IT will never cease to amaze, the sheer number of famous names and faces that pass away in the course of a single year, but mention the most memorable of 2009 and you will hear Michael Jackson's name a thousand times; a musical icon as prominent in death as in life.
It was the same name, after all, that sprung to mind whenever anyone referenced the most famous performer on the planet; the most revered singer of a generation or the most fascinating eccentric the world had known in years.
His was a legacy of music, family turbulence, plastic surgery, oxygen tents, chimps and private funfairs – a childish kingdom for the King of Pop, his dubious, often explosive human relationships and the adoration of millions of fans who cared little about the idiosyncrasies that shaped their hero.
The New York Times described his story as "a quintessentially American tale of celebrity and excess that took him from musical boy wonder to global pop superstar to sad figure haunted by lawsuits, paparazzi and failed plastic surgery".
Jackson, a 13-time Grammy award-winning artist who had haunted us with Thriller, thrilled us with the Jackson Five and wooed us with 'Smooth Criminal', among a litany of hits, died last June.
His death, according to the Los Angeles County Coroner, was found to be a combination of the powerful anesthetic propofol and the anti-anxiety drug lorazepam. His death was treated as homicide with the singer's doctor, Conrad Murray, is at the centre of a manslaughter investigation.
The emotional fallout from Jackson's passing was immediately evident, particularly in America where he had spent a lifetime writing and performing songs that defined generations.
In Los Angeles, fans queued up to pay tribute to his star on the walk of fame and not since the '80s was there such a glut of Michael Jackson impersonators, memorabilia and music in such a short burst of time.
As one can only expect from the excesses of America and, indeed, from a life that had more dramatic twists than top 10 hits, the saga of Jackson's death quickly spun out of control, with dramatic sub-plots of doctors prescribing killer medication, closed-door custody battles for children and the outpouring of grief from the world of celebrity.
Jackson's death will be a defining moment of the decade, let alone the last year, but he was not the only name that will be missing from the world of music next year.
America helped make the Clancy Brothers too; the group were an inspiration to the burgeoning folk music scene in New York.
Earlier this month, more than 5,000 miles from the glittering lights and smog of Los Angeles, the last of the three, Liam Clancy, passed away at Bon Secours Hospital in Cork following a sustained battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
The 74-year-old, described by Bob Dylan as the greatest ever ballad singer, was, together with his brothers, an invaluable part of the Irish-American immigrant experience, whose music had helped forge an Irish identity amongst the melting-pot of cultures arriving on US soil.
Last October, a member of another famous all-male band tragically passed away. Stephen Gately, one fifth of Boyzone, died at his apartment in Majorca from natural causes. He was 33.
The music world witnessed a number of deaths behind the scenes too. In July, former Rolling Stones manager Allen Klein died. Klein, who had been battling Alzheimer's disease, was notorious for his hardball approach to business and is credited with playing a role in the break-up of the Beatles.
"Don't talk to me about ethics," he told Playboy magazine in 1971. "Every man makes his own."
Perhaps on a more sentimental note, Les Paul, the inventor of that guitar, died at the great age of 94. Most people couldn't pick him from a crowd but his legendary guitar was picked by the best, including Guns N' Roses' Slash and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin.
Sport, and particularly Irish sport, lost a number of famous names and faces in 2009.
Darren Sutherland, the much-loved boxing sensation, was discovered dead in his flat in London in September. The Olympic bronze medalist was in training for his professional career when the unexpected death occurred.
Former Irish international goalkeeper Alan Kelly succumbed to a drawn out battle with cancer last May. The 72-year-old, whose son Alan is the current goalkeeping coach for the Irish team, was capped 47 times for his country between 1958 and 1973.
The following month it was horse racing's turn to mourn. Hailed as possibly the greatest trainer of the last century, Vincent O'Brien's demise was felt across the equestrian industry.
With 27 Irish Classic victories in Ireland and a further 16 in England, O'Brien was credited with transforming the world of thoroughbred horse racing.
In praise of his lifelong friend, the former BBC commentator, Sir Peter O'Sullevan, said: "His achievements are unparalleled in my view, not just for a 20th century training career, but of all time."
The famous Belfast boxer Johnny Caldwell died in July from cancer. At 18 years of age he took bronze at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Five years later he won the world bantamweight title following his defeat of Aphonse Halimi.
