15 Dead Celebs Who Left Us Wanting More
Celebrities are easy to miss. In some strange way we relate to them, and apply them to our memory bank, making them iconic staples for important events in our lives. Some of them, we wish were our friends; some we wish we could be like; and some we wish we could see one more time, because they left this life so young, or unexpectedly. Paying tribute to celebs who died too early — and tragically — here are 15 entertainers who we wish could entertain us one last time. And we’ll take this performance in their prime.
Eric Wright was no joke. He lived what he rapped. Unfortunately, as one might expect, it took his life. Not in the form of street violence, rather biological violence leading to physiological detriment. Eazy-E, the man known as The Godfather of Gangsta Rap, died in 1995 at the age of 31, the victim of AIDS. More than anything, one more performance with Eazy-E would offer some perspective on where the rap game was, where it is and where it might possibly go next. If we couldn’t have Eazy on the stage, it’d be really cool to see him at the red carpet premier of Straight Outta Compton, or perhaps in a friendly round table discussion with his old N.W.A. members.
14. Philip Seymour Hoffman
This one is still fresh. And it was totally unexpected. After hearing the news, it was not all surprising to learn what killed Philip Seymour Hoffman. He struggled for years with drug addiction, and during a time in his life where he was seemingly at great peace and everything was relatively calm, the storm raged for a final, fatal go ’round. Fortunately, we still have some recent work of PSH to feel like he’s still around, but as the years go by and there’s just that something missing in a Paul Thomas Anderson film, it’s really gonna sting. Perhaps not immediately, but let’s say… within the next 15 years, we’ll really wish we had one more great, iconic, Philip Seymour Hoffman role. “That’s that, mattress man!”
13. Heath Ledger
Talk about being cut down in a prime. Heath Ledger coming from a young actor with potential in 10 Things I Hate About You (opposite Joseph Gordon-Levitt, nonetheless) to award nominated and winning performances in Brokeback Mountain and The Dark Knight… he was writing his own ticket. Sadly, it seemed that Heath became obsessed with an elusive fulfillment that claims so many creative artists. You achieve everything you have ever dreamed of, and it’s still not enough. He threw himself so completely into his roles, they took a personal toll. Portraying the Joker pressed him into habitual sleepless nights, manic behavior and ultimately illness. He was only 29 when he died, and would have been 36 this year. If we could have him for one more performance? The Han Solo spin-off currently in the works.
12. Gilda Radner
She was as sharp as a tack, and played unassuming to such perfection that it earned her Emmy gold. Gilda Radner is responsible for popularizing the female voice in comedy, yet she has never enjoyed the kudos she deserves. She was beloved in the 1970s during her stint on Saturday Night Live, and she was a fearless performer. She wasn’t afraid of physical comedy, and she wasn’t afraid to find comedy in subtlety — she could do it all. It says a lot that she found a real life romance with the legendary Gene Wilder. The two were married for a few years before she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, which claimed her life. If it hadn’t, we can imagine her in the mix of the upcoming Ghostbusters remake and she definitely would have been in Tina Fey’s mix on 30 Rock.
11. Tupac Shakur
It’s tough to believe that it has been almost 19 years since the death of Tupac Shakur. The rapper who has been called everything from one of the top five rappers of all time, to the most influential rapper in the history of the game died as he predicted he would. Sure, there’s a small section of humanity who believe the rapper is still alive, but beyond wishful thinking, there’s no such evidence. People so wish Tupac were still alive that they created a hologram of the late rapper in 2012, and the image performed at Coachella with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg. It was OK, but little more than novelty. If Tupac were still alive today, and offered a performance, he’d likely blow minds with his perspective at 44-years-old. And if we could score one more performance? The Kennedy Center Honors.
10. The Notorious B.I.G.
Of course Biggie Smalls has to be next on the list. Christopher Wallace was killed similarly to his west coast rival, Tupac Shakur, only a few months later in 1997. The 24-year-old Wallace was regarded as the best rapper in the world, and is still considered such by an overwhelming majority of critics and fans. Biggie was killed while visiting Los Angeles, and to this day, the murder is an open investigation. It has stymied investigators in the LAPD and FBI. The same can be said about that of east coast versus west coast rival, Tupac. Sean Combs carried on the legacy of Wallace after his death, and was responsible for the production of Biggie’s posthumous releases. If we could score one more performance from The Notorious B.I.G. it would be at The Kennedy Center Honors, rapping with Tupac Shakur.
9. Steve Irwin
When Steve Irwin died at the age of 44, the world mourned. He was a man who built an empire from a love of all creatures, great and small. Known affectionately as The Crocodile Hunter, Steve offered awareness and education through The Australia Zoo, and his many television programs that featured his interaction with wildlife. He approached everything with the wonder, and curiosity of a child, and sadly, died in the same manner. Gathering footage for a couple of new programs, Steve was stabbed in the heart by a sting ray’s barb, causing him to bleed out internally. If we could have him around for one more production, it would be fascinating to hear Steve’s take on several pressing environmental and conservation issues, while maybe wrestling a gator or two. Crikey!? This guy is easy to miss.
