Gone Before 30: Stars Who Died Young

  1. Jan. 24, 2008

    It's as common in Hollywood as the rags-to-riches tale: stories of stars who died young.
    Actors Heath Ledger, who died Tuesday in New York, and Brad Renfro, who passed just one week earlier, join the tragic ranks of artists, actors and musicians who died before their 30th birthdays, often during the prime of their careers.

    Heath Ledger, 28
    Ledger was found dead in his Manhattan apartment Tuesday, surrounded by bottles of prescription drugs. An initial autopsy was inconclusive, and a medical examiner said further tests would be needed to determine Ledger's cause of death. The actor, recently separated from actress Michelle Williams, his former fiance and mother of his 2-year-old daughter, is expected to remembered as one of best of his generation. He got an Oscar nomination for playing a gay cowboy in "Brokeback Mountain" and is slated to appear as the Joker in the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight," this summer..

    Brad Renfro, 25
    Renfro made his acting debut in 1994 at age 11, playing the title role in "The Client" alongside Susan Sarandon and Tommy Lee Jones. He went to on star with Brad Pitt, Robert DeNiro, Kevin Bacon and Dustin Hoffman in the 1996 film "Sleepers." Renfro quickly became a teen heartthrob, and his acting talents had critics thinking he'd last in Hollywood. But legal troubles and struggles with drugs and alcohol hindered his prospects.
    In December 2005, Renfro was arrested during an undercover drug sweep in Los Angeles and charged with attempted possession of heroin. He later admitted to having used heroin and methadone and was sentenced to three years' probation. Renfro went to rehab in 2006, but in 2007 he was found to have violated his probation by not enrolling in a long-term drug treatment program, People magazine reported. He was found dead a Los Angeles apartment Jan. 15 after a night of drinking, according to the Los Angeles county coroner. An official cause of death has yet to be determined.

    Aaliyah, 22
    Aaliyah Dana Haughton, known simply as Aaliyah by hip-hop and R&B fans, was one of the industry's most promising female stars. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., she appeared on "Star Search" at age 10 and performed with Gladys Knight at age 11. But it was her debut album, "Age Ain't Nothing but a Number," that got the attention of hip-hop heavyweights. The album went platinum within months.
    Meanwhile, R. Kelly, the singer who helped write and produce Aaliyah's album, married the 14-year-old singer. (He was 27 at the time.) Vibe magazine published a copy of their Illinois marriage license, dated Aug. 31, 1994, which showed the starlet's age had been listed as 18. Their marriage was annulled in February 1995. Aaliyah went on to release "One in a Million" at age 17, which was certified double-platinum within a year. She followed that up with "Aaliyah" in July 2001, after landing her first major film role in 2000's "Romeo Must Die." One month later, shortly after wrapping production of her music video for the single "Rock the Boat" in the Bahamas, Aaliyah and members of her record company boarded a small plane to fly back to the U.S. The plane crashed shortly after takeoff, and all aboard were killed.

    The Notorious B.I.G., 24
    Chris Wallace, better known as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls or Big Poppa, lived up to his various nicknames. He was a force to be reckoned with in the rap world and remains an enormous influence a decade after his death. Brooklyn born and bred, Wallace dropped out of school at age 17 and turned to a life of crime. He was arrested for dealing crack and spent nine months in prison. Soon after getting out in 1992, he parlayed his amateur rhymes into a record contract and started working with some of the biggest names in the business: Sean "Puffy" Combs, LL Cool J, Mary J. Blige and Tupac Shakur.
    His 1994 album "Ready to Die" came at a time when the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry was going strong, and according to Rolling Stone, Biggie shifted the focus back to New York. This created tension with Shakur, who was leading the West Coast rap scene at the time. When Shakur was shot to death in September 1996, rumors swirled about Biggie's involvement, though he denied all allegations. In March 1997, while in California to promote his upcoming album, Biggie, 24, was shot to death while riding with his entourage in a GMC Suburban. His murder remains unsolved, and in 2007 his relatives filed a second wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. A movie chronicling his life is due out in 2009.
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  2. Tupac Shakur, 25
    Like Wallace, Tupac Shakur's death was a tragedy of the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry. Though he hailed from Harlem, Shakur began rapping in California in the early 1990s. He released his first solo album, "2Pacalypse Now," in 1991 and formed the group Thug Life in 1993. As he gained fame, Shakur ran into legal troubles: He was accused of sexually abusing a woman in '93 and convicted of attacking a former employer in 1994.
    In November 1994, Shakur was shot five times and robbed in the lobby of a New York recording studio. While serving a prison sentence for the sexual abuse charges, Shakur released "Me Against the World," which went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. After getting out of jail, suspicious that former friend Biggie Smalls set him up for the '94 shooting, Shakur railed on Biggie and his associates on the track "Hit 'Em Up." On Sept. 7, 1996, while driving through Las Vegas with his entourage, Shakur was shot 12 to 13 times in a drive-by shooting. He died six days later of internal bleeding. Shakur's death remains a mystery, though some speculate Biggie Smalls was involved in the murder. Biggie's family has vehemently denied those claims. More than 10 years after his death, Shakur remains a hip-hop legend. He's been named the highest-selling rap artist by the Guinness Book of World Records, with more than 75 million albums sold worldwide.

