They say only the good die young: the good, the talented, the beautiful. It’s a scenario we see play out all too often in the entertainment business. Our most beloved stars were dimmed by tragic, dramatic, shocking, and sometimes unforeseen events that ended their lives. They may be gone but their presence will be missed, and the impact they made on us will remain.
Check out our list of 15 stars who are sorely missed.
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Michael Jackson was the biggest and most influential musician to grace the world. From his iconic style to his innovative dance moves and his inspiring music, Michael was known even in the most remote places of the world. But the King of Pop reportedly battled with a prescription drug addiction that would eventually lead to his death. Michael had his doctor administer the anesthetic propofol to put him to sleep the morning of June 25, 2009 but he would not awake. An overdose of the drug claimed his life at age 50. MJ’s social and musical legacy will live on forever.
Whitney Houston had a voice so impactful it could move people to tears, but her gentle spirit and kind nature impacted them as well. When her career and public image began to fade due to her drug addiction and marriage to R&B singer Bobby Brown, fans hoped she would clean her life up and return to music in full force the way she once had. Sadly, that would not happen. The world lost one of its brightest stars on Feb. 11, 2012 when Houston, 48, died from an accidental drowning in a bathtub just one day before the Grammy’s she was planning to attend. Her death was caused by heart disease and c o ca i n e usage.
When Bruce Lee passed away in 1973 at age 32 the world lost the biggest legend in martial arts history. His speed and skill were unmatched and incomprehensible to the lay man. His movies Fists of Fury, The Chinese Connection, The Way of the Dragon, Enter the Dragon, and The Game of Death inspired awe in viewers, and forever immortalized his brilliance as an actor and a fighter. Bruce was also a philosopher whose teachings transcended martial arts.
Selena emerged in the early ’90 as the hero in Latin music. Her beauty and talent made her a star worldwide. In a shocking turn of events, the singer was fatally shot by her fan club president at age 23. When the film Selena starring Jennifer Lopez was released in 1997, her legacy was opened up to an even bigger audience.
With a combination of feminine sweetness and tom-boyish edge, Aaliyah was an urban music innovator. Her hits throughout the ’90s set the tone for many artists yet to come, but it was in the year 2000 that she rose to mass fame. Aaliyah starred in the film Romeo Must Die and released her hit single “Try Again.” She dropped her third album Aaliyah to great success, and began filming two new movies: Queen of the Damned and The Matrix: Reloaded. It seemed she was well on her way to becoming a superstar, which made her death on August 25, 2001 all the more devastating. At 22, R&B’s princess became R&B’s angel.
River Phoenix is another case of the good dying young. Both beautiful and extraordinarily talented, River was a promising actor whose future was cut short at 23 when his heart failed suddenly due to a heroin and coke overdose. Phoenix died outside the famous Viper Room club in 1993. His onscreen visage conveyed a deep sense of anguish and knowing that made him captivating to watch. Off-screen, he was described by friends as having both a child-like innocence and an age old wisdom. River was an activist and humanitarian.
Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
TLC was a modern day symbol for girl power in the ’90s. They were tough and cool, yet beautiful. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes especially contributed to the group’s hip-hop image, being the sole rapper in the group. She was an explosive woman in a tiny package, the kind you either loved or hated. Her fatal car accident in Honduras left the public stunned and saddened in 2002.
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The former child actor gained popularity in the 1992 films Sidekicks and Ladybugs. He later earned heartthrob status when he played on the Steven Spielberg sci-fi TV show Seaquest DSV from 1993-1996. The blue-eyed cutie began a long term relationship with actress Tatyana Ali in 1995 after they filmed the television movie Fall into Darkness together. Three years later, the couple split and Brandis’ career waned. Depressed and heavily drinking, Jonathan committed suicide by hanging in November 2003 but his legacy as a teenaged heartthrob is forever tied to many a 80’s and 90’s kid’s memories. Even his industry peers recognized his good looks, like the next star on our list who got Brandis to take her to her senior prom…
Photo: Dimitri Halkidis/WENN
Brittany Murphy’s charm was in her off-beat, fun, care-free spirit. Her role as Ty in Clueless made her forever a part of many a 90’s kid’s childhood memories but she would go on to have a very successful acting career, starring in Girl Interrupted, Don’t Say a Word, Riding in Cars with Boys, and Just Married. Tragically, Murphy would meet her untimely end on December 20, 2009 due to pneumonia. She was just 32 years old.
Renfro is yet another teen idol and child actor who fell victim to the allure of drugs. As a child Renfro notably starred in The Client and Tom and Huck. The latter film positioned him alongside Jonathan Taylor Thomas as a heartthrob to young girls. He later starred in the movie Apt Pupil in 1998 around the same time he began a history of drug abuse that would end his life at 25. Once a gorgeous and promising actor, Renfro died of a heroin overdose in 2008, exactly one week before the next actor on our list…
This rugged Australian actor caught the attention of teenaged girls in the teeny-booper flick 10 Things I Hate About You. Heath went on to star in The Patriot, A Knight’s Tale, The Brother’s Grimm and Brokeback Mountain but his most talked about role was his haunting portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight, the performance that earned him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor posthumously in 2009. Sadly, at just 28 years old, Heath died of acute intoxication from a combination of several sedatives and painkillers on January 22, 2008.
The Queen of Disco brought us such funky hits as “Hot Stuff,” “She Works Hard For the Money,” and “Last Dance,” amongst others in the 70’s and 80’s. Her feel-good music easily made listeners want to get up and dance. Summer was a cultural icon, influencing the style and music of later artists like Madonna and Beyoncé. After a battle with lung cancer, Donna Summer succumbed at the of 63; a death that seemed so sudden for a woman with over 3 decades in the music business.
When Amy Winehouse released her first single “Rehab” from her second album Back to Black in 2006 she quickly made a name for herself for not only being the tiny British girl with the big soulful voice but for also being an obstinate substance abuser. In fact, her addiction to drugs and alcohol soon overshadowed her talent. The public watched as she battled addiction and health issues, hoping one day she would clean up. While Winehouse had reportedly given up illegal substances she did continue to drink. On July 23, 2011 she died from alcohol poisoining, having consumed 5 times the legal limit.
Michael Clarke Duncan
To those who knew him, Michael Clark Duncan was a gentle giant. Onscreen his intimidating stature and deep, rumbling voice made him a force to be reckoned with but he always remained likeable. Duncan suffered a heart attack in July of 2012. Celebs and fans alike were pulling for the burly actor, expecting him to get well but he remained hospitalized for almost two months and passed away on September 3rd. His presence will be missed onscreen.
Lady Tee taught us how to groove. With hits like “I’m a Sucker for Your Love,” “Behind The Groove,” and “Square Biz” Teena Marie proved that White girls can be funky too. Beyond being a musical influence, through her personal struggles with her initial record label Motown, Teena influenced the creation of the Brockert Law (also called the Brockert Initiative) which makes it illegal for a record company to keep an artist under contract without releasing new material from that artist. In those cases, artists are able to sign with another label and release music instead of being held back. “Brockert” was Teena Marie’s last name. When she died the day after Christmas 2010 the music industry wept for the Ivory Queen of Soul.