December 22, 2023 | Jamie Hayes

Facts About People Who Lost Their Lives Young


“It’s better to burn out than to fade away”. —Neil Young

Whether or not you agree with Young’s words, it’s hard to deny that a lot of famous people seem to perish young. However short their life spans, these actors, writers, musicians, and leaders all managed to make their mark on history in a big way.


43. King Tut

Born c. 1341 BCE, passed c. 1323 BCE, age 19.

King Tutankhamun was a pharaoh in the 18th Egyptian dynasty more than 3,000 years ago. His tomb was found by archaeologists in 1922, and since then he’s become one of the most famous ancient Egyptian kings. However, his reign didn’t last long: He passed at 19 years old. From what we know, the cause of demise was likely an infected leg.

died young

42. Alexander the Great

Born July 20, 356 BCE, passed June 13, 323 BCE, age 32.

Known as one of the greatest army leaders in human history, Alexander of Macedonia led his armies across Persia on a campaign that lasted over a decade. He was never defeated in battle, and the empire he created was the largest that the world had ever seen at that time. However, his life of unending conquest and battle took its toll: He passed of malaria at age 32.

Screenshot of Alexander The Great looking upset - from Alexander the Great (2014)Gruppe 5, Alexander the Great (2014)

41. Caligula

Born August 31, 12 AD, passed January 24, 41 AD, age 28.

Emperor of Rome for a little over three years, Caligula (real name Gaius Caesar) was known as one of the Empire’s more cruel leaders. He eliminated political rivals and forced parents to watch their own sons be executed. Eventually, he declared himself to be a god, and the people of Rome had had enough. He was liquidated by a group of guards in 41 AD well before his 29th birthday.

Mad MonarchsWikimedia.Commons

40. Joan of Arc

Born c. 1412, passed May 30, 1431, age 19.

Jeanne D’Arc, or “The Maid of Orléans,” was a young French woman who, after having visions of God, helped lead the French to victory over the English at Orléans during the Hundred Years Conflict. Captured by the English a year later, she was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.

 Joan of Arc FactsWikimedia Commons

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39. Christopher Marlowe

Baptized February 26, 1564, passed May 30, 1593, age 29.

Though he’s second fiddle to Shakespeare today, in his time, Christopher Marlowe was a hugely successful and influential playwright. His play The Tragicall History of Doctor Faustus was by far his most popular and enduring. He was liquidated in 1593 in a fight with three men over the bill at an inn.

Sir Walter Raleigh factsGetty Images

38. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Born January 27, 1756, passed December 5, 1791, age 35.

The name Mozart is up there with names like Einstein and Michelangelo as someone who represents the very peak of their field. But while his career was successful and prolific, it didn’t last long. In his early thirties, his mental and physical health began deteriorating, and he perished at age 35 of uncertain causes.

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart looking at side - 1899Internet Archive Book Images, Wikimedia Commons

37. John Keats

Born October 31, 1795, passed February 23, 1821, age 25.

British poet John Keats’ poetry was met with a lukewarm response in his lifetime, but has since become revered for its imagery and philosophy. Keats contracted tuberculosis in 1819, and passed just two years later.

People Who Died Young factsImage credit

36. Emily Brontë

Born July 30, 1818, passed December 19, 1848, age 30.

One of the Brontë sisters, along with Charlotte and Anne, Emily was made famous by her novel Wuthering Heights, which is still considered a classic of English literature. It would be her only successful work before she passed of tuberculosis in 1848.

Emily Bronte Facts3) BRONTES OF HAWORTH (Part 3), Dale J

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35. Billy the Kid

Born November 23, 1859, passed July 14, 1881, age 21.

An icon of the Old West, Billy the Kid was an infamous outlaw and gunfighter. Born in New York City, he headed west at a young age and began his career of brutality and bloodshed. He was said to have liquidated 21 men, one for each year of his life. He was hunted down and shot by Sheriff Patrick Garrett in 1881.

Billy Joel FactsWikipedia

34. Stephen Crane

Born November 1, 1871, passed June 5, 1900, age 28.

Though less popular today, Crane’s work in literary realism was hugely popular and influential in his time. His novels The Red Badge of Courage and Maggie: A Girl of the Streets are both considered to be classics. He passed of tuberculosis in 1900.

Stephen CraneUnknown Author, Wikimedia Commons

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33 and 32. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker

Born March 24, 1909 and October 1, 1910, respectively, passed May 23, 1934, age 25 and 24, respectively.

Bonnie and Clyde were a famous bandits couple who operated at the height of the Great Depression. Through newspaper coverage and a Hollywood movie, they’ve become known as folk heroes, but during their spree they ended the lives of at least 13 people. Eventually, they were betrayed by a friend and liquidated in a shootout with law enforcement in 1934.

