Published On: Apr 04 2012 10:16:54 AM EDTUpdated On: Feb 03 2015 02:00:00 AM EST
Click through to remember these celebrities and stars who died too early, some at the height of their careers.
Rock 'n' Roll pioneer Buddy Holly died at the age of 22 on Feb. 3, 1959, in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. His successful career lasted less than two years and produced such hits as "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," "Everyday," "Maybe Baby" and "It's So Easy."
Rock 'n' roll pioneer Ritchie Valens had a recording career that lasted all of eight months, scoring several hits, including "La Bamba," before dying at age 17 in the same plane crash that claimed Buddy Holly and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson.
Cass Elliot, known as Mama Cass and a member of The Mamas & the Papas, died in her sleep from a heart attack at the age of 32 on July 29, 1974 in London, England.
Oscar-winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman was found dead in his Manhattan apartment on Feb. 2, 2014, of a drug overdose. Authorities said Hoffman, 46, was found on the bathroom floor and that heroin and prescription medications were also discovered at the scene. The New York City medical examiner's office later ruled Hoffman's death an accident caused by "acute mixed drug intoxication, including heroin, cocaine, benzodiazepines and amphetamine." Hoffman won an Academy Award for Best Actor for the 2005 biopic "Capote" and also earned Oscar nominations for his roles in "Charlie Wilson's War," "Doubt" and "The Master." He also starred in movies such as "Twister," "Boogie Nights," "The Big Lebowski," "Almost Famous," "Mission: Impossible III," "Moneyball" and "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."
Paul Walker, who shot to fame as star of the high-octane street racing franchise "Fast & Furious," died in a fiery car crash in Southern California on Nov. 30, 2013. The 40-year-old actor was in the passenger seat of a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT driven by racing team partner Roger Rodus, who also died in the crash, that slammed into a light pole and burst into flames in an office park in the community of Valencia in Santa Clarita, about 30 miles north of Hollywood.
"Glee" star Cory Monteith was found dead in a Vancouver hotel room at the age of 31 on July 13, 2013. Three days later the British Columbia Coroners Service announced his death was caused by "a mixed drug toxicity, involving heroin and alcohol." Monteith had a history of drug use, telling Parade magazine in 2011 that he used "anything and everything, as much as possible." He entered rehab at age 19, but it took a family ultimatum after stealing money from a relative to convince him to get clean. He entered rehab again in April 2013, about three months before his death.
Actor Heath Ledger, best known for his films "The Dark Knight" and "Brokeback Mountain," died from an accidental prescription drug overdose on Jan. 22, 2008, at age 28. The Australia-born actor earned a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of The Joker in "The Dark Knight."
The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 on July 3, 1971. Before his rise to fame, Morrison attended UCLA, where he was enrolled in the film program.
Guitar hero Jimi Hendrix also died when he was 27. He was found dead in a London flat on Sept. 18, 1970, with an inquest later concluding that he had aspirated his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates.
Just 16 days after Hendrix's death, on Oct. 4, 1970, strong-voiced Janis Joplin also died at age 27. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
Former Beatle John Lennon was 40 when Mark David Chapman shot him in the back four times on Dec. 8, 1980, as Lennon and wife Yoko Ono returned to their New York City apartment. Lennon was taken to the emergency room of the nearby Roosevelt Hospital and was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:07 p.m.
Amy Winehouse, who won five Grammys for her 2006 album "Back to Black," was found dead on July, 23, 2011, at her home in London. A coroner later ruled the 27-year-old's cause of death to be alcohol poisoning.
Actor James Dean's short-lived career ended with his death in a car crash near Cholame, California, at age 24 on Sept. 30, 1955. He is best known for his starring role in "Rebel Without a Cause," in which he personified the restless American youth of the mid-50's. His acting career only lasted a little over a year, but his three films and tragic car crash death made him an American legend.
Fate wasn't kind to either of Dean's "Rebel" co-stars, including Natalie Wood, who died by accidental drowning while on a weekend trip to Santa Catalina Island at the age of 43 on Nov. 29, 1981.
Sal Mineo, another star of "Rebel Without a Cause," was stabbed to death in the alley behind his apartment building in West Hollywood on Feb. 12, 1976. He was 37 years old.
