The biggest celebrity deaths the year you were born

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Celebrity culture has drastically changed over the last century, but our fascination with the lives of the rich, famous and influential has not. Magicians, gangsters and oil barons may have been the talk of the town 100 years ago, but today, it's all about the reality stars, social media influencers and superstar athletes. Despite this evolution, certain stars have made such an impact on pop culture that their deaths made national news, and they're still remembered to this day. Read on to discover the biggest celebrity deaths in the year you were born.

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1926: Harry Houdini

The most famous illusionist in the world, Harry Houdini became a superstar thanks to his sensational escape acts. He freed himself from handcuffs, straight jackets, chains and tanks of water. He became the highest-paid performer in American vaudeville and served as president of the Society of American Magicians. Houdini died at age 52 in 1926 from a ruptured appendix. Other stars who died that same year include Ohio-born sharpshooter Annie Oakley and French painter Claude Monet.

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1927: Lizzie Borden

Lizzie Borden became an American pop culture sensation after she was accused of murdering her parents with an axe in 1892. Though she was tried and acquitted, she was guilty in the eyes of the public, inspiring a folk rhyme as well as plays, TV shows, movies and more over the next century. She died of pneumonia at age 66 in 1927.

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1928: Thomas Hardy

English author Thomas Hardy penned the famous novels "Tess of the d'Urbervilles" and "Far from the Madding Crowd" before his death in 1928 at age 87. Other figures who passed away that same year include explorer Roald Amundsen, mob kingpin Arnold Rothstein, baseball player Hughie Jennings and inventor Lewis Latimer.

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1929: Wyatt Earp

Frontier lawman and gambler Wyatt Earp became the stuff of legend thanks to his involvement at the infamous 1881 gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. The conflict between the Clanton gang and Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holliday resulted in the death of three of the outlaws. Earp later served as a consultant on Hollywood Westerns before his death in Los Angeles at the age of 80.

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1930: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

British writer Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the most famous characters in literary history, Sherlock Holmes. He penned four novels and more than 50 short stories featuring the clever detective before his death from a heart attack at age 71 in 1930. Other celebrities who died that year include former President and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft as well as poet and author D.H. Lawrence.

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1931: Thomas Edison

One of America's most famous inventors, Thomas Edison held more than 1,000 patents for his inventions, including the phonograph, the stock ticker, the self-starter for the Model T Ford, and the first commercially viable incandescent light bulb. He died in 1931 from complications of diabetes at the age of 84. Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova, NAACP co-founder Ida B. Wells and Lili Elbe, who underwent the first documented gender-reassignment surgery, also died in 1931.

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1932: Margaret Brown

Later known as the Unsinkable Molly Brown, socialite Margaret Brown was one of the survivors of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic. She famously helped in the ship's evacuation and urged her lifeboat mates to go back and rescue more people. Brown died in her sleep of a brain tumor at age 65 in 1932. Her story was later memorialized in a Broadway musical and movie starring Debbie Reynolds, and she was portrayed by Kathy Bates in 1997's "Titanic." Other notable deaths that year include composer and conductor John Philip Sousa and chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr.

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1933: Calvin Coolidge

In 1933, Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States, died suddenly of a heart attack at age 60. He took office following the death of Warren G. Harding in 1923 and was known for his wit and frugality. Other well-known figures who died that same year include glass designer Louis Comfort Tiffany and Mississippi-born singer Jimmie Rodgers, the "Father of Country Music."

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1934: Bonnie and Clyde

A few notorious criminals died in 1934, including bank robbers John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson. But perhaps the most notorious of the bunch are Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, infamously known simply as Bonnie and Clyde. The criminal couple robbed several stores, gas stations and banks and killed multiple police officers in the course of their career together. Their exploits captured the public imagination even after they were killed in an ambush by lawmen in Louisiana in 1934, and their story was made into the classic 1967 film.

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1935: Will Rogers

Known as a "cowboy philosopher," Oklahoma native Will Rogers became one of the country's highest paid film stars, was a popular radio personality and public speaker and also wrote books, articles and a syndicated newspaper column. He and aviator Wiley Post died in a plane crash in 1935; Rogers was 55 years old. Other notable deaths that year include politician Huey Long, gang leader Ma Barker and T.E. Lawrence, the inspiration for "Lawrence of Arabia."

