The 5 Most Famous Celebrity Deaths

Like the rest of us, celebrities die in a variety of ways. They are not immune to cancer, as Patrick Swayze and Farrah Fawcett discovered. They may be victims of violence, as was Marvin Gaye, whose father shot him. Some deaths are tragic accidents, such as Buddy Holly’s plane crash or James Dean’s car accident. Others deaths are sad, but not surprising because of known drug use such as the case with Whitney Houston and Heath Ledger. But some celebrity deaths stay in the collective conscious because of the iconic nature of the star or the mystery surrounding the death.

5 Michael Jackson

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Michael Jackson’s life would have been inspirational if it hadn’t gone so horribly wrong. The cute kid from from a poor Indiana family, rose to fame with his brothers in the Jackson 5 and later amazed the world with solo albums “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” which remains the number one selling album of all time. But from there, Jackson’s life began a downward descent. While he continued to make good music, multiple plastic surgeries, accusations of child sexual abuse and bizarre behavior, such as sleeping in an oxygen chamber, ate away at his popularity. He married twice, to Lisa Marie Presley — Elvis’s daughter — and Debbie Rowe, the mother of two of his children, Prince Michael and Paris. He had a third child, Blanket, whose mother is unknown. During his last years, Michael became more well-known for exorbitant spending, hiding his children behind masks and questions about whether or not he had vitiligo, a skin disordered that turned him white. He was working on a comeback tour when he was found unresponsive in his bed June 25, 2009. His doctor, Dr. Conrad Murray was later convicted of involuntary manslaughter for giving Jackson the lethal dose of the anesthetic propofol to treat insomnia that led to Jackson’s death.

4 John Lennon

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Famous for being a member of the Beatles and his iconic antiwar song, “Imagine,” John Lennon was also an activist and proponent of peace. He wasn’t beyond saying or doing provocative things in the name of peace, including filming a “bed-in” with his second wife, Yoko Ono. His antiwar sentiments made him unpopular with his adopted country, the United States, which threatened to deport him, presumably for marijuana possession. Lennon left music for a few years after the birth of his son, Sean, in 1975. He released “Double Fantasy” in late 1980, his first album in years. It was also his last. He was shot and killed by deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, as he returned home to his New York apartment on December 8, 1981. In some ways his death made him a martyr, but most still remember Lennon for his music.

3 Natalie Wood

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Natalie Wood’s death remains at the forefront of people’s minds because after 30 years, her death is still considered suspicious. She was a child star in classic movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” and found continued success as a teenager in movies such as “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean and “Splendor in the Grass” with Warren Beatty. She married her childhood crush, actor Robert Wagner, at the age of 19, but the marriage ended a few years later. In the 1960s, Woods’s career began to wane, she had a new philandering husband and suffered from depression, attempting suicide in 1966. But in the early 1970s, her life turned around when she reconnected with Wagner and they remarried. On November 29, 1981, while boating with Wagner and her co-star Christopher Walken, Wood drowned after a night of drinking and a fight with her husband. People who knew Natalie questioned the death, knowing that Natalie was afraid of dark water. Originally, the death was ruled an accident, but the case was reopened 30 years later after the skipper, Dennis Davern, changed his account of what happened that night. In 2013, a new coroner changed her cause of death to “drowning and other undetermined factors,” but no one has been arrested and her death remains a mystery.

2 Marilyn Monroe

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Marilyn Monroe wasn’t the first blonde bombshell, but she’s the one that has stood the test of time. Born Norma Jeane Mortensen, Marilyn had a difficult childhood that didn’t get much better in adulthood despite her success and fame. She had several failed marriages and was unable to conceive a child, preventing her from achieving her dream of being a mother. She made over 25 films, usually playing an endearing, but ditzy blonde, despite her drive to play more serious roles. Like many celebrities, Marilyn had easy access to drugs. She was found dead of a drug overdose at her home on August 5, 1962. However, conspiracy theorists still question whether her death was a result of something more sinister. She is rumored to have had an affair with John Kennedy, a detail that if got out might have hurt his presidency.

1 Elvis

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Despite all the Elvis sightings in the years since, Elvis Aaron Presley died August 16, 1977 at his home, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee at the age of 42. Elvis’s good looks, talent and gyrating hips launched his career into the stratosphere in the 1950s and 60s. He made over 33 movies and won three Grammy Awards. He served in the military, where in 1959 while stationed in Germany, he met a 14-year old Priscilla Beaulieu, whom he later married. During the 1970s, Elvis remained popular despite his divorce from Priscilla, a growing drug addiction and weight gain. The original cause of death was listed as cardiac arrhythmia, but many believe a dependency on prescription medication led to his demise.

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