Bonnie and Clyde factsWikipedia

31. James Dean

Born February 8, 1931, passed September 30, 1955, age 24.

Dean is the embodiment of the phrase “Live fast and pass young". He is credited in only three films, East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, but in a short span, Dean became a cultural icon and a symbol for 1950s youth. He passed in a car crash in 1955.

Cropped screenshot of James Dean in the trailer for the film East of EdenTrailer screenshot, Wikimedia Commons

30. Buddy Holly

Born September 7, 1936, passed February 3, 1959, age 22.

If you like rock and roll in any of its forms, Buddy Holly might be to thank. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan were all influenced by his music. His career was cut short, though, when he and two other young musicians were lost in a plane crash on February 3rd, 1959, an event that would go down as “The Day the Music Perished” in Don McLean’s hit song “American Pie".

Buddy Holly FactsWikimedia Commons

29. The Big Bopper

Born October 24, 1930, passed February 3, 1959, age 28.

J.P. Richardson Jr., known as "The Big Bopper," was a former DJ who recorded songs in his spare time. His hit single “Chantilly Lace” brought him fame but he passed shortly afterwards in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly.

George Jones FactsWikimedia Commons

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28. Ritchie Valens

Born, May 13, 1941, passed February 3rd, 1959, age 17.

Another young star taken too soon on “The Day the Music Perished ". The first hispanic rock star, Valens quit high school at 16 years old to tour as a rock musician. Valens was just 17 when he passed along with Holly and The Big Bopper.

People Who Died Young facts

27. Stuart Sutcliffe

Born June 23, 1940, passed April 10, 1962, age 21.

Sometimes called “The Fifth Beatle,” Sutcliffe was a close friend of John Lennon’s and the original bass player for the group. However, he would leave the band in 1961, never even recording in studio with them and seeing none of their success. He passed from a cerebral hemorrhage in 1962, before the Beatles had even charted a single hit.

People Who Died Young factsFlickr

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26. Marilyn Monroe

Born June 1, 1926, lost her life at August 5, 1962, age 36.

In her lifetime, Monroe was one of the biggest stars in the world, and she’s still considered a beauty symbol today. She starred in films such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot, and had high-profile marriages with baseball legend Joe DiMaggio and playwright Arthur Miller. Monroe passed of a drug surplus in 1962. According to the coroner’s report, Marilyn Monroe overdosed on at least 40 Nembutal pills, but there wasn't a single pill found in Marilyn's stomach. The coroner explained that this was likely because she was an addict, and as such, her body would have digested the pills faster. This explanation hasn't satisfied conspiracy theorists who maintain the there was foul play.

People Who Died Young QuizGetty Images

25. Sylvia Plath

Born October 27, 1932, passed February 11, 1963, age 30.

Plath’s novel The Bell Jar  and her poetry collections The Colossus and Ariel are all still popular today, and her Collected Poems won a Pulitzer Prize in 1982. Plath is also remembered for her troubled marriage to poet Ted Hughes and her struggles with depression; she took her own life in 1963.

Sylvia Plath FactsGetty Images

24. Brian Epstein

Born September 19, 1934, passed August 27, 1967, age 32.

Stu Sutcliffe and many other people were called “The Fifth Beatle” over the years, but Paul McCartney himself said “If anyone was the fifth Beatle, it was Brian". The band’s manager, Epstein influenced the Fab Four in terms of dress and performance, and played a major role in their meteoric success. In 1966, the Beatles retired from live performances, and Epstein’s influence waned. He passed from a drug misuse a year later.

People Who Died Young factsWikipedia

23. Otis Redding

Born September 9, 1941, passed December 10, 1967, age 26.

Known as the King of Southern Soul, Otis Redding was an early legend of rock and roll, popular with both black and white audiences. He passed in a plane crash, along with four members of his backup band, in 1967.

Olivia Wilde factsWikimedia Commons, Volt Records

22. Yuri Gagarin

Born March 9, 1934, passes March 27, 1968, age 34.

Gagarin was the Russian cosmonaut who famously became the first person to travel to space in 1961. His flight lasted just 108 minutes, and he travelled around the Earth at 27,400 kilometers per hour. He passed in 1968 in a plane crash before he could return to space again.

Coolest Lines in History factsGetty Images

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21. Bruce Lee

Born November 27, 1940, passed July 20, 1973, age 32.

Maybe the most popular martial artist ever, Lee brought Chinese martial arts to Hollywood cinema with movies like Fists of Fury and Enter the Dragon. Lee passed in 1973 from an unexpected reaction to pain killers.