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1936: George V

George V reigned as King of England from 1910 until his death in 1936. His reign encompassed World War I, the Irish War of Independence and the Indian independence movement. After his death, his second-eldest son Albert ascended to the throne, becoming George VI, who was then succeeded by his daughter, reigning Queen Elizabeth II.

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1937: John D. Rockefeller

American business magnate John D. Rockefeller is known as the wealthiest American of all time and the country's first billionaire. The founder of Standard Oil, he revolutionized the petroleum industry. He died at the ripe old age of 97 in 1937. "Peter Pan" author J.M. Barrie, short story writer H.P. Lovecraft, actress Jean Harlow, telegraph inventor Guglielmo Marconi, composer George Gershwin and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Edith Wharton also died in 1937.


1938: 'Typhoid Mary' Mallon

Irish-American cook Mary Mallon became infamous as an asymptomatic carrier of the contagious bacteria that causes typhoid fever. As a cook for affluent families in New York City, she unwittingly spread the disease through seven families, killing one person. The New York City Health Department placed her into forced confinement on North Brother Island. She was released but then continued working as a cook, killing two more people. Mallon spent the last 23 years of her life quarantined until her death in 1938 aged 69. "Typhoid Mary" is now a colloquial phrase for someone unwittingly spreading disease.

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1939: Amelia Earhart

Though the exact circumstances of her death are still an unsolved mystery, pioneering female pilot Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean along with her navigator Fred Noonan in 1937. Two years later, she was officially declared dead at the age of 41. The Navy and Coast Guard had conducted an unprecedented and costly weekslong search for Earhart and her plane after she went missing. Other losses that year include neurologist and pioneering psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, basketball inventor James Naismith, steel magnate Charles M. Schwab and Pope Pius XI.


1940: F. Scott Fitzgerald

One of the most notable American writers of the 20th century, author F. Scott Fitzgerald penned the classic novel "The Great Gatsby," which explored the excess of the Jazz Age. Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda were part of the "Lost Generation" of expatriate artists living in Paris in the 1920s. He died of a heart attack in 1940 at the age of 44 before he could finish his fifth novel.


1941: Lou Gehrig

English writer Virginia Woolf, Irish novelist James Joyce, car company co-founder Louis Chevrolet and jazz bandleader Jelly Roll Morton all passed away in 1941, but the year's most famous loss was baseball great Lou Gehrig. The legendary first baseman played 17 seasons for the New York Yankees, bringing home six World Series titles and setting a record for most consecutive games played at 2,130. Gehrig's No. 4 was retired by his team in 1939 when he stepped away from the game due to his diagnosis with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which is still often called "Lou Gehrig's disease." He died from the disease in 1941, at the age of 37.

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1942: John Barrymore

A member of the famed Barrymore family of actors, John Barrymore was a star of stage and screen, starring in acclaimed productions of "Richard III" and "Hamlet" and the silent pictures "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" and "Sherlock Holmes." He struggled with alcoholism before he died at the age of 60 in 1942. Other figures who died that year include screwball comedy star Carole Lombard and Prince George, Duke of Kent.

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1943: Nikola Tesla

Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla was an electricity pioneer, inventing the first alternating current (AC) motor. He famously feuded with rival Thomas Edison and wasn't recognized for many of his achievements in his lifetime before he died in 1943. Fellow inventor George Washington Carver, author Beatrix Potter, corn flake creator John Harvey Kellogg, actor Leslie Howard and entertainer Fats Waller also passed away in 1943.

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1944: Florence Foster Jenkins

The life of socialite and entertainer Florence Foster Jenkins was chronicled in a 2016 movie in which she was portrayed by Oscar-winning actress Meryl Streep. She was famous for being "the worst singer in the world" yet persisting in performing. She sold out a show at Carnegie Hall in 1944 at age 76 before dying from a heart attack five days later. Other stars who passed that year include actress Mildred Harris, automobile manufacturer Louis Renault and bandleader Glenn Miller.