    Kurt Cobain, 27
    Cobain, frontman for the iconic grunge band Nirvana, was a symbolic figure during the shift from the glam/pop rock of the 1980s toward early 1990s alternative rock with the song "Smells Like Teen Spirit," considered by many to be the anthem of Generation X. Some viewed him as the unofficial spokesman for '90s teens and twenty-somethings, but Cobain turned to drugs and alcohol to help him cope with the pressures of the media, years of depression, chronic bronchitis and mysterious stomach pains. Cobain committed suicide in April 1994, shooting himself in the head in his home on Seattle's Lake Washington after escaping from a one-day stay at a rehab center in Los Angeles. He died at age 27, leaving behind wife Courtney Love and daughter Frances Bean Cobain.

    Sid Vicious, 21
    Alan Jones once said, "Sid, on image alone, is what all punk rests on." Sex Pistols' bass player and eventual solo artist Sid Vicious -- otherwise known as John Simon Ritchie -- was everything that the punk movement stood for: Excess, anarchy, violence, total and absolute destructiveness and apathy. His personal philosophy of "live fast, die young" led him to a precarious lifestyle of drug use. After the suspicious death of his then-girlfriend Nancy Spungen in a New York hotel room, which Vicious claimed not recall because of a drugged stupor he was in that night, he was arrested, hospitalized at Bellevue Hospital for an attempted suicide, released, then sent to Rikers Island jail for assault. While there, he was weaned off of his heroin addiction and released Feb. 1, 1979. Upon returning home, Vicious obtained heroin from his mother and overdosed that night. He was revived once only to have his heart slow to a stop. In the end, his death at 21 further romanticized his tragic life of junkie glamour.

    Jim Morrison, 27
    Morrison -- called a "rock god" by the music industry to this day -- was a poet, writer and film director as well as the lead singer and lyricist for psychedelic rock band The Doors. He was born into a military family, and his nomadic childhood helped shape his music. Morrison credited a car accident he saw as a young child, in which a group of Native Americans were injured or possibly killed, as one of the most formative experiences of his life. (He wrote about the accident in the Doors songs "Peace Frog" and "The Ghost Song.")
    Morrison joined The Doors in 1965 and released six studio albums with the band before moving to Paris in 1971, where depression may have led him to develop a heroin addiction. He died in Paris in July 1971 at age 27 from what many believe was a heroin overdose. The absence of an official autopsy has left unanswered many questions surrounding his death.
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  3. Lots of talent wasted. This other guy Jonathan Brandis was around 27 when he died, I believe. He was in SeaQuest and the second Never-Ending Story movie.
  4. Janis Joplin, 27
    Ranked No. 46 in Rolling Stone's 2004 list of the 50 Greatest Artists of All Time, Janis Joplin was an accomplished singer and songwriter in the 1960s hippie heyday. While her career break came as the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company in the '60s, she truly became famous as a solo artist singing the blues, folk music and rock. But behind her rich, powerful voice and great lyrical talents was a troubled star. Joplin was reported to have been deeply concerned about how the public would receive her and became prone to drinking and using drugs as a way to cope with her nerves. Sometime between late night Oct. 3 and early Oct. 4, 1970, Joplin, 27, died in a Los Angeles hotel room. The cause of death was determined to be a heroin overdose, possibly accelerated with alcohol. Joplin was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995 and awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

    James Dean, 24
    James Dean was the original "rebel without a cause," a rising star who lived life in the fast line. The Indiana-born actor solidified his A-List status through movies including "East of Eden," "Giant" and "Rebel Without A Cause." Despite his fame, Dean reportedly dealt with severe mood swings and depression that resulted in erratic behavior, including heavy use of alcohol and drugs. Besides acting in big screen productions, Dean also took up an auto racing career, coming in second in the Palm Springs Road Races and third in Bakersfield in 1955. On his way to another race on Sept. 30, 1955, Dean died in a head-on collision. He was 24 years old.

