10 Famous People Who Died Far Too Soon3
By Dan Berry
10 Famous People Who Died Far Too Soon
Sadly, the old saying “the brightest flame burns quickest” all too often proves true. Fate has a twisted way of often taking away young, bright people to remind us that we’re not immortal. Although we’re used to dealing with death as a race, the death of young people tends to prove more difficult to overcome and understand than that of someone who has lived well and long.
When the fallen are young and famous, their deaths are felt culturally, in our music, our movies and our literature. And sometimes, like the inhabitants who linger on in the series Haunted Discoveries, lives cut short result in spiritual disturbances.
The last century has taken many talented souls from us. But, regardless of their accomplishments during life, some have found even more success after passing. Still, we miss them and can’t help but wonder what might have been.
Haunted Discoveries – McConaghy Estate
1. Heath Ledger (1979—2008)
For most of his 28 years, Ledger’s life seemed sunny. He was a teen heartthrob from Australia who became a household name after he was cast opposite Mel Gibson in The Patriot. He was a carefree Brooklyn dad who lived with his partner, Michelle Williams, and their daughter Matilda. But we know now that he had a dark side—the drugs he took were reportedly for insomnia, but they obviously took their toll, as did his maddening style of method acting. His manically haunting performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight won him a posthumous Oscar and, along with his portrayal of the secretly gay cowboy Ennis in Brokeback Mountain, a claim to being the James Dean of his generation.
2. John Cazale (1935-1978)
You might not have known his real name, but you most definitely remember him as Fredo in The Godfather and The Godfather Part II. But that’s not all John Cazale did. In fact, you could argue that he has the most impressive resume of any actor ever. During his brief six-year film career, he starred in five movies, each of which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture: The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon, and The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately, Cazale was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, which had spread to his bones. He died in New York City on March 12, 1978, shortly after completing what would be his final role, in The Deer Hunter. He was 42.
3. Buddy Holly (1936—1959)
Unlike some other famous people who died young, Buddy Holly was quite looking forward to staying alive for a long time. He had already scored a bunch of hit records, he had big plans for his musical future, and his wife Maria Elena was expecting their first child. Holly died at the age of 22 in a plane crash along with Ritchie Valens, 17, and the Big Bopper, 28—two other stars who died too soon. The fatal plane crash occurred on February 3, 1959, which would become known as the “Day the Music Died.”
4. Bruce Lee (1940—1973)
The martial arts master who helped launch the careers of fellow martial artists/actors Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris, among others, died of cerebral edema at the age of 32, just three weeks before the 1973 premiere of Enter the Dragon, the most successful movie he ever made. Although Game of Death and its sequel Game of Death II would be released later, they are based on footage shot before Lee made Enter the Dragon. Tragically, Bruce’s son Brandon Lee, who followed in his father’s footsteps as an actor and martial artist, also died too soon—struck down by a bullet from a faulty prop gun while filming The Crow. Brandon Lee was 28.
5. Jimi Hendrix (1942—1970)
Hendrix’s single name—either one of them—is still synonymous with the wild, unleashed power of the electric guitar. While he was naturally shy, being on-stage brought out a side of him that many fans still define as the utter freedom of rock ‘n’ roll. There is some mystery surrounding his death, but the official cause was listed as asphyxiation after inhaling his own vomit while intoxicated. Jimi Hendrix was 27.
6. River Phoenix (1970—1993)
River Phoenix, one member of a large and successful acting family, told people he hated the movie business—how it worked, what it did to people, what it did to creativity. His fame continued to grow, however, despite these reservations – starring in such epic films as Stand By Me and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He died of a drug overdose outside the Viper Room in Los Angeles. He was only 23.
7. Kurt Cobain (1967—1994)
“Grunge” was a loving term slapped onto a style of music, much of it coming from Seattle, because terms like “punk” and “new wave” had already been used. But there was nothing especially grungy about the music of Nirvana, the three-man band Kurt Cobain fronted and for which he wrote most of the music. Cobain became a global mega-star, seemingly overnight; but, tragically, he could never come to grips with his inner demons and shot himself in his Seattle home. He was 27.
8. John Belushi (1949—1982)
The Animal House star, Blues Brothers musician, and Saturday Night Live cast member was quickly becoming one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but that couldn’t save John Belushi from his dangerously addictive appetite. He died at 33 after an apparent overdose of heroin and cocaine.
9. Marilyn Monroe (1926—1962)
The famed actress and legendary sex symbol developed a dependency on pills in the later years of her life and died of an apparent barbiturate overdose at the age of 36. Her image sells more product than some of today’s most popular, living stars. Something’s Got To Give was to be her final film but was never finished because of the actress’ erractic behavior and subsequent death. The Misfits was Monroe’s last film.
10. James Dean (1931—1955)
Indiana-born James Dean only made three movies—Giant, East of Eden and Rebel Without A Cause—but they were enough to give him a reputation inside the movie business as one of the most intense actors ever. Outside the industry, he was perceived as one of the most magnetic presences on the big screen since Marlon Brando, after whom he largely patterned himself. Dean died in a tragic car accident. He was only 24.
Haunted Discoveries – Meek Estate
Dan Berry began writing and performing stand-up comedy while skipping class and drinking heavily at New York University. An inexplicably instant success, he has since appeared in clubs and on college campuses nationwide and is frequently featured on radio and television. Aside from creating the humor site “Jotter of a Rotter” and the internationally acclaimed website “The Prison Kite,” Dan has also lent his warped writing skills to a pair of failed pilots for FX and NBC, as well as to several current network shows that are somehow proving successful in spite of his crazed contributions.