“On Friday, we lost a great American,” said Jimmy Kimmel right before the 2020 Emmy Awards’ “In Memoriam” segment. “Ruth Bader Ginsberg was a compassionate and tireless champion of equality and justice, who said her legacy was to make life a little better for people less fortunate than she.” From there, the Sept. 20 show honored those who had left us in the past year. With H.E.R. performing a touching rendition of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U”, the show celebrated the lives and legacies of such beloved personalities like Regis Philbin and Naya Rivera.
With so many stars whose lights have faded in the past year – over 100 veterans, from both in front and behind the camera, have died according to Gold Derby – the whole night could be spent honoring them and not completely cover the scope of their impact. Within the last twelve months, the world lost comedy legends like Carl Reiner (producer/actor/writer of Your Show of Shows, The Dick Van Dyke Show), Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld, The King of Queens), John Witherspoon (The Boondocks, Friday), Fred Willard (Everybody Loves Raymond). Kirk Douglas, an actor best known for his film work but also had many numerous television appearances in his career, also passed away. So did Wilford Brimley (The Waltons, Our House), Harry Hains (American Horror Story), and Caroll Spinney (puppeteer, Sesame Street). We also lost stars like James Lipton (Inside The Actor’s Studio), Lynn Shelton (director of GLOW, Mad Men), Grant Imahara (Mythbusters), and Silvio Horta (creator of Ugly Betty).
The segment also ended on a quote from Chadwick Boseman: “Purpose crossed disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It’s the reason you’re on the planet at this particular time in history. The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”
Earlier in the year, two different awards shows acted as makeshift public memorials for two significant stars. Kobe Bryant perished in a deadly helicopter accident on the day of the 2020 Grammy Awards. Chadwick Boseman lost his secret four-year battle with colon cancer two days before the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. The Grammy ceremony featured numerous tributes to Kobe – from Lizzo dedicating the night to him, to Alicia Keys singing with Boyz II Men to DJ Khaled adding Kobe along with the night’s planned Nipsey Hussle tribute.
With Chadwick not being a music star, transforming the VMAs into a memorial for the Black Panther star would have seemed out of place. The Grammys were more successful at incorporating Kobe into the night’s ceremony since it took place at the Staples Center, home to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kobe’s team of twenty years. Plus, Kobe was involved in the music world, either as a line/mention in many rap lyrics or as a rapper. Never forget Kobe’s short-lived attempt at a hip hop career of his own.
Sadly, the same fate befell the 2020 Emmys. Days before the Sept. 20 ceremony, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away at age 87 after a battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. Many stars mourned the woman known as “the notorious RBG,” including Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon. Kate, 36, portrayed Ruth on SNL, and told HollywoodLife that she considered RBG “a real-life superhero: a beacon of hope, a warrior for justice, a robed crusader who saved the day time and again… It was one of the great honors of my life to meet Justice Ginsburg, to shake her hand, and to thank her for her lifetime of service to this country.”