TOKYO AND NEW YORK • Japanese comedian Ken Shimura, who had been hospitalised after being infected with the coronavirus, died late on Sunday, becoming the first Japanese celebrity to die of the virus.
Shimura, 70, one of Japan’s best-known comedians with a career dating back to the early 1970s, reportedly had lung-cancer surgery in 2016. He developed a fever and respiratory problems on March 19 and was hospitalised, media said.
Dominating the television comedy scene in the 1970s and 1980s, one of his best-known acts was a clueless feudal lord with a face painted white with thick black eyebrows.
Fans took to social media to lament his death, which some said should serve to highlight what a major threat the coronavirus is.
“So very sad. It’s probably bad to say this, but I hope his death helps the Japanese, who still don’t seem to be taking this virus seriously, start to change their attitude,” one Twitter user wrote.
In the United States, Grammy award-winning country music singer Joe Diffie, who had several chart-topping hits in the 1990s, has died of the coronavirus. He was 61.
Diffie’s death was announced on his Facebook page, which said he died on Sunday “from complications of coronavirus”.
His death came just two days after he had announced that he had tested positive for the virus and was receiving medical care.
Diffie, who was from Oklahoma, had several hit songs during the 1990s, including Pickup Man, Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox (If I Die) and John Deere Green. His first album, A Thousand Winding Roads, was released in 1990 and included his hit song Home.
American singer-songwriter Alan Merrill, the Arrows vocalist who was most famous for co-writing the song I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll, died on Sunday at the age of 69 from the coronavirus.
The news was confirmed by his daughter Laura Merrill on Facebook.
Alan Merrill wrote I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll with former Arrows bandmate Jake Hooker, with the song first recorded by the band in 1975.
The song became a hit after it was recorded by Joan Jett & The Blackhearts in 1982.
Obie Award-winning New York stage and screen actor Mark Blum, whose roles ranged from highly flawed husbands to overconfident blowhards, died last Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 69.
American actor Lee Wilkof, a close family friend, said the cause was complications of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Grammy-winning American singer John Prine has been hospitalised for coronavirus and is in “critical” condition, his family said on Sunday.
“After a sudden onset of Covid-19 symptoms, John was hospitalised last Thursday,” his family said in a statement posted to the country and folk singer’s Twitter account.
“He was intubated last Saturday evening and continues to receive care, but his situation is critical,” the statement said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES