Iconic Celebrities Who Died Too Young
Even when celebrities are just beginning their careers, fans begin to speculate the tremendous accolades and legacy their favorite performer will accomplish. So, when a star faces an untimely death, it’s difficult for people to fathom. Of course, it’s sad when any young person dies, but when that person is famous, the world collectively mourns what could have, should have, and would have been if they had more time.
Perhaps this is best epitomized by the saddest squad in Hollywood — “The 27 Club.” Made up of pop stars, rock stars, musicians, and other artists who tragically died at the age of 27. “The 27 Club” includes Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Over the last decade, that list has sadly expanded.
We often see celebrities struggling with the pressures of fame, turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, and sometimes having their lives taken away by others. Young stars are faced with impossible demands and a mixture of stress, attention, and failure that can end in disaster.
Actors, musicians, socialites, and icons are just as susceptible to tragedy, if not more than regular people. Luckily, the conversation surrounding mental health has continued to evolve, allowing musicians like Lizzo to reach out when things have gotten a little too dark.
We reflect on some of the most prevalent artists of our time, who are gone, but never forgotten.
1. Freddie Mercury
The Queen lead singer died too soon.
Freddie Mercury passed in 1991 at age 45 due to complications with AIDS just three years after he was diagnosed. The lead singer of the quintessential rock band, Queen, Mercury was known to the entire world, but incredibly private. He died just 24 hours after announcing to the world that he had tested positive for HIV/AIDS. Today, Mercury is remembered as a progenitor of rock music and his life is celebrated in the recent film, Bohemian Rhapsody.
2. Paul Walker
The actor’s death was a huge shock to the world.
It’s been 6 years since Paul Walker’s unexpected death in 2013. The Fast and Furious star who catastrophically died in a car crash was mourned by the entire cast and crew of the movie franchise in the 8th movie, The Fate of the Furious. The tribute, which was soundtracked by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s collaborative eulogy, “See You Again” was a heartbreaking moment for fans of the actor.
3. Princess Diana
This news stunned the entire world.
Princess Diana was loved and lauded across the world for her charity work and breaking down the stuffy, old-world traditions of the Royal Family. But in 1997, she died in a tragic car accident in Paris. The horrific crash also claimed the life of Dodi Al Fayed, Diana’s then rumored lover. Following her divorce from Prince Charles and her subsequent gruesome end, conspiracy theories that the Royal Family ordered the killing began to swirl and still do, to this day.
4. Marilyn Monroe
The actress, model, and sex symbol’s death is still deemed suspicious.
Most famously known for singing “Happy Birthday” at the President’s birthday celebrations in 1962, Marilyn Monroe’s sultry performance propelled rumors of a sordid affair with John. F Kennedy. But besides that, Monroe enjoyed an illustrious career, spanning 29 films. She captured the cultural consciousness with her figure, charming smile, and irreverence which made her a household name, even today. But in 1962, at the age of 36, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home surrounded by an empty bottle of pills.
5. Anna Nicole Smith
The colorful life of Anna Nicole Smith was cut short in 2007.
If you can say anything about Anna Nicole Smith, it’s that she lived one hell of a life. From marrying an 89-year-old billionaire at the age of 26 to starring in a Kanye West music video, Anna became part of the tapestry of weird pop culture. She idolized Marilyn Monroe, and surprisingly resembled her, which made the circumstances of her death all the more poignant. In 2007, at the age of 39 (just 3 years older than Marilyn was), Anna died of an accidental overdose.
6. Heath Ledger
The Australian actor passed following his most famous role.
You might have swooned after him in 10 Things I Hate About You or feared his portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, but we all marveled at the talent of Heath Ledger. The Australian actor, who was married to fellow actress, Michelle Williams, died at the age of 28, leaving everyone shocked and extremely saddened. Some speculated that his role in The Dark Knight took a toll on him, playing a part in the actor’s overdose.
7. Tupac Shakur
The hip-hop legend’s murder has never been solved.
Tupac Shakur, responsible for hits like “California Love,” “Changes,” and “Dear Mama” died at the age of 25. Entangled in a heated feud between West Coast and East Coast Rappers, his life ended from a drive-by shooting in 1996, leaving everyone shocked. At the time, hip-hop was known for gun violence, but the sudden end to Tupac’s burgeoning stardom still rocked the music industry.
One month before her death, Selena was at the height of her career at just 23. Adding to the tragedy of her passing, the Tejano superstar was killed by Yolanda Saldívar, the founder of Selena’s fan club. Over 50,000 fans came to pay their respects to Selena before her funeral.
The family also made a difficult decision to have an open casket to prove that Selena was truly gone, after rumors speculated she could still be alive, according to Biography.
9. Lisa Left Eye Lopes
One of the founding members of TLC died during the R&B trio’s peak.
Speak to anyone who was a fan of TLC in the 90s and they’ll likely gush about Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes, the maverick of TLC. The rapper was an intrinsic part of the group’s look, politics, and overriding message, preaching safe sex, HIV/AIDS awareness, as well as self-love. Left Eye’s dream was to bring something special to the rest of the world, including a documentary she was filming in Honduras. Released as The Last Days of Left Eye, the film chronicles Left Eye’s process, but it was during this time that she was embroiled in a violent car accident that claimed her life at the age of 30.
10. Steve Irwin
The “Crocodile Hunter” died doing what he loved.
Steve Irwin’s energy was contagious. His love for animal conservation was extreme, only if for how affectionately he treated menacing, teeth-baring crocodiles. While filming a scene with a stingray in 2006, Irwin’s cameraman, Justin Lyons recounted the haunting events that led to his passing. Lyons witnessed Irwin interact with and eventually get stabbed “hundreds of times” by a stingray that apparently mistook his shadow for a tiger shark’s, a stingray’s natural enemy. Irwin was just 44.
11. The Notorious B.I.G.
The Brooklyn rapper was mixed up in a violent war.
A year following Tupac’s death, his friend-turned-rival and East Coast rapper, The Notorious B.I.G. was also caught up in a drive-by shooting that claimed his life. Biggie’s death also remains a mystery. The rapper, whose hits include the ever-present “Hypnotize” grew up in the streets of Brooklyn and died in Los Angeles at the age of 24.
12. Nipsey Hussle
An activist and prominent rapper, Nipsey Hussle’s death is still fresh.
As gun violence and physical attacks subsided in the early to mid-2000s, hip-hop became more about social media feuds. So, the news of Nipsey Hussle’s death at the hand of a gunman took the entire world by surprise. Hussle was shot at least 10 times in March this year, in front of his own store where he was helping an old friend who had just been released from jail buy some new clothes.
The R&B songstress lived a tumultuous life before it ended abruptly.
Aaliyah was incredibly beautiful, tempered by an ethereal lilt that she swathed over her R&B hits with a soft whisper. Her breakout hit, “Try Again” feels oddly futuristic, despite being released almost 20 years ago. But it was just as she was beginning to establish herself as a musical force that the star’s life ended in a plane crash in 2001.
14. Edie Sedgwick
The 60s fashion icon struggled with fame and addiction.
Pop-art legend, Andy Warhol was obsessed with fame, and one of his greatest successes was model, fashion icon, and actress, Edie Sedgwick. Famous in the 60s for starring in a slew of Warhol’s films, becoming known as “The Girl of the Year” in 1965 Sedgwick became a cultural force. However, her demons became too heavy to bear and the addition of sudden fame led Edie to her untimely demise. At just 28-years-old, she died of a barbiturates overdose.
15. Amy Winehouse
Her road to fame was filled with controversy, but her death still lingers.
It’s hard to remember Amy Winehouse without humming the hook of the Mark Ronson assisted hit, “Valerie”— a joyful, upbeat bop that still sounds as fresh as the day it was released. But Amy’s personal life was marred by addiction, power struggles with her father, and an aversion to fame propelled by her treatment by tabloids. One of the most recent members of the “The 27 Club,” Amy died from alcohol poisoning in 2011.
16. Whitney Houston
A diva and vocal powerhouse, Houston’s death affected millions around the world.