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1945: Franklin D. Roosevelt

In his unprecedented four terms as president from 1933 until his death in 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt helped guide the country through the Great Depression and World War II. FDR was stricken with polio when he was 39 years old and spent most of his presidency in a wheelchair. The stress of war further affected his health. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and died in 1945 at the age of 63. Other major deaths that year include Jewish diarist Anne Frank, chocolatier Milton S. Hershey and General George Patton.

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1946: W.C. Fields

Comedian W.C. Fields started out as a vaudeville performer and Broadway star with the Ziegfeld Follies before he developed his famous cantankerous screen persona. He starred in several comedic shorts and films, including playing Mr. Micawber in "David Copperfield." He died aged 66 on Christmas Day in 1946 of a gastric hemorrhage. "War of the Worlds" and "The Time Machine" writer H.G. Wells, novelist Gertrude Stein and pitcher Walter Johnson also passed away in 1946.

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1947: Al Capone

The most famous gangster of the 20th century, Al Capone became notorious in Chicago during the Prohibition era for his bootlegging business. The brutal Saint Valentine's Day Massacre earned him the status of "Public Enemy No. 1" on top of his other nickname, "Scarface." He was eventually brought up on charges of tax evasion and served eight years in federal prison before his death in 1947 at age 48. Other deaths that year include Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford and Elizabeth Short, posthumously dubbed "the Black Dahlia."

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1948: Babe Ruth

"The Great Bambino," "The Sultan of Swat," "The Colossus of Clout" - Yankees slugger Babe Ruth earned these nicknames and more across his 22-year career in the MLB. One of the greatest American athletes of all time, Ruth retired in 1935 and died of nasopharyngeal cancer in 1948 at the age of 53. Indian activist Mohandas Gandhi, airplane inventor Orville Wright, groundbreaking filmmaker Louis Lumiere and former first lady Edith Roosevelt also passed away that year.

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1949: Victor Fleming

In 1949, director of "The Wizard of Oz" and "Gone With the Wind" Victor Fleming died of a heart attack in 1949 at age 59 shortly after completing his final film, "Joan of Arc," starring Ingrid Bergman. Other major deaths that year include "Gone With the Wind" author Margaret Mitchell, musician Lead Belly and Charles Ponzi of Ponzi scheme fame.

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1950: Al Jolson

One of the most famous and highest-paid entertainers of the 1920s, Al Jolson starred in the first talking picture, 1927's "The Jazz Singer." Jolson was the first star to perform at a GI base during World War II, and later during the Korean War, he traveled to Korea at his own expense to entertain American troops. He died of a heart attack in 1950 at the age of 64. Other deaths that year include "Animal Farm" and "1984" author George Orwell, "Pygmalion" playwright George Bernard Shaw and Tarzan and John Carter creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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1951: Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice rose to fame as a Follies singer and Broadway star in the 1920s. She became a bona fide comedian in her own right by playing a character she created, Baby Snooks, on a variety of radio programs in the '30s and '40s. Brice died at age 59 in 1951. She was posthumously inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and her life was immortalized in the Broadway show and movie "Funny Girl," in which Brice is played by Barbra Streisand. Newspaper giant William Randolph Hearst, baseball player "Shoeless Joe" Jackson and HeLa cell originator Henrietta Lacks also died that year.

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1952: George VI

After the death of his father George V and the abdication of his older brother, Edward, George VI became King of England not long after his country declared war on Nazi Germany. George VI became beloved as a symbol of British resistance, as he remained in London during the Blitz and only used rationed food and water. King George VI died in 1952 at age 56, leaving his daughter Elizabeth as his successor to the throne. Other deaths that year include Three Stooges member Curly Howard, former first lady of Argentina Eva Peron and Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar.

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1953: Hank Williams

Hank Williams' country music career was short but impressive and influential. One of the first country superstars, he released his first hit, "Move It on Over," in 1947, which was then followed by classics like "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "Hey, Good Lookin'." He died at age 29 in 1953 from complications of alcoholism and drug use. He was one of the first inductees in the Country Music Hall of Fame and won a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his songwriting. Other deaths that year include Olympian Jim Thorpe, fashion designer Guccio Gucci, playwright Eugene O'Neill and tennis player Bill Tilden.


