The arts have lost two of their most recognisable exponents in recent days, with the sad deaths of both James Last and Ron Moody. Both men were quite distinct in their professions but shared the trait of entertaining their audiences through their performances. Band leader Last died in Florida on Tuesday, aged 86, after a short illness. Revered character actor Moody died in hospital earlier today, aged 91. He had been ill for some time, but maintained his cheerfulness right up to the end according to his family.

James Last

Last was born in Bremen, Germany but gave his Music to the world.

A hugely successful band leader and conductor, he became synonymous for his big band compositions of popular music. Although his easy listening style was not always appreciated by the critics, the "happy sound" was a big seller around the globe, with over 80 million records sold worldwide during his lifetime. His sound became especially popular with German and British record buyers.

A familiar sustained dance beat epitomised much of his work, with the feeling of togetherness commonly engendered through the sound of crowd noise in the background. His popularity was enduring, extending over six decades from World War II onwards.

In the 1970s he became a familiar face on TV with his own show that was beamed across Europe and featured pop stars of the era, such as Eurovision winners Abba.

His love for music was evident throughout his lifetime and he continued to tour in his later years, appearing at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year. Much of his life was split between Florida and Hamburg, being equally comfortable in both America and Germany.

It is believed that Last died with his family in attendance at Palm Beach.

His concert organiser stated that the world had lost a "unique ambassador" who "lived for music and wrote musical history."

Ron Moody

Moody will always be best-remembered for his unforgettable portrayal of Fagin in the stage and film musical Oliver! based on Charles Dickens' classic novel Oliver Twist. Indeed he was almost born into the part, with a Russian Jew for a father and a Lithuanian Jew for his mother.

His own birth place was Tottenham though and he showed his devotion for his country by enlisting in the RAF during the Second World War. He had earlier subtly changed his surname from Moodnick to Moody in 1930.

Lionel Bart's smash hit 1968 film Oliver! and his part especially within it were favoured by the critics, as he received a Golden Globe as a result and just missed out on winning an Academy Award in addition. Moody was to reprise the role throughout his career, once commenting that "fate destined me to play Fagin."

That was not to be his only acting success though, as he also appeared on EastEnders as the character Edwin Caldecott, an old acquaintance of Jim Branning. One of his most memorable roles was also in the Disney vehicle A Kid in King Arthur's Court, where he played the part of the legendary wizard Merlin.

His character acting prowess also led to him playing Captain Hook several times, besides portraying Uriah Heep of David Copperfield fame, and perhaps the 'stock' part for an actor of his type, Sherlock Holmes. He was also said to have turned down the role of a new incarnation of Doctor Who in 1969.

For many though it will be Fagin that they remember him best for, with his distinctive crooning of 'Reviewing the Situation' and 'You Gotta Pick A Pocket Or Two' sticking firmly in the memory banks for years to come.