Kung Fu Movies factsWikimedia Commons

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20. Nick Drake

Born June 19, 1948, passed November 25, 1974, age 26.

Almost entirely unknown in his lifetime, Nick Drake’s music has since become beloved by fans all over the world. Unfortunately, Drake never lived to see his music appreciated. He passed from a surplus of his antidepressants in 1974, which most people believe to have been self-inflicted.

People Who Died Young facts

19. Sid Vicious

Born May 10, 1957, passed February 2, 1979, age 21.

The SP were one of the world’s first and most influential punk rock bands. Perhaps nobody embodied the band more than Vicious, their troubled bass player. In late 1978, his girlfriend Nancy Spungen was found gone of a stab wound on the floor of their hotel room. Vicious, in a drug-fueled haze, at times said he couldn’t remember what happened, and at others confessed to liquidating her. Though released on bail shortly after, he entered a downward spiral, and was found gone from a drug misuse a few months later.

Punk Music FactsGetty Images

18. Ian Curtis

Born July 15, 1956, passed May 18, 1980, age 23.

The lead singer and songwriter of the band Joy Division, Curtis’ music was dark, moody, and likely inspired in part by the intense depression Curtis suffered from his entire life. He took his own life by hanging in 1980. His story was dramatized in the 2007 movie Control.

Tragic Lives Of Musicians FactsFlickr , Maia Valenzuela

17. Bob Marley

Born February 6, 1945, passed May 11, 1981, age 36.

Undoubtedly the world’s most influential reggae musician, Bob Marley’s music is still hugely popular world wide. He helped introduce the world to the genre, and was perhaps the first international superstar to come from outside the developed world. He passed of cancer in 1981 at just 36 years old.

Bob Marley FactsFlickr, monosnaps

16. Terry Fox

Born July 28, 1958, pased June 28, 1981, age 22.

Diagnosed with cancer at age 18, Fox had his right leg amputated as a result. He was then inspired to undertake his “Marathon of Hope,” in which he would run, artificial leg and all, from one side of Canada to the other to raise money for cancer research. He made it thousands of miles, but unfortunately before he could make it through the province of Ontario, his cancer returned and he was forced to stop. He passed in hospital a little over a year later, and has since become a Canadian national hero.

Terry Fox FactsGetty Images

15. Brandon Lee

Born February 1, 1965, passed March 31, 1993, age 28.

The son of Bruce Lee, Brandon became an actor like his father, starring in kung fu films like Legacy of Rage and Kung Fu: The Movie. In 1993, he was cast in the film adaptation The Crow comic booksand during filming he was meant to be shot at by a piece with blanks. However, due to a complication with the prop piece, Lee was accidentally shot with a slug. He passed from his injuries shortly after.

Brandon Lee FactsGetty Images

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14. River Phoenix

Born August 23, 1970, passed October 31, 1993, age 23.

Older brother to Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix was a teen idol whose roles ranged from the troubled Chris Chambers in Stand By Me to young Indy in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He passed from a drug misuse outside the famous Viper Room in West Hollywood in 1993.

Christian Slater FactsWikimedia Commons, Alan Light

13. Tupac Shakur

Born June 16, 1971, passed September 13, 1996, age 25.

Tupac was one of biggest names in the gangsta rap scene of the nineties. He was closely involved in gangs in his early life, which inspired his music but which also created tensions for him as his fame grew. He was shot and liquidated by an unknown person in 1996, likely because of the growing East Coast/West Coast rap feud.

Tupac Shakur FactsPoetic Justice(1993), Columbia Pictures

12. The Notorious B.I.G.

Born May 21, 1972, passed March 9, 1997, age 24.

If Tupac was the face of West Coast gangsta rap, Biggie was the same for the East Coast. He was discovered by Puff Daddy in the early nineties, and would go on to record some of the most popular rap music ever created. He was liquidated in 1997 by another unknown gunman, potentially again in connection to the East Coast/West Coast feud.

The Notorious B.I.G., Madame Tussauds NY - 2017Anton_Ivanov, Shutterstock

11. Princess Diana

Born July 1, 1961, passed August 31, 1997, age 36.

The mother of Prince William and Prince Harry and the onetime wife of Prince Charles, Princess Diana was a hugely popular figure in the British Commonwealth in her lifetime, and was known for her humanitarian efforts. Her divorce from Prince Charles in 1996 shocked the world but she remained popular. She passed in a car crash, along with her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, in 1997. Twenty years after the fatal car crash, a firefighter named Xavier Gourmelon revealed Princess Diana's last words, spoken before she as she was pulled from the wreckage: "My God, what's happened?" She suffered cardiac arrest shortly after being loaded onto a stretcher. She was resuscitated, but passed later in hospital of her injuries.