1954: Frida Kahlo

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo started painting after being bedridden following a bus crash. Her star rose as she developed her unique style until she became the first 20th century Mexican artist to have a painting bought by the Louvre museum in Paris. She died in 1954 at the age of 47 but didn't really gain international acclaim and status as a Latinx and feminist icon until the 1970s. Other celebrities who passed away that year include painter Henri Matisse, actor Lionel Barrymore and French writer Colette.

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1955: James Dean

Just as quickly as young heartthrob James Dean shot to stardom, he was gone. The iconic, Indiana-born actor starred in just three major films, "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," before his untimely death in 1955. Dean, who embodied the brooding rebellious teen archetype, died in a car crash at 24 while driving his silver Porsche Spyder. Other major deaths that year include physicist Albert Einstein, entertainer Carmen Miranda and baseball player Cy Young.

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1956: Bela Lugosi

Horror icon Bela Lugosi's striking 6-foot-1-inch frame and Hungarian accent made him the perfect choice to play the famous vampire Dracula, first on stage and then in the 1931 film adaptation. He died of a heart attack at age 73 in 1956. Painter Jackson Pollock, "Winnie-the-Pooh" author A.A. Milne, baseball manager Connie Mack and Olympic gold medalist Mildred "Babe" Didrikson Zaharias also died that year.

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1957: Humphrey Bogart

One of the most legendary Hollywood stars, Humphrey Bogart starred in more than 80 films, including classics like "Casablanca," "The Maltese Falcon," "The African Queen" and "To Have and Have Not." Bogart died of esophageal cancer in 1957 at age 57. "Little House on the Prairie" author Laura Ingalls Wilder, painter Diego Rivera, fashion designer Christian Dior and Oliver Hardy of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy also died that year.

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1958: Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII was the head of the Catholic church for 19 years from March 1939 until his death in 1958. He had a controversial pontificate as he served as pope during World War II and maintained impartiality and diplomacy toward Nazi Germany and the Axis powers. Scientist Rosalind Franklin, musician W.C. Handy and fashion designer Mario Prada also died that year.

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1959: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper

February 3, 1959, has become known as "the day the music died." Early that morning, a plane crash claimed the lives of rock and roll musicians Buddy Holly (aged 22), Ritchie Valens (aged 17) and "The Big Bopper" J.P. Richardson (aged 28), who were all on tour together. Other major deaths that year include director Cecil B. DeMille, comedian Lou Costello, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, singer Billie Holiday, actress Ethel Barrymore and actors Errol Flynn and George Reeves.

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1960: Clark Gable

Actor Clark Gable is known as the "King of Hollywood" for his heartthrob status over a career spanning more than 60 films. He starred in famous films like "Gone With the Wind," "It Happened One Night" and "Mutiny on the Bounty." The 59-year-old star died from a heart attack in 1960. Others stars that passed that year include musician Eddie Cochran, author Zora Neale Hurston, fashion designer Salvatore Ferragamo and etiquette writer Emily Post.

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1961: Ernest Hemingway

Pulitzer and Nobel Prize-winning writer Ernest Hemingway penned classic novels such as "A Farewell to Arms," "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and "The Old Man and the Sea," and was part of the famous "Lost Generation" of expatriate artists. He traveled throughout Europe and Africa before spending time in Florida and Cuba. He died by suicide in 1961 in Ketchum, Idaho, at age 61. Other celebrity deaths that year include baseball legend Ty Cobb, actor Gary Cooper, comedian Chico Marx and groundbreaking Chinese-American Hollywood star Anna May Wong.

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1962: Marilyn Monroe

Iconic sex symbol, actress and singer Marilyn Monroe died from a barbituate overdose at age 36 in 1962. Her shocking death was ruled a probable suicide but conspiracy theories persist. Monroe starred in classic films such as "Some Like It Hot," "All About Eve" and "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, writer William Faulkner and poet E.E. Cummings also died in 1962.

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1963: John F. Kennedy

Many Americans can remember exactly where they were on November 22, 1963, the day that 35th President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy was just 46 years old, and his death was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. Other major deaths that year include actor Dick Powell, baseball player and coach Rogers Hornsby, poet Robert Frost, writer Sylvia Plath, "Chronicles of Narnia" author C.S. Lewis, country singer Patsy Cline and French chanteuse Edith Piaf.

