donen
Ray Bradbury
Shirley Temple

I think living legends should be at least over 70.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:53 AM on March 20, 2010


Jack Vance.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:59 AM on March 20, 2010


Peter Stampfel
Tuli Kupferberg
Pete Seeger
posted by scruss at 8:02 AM on March 20, 2010


(and on the sox, i know they are not together anymore, but all the players are still alive and can be remembered for before they sold out or were traded.)
posted by djduckie at 8:02 AM on March 20, 2010


Tony Curtis
Billy Connolly
posted by rongorongo at 8:06 AM on March 20, 2010


Heidi Klum
David "After Dentist" DeVore
posted by sour cream at 8:06 AM on March 20, 2010




Stan Lee
posted by mrsshotglass at 8:13 AM on March 20, 2010


Oh, and Cindy Sheehan? A living legend? Seriously?

First off, my list doesn't necessarily reflect my personal opinions, rather who I think a lot of other people are interested in.

And Cindy Sheehan took a stand and got a lot of attention. A lot of people are against the war, but most of them are complaining online about it, and getting lost in a million other web rants. Cindy was old school - she basically staged a sit in.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:18 AM on March 20, 2010


Bill Clinton (63)
Colin Powell (72)
Sandra Day O'Connor (79)
John Paul Stevens (89)

Dean Smith (79)

Burt Bacharach (80)
B.B. King (84)
Tony Bennett (83)
Clive Davis (75)

Neil Armstrong (79)
Buzz Aldrin (80)

Warren Buffett (79)

Dan Rather (78)
posted by secretseasons at 8:19 AM on March 20, 2010


cher
lady gaga

was on my way to the midlake show in san francisco a short while back and almost got hit from behind by a dude on a segway, and i was all like thinking 'fucking geek!'; at the venue, after getting my tickets, i turned around and there was steve wozniak on his segway chatting with the guy at the door.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:21 AM on March 20, 2010


MacGyver
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:29 AM on March 20, 2010


David Lynch
posted by ludwig_van at 8:32 AM on March 20, 2010




E.O. Wilson
posted by elizardbits at 8:46 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nobody's said Willie Mays yet??! Willie Mays!
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on March 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


DeathList might be of interest. It's pretty much a list of famous old people.
posted by alligatorman at 9:02 AM on March 20, 2010


Roger Ebert.
posted by waitangi at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Neil Young
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:20 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Dave Sim
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2010


Toni Morrison
posted by Solon and Thanks at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, Brando is dead.

Ack! Am mortified. Must now add another name:

Queen Elizabeth II
posted by SuperSquirrel at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2010


Clint Eastwood, for the way he revolutionized Westerns and crime dramas, and then reframed his own work in his later years. He's really quite an influential talent on several levels.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:47 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Cecil Taylor
Florence Knoll
Frank Gehry
Dennis Bergkamp
posted by Zebtron at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2010




As L.A. Style once said, James Brown is dead.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:12 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If this wasn't chatfilter from the start, it quickly became 'name your favorite famous person.'

Most of these professional entertainers will be forgotten, and did not change their field (much less the world) and leave a long-lasting, far-felt impression to the same degree as Levi-Strauss, Stephen Hawking, and E. O. Wilson. Being rich, famous, and touted as a really-big-deal is not the same thing as actually being a big deal.

If it stands, the list should include Earl Scruggs and Richard Dawkins.
posted by K.P. at 10:12 AM on March 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


Milan Kundera
Joyce Carol Oates
Philip Roth
posted by jayder at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lucien Freud
posted by jayder at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2010


Cy Twombly
posted by jayder at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2010


Cindy [Sheehan] was old school - she basically staged a sit in.

Yes, that's exactly why she does NOT belong on this list. It's not "people who did things you admire and got a lot of media attention"; it's "people that revolutionized their field."
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:39 AM on March 20, 2010


Jesse Jackson
Jurgen Habermas
Sidney Mintz
Charles Manson
posted by drlith at 10:45 AM on March 20, 2010


Hank Aaron

Being rich, famous, and touted as a really-big-deal is not the same thing as actually being a big deal.

History is past as described by people, and saying someone is historic in the sense of being legendary or a big deal is opinion rather than fact. Stephen Hawking's work (I predict) ensures that people will remember him and describe him as a big deal; if people also remember various professional entertainers, then they too will become legends in their fields. You can't be a big deal without being touted as a big deal.
posted by sallybrown at 10:48 AM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


John Ashbery
posted by jayder at 10:54 AM on March 20, 2010


Chuck Yeager.
posted by One Thousand and One at 11:25 AM on March 20, 2010


Gabriel García Márquez
Salman Rushdie

Both would probably get the MeFi dot treatment.
posted by tss at 11:36 AM on March 20, 2010


Jerry Seinfeld
John Wooden
posted by nestor_makhno at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2010


João Gilberto
posted by One Thousand and One at 11:44 AM on March 20, 2010


Bela Fleck
John Long
Linus Torvalds
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2010


yes, that's exactly why she does NOT belong on this list. It's not "people who did things you admire and got a lot of media attention"; it's "people that revolutionized their field."

