Guenter Grass, Percy Sledge, Damon Mezzacappa: Obits This Week

This week’s notable deaths included the Nobel Prize-winning German author whose novels explored Nazi brutality; the U.S. soul singer who rendered “When a Man Loves a Woman”; and the Lazard Freres & Co. executive who built its capital markets unit. Below are summaries of these and other obituaries.

Guenter Grass, 87. In novels such as “The Tin Drum” and “Cat and Mouse,” his writings examined the trauma that individual Germans suffered after World War II. He said Germany had no claim to a normal identity after the Holocaust. In 2006, the author revealed in his memoirs that he had served in the Waffen-SS, a combat arm of Adolf Hitler’s elite SS security unit, late in the war. Died April 13 in Luebeck, Germany.

Percy Sledge, 74. “When a Man Loves a Woman,” his mournful, signature ballad about the pain that devotion can cause, was a debut single and rose to the top of the charts in 1966. It was the first No. 1 hit from the emerging Muscle Shoals, Alabama, music scene. Died April 14 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The cause was liver failure following a yearlong battle with cancer.

Damon Mezzacappa, 79. Vice chairman of Lazard Freres from 1980 to 1999. He was recruited by then-Chairman Michel David-Weill, a French billionaire, to expand the firm’s business beyond mergers and acquisitions to include stock and bond underwriting and trading. Mezzacappa’s annual pay topped $12 million and rankled fellow partners. Died April 14 in Palm Beach, Florida, of lung cancer.

Morgan B. Stark, 75. Chairman of Cowen Group Inc.’s Ramius Alternative Investments unit and head of its macro trading strategy. Before the acquisition by Cowen in 2009, he was chief executive officer of Ramius LLC, which managed $7.7 billion of client assets invested in hedge funds, funds of funds and real estate. As of Jan. 1, he helped oversee $12.5 billion. Died April 13 in Manhattan of cancer.

Stanislav Gross, 45. The Czech Republic’s youngest prime minister before resigning over questions about his personal finances. He moved from the post of interior minister to head the government in 2004 after his predecessor, Vladimir Spidla, resigned. At 35, he was Europe’s youngest premier. Died April 15. Czech media reported that he suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disease that results in the loss of muscle function.

Eric Oplinger, 24. A high-yield debt broker at New York-based BGC Partners Inc. who followed a parent and two siblings into the bond market. His father, Steve Oplinger, head of high yield at New York-based Seaport Global Holdings LLC, previously was a top executive for that market at Royal Bank of Canada and Credit Suisse Group AG. Died on April 12 in Middle Township, New Jersey.

Paul Almond, 83. A Canadian-born director whose 1964 documentary, “Seven Up!,” recorded the aspirations of 14 British children from different socioeconomic backgrounds. It became the basis of a series by director Michael Apted, who revisited the subjects every seven years in films including “7 Plus Seven” in 1970, “21 Up” in 1977 and “56 Up,” released in 2012. Died April 9 in Los Angeles of complications from a heart attack.

Ken Prewitt, 68. A Bloomberg Radio anchor who interviewed billionaire investors, Wall Street executives and former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. After television reporting jobs at CBS and ABC, he joined New York-based Bloomberg in 2005 and was the daily host of “The First Word” show at 5 a.m. and co-hosted “Bloomberg Surveillance” at 7 a.m. and “Bloomberg Businessweek Radio” on weekends. Died April 11 in Manhattan of brain cancer.

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