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1964: Sam Cooke

Singer and activist Sam Cooke is known as the "King of Soul" for his many iconic songs, such as "You Send Me," "A Change Is Gonna Come" and "Wonderful World." Cooke died of a gunshot wound to the chest in 1964 at age 33. The mysterious circumstances of his death were eventually ruled a justifiable homicide. Other stars to pass that year include comedian Harpo Marx, composer Cole Porter, actor Peter Lorre and author Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond.

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1965: Malcolm X

Activist Malcolm X was assassinated in 1965 at the age of 39 by members of the Nation of Islam, an African-American political and religious movement with which he was formerly associated. A prominent critic of the civil rights movement, Malcolm X was a black nationalist and helped inspire the Black Power movement. Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, comedian Stan Laurel, poet T.S. Eliot, musician Nat King Cole and actress Dorothy Dandridge also died that year.

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1966: Walt Disney

Kids and adults alike from around the world are familiar with the work of Walt Disney. An animation entrepreneur and innovator, Disney branched out into amusement parks, television programs, merchandise and more. A heavy smoker, Disney died from lung cancer at age 65 in 1966. Other deaths that year included standup comedian Lenny Bruce, silent film star Buster Keaton, actor Ed Wynn and cosmetics mogul Elizabeth Arden.

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1967: Vivien Leigh

One of the greatest movie stars of all time, Vivien Leigh won Oscars for iconic portrayals of Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone with the Wind" and Blanche DuBois in "A Streetcar Named Desire." She died from tuberculosis in 1967 at age 53. Other stars who died in 1967 include poet Langston Hughes, singer Otis Redding, actress Jayne Mansfield, singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie, movie star Spencer Tracy and writer Dorothy Parker.

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1968: Martin Luther King Jr.

Baptist minister and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, at age 39. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was given his own federal holiday and his own memorial in the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Other major deaths in 1968 include blind-deaf advocate Helen Keller, politician Robert F. Kennedy and author John Steinbeck.

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1969: Sharon Tate

We lost many major figures in 1969, including legendary singer and actress Judy Garland and former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, but the death that most rocked the country was that of Sharon Tate. The 26-year-old model and actress was murdered in her Los Angeles home while eight and a half months pregnant by members of the Manson family. This cult was led by Charles Manson, one of the most notorious criminals of the century.

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1970: Jimi Hendrix

One of the most influential guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix had a short mainstream career that was cut short by his tragic death due to a drug overdose in 1970. Rock star Janis Joplin also died of a drug overdose that year; both musicians were 27. Football coach Vince Lombardi, namesake of the NFL's championship trophy, also died in 1970.

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1971: Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison was the influential frontman of the rock band the Doors until his early death, also at the age of 27, in 1971. Other losses in 1971 include fashion designer Coco Chanel, jazz icon Louis Armstrong, actress and model Edie Sedgwick, Allman Brothers Band member Duane Allman and composer Igor Stravinsky.

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1972: Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson became a sports icon when he broke the color barrier and became the first black athlete to play Major League Baseball. He won the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award in 1947 and was part of the Brooklyn Dodgers' 1955 World Series-winning team. Robinson died of a heart attack at age 53 in 1972. In 1997, the MLB retired his number, 42, across all of Major League Baseball. Other major deaths that year include former President Harry S. Truman, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, baseball player Roberto Clemente and artist M.C. Escher.

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1973: Bruce Lee

Hong Kong-American actor and director Bruce Lee is among the most iconic martial artists of all time. His Hollywood films created a surge of interest in martial arts, he defied Hollywood stereotypes of Asian-Americans, and he helped pave the way for the sport of mixed martial arts. Lee died suddenly and mysteriously at the age of 32 in 1973. Other major deaths that year include artist Pablo Picasso, "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien, former President Lyndon B. Johnson, actress Betty Grable and singer Bobby Darin.

