People who live fast die younger
People who live fast die younger, as light that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Stars such as Kurt Cobain, are more likely to die young, according to new research. The deaths of Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison still fodder for books and films decades later. The price of fame equated to up to seven and a half years of life. Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix and more did not realize their potential. Fame really does have a price, research shows. Young people considering chasing fame may face early death. Another recent analysis of rock and pop stars found that many of those who died young had been abused when young. The British researchers said that the trappings of a rock and roll lifestyle may be especially attractive to those who have had an unhappy childhood. Dying young is truly tragic, but at least these people made their mark on society before checking out early. Below is the list of famous people who died before the age of 30.
James Dean, Actor. Died in 1955, at age 24, in a car crash. He seemed marked for an early death. Maybe it’s the vulnerable look—the arched eyebrows and pouty lip that anticipates a blow and promises no counter-punch. Something about James Dean on and off the screen is both audacious and fragile. He won durable fame with just three movies. He died months before his last film, the Texas oil epic, Giant. Whether Dean had a death wish or simply met with an unfortunate accident will continue to be batted around for eternity; there are as many who will attest to his self-destructiveness as to his hope for the future. So, was it mere bravado or a sense of fatalism that made him remark to his friend and future biographer John Gilmore: ‘‘You remember the movie Bogie made—Knock on Any Door—and the line, ‘Live fast, die young, have a good-looking corpse?’ Shit, man, I’m going to be so good-looking they’re going to have to cement me in the coffin.’’
Jeanne d’Arc. Saint. Died in 1431, at age 19, burned at the stake by the English. God, she claimed, ordered her to drive out the English from France. Captured in Burgundy; tried for heresy, of all things. Canonized 500 years later.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, Artist. Died in 1988, at age 27, from a heroin overdose. Took his art from street graffiti to Soho galleries; kicked out of home at 15. Worked with Warhol; inspired by Picasso, Dubuffet, Leonardo, Haitian heritage.
Len Bias, Basketball player. Died in 1986, at age 22, from cocaine overdose. Second overall pick in 1986 NBA draft, the All-American at U of Maryland chosen by the Celtics for his superlative grace, awesome leap. Died 2 days later.
Billy the Kid. Cattle rustler, gambler, outlaw. Died in 1881, at age 21, of a bullet to the chest. Orphaned at 14; killed his first man at 18. Perfected trigger skills in New Mexico’s Lincoln County Wars. Sentenced to hang, but escaped. Later shot by sheriff.
Caligula, Roman emperor. Died in 41 A.D., at age 28, stabbed by conspirators. Squandered vast wealth, levied heavy taxes, killed for sport, may’ve committed incest, claimed he was divine. Who remembers his political reforms?
Kurt Cobain. Musician, songwriter. Died in 1994, at age 27, by suicide (gunshot to the head). Nirvana front man, exposed his vulnerable side in catchy, self-loathing lyrics. Loved the Beatles and drawing. Married to Courtney Love—and heroin.
Stephen Crane. Fiction writer, journalist. Died in 1900, at age 28, from tuberculosis. His Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage showed Hemingway how to write jagged, intense storytelling stripped clean of sentiment.
Lady Jane Grey. Queen of England and Ireland. Died in 1553, at age 16 or 17, beheaded. Queen for a day—9 days, actually. Great-granddaughter of Henry VII, victim of bloody Tudor politics and religious strife, just before the rise of Elizabeth I.
Jean Harlow, Actress. Died in 1937, at age 26, of kidney failure. Daughter of Hollywood mom from hell, “the Baby” vamped for Howard Hughes’ studios, but found substance and stardom opposite Clark Gable at MGM.
Jimi Hendrix, singer, songwriter, record producer. Died in 1970, at age 27, asphyxiated by his own vomit. Greatest electric guitar player ever, turned the instrument into the voice of God. First album, Are You Experienced (1967), changed rock ‘n’ roll forever.
Buddy Holly. Singer, songwriter. Died in 1959, at age 22, in a plane crash. Rockabilly career, mostly with the Crickets, bridged racial divide, but lasted only a year and a half. Killed on tour with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson.
Robert Johnson. Delta blues singer. Died in 1938, at age 27, from whiskey laced with strychnine. Legend has it he sold his soul to the Devil, who tuned his guitar. Played for tips on street corners in deep South; first recording in 1936. Messed with wife of juke joint owner.