Actress, model, showgirl, and sex symbol Marilyn Monroe died from an overdose of barbiturates at age 36 on Aug. 5, 1962. The photogenic actress made only 30 films in her lifetime, but still became a cultural icon and was nicknamed "The Blonde Bombshell." She was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute in 1999.
Country legend Hank Williams, whose best-known songs include "Lovesick Blues," "Honky Tonkin'" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," died suddenly in the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1953, at the age of 29 from heart failure brought on by pills and alcohol. He was riding in the backseat of a Cadillac somewhere in Virginia or West Virginia on the way to a New Year's Day show in Canton, Ohio, when he died.
Country singer Patsy Cline was 30 years old and at the peak of her fame when she died in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, on March 5, 1963, along with her manager Randy Hughes and long-time country musicians Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas.
Actress and 1950s-era sex symbol Jayne Mansfield was 34 when she died in a June 29, 1967, automobile accident in Louisiana that also killed her boyfriend and the driver of the car. Three of her children, including future actress Mariska Hargitay, who was 3 years old at the time, were also in the car but escaped with minor injuries.
Bon Scott, the original lead singer for AC/DC, died from choking on his own vomit at the age of 33 in London, England, on Feb. 19, 1980. Scott had passed out after a night of drinking and had been left to sleep in a car owned by an acquaintance. The following morning he was found lifeless in the vehicle. The official cause of death was later listed as "acute alcohol poisoning" and "death by misadventure." While AC/DC considered breaking up after Scott's death, they instead recruited new singer Brian Johnson and released the album "Back in Black" as a tribute to Scott five months after his death.
Country singer-songwriter Gram Parsons, who also recorded with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers, died of a drug overdose on Sept. 19, 1973, in a hotel room in Joshua Tree, California, at the age of 26. Seeking to fulfill Parson's wish to be cremated and spread over Joshua Tree National Monument, close friend Phil Kaufman later stole Parson's body from the Los Angeles International Airport with the help of a friend and set his remains on fire in the park. Since there was no law against stealing a dead body, the pair were only fined $750 for stealing the coffin.
Three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, lead singer Ronnie Van Zant (third from left), guitarist Steve Gaines (seated, second from right) and backup singer Cassie Gaines, were killed along with three others in a plane crash in Gillsburg, Mississippi, on Oct. 20, 1977. Van Zant was 29, Steve Gaines was 28 and Cassie Gaines was 29.
Singer Andy Gibb, the younger brother of Bee Gees Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, died at age 30 on March 10, 1988, in Oxford, England, as a result of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a viral infection that was exacerbated by years of cocaine abuse. In a one-year period between July 30, 1977, and July 29, 1978, he became the first male solo artist to have three consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with "I Just Want to Be Your Everything," "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" and "Shadow Dancing."
Singer and drummer Karen Carpenter, one half of the pop duo group The Carpenters with her brother Richard, died of heart failure on Feb. 4, 1983, at the age of 32 in Downey, California. Carpenter's death, which was related to complications caused by the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, led to increased visibility and awareness of eating disorders.
Punk rocker Sid Vicious died at age 21 on Feb. 2, 1979, from a heroin overdose. In 1977 he joined the Sex Pistols, the band that initiated the punk movement in the U.K. Vicious was the bass player, and he became known for his charisma and wild antics on and off stage.
Actor Bruce Lee died from an allergic reaction to a painkiller on July 20, 1973, at age 32. He is considered the greatest icon of martial arts cinema, and is known for his roles in "Enter the Dragon" and "Fists of Fury," among others. Raised in Hong Kong, Lee came to America at age 18 and made a career teaching martial arts before he became an actor.
R&B singer Sam Cooke, whose hits included "Cupid," "You Send Me" and "Twistin' the Night Away," was shot and killed on Dec. 11, 1964, at the age of 33.
Actor, comedian and musician John Belushi died from a drug overdose at age 33 on March 5, 1982. He was well known for his acting roles in "The Blues Brothers" and "Animal House," and was a regular on the sketch comedy show "Saturday Night Live."
Actor Brandon Lee was 28 years old when he died in an accidental shooting during filming of his movie "The Crow" on March 31, 1993. He was best known for being the son of actor Bruce Lee, but was on the road to making a name for himself as an actor. He signed a deal with 20th Century Fox in 1991 and landed his first starring role in 1992 in "Rapid Fire."