1974: Ed Sullivan

Before there was Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman or Johnny Carson, there was TV host Ed Sullivan. His show is the longest-running variety show in U.S. broadcast history, running from 1948 to 1971. He was known as a starmaker because his show introduced American viewers to many popular acts including the Beatles and the Jackson Five. He died in 1974 from esophageal cancer at age 73. Pilot Charles Lindbergh, jazz musician Duke Ellington, comedian Jack Benny and movie producer Samuel Goldwyn also passed away that year.

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1975: Josephine Baker

American-born Jazz Age entertainer Josephine Baker became one of the most popular entertainers in France before serving as an intelligence agent in the French Resistance during World War II and participating in protests for the American Civil Rights movement. She died in 1975, four days after performing in a revue celebrating her 50 years in show business, at age 68. Other stars who passed that year include "Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling, Three Stooges leader Moe Howard, Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine and actress Susan Hayward.

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1976: Howard Hughes

Eccentric and influential entrepreneur Howard Hughes had a successful career spanning film, petroleum drilling, engineering, aviation and more. In his later years, the billionaire became an infamous recluse before dying of kidney failure in 1976 at the age of 70. Other figures who died that year include author Agatha Christie, oil baron J. Paul Getty, actress Rosalind Russell and artist Man Ray.

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1977: Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley, the "King of Rock and Roll," died from cardiac arrest in 1977 at the age of 42. It soon came to light that Presley's years of prescription drug abuse contributed to his early death. The best-selling solo recording artist of all time, Presley starred in many Hollywood films, and his Graceland estate in Tennessee is a major tourist attraction. Other deaths that year include actress Joan Crawford, silent film pioneer Charlie Chaplin, actor Freddie Prinze, opera singer Maria Callas, singer and actor Bing Crosby, comedian Groucho Marx, director Roberto Rossellini and former President Gerald Ford.

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1978: Harvey Milk

Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay elected official in California. He served less than a year in office before being assassinated at age 48 alongside San Francisco Mayor George Moscone in 1978. After his death, he was hailed as an LGBT icon and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other deaths that year included The Who drummer Keith Moon, "Hogan's Heroes" star Bob Crane, former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, illustrator Norman Rockwell and Pope John Paul I, who died just 33 days after his election.

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1979: John Wayne

The actor synonymous with American Westerns, John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison in Iowa before moving to Southern California, where he starred in more than 140 films. He died of stomach cancer at age 72 in June of 1979. Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious, composer Richard Rodgers, former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, singer Minnie Riperton and Mary Pickford, an actress who was one of the original founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, all also died that year.

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1980: John Lennon

In December 1980, the world was shocked by the loss of Beatles co-founder and musician John Lennon, who was murdered outside his New York City apartment by Mark David Chapman. That year saw many celebrity deaths including director Alfred Hitchcock, "Pink Panther" actor Peter Sellers, Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, classic film star Mae West, track and field athlete Jesse Owens, entertainer Jimmy Durante, leading man Steve McQueen and KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders.

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1981: Natalie Wood

Natalie Wood rose to fame at a young age, starring in classic movies like "Miracle on 34th Street," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "West Side Story." Wood drowned in 1981 at age 43 under mysterious circumstances. She and her husband Robert Wagner were on a boat trip to California's Catalina Island when she went missing and was later found dead in the water. Other notable deaths that same year include reggae icon Bob Marley and boxer Joe Louis.


1982: Grace Kelly

Glamorous, Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly famously gave up her Hollywood career at age 26 to marry Prince Rainier III and become the princess of Monaco in 1956. She died in 1982 at age 52 after a car crash. Other major deaths in 1982 include comedian and "Saturday Night Live" star John Belushi, Oscar-winning actor Henry Fonda, author Ayn Rand, Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman, campy actor Paul Lynde and baseball player Satchel Paige.

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1983: Karen Carpenter

Singer and drummer Karen Carpenter rose to fame in the '70s with songs like "(They Long to Be) Close to You" and "We've Only Just Begun." She died in February 1983 from heart failure due to the eating disorder anorexia nervosa at age 32, and her death raised awareness of eating disorders around the country. Other celebrities who passed that year include playwright Tennessee Williams, blues musician Muddy Waters and legendary Alabama college football coach Bear Bryant.