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  5. River Phoenix died at 23 :sad:
  6. So sad. So much talent. They are all definitely missed.
  7. Extremely sad!
  8. Selena.:sad: She was only 23 when she was gunned down by the founder of her fan club in 1995.
  9. This is part of another Stars Who Died Young feature. I'm posting exerpts of people that weren't mentioned. I got the pictures from Wikipedia

    (Curtis is third from left.)
    Ian Curtis, 23, 7/15/56-5/18/80
    British-born Ian Curtis was a loner and a strange kid, a combination that has turned out a lot of rock ‘n' rollers. His band was Joy Division, a quartet that took its name from the "sexual slavery division" of a Nazi death camp in a 1950s novel. It achieved a significant British and later worldwide cult following.
    Curtis suffered from epilepsy, but his performing style was sufficiently frenzied that at times crowd would not know if he were having a seizure or simply performing. He wrote dark essays about death and alienation.
    He had married as a teenager and he and his wife had a daughter in 1979. But now they had split and on May 18, 1980, Curtis listened to Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" and then hung himself in his kitchen. His death remains a lively source of conversation today.

    Jean Harlow, 26, 3/3/11-6/7/37
    Jean Harlow was the blonde bombshell of her era. She would have been the blonde bombshell of almost any era. She made dozens of films in that contract era, with titles like "Red-Headed Woman," "Platinum Blonde" and "Wife Vs. Secretary."
    The funny thing was, she was a good actress, with splendid comic timing.
    She had a wreck of a personal life, sadly, though that isn't what killed her.
    She fell ill while filming "Saratoga" with Clark Gable. Finally she was hospitalized and it turned out she had uremic poisoning, a byproduct of kidney failure that itself probably stemmed from a bout of scarlet fever as a teenager.
    She died eight days later and was buried in a negligee she wore in "Saratoga." It was reported that a white gardenia from William Powell was placed in her hand in the casket.

    Jimi Hendrix, 27,11/27/42- 9/18/70
    Hendrix's single name - either one of them - is still synonymous with the wild, unleashed power of the electric guitar. He found things there that no one else had found, and while he had a basically shy nature, being on-stage brought out a side of him that for many fans still defines the utter freedom of rock ‘n' roll.
    He recorded hundreds, maybe thousands of songs, yet just a handful of albums, quite content to leave much of his work in the studio where he spent most of his adult life.
    Still, he formed several bands, reflecting his restless sense of where he wanted his music to go, and he found time to close the Woodstock festival with one of the most famous versions ever of the National Anthem - a strangled, yet in its own way hopeful and even reverential treatment.
    He wasn't known for taking more drugs than any other rockers, but on Sept. 18, 1970, after drinking some wine and taking a big handful of sleeping pills, he choked to death on his own vomit. The exact details have never been clear. Only the fact he was gone.
  10. [​IMG]
    Buddy Holly, 22, 9/7/36-2/3/59
    Unlike some other stars who died young, Buddy Holly was quite looking forward to staying alive for a long time. He had already scored a bunch of hit records, he had big plans for his musical future and his wife Maria Elena was expecting their first child.
    He was out on the "Winter Dance Party" tour, a low-budget quickie designed to make a few bucks before rock ‘n' roll died, and after a show in Clear Lake, Iowa, he decided he couldn't take one more night on the tour bus with its broken heaters.
    So he chartered a small plane to fly ahead to the next stop, Fargo. Problem was, the young pilot didn't really know how to fly through a storm at night, which is what he was trying to do.
    The plane hit a cornfield at 170 miles an hour, killing the pilot, Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper instantly.