River Phoenix, the older brother of actor Joaquin Phoenix, collapsed and died of drug-induced heart failure on the sidewalk outside the West Hollywood nightclub The Viper Room at age 23 on Oct. 31, 1993. He began acting at age 10, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as Danny in "Running on Empty" in 1988.
Kurt Cobain, lead singer and guitarist for Nirvana, committed suicide on April 5, 1994, at age 27. The band's breakthrough came in 1991 when they released the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Rockabilly singer-songwriter and musician Eddie Cochran, the rock 'n' roll pioneer whose hit songs included "Summertime Blues," "C'mon Everybody" and "Somethin' Else," died on April 17, 1960, at age 21 of severe head injuries the day after being in a road accident in England in which he was thrown from a taxi. Cochran was riding in the backseat of the car along with his fiancée, songwriter Sharon Sheeley, and fellow singer Gene Vincent, when their speeding taxi blew a tire while traveling on a highway. The taxi lost control and crashed into a lamp post. Sheeley, Vincent and the taxi driver, George Martin, survived the accident, although Vincent suffered lasting injuries to his leg.
More than a decade after suriving the car crash that killed Eddie Cochran, fellow rockabilly pioneer Gene Vincent, best remembered for his 1956 top 10 hit "Be-Bop-A-Lula," died at the age of 36 on Oct. 12, 1971, from a ruptured stomach ulcer while visiting his father in California.
Singer Florence Ballard, one of the founding members of the Motown group The Supremes, died Feb. 22, 1976, at age 32 in Detroit, Michigan, from cardiac arrest caused by a blood clot in one of her coronary arteries. She sang on 16 top 40 singles with The Supremes, including 10 No. 1 hits, before Motown founder Berry Gordy removed her from the group in 1967. Ballard was posthumously inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Supremes in 1988.
Rapper Tupac Shakur died on Sept. 13, 1996, at age 25 after being shot four times six days earlier in Las Vegas. In addition to his rapping career, Shakur did some acting. His greatest hits album sold over 10 million copies in the U.S.
New York rapper Chris Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G., was 24 years old when he was gunned down by an unknown assailant in a Los Angeles drive-by shooting on March 9, 1997. Two of his albums were released after his death, and the rapper was ranked No. 3 on MTV's "Greatest MC's of All Time" list.
Popular comedian and actor Chris Farley was known for his skits on "Saturday Night Live," as well as his film roles, especially "Tommy Boy." He died from a drug overdose at age 33 on Dec. 18, 1997.
Comedian and actress Gilda Radner, best known as one of the original cast members of the sketch comedy show "Saturday Night Live," died of ovarian cancer on May 20, 1989, at the age of 42 in Los Angeles. While on "Saturday Night Live," Radner created recurring characters such as obnoxious personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna, the Barbara Walters parody "Baba Wawa," and Emily Litella, an elderly hearing-impaired woman who gave angry and misinformed editorial replies on the "Weekend Update" segment. She met actor Gene Wilder while filming the 1982 comedy "Hanky Panky" and the two were later married. She also starred with Wilder in the movies "The Woman in Red" and "Haunted Honeymoon" (pictured), her last role prior to her death.
Shannon Hoon, the frontman and lead singer of the band Blind Melon, died Oct. 21, 1995, of a cocaine overdose at age 28 in New Orleans.
R&B and soul legend Otis Redding was only 26 when his plane crashed into Lake Monona in Madison, Wisconsin, on Dec. 10, 1967.
Ricky Nelson, the teen idol who rose to fame thanks to his role along with his family on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," died when his private plane made an emergency landing and hit some trees near De Kalb, Texas, on Dec. 31, 1985. Nelson, who was one of seven killed in the incident, was 45 at the time.
Popular R&B artist Aaliyah died on Aug. 25, 2001, at age 22 in a plane crash in the Bahamas. She was also an actress and a model. At age 10 she performed on the TV show "Star Search," and signed a record deal at age 12.
Mexican-American singer Selena, who was called "The Queen of Tejano music," was murdered by her fan club president in 1995. She was 23.