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1984: Marvin Gaye

Motown icon Marvin Gaye became a household name after releasing timeless R&B songs including "Let's Get It On," "Sexual Healing," "What's Going On," "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." The singer-songwriter was killed by his father at age 44 after a violent argument in 1984. After his death, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Other celebrities we lost in 1984 include comedian Andy Kaufman, actor Richard Burton, McDonald's founder Ray Kroc, writer Truman Capote, entertainer Ethel Merman and Janet Gaynor, the very first Academy Award winner for best actress.

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1985: Orson Welles

Director, producer and actor Orson Welles is behind some of the most famous moments in movie history, including the "rosebud" twist ending to his film "Citizen Kane." Welles died from a heart attack in October 1985 at age 70. Other stars to pass that year include Hollywood leading man Rock Hudson, Russian-American actor Yul Brynner, author E.B. White and mountain gorilla conservationist Dian Fossey.

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1986: The crew of the space shuttle Challenger

On January 28, 1986, the country watched in shock as the Challenger space shuttle exploded 73 seconds after launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, killing all seven crew members on board: Dick Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair, Gregory Jarvis and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe. The disaster was a national tragedy and ultimately changed the culture and future of NASA. Other notable deaths in 1986 include actors Cary Grant and James Cagney, actress Donna Reed, artist Georgia O'Keeffe, entertainer Desi Arnaz and Metallica bassist Cliff Burton.

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1987: Andy Warhol

Pop art pioneer Andy Warhol became an icon in his own right thanks to his penchant for platinum wigs and other idiosyncratic behavior, and for launching the careers of other creatives out of his New York studio space, The Factory. Warhol died in 1987 of a heart attack following gallbladder surgery at age 58. Choreographer Bob Fosse, actress Rita Hayworth, musician Liberace, actor and dancer Fred Astaire, "The Honeymooners" star Jackie Gleason and "White Christmas" actor Danny Kaye also died in 1987.

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1988: Roy Orbison

Roy Orbison is one of the most famous musicians to come out of the state of Texas. The singer-songwriter released such hits as "Only the Lonely," "You Got It" and "Oh, Pretty Woman." He also formed the supergroup the Traveling Wilburys with George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne before dying of a heart attack in December 1988. Beegees singer Andy Gibb, race car driver and car company founder Enzo Ferrari, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and NBA Hall of Famer "Pistol Pete" Maravich also died in 1988.

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1989: Lucille Ball

Groundbreaking comedian and beloved "I Love Lucy" star Lucille Ball died in 1989 at the age of 77. She has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Other stars who passed away in 1989 include actress Bette Davis, four-time Oscar winner Laurence Olivier, Irish playwright Samuel Beckett, voice actor Mel Blanc, artist Salvador Dali, and boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.

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1990: Sammy Davis Jr.

Legendary Rat Pack entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. earned the nickname "Mister Show Business" for his variety of ventures throughout his career, including Broadway shows, a variety TV show and Las Vegas act. He died from throat cancer in 1990 at the age of 64. 1990 was an especially rough year for celebrity deaths; other deaths that year include puppeteer and filmmaker Jim Henson, author Roald Dahl, actress Ava Gardner, musician Stevie Ray Vaughan, actress Greta Garbo, actor Rex Harrison, composer Leonard Bernstein and actress Barbara Stanwyck.

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1991: Freddie Mercury

Queen frontman Freddie Mercury died in 1991 at age 45 due to complications from AIDS. The legendary rock vocalist wrote and sang such classic songs as "Killer Queen", "Bohemian Rhapsody" and "We Are the Champions." His life was dramatized in the 2018 movie "Bohemian Rhapsody." Other stars who passed in 1991 include children's book author Dr. Seuss, actor Michael Landon, trumpeter Miles Davis, director Frank Capra, dancer and choreographer Martha Graham and football player Red Grange.

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1992: Sam Walton

Entrepreneur Sam Walton changed the American retail game when he founded Walmart in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. In the '80s, he was the richest person in the United States, and today his company is still the world's largest corporation by revenue. Walton died of bone cancer in 1992 at the age of 74, leaving Walmart to his wife and four children. Other notable deaths that year include TV host Lawrence Welk, actress Marlene Dietrich, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov, comedian Benny Hill and Australian entertainer Peter Allen.