The “I Will Always Love You” singer was propelled into the pop stratosphere with her gravity-defying vocal abilities and catchy salvos about love and heartbreak. But it was Whitney Houston’s highly publicized addiction to cocaine that ultimately put an end to her life. Despite vehemently denying any drug use in interviews, Houston was found unconscious in the bathtub at the Beverly Hilton. A cocktail of cocaine, marijuana, and prescription drugs had likely caused the diva’s cardiac arrest, causing her to drown in 2012.
17. Brittany Murphy
Beautiful, young, and so much to live for, Murphy passed at the age of 32.
“You’re a virgin who can’t drive,” Tai, played by the late Brittany Murphy hisses in 90s cult classic, Clueless. Moments like these made the actress a highly sought after talent, leading to roles in Girl Interrupted, Sin City, and Riding In Cars With Boys. The news of her death spread on December 20, 2009 after she collapsed suddenly in her Hollywood Hills home. The cause was deemed to be a mix of pneumonia, anemia, and a mix of legal drugs in her system.
18. Cory Monteith
The Glee star was mourned both onscreen and offscreen.
Lea Michele, one of the leading stars of Glee dated Cory Monteith both on the show and real-life. Monteith’s unforeseen death was memorialized in an episode of the show, but continued to affect his former girlfriend for years after. In 2013, the actor was found unresponsive at the Fairmont Pacific Rim hotel in Vancouver. The 31-year-old, who had previously spoken about spending time in rehab had suffered a fatal overdose of heroin and alcohol.
19. Peaches Geldof
The socialite left behind two sons and a husband.
Peaches Geldof, the daughter of singer and Live Aid founder, Bob Geldof and late TV presenter, Paula Yates died of a heroin overdose at the age of 25 in 2014. The English presenter, model, and columnist was found in the guest room of her own home by her husband, already deceased.
The EDM producer had struggled with touring, as well as alcohol abuse.
The release of Avicii’s first posthumous record TOM didn’t reveal much about the EDM’s star state of mind during his tumultuous 2018, but it did spread a necessary bit of joy to his grieving fans. The surprising news that Avicii took his own life by self-harming with a broken wine bottle troubled everyone, even outside the electronic music community. Today, his father is rallying for suicide prevention.
21. Mac Miller
The rapper’s recreational habit led to his demise.
Mac Miller was an early champion of hip-hop blogs and into his mainstream success, continued to spotlight up-and-coming rappers. The end of his relationship with Ariana Grande directly preceded his death, and affected the pop diva immensely — and still does today. Although many reports suggested his grief over the breakup led to an overdose, others insisted that Miller’s use was recreational. It was instead the insidious amount of fentanyl, which has caused an incredible number over fatal overdoses in the past year, that caused the rapper’s death. Miller was just 26 years old when he died in 2018.
22. Christina Victoria Grimmie
View this post on Instagram
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PRECIOUS ANGEL! Not a day goes by that we don’t think of you or miss you. It warms our hearts to see the tremendous impact you’re still making on this Earth through your music and videos. Your fans and the people who love you around the world give us so much strength. We love you and miss you dearly! Happy Birthday Christina Victoria Grimmie! – Bud, Tina & Marcus #CGForever
The YouTube star came face to face with an unstable fan and sadly lost her life.
Early on, Christina Grimmie had positioned her YouTube fame into widespread recognition after reaching the finals in NBC’s talent show The Voice. At 22, she began successfully touring and played a concert in Orlando, Florida which turned from a celebration into catastrophe in a matter of seconds. As Grimmie approached a fan to give him a hug, she was subsequently shot by him before he eventually turned the gun on himself. This murder-suicide was as chilling as it was incredibly sad.
23. Cameron Boyce
The Disney star’s passing is still raw.
On July 6, 2019 the Descendants actor passed away after experiencing an epileptic seizure during his sleep. At just 20-years-old fans, family, and friends have been left in utter shock following the news. Just days ago, his mother broke her silence with n Instagram post writing, “He is my compass,” alongside a black and white photo of the two of them together.