Michael Jackson was preparing for a worldwide comeback tour when he died in June 2009 at age 50.
Whitney Houston, seen here in "The Bodyguard," died at the Beverly Hilton hotel on the eve of the Grammys on Feb. 11, 2012. She was 48. The coroner later named the cause of death as drowning due to atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.
Iconic singer and actor Elvis Presley was found dead at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1977. He was 42.
On April 1, 1984, soul music legend Marvin Gaye was shot dead by his father after he intervened in an argument between his parents over misplaced business documents. Gaye was 44 when he died.
"Diff'rent Strokes" actor Gary Coleman had many health issues over his life, including congenital autoimmune kidney disease, heart surgery and two seizures. He died on May 28, 2010, at the age of 42, two days after falling down the stairs at his home, possibly after another seizure.
"Saturday Night Live" funnyman Phil Hartman was shot and killed by his wife on May 28, 1998, while he slept in their Encino, California, home. His wife committed suicide several hours later. Hartman was 49 when he died.
Steve Irwin, better known as "The Crocodile Hunter," died at age 44 on Sept. 4, 2006, after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film at the Great Barrier Reef. He's seen here in the 2002 movie "The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course."
"Wizard of Oz" star Judy Garland had a long struggle with alcohol and drug use during most of her career, dying of an accidental drug overdose at the age of 47 on June 22, 1969.
Andy Kaufman became a mainstream success thanks to his role of Latka on the sitcom "Taxi." Diagnosed in late 1983 with a rare form of lung cancer, Kaufman died at age 35 on May 16, 1984, in a Los Angeles hospital. The cause of death was kidney failure, caused by metastasized large cell carcinoma.
Actor Brad Renfro, who made his film debut at the age of 11 in the lead role of "The Client," died of heroin overdose on Jan. 15, 2008, at the age of 25 in Los Angeles. Renfro, seen here in a 2000 mugshot following an arrest in Florida, also appeared in movies such as "Sleepers," "Apt Pupil" and "Deuces Wild."
Corey Haim rose to fame along with Corey Feldman in the 1980s. Although he was troubled by drug addiction throughout his later career, the Los Angeles County coroner's office ruled that his death at age 38 on March 10, 2010, was due to pneumonia.
Singer-songwriter Jim Croce, known for such songs as "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle," died along with five others in a plane crash in Natchitoches, Louisiana, on Sept. 20, 1973. Croce was 30.
Country singer Jim Reeves died on July 31, 1964, at age 40 when his single-engine Beechcraft crashed near Nashville, Tennessee. Some of Reeves' best known hits include "Four Walls," "He'll Have to Go," "Billy Bayou" and "Welcome to My World."
John Ritter, who became famous thanks to his "Three's Company" role, fell ill while on the set of his sitcom "8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter" on Sept. 11, 2003. Ritter died later that evening, at 54 years old, from an aortic dissection caused by a previously undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, one-third of the group TLC, died of neck injuries and severe head trauma following a car accident in Honduras on April 25, 2002. Lopes was 30 years old when she died.
Blues rock guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was 35 when, on Aug. 27, 1990, he died when the helicopter he was riding crashed into the side of a ski hill after leaving a concert in East Troy, Wisconsin.
Jimmie Rodgers, one of the first country music superstars and pioneers, died May 26, 1933, from a pulmonary hemorrhage at age 35 in New York City. Rodgers, whose hits included "Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)," "Blue Yodel No. 9," "In the Jailhouse Now," "No Hard Times" and "T.B. Blues," was also known as "The Singing Brakeman," "The Blue Yodeler" and "The Father of Country Music." He began performing in his early teens before working on the railroad as a water boy and brakeman, but his railroad career was cut short when he contracted tuberculosis at age 27. When the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum was established in 1961, Rodgers was one of the first three inductees.
Bernie Mac, the comedic actor known for roles in "Ocean's Eleven," "Mr. 3000" and "The Bernie Mac Show," died at the age of 50 on Aug. 9, 2008, from sarcoidosis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in tissue, complicated by pneumonia.
Queen frontman Freddie Mercury was 45 when he died of bronchopneumonia brought on by AIDS on Nov. 24, 1991, only one day after publicly acknowledging he had the disease.