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1993: Audrey Hepburn

Oscar-winning actress Audrey Hepburn starred in many classic Golden Age films, including "Roman Holiday," "My Fair Lady" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's." In 1993, Hepburn died of appendiceal cancer at the age of 63. Other famous people who passed that year include actor River Phoenix, wrestler Andre the Giant, horror icon Vincent Price, silent film star Lillian Gish, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and musician Frank Zappa.


1994: Kurt Cobain

The "27 Club" of rock musicians who died tragically young continued in 1994 with the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. The Seattle songwriter and his band found wild success with their 1991 album "Nevermind" and its hit song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit." After struggling with fame and drug addiction, Cobain died by suicide at age 27. Other major deaths in 1994 include former first lady Jackie Kennedy, former President Richard Nixon, comedian John Candy, actor Burt Lancaster, singer Dinah Shore and Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph.

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1995: Selena

The music world was once again rocked by a tragic death in 1995. The Queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla-Perez, known eponymously as Selena, was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar, her friend and former fan club president, at age 23. A biopic of her life was released two years later starring Jennifer Lopez. To this day, Selena is the best-selling female artist in Latin music history. Other losses in 1995 include "Bewitched" star Elizabeth Montgomery, actress Lana Turner, painter and TV host Bob Ross, singer Dean Martin, Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia, baseball icon Mickey Mantle and dancer and actress Ginger Rogers.


1996: Ella Fitzgerald

Known as "The First Lady of Song" and the "Queen of Jazz," singer Ella Fitzgerald had an iconic musical career spanning almost six decades until her death in 1996 at age 79. Other losses that year include Hollywood song-and-dance man Gene Kelly, entertainer George Burns, scientist Carl Sagan and West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur.

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1997: Princess Diana

"The People's Princess," Diana Princess of Wales, married into the British royal family in 1981. Her glamorous sense of fashion, philanthropic efforts and tumultuous personal life made her both beloved and scrutinized by the public. She tragically died in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 at the age of 36. It's estimated that 2.5 billion people around the world watched her televised funeral. Catholic nun Mother Teresa, actors James Stewart and Robert Mitchum, fashion designer Gianni Versace, comedian Red Skelton, rapper the Notorious B.I.G. and golfer Ben Hogan also died that year.

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1998: Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra, one of the most iconic performers of the 20th century, passed away from a heart attack in 1998 at the age of 82. A legendary singer and Oscar-winning movie star, Sinatra earned the nickname "Ol' Blue Eyes" and was also known for his sense of style, showmanship and string of hit songs, including "My Way," "Come Fly With Me," "New York, New York" and "Fly Me to the Moon." Other stars to pass the year include entertainer Sonny Bono, "Singing Cowboy" Gene Autry, Western star Roy Rogers, sports announcer Harry Caray, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and country singer Tammy Wynette.

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1999: John F. Kennedy Jr.

Perhaps the closest thing to American royalty, John F. Kennedy Jr. was the son of assassinated President John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He tragically died at the age of 38 after crashing a private plane he was piloting into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. Also on board were his wife, Carolyn Bissette, and her sister Lauren. The tragedy was among many that befell the Kennedys, further fueling the family's reputation as being "cursed." Other deaths that year include director Stanley Kubrick, "Patton" actor George C. Scott, Yankee great Joe DiMaggio, NFL star Walter Payton and NBA legend Wilt Chamberlain.

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2000: Charles M. Schulz

Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Linus, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang are American icons. Their creator, influential cartoonist Charles M. Schulz, passed away in 2000 from colon cancer at the age of 77. Actress and inventor Hedy Lamarr and actor Alec Guinness also died that year.

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2001: Dale Earnhardt

In February 2001, Dale Earnhardt, one of the greatest race car drivers of all time, died in a three-car crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500 in Florida. His death prompted strict new NASCAR safety regulations. That year also saw the deaths of R&B singer Aaliyah as well as Oscar-winning actor Jack Lemmon, Beatles legend George Harrison and "All in the Family" star Carroll O'Connor. Earnhardt was one of the top celebrities born in North Carolina. Who is the most famous person from your state?

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