The same firefighter also spoke about how how Diana's bodyguard, Trevor Rees-Jones, tried to reach the princess from the front seat of the car, but his substantial injuries prevented him from doing so.  "He kept asking for the princess, saying, 'Where is she? Where is she?'" Xavier said. "But my team told him to keep calm and not speak. I told him that none of my men spoke English so it was better for him to keep still and not move. I told him not to worry we were looking after everyone".

Princess Diana FactsGetty Images

10. Aaliyah

Born January 16, 1979, passed August 25, 2001, age 22.

Aaliyah became a star early in her life, signing a recording contract at age 12 and releasing her first hit album at age 15. She was gone in a plane crash at 22 years old, just shortly after she had starred in her first film and released her third album.

Aaliyah FactsShutterstock

9. Heath Ledger

Born April 4, 1979, passed January 22, 2008, age 28.

Beginning his career with movies like 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knights Tale, Ledger quickly became known as a talented actor. He was nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for his role in Brokeback Mountain, becoming one of the youngest people ever nominated for the award. Shortly after portraying the Joker in The Dark Knight, Ledger passed from an accidental drug misuse. He would posthumously receive the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for the role.

Heath Ledger in black jacket and a hat looking at the cameraDenis Makarenko, Shutterstock

The “27 Club”

You might have noticed there were a few names missing from this list. Well, here’s a special section devoted to the unfortunate members of the 27 Club, the surprisingly long list of incredible people who all happened to passe at age 27.

8. Robert Johnson

Born May 8, 1911, passed August 16, 1938, age 27.

You maybe haven’t heard of Robert Johnson, perhaps the greatest blues guitarist of all time, but you’ve definitely heard his story. Johnson was a hugely influential early blues musician who was said to have sold his soul to the devil to learn how to play the guitar. At age 27, Johnson was poisoned and passed a few days later, and was one of the first famous musicians to join the infamous “27 Club".

People Who Died Young facts

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7. Jimi Hendrix

Born November 27, 1942, passed September 18, 1970, age 27.

Jimi Hendrix is widely considered one of, if not the, greatest and most influential guitarists of all time. He was entirely self taught. In his short career, he had an enormous effect on rock music. He passed in 1970 from drug-related causes.

Miles Davis factsWikimedia Commons, Hannu Lindroos / Lehtikuva

6. Janis Joplin

Born, January 19, 1943, passed October 4, 1970, age 27.

Janis Joplin’s powerful voice echoed throughout rock and roll in the late sixties. She released iconic singles like “Piece of My Heart” and “Me and Bobby McGee” before tragically dying from a drug misuse in 1970.

Jim MorrisonWikipedia

5. Jim Morrison

Born December 8, 1943, passed July 3, 1971, age 27.

Jim Morrison was the lead singer of The Doors. Morrison's reputation for songwriting was only rivaled by his reputation as a seduser. In 1971, he left the band and moved to Paris to write poetry. He was found gone his bathtub shortly after from what is believed to be heart failure related to his substance misuse problems.

Jim MorrisonGetty Images

4. Jean-Michel Basquiat

Born December 22, 1960, passed August 12, 1988, age 27.

Beginning as a street artist who made graffiti under the name SAMO, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art would eventually become world-renowned. As he became more popular, he began to struggle more and more with drug use. He passed of a substance misuse in 1988.

Jean-Michel Basquiat FactsGetty Images

3. Kurt Cobain

Born February 20, 1967, passed April 5, 1994, age 27.

As the lead singer and songwriter for Nirvana, Kurt Cobain pioneered grunge music, creating extremely unique and influential music in the early nineties. The albums Nevermind and In Utero enjoy popularity and acclaim to this day. However, Cobain struggled with depression and anxiety his entire life, and struggled to deal with the fame that his music brought. He took his own life in 1994.

Kurt Cobain factsGetty Images

2. Amy Winehouse

Born September 14, 1983, passed July 23, 2011, age 27.

Amy Winehouse’s music was a mix of jazz, blues, soul, R&B and many others. Sadly, though, her amazing talents were often overshadowed by her personal life, which was filled with addiction and erratic behavior. She passsed of accidental substance and booze misuse in 2011.

People Who Died Young factsGetty Images

1. Anton Yelchin

Born March 11, 1989, passed June 19, 2016, age 27.

Yelchin was an actor and musician who starred in films like Alpha Dog and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He passed in 2016 when his parked car rolled down his steep driveway and pinned him against a security fence, making him the latest tragic member of the 27 club.

People Who Died Young QuizGetty Images

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