John Candy, known best for comic roles in movies such as "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" and "Uncle Buck," died in his sleep after suffering a heart attack on March 4, 1994, while on location filming "Wagons East!" He was 43 years old.
Singer and actor Bobby Darin, a 1950s teen idol best known for the songs "Splish Splash," "Dream Lover", "Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea," died at age 37 on Dec. 20, 1973, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after undergoing surgery to repair two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971.
Singer-songwriter and guitarist Jeff Buckley drowned on May 29, 1997, at the age of 30 during an impromptu, fully clothed night swim in the Wolf River in Memphis, Tennessee. Buckley released only one studio album, 1994's "Grace," during his lifetime, but much more material has been released posthumously, including his hit cover of Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah."
Singer and musician Nat King Cole, known for his soft, baritone voice, which he used to perform in big band and jazz genres, died of lung cancer on Feb. 15, 1965, at the age of 49 in Santa Monica, California. Some of Cole's best known songs include "Unforgettable," "Straighten Up and Fly Right," "The Christmas Song," "Nature Boy," "Mona Lisa," "Too Young" and "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer."
Singer-songwriter Minnie Riperton, best known for her 1975 No. 1 hit single "Lovin' You," died July 12, 1979, of breast cancer at age 31 in Los Angeles.
Actress Brittany Murphy, best known for her role in the 1995 comedy "Clueless," died at age 32 after collapsing in her Los Angeles home on Dec. 20, 2009. The Los Angeles County coroner later ruled that the primary cause of Murphy's death was pneumonia, with secondary factors of iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication of over-the-counter and prescription medications.
British singer-songwriter and musician Nick Drake died from a prescription drug overdose at the age of 26 in England on Nov. 25, 1974. Whether his death was an accident or suicide has never been resolved. Drake failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime but his work has gained achieved wider notice and recognition since his death. He's seen here on the cover of his 1970 album "Bryter Layter."
Country singer Johnny Horton, whose best-known songs include "The Battle of New Orleans" and "North to Alaska," died at age 35 in a car crash in Milano, Texas, on Nov. 5, 1960.
Singer-songwriter Frankie Lymon (second from left), best known as the boy soprano lead singer of a New York City-based early rock 'n' roll group The Teenagers, died Feb. 27, 1968, from a heroin overdose at the age of 25 in Harlem, New York. The Teenagers' first single, 1956's "Why Do Fools Fall in Love," was also their biggest hit.
Mary Wells, one of Motown's first singing superstars best known for songs such as "My Guy," "You Beat Me to the Punch" and "Two Lovers," died July 26, 1992, of throat cancer at age 49 in Los Angeles.
Actor John Cazale died of bone cancer on March 12, 1978, at the age of 42 in New York City. During his six-year film career, Cazale appeared in five films, "The Godfather," "The Conversation," "The Godfather Part II," "Dog Day Afternoon" (pictured) and "The Deer Hunter," all of which earned Academy Award nominations for Best Picture.
Actor John Garfield, known for movies such as "Four Daughters," "They Made Me a Criminal," "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Gentleman's Agreement," died May 21, 1952, of a heart attack at the age of 39 in New York City. Garfield earned Academy Award nominations for his performances in "Four Daughters" and "Body and Soul" and was known for playing brooding, rebellious, working-class characters and his method acting. Called to testify before the U.S. Congressional House Committee on Un-American Activities in the late 1940s, he denied Communist affiliation and refused to "name names," effectively ending his film career.
Actress Jean Harlow, who became a 1930s sex symbol and is considered among the greatest movie stars despite her short career, died of kidney failure at age 26 in Los Angeles on June 7, 1937. Harlow's first major role was a starring turn in the Howard Hughes-directed "Hell's Angels" in 1930. She went on to star in a string of hit films as a leading lady for MGM, including "Red Dust," "Dinner at Eight," "Reckless" and "Suzy."
Actress and Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith died at age 39 on Feb. 8, 2007, in a Hollywood, Florida, hotel room as a result of an overdose of prescription drugs.
Ryan Dunn, a star of MTV's "Jackass," and member of the "Viva La Bam" crew, died in a car crash at age 34 on June 20, 2011. The Ohio-born actor was best known for his stunts on the show, including crashing golf carts and other gags with co-star Johnny Knoxville.