59 Famous People Who Died Before Age 40

The world was shocked and saddened when Princess Diana died in 1997 at the age of 36.
The world was shocked and saddened when Princess Diana died in 1997 at the age of 36.

Dying young is truly tragic, but at least these people made their mark on society before checking out early. Below is our list of 59 famous people who died before the age of 40.

1. Jessica Dubroff (7)

Pilot -- Plane crash -- 1996

2. Heather O'Rourke (12)

Child actor -- Bowel obstruction -- 1988

3. Anne Frank (15)

Dutch-Jewish author -- Typhus in concentration camp -- 1945

4. Ritchie Valens (17)

Rock 'n' roll singer -- Plane crash -- 1959

5. Eddie Cochran (21)

Rockabilly musician -- Auto accident -- 1960

6. Aaliyah (22)

R&B singer -- Plane crash -- 2001

7. Buddy Holly (22)

Rock 'n' roll singer -- Plane crash -- 1959

8. Freddie Prinze (22)

Comedian/actor -- Suicide -- 1977

9. River Phoenix (23)

Actor -- Drug overdose -- 1993

10. Selena (23)

Mexican-American singer -- Homicide -- 1995

11. James Dean (24)

Actor -- Auto accident -- 1955

12. Otis Redding (26)

Soul singer -- Plane crash -- 1967

13. Brian Jones (27)

British rock guitarist -- Drug-related drowning, possibly homicide -- 1969

14. Janis Joplin (27)

Rock/soul singer -- Heroin overdose -- 1970

15. Jim Morrison (27)

Rock singer -- Heart attack, possibly due to drug overdose -- 1971

16. Jimi Hendrix (27)

Rock guitarist/singer -- Asphyxiation from sleeping pill overdose -- 1970

17. Kurt Cobain (27)

Grunge rock singer/guitarist -- Gunshot and lethal dose of heroin, presumed suicide -- 1994

18. Reggie Lewis (27)

Basketball player -- Heart attack -- 1993

19. Brandon Lee (28)

Actor -- Accidental shooting on the set of The Crow -- 1993

20. Shannon Hoon (28)

Rock singer -- Drug overdose -- 1995

21. Hank Williams (29)

Country musician -- Heart attack, possibly due to an accidental overdose of morphine and alcohol -- 1953

22. Andy Gibb (30)

Singer -- Heart failure due to cocaine abuse -- 1988

23. Jim Croce (30)

Singer/songwriter -- Plane crash -- 1973

24. Patsy Cline (30)

Country music singer -- Plane crash -- 1963

Find more of our list of famous people who died before the age of 40 on the next page.

Famous People Who Died Before Age 40, 25-59

Here is the rest of our list of 59 famous people who died before the age of 40, starting with Sylvia Plath.

25. Sylvia Plath (30)

Poet and author -- Suicide -- 1963

26. Brian Epstein (32)

Beatles manager -- Drug overdose -- 1967

27. Bruce Lee (32)

Martial arts actor -- Possible allergic reaction -- 1973

28. Cass Elliot (32)

Singer -- Heart attack brought on by obesity -- 1974

29. Karen Carpenter (32)

Singer and musician -- Cardiac arrest from anorexia nervosa -- 1983

30. Keith Moon (32)

Rock drummer -- Overdose of medication -- 1978

31. Carole Lombard (33)

Actor -- Plane crash -- 1942

32. Chris Farley (33)

Comedian/actor -- Overdose of cocaine and heroin -- 1997

33. Darryl Kile (33)

Major League Baseball pitcher -- Coronary heart disease -- 2002

34. Jesus Christ (33)

Founder of Christianity -- Crucifixion -- A.D. 30

35. John Belushi (33)

Comedian/actor -- Overdose of cocaine and heroin -- 1982

36. Sam Cooke (33)

Soul musician -- Homicide -- 1964

37. Charlie Parker (34)

Jazz saxophonist -- Pneumonia and ulcer, brought on by drug abuse -- 1955

38. Dana Plato (34)

Actor -- Prescription drug overdose -- 1999

39. Jayne Mansfield (34)

Actor -- Auto accident -- 1967

40. Andy Kaufman (35)

Comedian/actor -- Lung cancer -- 1984

41. Josh Gibson (35)

Negro League baseball player -- Stroke -- 1947

42. Stevie Ray Vaughan (35)

Blues guitarist -- Helicopter crash -- 1990

43. Bob Marley (36)

Reggae musician -- Melanoma that metastasized into lung and brain cancer -- 1981

44. Diana, Princess of Wales (36)

British royal -- Auto accident -- 1997

45. Marilyn Monroe (36)

Actor -- Barbiturate overdose -- 1962

46. Bobby Darin (37)

Singer/actor -- Complications during heart surgery -- 1973

47. Lou Gehrig (37)

Major League Baseball player -- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) -- 1941

48. Michael Hutchence (37)

Rock singer -- Hanged, possibly suicide -- 1997

49. Sal Mineo (37)

Actor -- Homicide -- 1976

50. Florence Griffith Joyner (38)

Olympian/sprinter -- Possible asphyxiation during epileptic seizure -- 1998

51. George Gershwin (38)

Composer -- Brain tumor -- 1937

52. Harry Chapin (38)

Singer/songwriter -- Auto accident -- 1981

53. John F. Kennedy, Jr. (38)

Journalist/publisher -- Plane crash -- 1999

54. Roberto Clemente (38)

Major League Baseball player -- Plane crash -- 1972

55. Sam Kinison (38)

Comedian -- Auto accident caused by drunk driver -- 1992

56. Anna Nicole Smith (39)

Model/actor -- Accidental prescription drug overdose -- 2007

57. Dennis Wilson (39)

Rock 'n' roll drummer -- Drowning due to intoxication -- 1983

58. Malcolm X (39)

Militant civil rights leader -- Assassination -- 1965

59. Martin Luther King, Jr. (39)

Civil rights activist/minister -- Assassination -- 1968

CONTRIBUTING WRITERS:

Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens, and Steve Theunissen