Cecilia Chiang, 100, whose San Francisco restaurant the Mandarin introduced American diners in the 1960s to the richness and variety of authentic Chinese cuisine, died Wednesday at home in San Francisco.
Chiang came to the United States from China as a daughter of wealth who had fled the Japanese during World War II, traveling nearly 700 miles on foot. The Mandarin offered patrons unheard-of specialties at the time, like pot stickers, Chongqing-style spicy dry-shredded beef, peppery Sichuan eggplant, moo shu pork, sizzling rice soup and glacéed bananas. Food scholar Paul Freedman included the Mandarin in his historical survey “Ten Restaurants That Changed America.” Chiang’s son, Philip, helped create the P.F. Chang’s restaurant chain.
Billy Joe Shaver, 81, the Texas singer-songwriter whose trenchant, vivid compositions helped launch country music’s outlaw movement in the 1970s, died Wednesday in Waco, Texas. The cause of death was a stroke.
Shaver wrote songs for many of the major outlaw figures, including Willie Nelson, Bobbie Bare and Kris Kristofferson. Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash recorded his material, and Bob Dylan, in a song written with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter, sang admiringly of listening to his music. (“I’m hearing Billy Joe Shaver/And I’m reading James Joyce.”)
Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, the singer-songwriter who wrote the much-recorded standard “Mr. Bojangles” and later became a mainstay of the Texas outlaw movement that catapulted Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings to fame, died Oct. 23 at a hospital in Austin, Texas. His former publicist John Davis said the cause was cancer. Walker learned he had throat cancer in 2017.
A waltzing ballad about an old street dancer Walker had met in a New Orleans drunk tank, “Mr. Bojangles” was first recorded by Walker for the Atco label in 1968. The song achieved its greatest success in a folk-rock version that reached the pop top 10 in 1971 by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and went on to be covered by a wide range of artists, among them Nina Simone, Neil Diamond and even Bob Dylan.
Viola Smith, 107, a swing-era musician who was promoted in the 1930s as the “fastest girl drummer in the world” and who championed greater inclusion of women in the almost completely male preserve of big bands, died Oct. 21 at home in Costa Mesa, California. She had Alzheimer’s disease.
With a kit featuring 12 drums, including two giant tom-toms placed near her shoulders, Smith was, from 1938 to 1941, the centerpiece of the Coquettes, an “all-girl” big band that developed a modest national following. Her showcase was “The Snake Charmer,” a jazzy piece with explosions of drumming pyrotechnics.
Daniel Menaker, 79, who incubated literary celebrities as executive editor-in-chief of Random House and as a senior fiction editor of The New Yorker, and who, as a wry and discerning stylist, became a critically praised author himself, died of pancreatic cancer Monday at home in Marlborough, Massachusetts.
Mentored at The New Yorker by storied editors William Shawn and William Maxwell, Menaker oversaw mostly fiction at the magazine and edited reviews by film critic Pauline Kael.
As a book editor, he helped polish the poetry and prose of an array of writers, including Noah Baumbach, Michael Chabon, Billy Collins, Ted Conover, Mavis Gallant, Jonathan Kellerman, Colum McCann, Alice Munro, V.S. Pritchett, Salman Rushdie, Gary Shteyngart, Daniel Silva and Elizabeth Strout.
Diane di Prima, 86, a prolific poet regarded as the most significant female member of the Beat Generation, the male-dominated countercultural movement of the 1950s to which she lent her feminist, sometimes anarchist sensibility, and San Francisco’s poet laureate, died Oct. 25 in San Francisco.
For eight years, di Prima had battled Parkinson’s disease and arthritis, which made it difficult to walk. Still she wrote poetry every day and had several book projects going even as she was moved to San Francisco General Hospital, where she died. Her partner of 42 years, Sheppard Powell, was at her bedside.
Robert E. Murray, 80, who built the country’s largest private coal mining company while emerging as one of his industry’s most aggressively outspoken advocates, excoriating environmental regulations while cultivating personal relationships with members of the Trump administration, died Oct. 25 in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
His lawyer said Murray had applied for federal benefits for black lung disease after fighting government regulations to combat the disease, which is caused by long-term exposure to coal dust.
Lee Kun-hee, 78, the man who built Samsung Electronics into a global tech giant, died Oct. 25, the company said. The cause of death was not disclosed, but he was incapacitated for years after a 2014 heart attack; son Lee Jae-yong took over running the company. Lee Kun-hee was treated for lung cancer in the late 1990s.
Under Lee Kun-hee’s three decades of leadership, Samsung Electronics grew from a small television maker into the world’s biggest producer of smartphones, electronic displays and memory chips. He was convicted twice of white-collar crimes, but he eventually was pardoned in both cases. Samsung Electronics is the flagship of Samsung Group, a sprawling powerhouse with dozens of affiliates that stretch into shipbuilding and life insurance.