The unexpected losses of music and film celebrities Prince, David Bowie and Alan Rickman devastated families, friends and fans alike, but over the years much younger stars have shocked the world with their untimely deaths. Here we recognize thirteen celebrities who died far too young.
1. Aaliyah Haugton (1979-2001), 22
Nicknamed the "Princess of R&B" and "Queen of Urban Pop," Aaliyah has been credited for helping redefine and revolutionize R&B in the 1990s with her mix of pop, soul and hip hop. After completing the filming for her music video “Rock the Boat” in the Bahamas, her plane crashed shortly after takeoff and exploded. Aaliyah and eight others were killed in the accident.
"Even in high school when I first started to travel...I wanted to keep that 4.0. Being in the industry, you know, I don't want kids to think, 'I can just sing and forget about school.' I think it's very important to have an education, and even more important to have something to fall back on."
2. Amy Winehouse (1983-2011), 27
The first British female to win five Grammys in a single night, the critically acclaimed Amy Winehouse sung contralto vocals and mixed musical genres soul, R&B and jazz. She also won four Ivor Novello Awards, four MTV Europe Music Awards, three MTV Video Music Awards and three World Music Awards. Amy was at home when her bodyguard found that she was not breathing and had no pulse. She died of alcohol poisoning.
“I was hit by a car once on my bike, but I still rode home.”
“Life's short. Anything could happen, and it usually does, so there is no point in sitting around thinking about all the ifs, ands and buts.”
3. Brandon Lee (1965-1993), 28
Following in the footsteps of his father Bruce Lee, Brandon was an actor and martial artist. He is known for his role as Eric Draven in The Crow and died while filming the movie after an accidental shooting on set.
“Immortality is to live your life doing good things, and leaving your mark behind.”
4. Bruce Lee (1940-1973), 32
Lee Jun-fan, known professionally as Bruce Lee, was a martial artist, actor, filmmaker and pop culture icon of the 20th century. Often he is credited for helping change the way Asians are portrayed in American films, and he influenced martial arts and martial arts movies across the world. Bruce Lee died of cerebral edema, which is swelling from an excess accumulation of fluid in the brain.
“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.”
“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
5. Cory Monteith (1982-2013), 31
Before he landed the role of Finn Hudson on the hit television series Glee, Cory Monteith made guest appearances in television serials Smallville, Supernatural, Flash Gordon, Stargate Atlantis and Stargate SG-1. He also had a recurring role on Kyle XY. Cory Monteith’s drug abuse began when he was 13. He was seeking treatment for addiction when he died of a lethal combination of heroin and alcohol.
“I was dirt-poor. I could barely hold down a job. Eventually, though, I started getting small parts on shows like 'Smallville,' 'Supernatural'... and lots of really bad sci-fi movies. I was running around the woods in wolf contacts, covered in fake blood made out of pancake syrup, roaring.”
“I see the people in the tabloids, the ones that get bad press, who have kind of gone off the edge, and I try to study them so that I don't do that. It seems like they lost focus at some point - that's the one thing they all have in common.”
6. Florence Ballard (1943-1976), 32
She was one of the founding members of the Supremes, a Motown female vocal group during the 1960s. Ballard sang in sixteen of the group’s top forty singles, including ten #1 hits. After her struggles with depression and alcohol, Florence Ballard began drifting apart from the other group members and was released from the Motown record label in 1968. She died eight years later of cardiac arrest.
”The reason for the slow progress of the world seems to lie in a single fact. Every man is born under the yoke, and grows up beneath the oppressions of his age.”
7. Heath Ledger, 28
Australian actor Heath Ledger is well known for his roles in 10 Things I Hate About You, The Patriot, A Knight's Tale, Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight. Ledger struggled with insomnia and got walking pneumonia while filming The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, which he took medication for both. He subsequently died from a toxic combination of prescription drugs.
“If you make decisions based upon people's reactions or judgments then you make really boring choices.”
8. James Dean, 24
In his short, four year career, 1950s American actor and cultural icon James Dean became the symbol of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement. He starred in just three films: East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause and Giant. After his first movie, Dean became interested in starting an auto racing career and bought a number of cars. He raced in the Palm Springs Road Races and wanted to do the Indianapolis 500 but his schedule didn’t allow it. On his way to a racing event, he crashed into another car on the highway and died.
“Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today.”
9. Lee Thompson Young (1984-2013), 29
At the age of 10, Lee Thompson Young decided he wanted to be an actor after playing Martin Luther King, Jr. in A Night of Stars and Dreams, a play by Dwight Woods. Young was later the title character in Disney Channel teen television series The Famous Jett Jackson. He had a main role in the TNT police drama series Rizzoli & Isles and was also in Friday Night Lights and The Hills Have Eyes 2. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Young took medication for this but began to suffer from severe depression before his death. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
“It’s always a really great feeling when I talk to people who watched ‘Jett Jackson’ because we were the same age. We were all kids. I was 13 when I started working on that show, and that was part of my childhood.”
10. Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962), 36
Born Norma Jeane Mortenson, the pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe was famous for playing “dumb blonde” roles in films. Off screen, Monroe’s intellect and thirst for knowledge did not compare to the characters she portrayed. She was well read, wrote poetry, befriended intelligent people and had an IQ of 163. Monroe struggled with drug addiction and died of a barbiturate overdose. Her death was classified as a probable suicide.
“Sometimes I think it would be easier to avoid old age, to die young, but then you'd never complete your life, would you? You'd never wholly know you.”
11. Otis Redding (1941-1967), 26
Known as the “King of Soul,” Otis Redding began his musical career at 15 working for Little Richard’s backing band and regularly performed in talent shows. He used his earnings and prize money to help support his family. In 1958, he sung and drove for the Pinestoppers. After Stax Records heard him sing, he was offered a contract and became a mainstream hit. In 1967, the year he died, he sold more records than Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin combined. His musical career was abruptly cut short when he died in a plane crash.
“If you want to be a singer, you've got to concentrate on it twenty-four hours a day. You can't be a well driller, too. You've got to concentrate on the business of entertaining and writing songs. Always think different from the next person. Don't ever do a song as you heard somebody else do it.”
12. Selena Quintanilla Perez (1971-1995), 23
Called the “Tejano Madonna” for her fashion choices and “Queen of Tejano music,” Selena Quintanilla Perez is credited for bringing Tejano music -- a previously male-dominated genre -- into the mainstream market. She is considered one of the most influential Latin artists of all time. In 1995, she was murdered by her friend and former Selena Etc. boutique employee.
"If you have a dream, don't let anybody take it away and always believe that the impossible is possible."
13. Tupac Shakur (1971-1996), 25
One of the greatest, most influential rappers, Tupac’s songs addressed social ills like racism, violence and hardship in inner cities. The philosophy of his music was influenced by Shakespeare, the Black Panther Party, Black nationalism and egalitarianism. He was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting.
“I love Shakespeare. He wrote some of the rawest stories, man. I mean look at Romeo and Juliet. That's some serious ghetto shit. You got this guy Romeo from the Bloods who falls for Juliet, a female from the Crips, and everybody in both gangs are against them. So they have to sneak out and they end up dead for nothing. Real tragic stuff.”
One of the stars on this list, James Dean, has an episode dedicated to him on Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths, a Parcast Network podcast series. If you haven’t already, check out the episode and let us know what you think.
Remarkable Lives. Tragic Deaths examines the lives and tragic deaths of people who changed history and influenced pop culture.