Dermott Monteith, arguably the greatest Irish cricketing spin bowler ever, died after a long illness in?December, aged 66.
In world football there were two deaths that shook the foundations of the game, both for very different reasons.
Last July in England, the revered manger Sir Bobby Robson passed away bringing to a close a phenomenal life in football which brought with it managerial stints at Barcelona, Newcastle, England and the Republic of Ireland amongst many others.
Last month, Germany goalkeeper Robert Enke lost his life after falling from a railway bridge into the path of an oncoming train. His two-year-old daughter Lara died in 2006 from a rare heart condition. The 32-year-old left behind an eight-month-old daughter and his wife Teresa.
Limerick son Frank McCourt, who immortalised the city, was lost to the literary world last February, some 12 years after the publication of Angela's Ashes.
One of many writers who passed away over the last year, McCourt was both controversial and popular for his famous depictions of an old-world Ireland, alien to the experiences of more recent generations.
Hugh Leonard, a popular and prolific member of Ireland's literary circle, died in February while other famed novelists and authors darkened 2009 by their loss.
In January John Mortimer (Rumpole of the Bailey) and John Updike (The Witches of Eastwick) passed away; followed by JG Ballard (Empire of the Sun) in March; Marilyn French (The Women's Room) in May; Tim Guest (My Life in Orange) in July; Budd Schulberg (screenwriter – On The Waterfront) in August; Keith Waterhouse (Billy Liar) and Catherine Gaskin (Sara Dane) in September.
In film, France mourned the departure of Claude Berri, the celebrated director of Jean De Florette and Manon Des Sources.
The auteur, who died from a stroke at the start of the year, summerised his approach to the creative process when he said: "Out of my failure as an actor was born my desire to direct.
"Then my relative failure as a director forced me to become a producer. In order to get my films shown, I became a distributor. One had to eat, that's all."
In March, the actress and wife of Liam Neeson, Natasha Richardson, was killed in a skiing accident in Canada after sustaining a fatal head injury.
The film composer Maurice Jarre – whose scores accompanied classics such as Dr Zhivago, Laurence of Arabia and Ryan's Daughter – passed away in the same month while Patrick Swayze, the US actor known for roles in Ghost, Dirty Dancing and Red Dawn died in September from cancer.
David Carradine, the famous 1970s' kung fu icon, reinvigorated by Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill movies, died in June from at the age of 72.
Farrah Fawcett, one of the stars of Charlie's Angels, passed away in June at the age of 62.
In November, Edward Woodward, who apart from The Equaliser TV series was known for his part in the cult film The Wicker Man, died aged 79. Last week 32 year old Clueless star Brittany Murphy died of a heart attack
Both at home and abroad, the political arena marked the passing of a number of notable personalities. In Ireland, those figures included former TDs Tony Gregory (61), Pearse Wyse (81), Joe Doyle (73), Nuala Fennell (73) and Billy Kenneally (83) while Senators Tony Kett (57) and Peter Callanan (74) were also laid to rest.
Founding SDLP member Paddy O'Hanlon died in April at the age of 65 while the former Ulster Unionist MP Richard Ferguson died in July at 73.
Internationally, Senator Ted Kennedy's death in the US marked the end of an era; he was the last surviving brother of the most famous generation of the prominent family.
At 77, Senator Kennedy's passing was mourned across the US and although his life was shadowed by some controversy, he was considered to be one of the most effective law makers in the political system.
In 2009, he was joined by the notorious former US secretary of defence Robert McNamara (93), a central architect of the Vietnam War, Jack Kemp (73) the US republican running mate to Bob Dole in the 1996 presidential election, Richard Egan (73) the former US ambassador to Ireland and Irving Kristol (89), the 'godfather of neo-conservatism'.
Other deaths that made headlines around the world included that of legendary CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite (92); Maria De Jesus, who at 115 years of age, was the oldest living person; Danny La Rue, in June; reality TV regular Jade Goody (27); Milvina Dean (97), the last survivor of the Titanic, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (88), sister of John F Kennedy and the founder of the Special Olympics; celebrity chef Keith Floyd (65) and Cheers and Frasier screenwriter David Lloyd (75).