Just because you may be in favor of the war does not take away from the fact that she got a enough attention that she inspired a lot of other people to begin protesting against it. And as she obviously gets you all riled up, I think that speaks to the fact that she was/is influential. If she was a nobody, you wouldn't care.
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:44 PM on March 20, 2010


As others have stated, people are being way, way too presumptuous about "living legends". I'd say that of the people mentioned so far, I could count on one hand - maybe two if I stretch it - the number of folks that will actually be talked about, let's say a century from now.

If you want proof of this, study some Victorian history, or perhaps browse through the vast selection of 19th-century and early 20th-century books available in Google Books. You'll find innumerable people - both the writers and their subjects - that were big in their day, but are absolutely anonymous now.

Really, do you think anyone in 2100 is going to care about Jerry Seinfeld? There has to be a lasting cultural context in which these people and their achievements can survive. So, yes, Nelson Mandela will be in the history books, but someone who made a few wry observations about 1990s dating practices will not.
posted by hiteleven at 12:54 PM on March 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Heloísa Pinheiro - the girl from Ipanema.
posted by rongorongo at 12:55 PM on March 20, 2010


Artists are an especially tricky category, because you are assuming that whatever medium the artist works in (popular music, television, movies, etc.) will be as culturally relevant in the future as it is today.

I'm sure there were plenty of medieval passion play stars who thought they were hot stuff back in the day.
posted by hiteleven at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2010


Sports:
Joe Paterno
Wayne Gretzky
Jim Brown

Music:
Doc Watson
Ralph Stanley
Lee "Scratch" Perry

Literature:
Harper Lee
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:09 PM on March 20, 2010


The New York Times has just reminded me, by way of a review of his memoir that Jules Feiffer is still among us, and still working, at 81.
posted by mumkin at 1:21 PM on March 20, 2010


@hiteleven I wonder about that. I think that mass media has dramatically changed who we choose celebrate, and so we will end up remembering more ephemeral persons than the victorians ever did. We remember (for example) very few actors or singers of the XIX century because their work was never recorded, and it reached a very limited number of people.
posted by Omon Ra at 1:29 PM on March 20, 2010


Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:32 PM on March 20, 2010


Murray Gell-Mann
posted by bukvich at 1:37 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Legends need to be sort of bigger than life, and I think Star Trek will always go down as a classic of science fiction.

So yeah, William Shatner. LEGEND.
posted by adamdschneider at 5:40 PM on March 20, 2010


Sir George Martin
Phil Spector (ignoring the last few years, just like we did with Michael Jackson)
Hayao Miyazaki
posted by robotot at 5:47 PM on March 20, 2010


Can't believe no one has mentioned Bernie Madoff. He gave an entirely new dimension to the concept of greed.
posted by acorncup at 7:30 PM on March 20, 2010


Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren
posted by Mael Oui at 7:42 PM on March 20, 2010


Dick Van Dyke (alas, no one ever says Jerry Van Dyke), Bob Newhart, Don Rickles. Definitely Betty White. She's immortal (after all, she was on a show called A Date With The Angels, and I believe it). Of course, Elizabeth Taylor. Apparently, pretty much NOTHING can kill her (*crosses fingers*). Rita Moreno, Lena Horne.

(I think we might have created a HUGE jinx with this list, though!)
posted by Mael Oui at 7:52 PM on March 20, 2010


Madonna
posted by divabat at 9:25 PM on March 20, 2010


Willie Nelson
posted by salvia at 10:03 PM on March 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Aung San Suu Kyi
David Attenborough
Annie Leibovitz
Richard Dawkins

Dare I say it: Oprah?

[Side note: A friend worked at record store years ago where they had a macabre 'sweep' to entertain the, clearly, disturbed employees: At the beginning of every year they would write down the name of a healthy celebrity under 50, who they 'bet' would die in the coming year. Cruel, but she won the pool when Princess Diana was the one who went that year.]
posted by honey-barbara at 10:16 PM on March 20, 2010


Uh, Brando is dead.

True, but glad it was posted because it reminded me that Last Tango in Paris director Bernardo Bertolucci is still alove - I think he qualifies.
posted by naoko at 11:50 PM on March 20, 2010


Luc Besson
Sir Clive Sinclair
Beat Takeshi
Tony Benn
Stephen Fry
John Woo
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 11:00 AM on March 21, 2010


Elvis
posted by Omon Ra at 11:11 AM on March 21, 2010


Errol Morris
posted by cog_nate at 3:55 PM on March 21, 2010


Mark E. Smith -ah!
posted by Philby at 9:17 PM on March 21, 2010


Bill Russell
Bobby Orr
posted by troywestfield at 9:40 AM on March 22, 2010


Bruce Springsteen
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:37 PM on March 26, 2010


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