8. Freddie Mercury
There have been few songwriting and vocal talents like that of Freddy Mercury. The front man of the legendary rock group, Queen, was blessed with a four octave range, and a stage persona that was magnetic. He was one of those guys who did what he wanted to do whenever he wanted to do it. Freddy is in every conversation, and on every list paying homage to the greatest voices in rock history. Along with voices like Robert Plant’s, roads were paved for the flamboyant screamers, and hair metal musicians of the 1980s. Freddy died in 1991 at the age of 45 from complications from the AIDS virus. Queen has continued to play on with guests singing their iconic catalogue of music, so… if we could have Freddy back for one show… it’d need to be in a huge venue with Queen so we could all be there!
7. Janis Joplin
One of the most depressing, could-have-been-avoided deaths in music history, Janis Joplin was only 27 when died of an overdose at her motel room built into the south side of the Hollywood Hills. Janis was up and down emotionally, enduring early love and loss, and genuinely needing attention when she wanted attention. When she didn’t get that attention, bad things seemed to happen. There has never been another voice like Janis Joplin’s — before or since. The best raspy female vocalists can hope for is a comparison to Janis. Still, nobody sang as “hard” as Janis. She sang with every ounce of her being. Could she have sustained success long term? It’s difficult to say. One thing’s for sure, it would be awesome to see this Texas native in the mix at South By Southwest, or better yet, Austin City Limits.
6. Chris Farley
The man who is just as recognizable by his last name. Farley. It generates an immediate sensory recall of his greatest sketches on SNL, his awesomely awful movies and some of the best talk show appearances in the history of late night television. Sadly, Chris was another comedian who achieved everything he ever hoped for, but still lived with an emptiness. If he wasn’t fueled by the laughter and applause of an audience, he was fueled by drugs and alcohol. The comedian struggled for years with addiction, and sought treatment 17 times. It eventually took him at age 33 — a concoction of cocaine and morphine. The sadness that followed Farley’s death was palpable in the public. It was before we got our news from the Internet, so regular folks made phone calls to spread the news. We’d take him in a single SNL sketch.
5. River Phoenix
His death is Hollywood lore. You can literally stand in the spot where he died, and never imagine that such an icon could have been lost in such a tragic manner. River Phoenix was only 23-years-old when died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin. He was at The Viper Room on The Sunset Strip, taking in some Halloween fun with his brother Joaquin and sister Rain. He began to slip in and out of consciousness, and endure episodes of regurgitation before his brother and sister took him outside where he began to have seizures on the sidewalk. Joaquin’s 9/11 call is haunting — another cautionary tale. River was so talented, and so highly regarded in the industry he could have done anything he wanted to do. River would now be 45, and likely competing for roles with the likes of Brad Pitt. Could we have imagined him in World War Z? Absolutely.
4. Whitney Houston
This is a tough one. Wishing for one more performance from Whitney Houston requires some specificity. Whitney, at the time of her death, was not the Whitney that so many people had grown to love and adore as an artist. She was tired, aged beyond her years, beaten up, beaten down and a shell of what she once was. However, Whitney in her prime, when she was drug-free, smashing the pop charts and garnering some serious box office cash…? There is not another female vocalist who compares to what she was. Whitney was a force capable of belting her way through a ballad, or singing the sweetest, softest lullabies. All contemporary artists are still compared to Whitney in her heyday, and it’s a comparison that will likely continue for at least another generation. 1993 Whitney performing in anything: book her.
3. Jeff Buckley
It’s amazing that so many people know relatively nothing about Jeff Buckley. Who is he? Possibly the most influential voice in rock music of the past 25 years, and yet he’s only known through his influence. He was the guy in the mid-1990s who was writing music that was too good for radio, and being praised by the likes of Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, then emulated by musicians like Thom Yorke of Radiohead, and Chris Martin of Radiohead, before dying in a tragic drowning accident at the age of 30. His only studio album, Grace, received rave reviews from critics, but went relatively unnoticed by music fans who were lost in the Seattle Sound. If Jeff were accessible for one more go ’round, it’d be awesome to see him solo, playing somewhere on the east coast as he often did, under an alias and drinking beers with patrons afterward.
2. John Lennon
John Lennon was a bit of a salty know-it-all. And that’s what made him the force he was in the realm of music and art. His death at age 40 was a shock to his biggest fans, but considering history, it really wasn’t all that surprising. People who attain a level of perceived success to the degree the Beatles did have a tendency to lure obsession. Say a few controversial things about deities, and the crazies perk up. Some people want to have sex with them and some people want to kill them. There seems to be very little in between — very little indifference. That said, the guy could write some songs! It would be most awesome to see John and The Beatles together one last time, which means George Harrison is this list’s honorable mention. If not with The Beatles… solo. No Yoko.
1. Michael Jackson
Did Michael Jackson stand a chance? Considering his life, and all of the variables associated… did he stand a chance to make it past 50? Michael was groomed for the stage, likely exposed to much more than he should have been as a child, milked by an industry for everything his giant talent could muster, then mixed into a world of fantasy and reality. The guy had issues; we won’t argue that. Still, there have been few entertainers in the history of the world that commanded the power and presence of this physically slight boy and man who came from Gary, Indiana. Give us the Michael we all knew and loved from 1985, and put him at any venue… he’d sell out the show within seconds.