    Brandon Lee, 28, 2/1/65-3/31/93
    Brandon Lee never really got to know his father Bruce, who died of a cerebral edema when Brandon was 8. But Brandon picked up the acting gene, and made a success of his own career, largely through the martial arts door.
    In 1993 he was shooting his biggest feature yet, an adaptation of the popular comic novel ‘The Crow." Because the film had fallen behind schedule, the crew decided to take a shortcut with cartridges used in a shooting scene. So when a gun was pointed at Lee's stomach, it spat out a cartridge instead of firing a blank. He was rushed to the hospital and pronounced dead five hours later. Some fans to this day suspect foul play rather than stupidity.

    Frankie Lymon, 25, 9/30/42-2/27/68
    It's been argued that Frankie Lymon was rock ‘n' roll's first teen idol - that is, someone who actually a teenager when he became an idol. Frankie was 13 when he and his Harlem vocal quintet, appropriately called the Teenagers, recorded "Why Do Fools Fall In Love."
    It became an R&B and pop smash hit in early 1956, catapulting Lymon and the group to international fame. Thousands of 1950s teenagers like Ronnie Bennett, later to become Ronnie Spector of the Ronettes, thought he was about the dreamiest thing alive.
    But it only lasted about 18 months, until the music business split up the group and discovered the pieces didn't work as well as the whole.
    Equally problematic, Lymon's voice changed to something far less distinctive. Meanwhile, he had fallen prey to all the temptations of the music business, which left him addicted and broke with three women claiming to be his wife.
    A few comeback efforts went nowhere and in the mid-‘60s, in a last attempt to straighten up, he joined the Army. He claimed he was clean. Maybe. In February 1968, at his grandmother's house, he shot too much heroin. He died just about the time Michael Jackson, whose father modeled the Jackson Five after the Teenagers, was starting to rise.
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    (Freddie Prinze is in the center.)
    Freddie Prinze, 22, 6/22-54-1/29/77
    Prinze was really known for one TV series, "Chico and the Man," but that was enough to make him a major source of Latino pride, since not many had gotten that kind of chance or executed it so successfully.
    But while Prinze was married and outwardly doing well, he suffered from depression. He took drugs, notably including Quaaludes, and on Jan. 29, 1977, after a series of disturbing phone calls in which he said goodbye to family and friends, he shot himself in the head. His manager, who had rushed over to help, was in the room.
    Originally his death was ruled a suicide, later changed to an accidental shooting "due to the influence of Quaaludes."

    Otis Redding, 26, 9/9/41-12/10/67
    People who knew Otis Redding still say he was one of the nicest guys ever to walk through the music business, and while some would say there's little competition for that title, it remains true that everybody loved the Georgia man with the soft touch and a voice that could propel freight trains.
    Redding is as good a definition of "soul music" as anyone has ever found. His renditions of "Try a Little Tenderness" or "I've Been Loving You Too Long" could come from any time, any age.
    He and his band, the Bar-Kays, were taking a small chartered plane across Wisconsin when it crashed into a frozen lake. One man, not Redding, survived.

    Selena, 23, 4/16/71-3/31/95
    There was nothing self-destructive about Selena, who had built herself an extraordinary career and at the age of 23 was widely known as "The Queen of Tejano Music."
    Born in Texas to Mexican parents, she built a multi-national following that included platinum sales and a Grammy award. Multi-lingual recordings were under way, and with her charisma there was some expectation she would have the kind of crossover success later enjoyed by Shakira.
    But her family found that the president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, was stealing money from Selena boutiques she ran. After Saldivar was fired, Selena met with her at a hotel in Corpus Christi to retrieve some tax records. Saldivar, clearly disturbed, pulled a gun and shot Selena in the back as the singer left the room. She identified Saldivar before she was taken to the hospital, where she died from loss of blood.

    Sharon Tate, 26, 1/24/43-8/9/69
    Sharon Tate was a drop-dead-gorgeous actress who had surprised a lot of movie-goers with her acting skills in less-than-classic films like "Valley of the Dolls."
    After starring in "The Fearless Vampire Killers," she married its director, Roman Polanski, and was eight months pregnant with their first child when by pure terrible chance she became one of the victims of a murderous rampage masterminded by Charles Manson.
    This was one of those cases where, sadly, the perpetrators became the more lasting story. That makes Tate's death no less tragic.

  12. So much talent :confused1:
  13. Wow, it's amazing how many talented people died so young. I didn't realize Janis Joplin was so young when she died...
  14. I was just thinking about this when I read about Heath Ledger's death. It's so sad and pointless. May they all rest in peace.
  15. So sad... RIP to all of them. :sad: