Here we remember a number of special people interviewed by Bill over the years who passed away in 2014.
Maya Angelou, who spoke with Bill several times over the course of her life, first met with him in 1973 at her cottage in Berkeley, California. At the time, Angelou, 45, was already an accomplished singer, dancer, poet, author, actress, editor, songwriter and playwright. In this clip, Bill opens their conversation by asking Angelou about the progress of the civil rights movement and the burgeoning women’s liberation movement, and what both meant to black women like her who were trying to break free of clichés and stereotypes. On May 28, Angelou died at the age of 86.
Watch Bill’s interview with Maya Angelou from his series Creativity, in which he and Angelou returned to the small town of Stamps, Arkansas, where she spent much of her childhood.
We knew him as Amiri Baraka, but his name was LeRoi Jones when he burst on the public scene in the 1960s. The Beatniks shaped his poetry, and the struggle of American blacks for justice, his politics. Baraka studied philosophy and German literature, immersed himself in jazz and the blues, was a university professor and a political activist. His name is synonymous with the Black Arts Movement that changed American culture. On January 7, Amiri Baraka passed away, aged 79. Watch his interview with Bill from 1999.
The award-winning actress and civil rights activist Ruby Dee died on June 11 at the age of 91. Dee’s career spanned seven decades, and her film credits include The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Do the Right Thing (1989) and American Gangster (2007). In 1984, Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis joined Bill for a two-hour special, The Second American Revolution, about the civil rights struggle, an issue the couple knew well. They were master and mistress of ceremonies at the 1963 March on Washington, and were friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In this clip from the show, Dee talks about the ongoing racism that “has trampled our self-esteem and numbed hope.”
In 1999, American poet Galway Kinnell performed at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, where the best poets shared their work and inspiration. Bill covered the festival and showcased it for television specials like Fooling with Words (1999), The Language of Life (1995) and Sounds of Poetry (1999). In this clip, Kinnell, who died on October 28 at the age of 87, reads “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps.”
The legendary folk singer and activist Pete Seeger spoke with Bill a number of times over the years, and even sang a few of his folk songs. In this clip, Seeger says that music has a power that — even after decades of playing it — he still doesn’t fully understand. “All I know,” he says, “is that throughout history, the leaders of countries have been very particular about what songs they want sung, so some people, beside me, must think songs do something.” There are more people working to change the world every day, he says, and eventually they’ll be numerous enough to tip the scales. Seeger passed away on January 27 at the age of 94.
To see more of Bill’s interview with Seeger, click here.
Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, who publicly opposed the war, died at the age of 34 on November 10. Young enlisted in the Army after the 9/11 attacks because he wanted to fight terrorists in Afghanistan, but instead was sent to Iraq. Five days after arriving there in 2004, he was shot in the chest and severely wounded. He was left paralyzed from the waist down and as a result of medical complications later became a quadriplegic. Young was featured in the documentary Body of War, which aired on Bill Moyers Journal in March 2008.