Janis Joplin. Singer, songwriter. Died in 1970, at age 27, of a heroin overdose. Musically, the daughter of Bessie Smith and Leadbelly; developed extraordinary, coarse, heartbreaking voice. Never could kick drugs and alcohol.
John Keats. Poet. Died in 1821, at age 25, from tuberculosis. Threw over medicine for verse; most sublime odes in English language. Dazzling theorist, letter writer. Unconsummated romance with Fanny Brawne.
Heath Ledger. Actor. Died in 2008, at age 28, from prescription drug overdose. Tender gay ranch hand (Brokeback Mountain), Bob Dylan incarnation (I’m Not There), maniacal murderer (The Dark Knight)—he could do it all.
Christopher Marlowe. Poet, playwright. Died in 1593, at age 29, stabbed during argument over a bill. Shakespeare rival; brilliant dramatist known for overreaching heroes (Dr. Faustus, Tamburlaine). Alleged spy. Charged with blasphemy days before death.
Jim Morrison. Singer, songwriter. Died in 1971, at age 27, possibly from heroin overdose. Nietzsche and poets Blake, Baudelaire and Rimbaud all cast shadows on lead singer/lyricist of the Doors. Made tight leather pants for rockers de rigueur.
Henry Moseley. Physicist. Died 1915, at age 27, at the Battle of Gallipoli. Would have been a shoo-in for the Nobel Prize. Used X-ray spectroscopy to prove the theory of atomic numbers; predicted two undiscovered elements (technetium, promethium).
Pocahontas. Daughter of Chief Powhatan. Died in 1617, at age 21 or 22, unknown causes. May have saved Virginia Colony chief Capt. John Smith by pleading with her dad. Married tobacco farmer John Rolfe; presented in England as Christianized “savage.”
Otis Redding. Singer, songwriter. Died in 1967, at age 26, in a plane crash. Scored big with R&B hits like “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Respect.” Finally broke through to white audiences after closing 1967 Monterey Pop Festival.
Tupac Shakur. Rapper, actor. Died in 1996, at age 25, in drive-by shooting. Celebrated gangsta violence (“Hit ‘Em Up”) and social activism (“Changes”). Embo Died the western side of East/West hip-hop feud. Even more popular in death than life.
Egon Schiele. Painter. Died in 1918, at age 28, from the Spanish flu. Protege of Gustav Klimt found his own idiom depicting young nude models: raw, brutally direct—a field day for Freud. Survived World War I; not the pandemic.
Percy Bysshe Shelley. Poet, dramatist. Died in 1822, at age 29, from drowning in boating accident. Romantic visionary, free thinker, atheist; soaring verse dramas like Prometheus Unbound. Ditched first wife; second, Mary, wrote Frankenstein.
Pat Tillman. Football player, soldier. Died in 2004, at age 27, by “friendly” fire in Afghanistan. A hero’s hero: anti-war views, but joined Army Rangers after 9/11, giving up great career with NFL’s Cardinals. Military initially covered up his death.
Tutankhamun. Pharaoh of Egypt. Died in 1323 B.C. at age 18 or so, possibly from malaria. Back on tour, after all these years. While alive, restored Amun, god of creation, to the top of the heap; repaired ties with nearby kingdoms.
Hank Williams. Singer, songwriter. Died in 1953, at age 29, of heart failure. Sang his way into radio at 14, hit the big time 12 years later at the Grand Ole Opry with “Lovesick Blues.” Addiction to booze and morphine did him in.
Amy Winehouse. Singer, songwriter. Died 2011, at age 27, of alcohol poisoning. Brought British music back from near dead with Back to Black (2006). Sexy, soulful, assailed by demons and substance abuse. “Rehab” couldn’t save her.
Ilya Zhitomirskiy. Russian software developer, entrepreneur. Died 2011, at age 22, by suicide. Co-founder of “anti-Facebook” site Diaspora; champion of privacy and transparency. Said he: “There’s something deeper than making money off stuff.”
Sergei Bodrov Jr. Russian actor, director, TV host, screen writer. Died at age 30, was killed in the Kolka-Karmadon rock ice slide shooting his film The Messenger, on September 20, 2002. Russian actor who had lead roles in the movies Brother, Prisoner of the Mountains, The Stringer and Brother 2.
People who live fast die younger