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Radio Raheem Has Passed Away

'Do the Right Thing' and 'Spider-Man' Actor Bill Nunn, Dies at 62

Actor William Nunn III, better known as Bill Nunn, has passed away Saturday, according to an Instagram post by his friend and longtime collaborator, Spike Lee. Nunn died at his home in Pittsburgh after battling cancer, according to The Associated Press. He made his acting debut in the 1988 Spike Lee film School Daze, and is best known for his roles as Radio Raheem in Lee’s Do the Right Thing (1989) and as Nino Brown’s bodyguard Duh Duh Duh Man in New Jack City.

Some of his other film credits include Spike Lee’s Mo’ Better Blues (1990) and He Got Game (1998). While he made his initial mark playing young street toughs on-screen, this veteran of the Atlanta stage showed he could use his impressive size for something other than menace with a critically acclaimed performance as Harrison Ford’s sympathetic, high-spirited physical therapist in Regarding Henry (1991). Nunn has played pretty much every type there is, all the way up to nice and huggable teddy bear guy like Whoopi Goldberg’s protector Eddie Souther in Sister Act (1992).

Bill Nunn acted in nearly 50 movies, including several directed by Lee, and he later appeared as Robbie Robertson in all three of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies. He also portrayed a Southern police chief in Bill Condon’s White Lie (1991) (USA Network), later reteaming with Condon for Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh (1995), and has also acted twice for Michael Apted (Extreme Measures (1996), HBO’s Always Outnumbered (1998)) and Gary Fleder (Things to Do in Denver When You’re Dead (1995), Kiss the Girls (1997)). Nunn also turned in a fine performance as Tim Roth’s adoptive father in The Legend of 1900 (1998), Giuseppe Tornatore’s first English-language feature, released initially in Italy and then in the United States in 1999. He can also be seen in People I Know (2002) with Al Pacino and the prison thriller Lockdown (2000).

But it was Do the Right Thing that was Nunn’s most notable role. He played Radio Raheem, a big, imposing figure who walked the streets of Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, NY, proudly and loudly blasting Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” in an act of defiance and self-empowerment, from his larger than life Boombox that took eight D Batteries. Sporting an African medallion around his neck, a fly high top fade and two iconic gold four-finger rings with the words “LOVE” on the right hand and “HATE” on the left. Raheem was unapologetically Hip-Hop, and the power Nunn brought to the role spoke for millions of men growing up as the first generation of the Hip-Hop Nation.

Toward the end of the movie Radio Raheem gets choked out by the police, a cinematic scene that would replay it self out 15 years later in REAL LIFE in Staten Island with the death of Eric Garner in 2014. At nightfall, Buggin’ Out and Smiley meets with Radio Raheem. They tell each other about how annoyed they are with Sal and plan to boycott his pizzeria. When they enter the pizzeria, they have a big argument with Sal, who ends up smashing Raheem’s boom box with his baseball bat. Radio Raheem gets angry about this and starts fighting him, almost strangling Sal to death. When the police arrive, Officer Gary Long chokes Radio Raheem to death with a nightstick. They put his corpse into a patrol car and drive away. He dies and everyone mourns for him. They start a riot, burning the pizzeria down.

Nunn was born in Pittsburgh October 20, 1953 . His father, Bill Nunn, Sr., was a journalist with the African-American newspaper The Pittsburgh Courier and later became a scout for the Pittsburgh Steelers, specializing in scouting the historically black colleges traditionally ignored by NFL teams. The younger Nunn, as a teenager, worked as a ballboy with the Steelers and once took the car of future Hall of Famer “Mean” Joe Greene for a late-night joyride. Nunn attended one of those historically black colleges, Morehouse College and graduated in 1976.

Other movie appearances include Canadian Bacon, The Last Seduction, Runaway Jury, Firehouse Dog, the television series The Job on ABC (2001), Randy and The Mob, and the televised adaptation of A Raisin in the Sun. Nunn had a varied and fulfilling career.

Nunn passed away one month before his 63rd birthday. Black Westchester salutes and pays honor to the life of William Nunn III who will forever be remembered as Radio Raheem. We extend our condolences to his family, friends and fans.

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About AJ Woodson (2375 Articles)
AJ Woodson is the Editor-In-Chief of Black Westchester and Co-Owner of Urban Soul Media Group, the parent company. AJ is a Father, Brother, Author, Writer, Journalism Fellow, Rapper, Radio Personality, Hip-Hop Historian and A Freelance Journalist whose byline has appeared in several print publications and online sites including The Source, Vibe, the Village Voice, Upscale, Sonicnet.com, Launch.com, Rolling Out Newspaper, Spiritual Minded Magazine and several others.
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