EXPIRED: 12/26/11  – James Rizzi, 61, was one of the most fun pop artists of all time. You couldn’t help but smile at his playful paintings and childlike 3D sculptures.

Born in Brooklyn, Rizzi studied at the University of Florida. But in 1974 he returned to NYC and took a studio in SoHo – back before it became a shopping mall and could actually house struggling artists. And struggling he was. At age 24 Rizzi was a renegade street artist.

Known for his bright, cartoon-like drawings he gained fans quickly. In 1981 he was commissioned by Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth to create the album cover for their first release as Tom Tom Club. It was so popular, they also asked him to create the video for their first single Genius of Love.

In 1996 Lufthansa commissioned him to decorate a jet with pastel stars, birds and travelers. In 2011, he created the BamBoo, an electric-powered concept car with an inflatable roof for automaker Rinspeed. Needless to say, Rizzi was loved around the world, especially in Germany, where a school in Duisburg was named for him.

He died in his sleep in the same studio he has been living and working in for decades.





EXPIRED: 12/25/11  – Simms Taback, 79, was born in the Bronx, graduated from Cooper Union and started his illustrating career at CBS Records and The New York Times.

He founded the New York Graphic Artists Guild and supplemented that ‘starving artist income’ by teaching art at the School of Visual Arts.

Later Taback wrote and illustrated over 40 children’s books, including Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, I Miss You Every Day and This Is The House That Jack Built.

Perhaps he chose to focus on children’s books because of guilt over the damage he inadvertently caused to children over the decades. You see, back in 1977 Taback designed the child-enticing, riddle-encrusted, first box for McDonald’s Happy Meals.

That piece of art is ridiculously – shamefully – now sitting in the Smithsonian.



EXPIRED: 11/08/11 – Bil Keane, 89, was a cartoonist who’s first regular comic strip was called Silly Philly which only ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin from 1946 to 1959. A syndicated strip, Channel Chuckles, premiered in 1954 and ran until 1977. But it was in 1960, when he moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona that he created the long-running newspaper comic The Family Circus. That makes it 51 years old and it’s still in syndication.

Believe it or not, Keane started by mimicking cartoons in The New Yorker, a magazine that would never touch The Family Circus.

Although he started out as “Bill Keane”, he dropped the second L from his name “to be distinctive.” What he should have done was to use his more distinctive middle name, Aloysius.

His son Jeff is expected to take over daily production of strip.



EXPIRED: 10/08/11 – Mikey Welsh, 40, played bass player for Weezer, but left the band a decade ago, after a nervous breakdown and psychotic episodes that he said we besed on working in a corporate music industry.

He later resurfaced as an artist and painter working out of rural Vermont, attacking canvases with pure spontaneity and aggression, almost never using a brush and preferring to work only with his hands and fingers.

last year he attended a Weezer show near his home and was asked to join the band onstage for a version of the song “Hash Pipe.”  The crowd went crazy. He revisited the stage this summer in NYC by playing guitar on the song “Undone” with Weezer and the Flaming Lips.

On September 26, 2011 had posted the following on Twitter: “dreamt i died in chicago next weekend (heart attack in my sleep). need to write my will today”. Later he made a correction that he dreamt the week after next.

This week.

That’s when he visited Chicago to join them onstage again, but he died from a drug overdose in his room at the Rafaello Hotel.



EXPIRED: 09/30/11 – Marv Tarplin, 70, was just a teenage from Detroit, Michigan who played guitar for a local all-girl vocal group known as The Primettes, who got an audition with Motown. They played for Smokey Robinson, lead singer of the Miracles. Robinson loved the Primettes, and suggested they change their name to The Supremes, but he loved Tarplin more and stole him away from the girls.

Smokey referred to Tarplin as The Miracles’ “secret weapon.” As a songwriter, Tarplin co-composed many of the Miracles’ hit singles, including the million-selling Grammy Hall of Fame winner “The Tracks of My Tears” for which he received the ASCAP Award Of Merit  in 1965. Other hits were “My Girl Has Gone,” “I Like It Like That,” “Going to a Go-Go,” and “The Love I Saw in You Was Just a Mirage.

He also co-wrote Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “I’ll Be Doggone,” and “One More Heartache.”

Tarplin left the Miracles in 1973, shortly after Smokey Robinson went solo, and continued to collaborate with his old boss on

Robinson and Tarplin continued to collaborate as writers on Robinson’s solo recordings, including “Cruisin'” and “Being with You.”

In 1987, Smokey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. The Miracles met the qualifications, as did Robinson, but the band have not, to date, been inducted.

Tarplin retired from touring in 2008.



EXPIRED: 09/16/11 – Tom Wilson Sr., 80, was an artist at American Greetings, a greeting card company in Cleveland, Ohio.. While working there he published a cartoon character named Ziggy in a 1969 cartoon collection, “When You’re Not Around.” Two years later Ziggy was featured as a strip in 15 newspapers, and now – with the strip created by Wilson’s son, Tom Wilson Jr., Ziggy appears in over 500 papers worldwide as well as in  books, calendars and greeting cards.

Ziggy, like his creator, has an endearing wit and is always optimistic regardless of what the world has in store.

Wilson also was responsible for creating Strawberry Shortcake and the Care Bears but it’s Ziggy who is closest to my heart.



EXPIRED: 07/12/10 – Tuli Kupferberg, 86, was born in, lived in, and died in New York City. This is where he was a pacifist, an anarchist, an artist, a musician, an author and an all around freak.

He was an expert at getting away with not working – and he worked really hard at it.

He was – the iconic New Yorker. The one you wanted to be when you moved here, the one you were afraid of meeting. The one you were glad to meet.

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