8. Robin Williams
The death of Robin Williams on the August 11th 2014 by suicide caught everyone by surprise including his family and wife.
His death came as a shock because William’s persona was so full of life, energy and quick wittedness. that it didn’t seem possible that he would take his own life.
However, behind the stand up comedy and on screen characters, Williams battled his own daemons, in the 70’s and early 80’s he was addicted to cocaine and alcohol. He was friends with John Belushi but when Belushi died of a drugs overdose and with the birth of his son Zac, he quit the drugs and alcohol.
He stayed away from drugs but started drinking again in 2003, he checked himself in to a substance-abuse rehabilitation centre in 2006.
In 2009 he underwent heart surgery and recovered but was back into rehab for alcohol abuse in 2014.
It was around this time that he became severely depressed after being diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s disease but nobody knew at the time was that he had developed a particularly debilitating form of dementia that was linked to the Parkinson’s called lewys body dementia.
A year after his death, His wife Susan stated that is wasn’t the depression that brought about his suicide but the lewys body dementia and parkinsons, saying that if Robin had been lucky he would have had maybe three years left.
7. Michael Jackson
After years of allegations and controversy Michael Jackson was one the verge of a comeback that would show the world that he was still the king of pop.
However, On June 25th 2009 he lapsed in to unconsciousness at his rented mansion at in the holmbly hills district of los Angeles after taking Propofol, a powerful aesthetic normally used in hospitals to try and combat his persistent insomnia.
Attempts by his personal physician Conrad Murray to resuscitate him failed and paramedics were called arriving just 3 minutes later. He was taken to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center but was prounced dead 2:26 pacific time at the age of 50.
Conrad Murray would later be found guilty of the involuntary manslaughter of Jackson by administering him powerful and controlled medication.
As news spread many major websites crashed under the extreme load of people trying to find out what had happened. Google thought that their systems were under a denial of service attack and blocked searches related to Michael Jackson for 30 minutes so great was the demand. Twitter crashed as did Wikipedia and AOL instant messenger and overall web traffic was at least 20% higher than normal.
News of Jacksons death triggered a huge outpouring of grief from every corner of the globe with condolences from pop stars to heads of governments and the millions of fans around the world
Jackson specials and tributes were aired world wide on multiple TV station for days after. A memorial service held on the 7th July 2009 attracted 1.6 million requests for the 8750 places available and tickets had to be issued on a lottery basis.
It was also one of the most watched events in online streaming history. The U.S. audience was estimated to be 31 million, comparable to the estimated 35 million that watched the 2004 burial of former president Ronald Reagan, and the estimated 33 million Americans who watched the 1997 funeral for Princess Diana.
6. John Lennon
At around 10:50 pm On the 8th December 1980 John Lennon & Yoko Ono were returning to their New York apartment after a recording session when a fan by the name of Mark Chapman shot Lennon 4 times in the back. Lennon was taken to the Roosevelt Hospital but pronounced dead on arrival the, he was 40 years old.
Earlier that evening as Lennon was leaving for the recording studio, Chapman was in a group of people seeking autographs, he handed Lennon a copy Double Fantasy and requested an autograph, to which Lennon duly obliged, that moment was chilling captured on film by another fan.
As a founder of the Beatles, the most commercial successful pop group in history, Lennon rose to worldwide fame and was controversial through his political and peace activism.
News of his death in the pre internet age spread quickly around the world with thousands gathering in New York’s central park and Liverpool.
On the 14th December millions responded to Yoko Ono’s requested for 10 ten minutes of silent prayer to remember Lennon.
Although Lennon had not been active musically for the previous 5 years since the birth of his son he had completed his album double fantasy two months earlier and was looking forward making his come back.
Lennon’s untimely death still evokes deep sadness around the world today, and he continues to be admired by new generations of fans.
5. David Bowie
The death of David Bowie just 2 days after the release of his latest album “Blackstar” came as complete surprise to the world on January 10th 2016.
Friends and fans alike from around the world were heartbroken at the news
Bowie had kept the secret of his terminal liver cancer right up to the end, he had sworn friends, family and fellow artists who worked with him on his last album to secrecy right up to his death.
In his last photo posted on his birthday 8th January 2016 he looks totally at ease with himself and not like someone with terminal cancer.
He stage manged his own death in a similar way that he “retired” his stage characters like Ziggy stardust.
Bowie was active throughout his whole career from the 1960’s till his death but it’s the period in the 70’s and 80’s which he is probably most well known.
Through continual reinvention, his influence extended in to so many areas. Its been said that because he has succeeded in so many different styles of music, it is almost impossible to find a popular music artist today that has not been influenced by Bowie.
Bowie is the man who elevated his music to what can only be described as an art form.
In 2000, Bowie was named by NME as the “most influential artist of all time”
4. Elvis Presley
Often referred to as the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley can easily be regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century and as such is the most commercially successful artist in the history of recorded music with some estimated worldwide record sales of around 600 Million records.
When he was found dead on the floor of his bathroom on the August 16th 1977 the shock that was felt around the world was more like that of a king or president dying than a rock and roll singer.
Although, the Elvis of 1977 was a long way from that of his prime years in the 50’s and early 60’s.
He had become addicted to prescription drugs, was grossly over weight had glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, enlarged colon and heart.
After his death there were many cover up theory banded about, but Elvis’s main physician, Dr. Nichopoulos was exonerated of criminal liability for the singer’s death even though in 1977 alone, he had prescribed over 10,000 doses of sedatives, amphetamines and narcotics: all in Elvis’s name.
Since his death, Presley has remained one of the world’s most popular music icons and in many ways he was the first truly global music icon.
He influenced so many of the popstars that were to follow in his footsteps. He heralded the era of the of the mega celebrity his legacy will live on so long as there is popular music.
3. Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s life had a huge impact on race relations in the United States. Years after his death, he is still the most widely known African-American leader of his era.
A controversial figure that united black Americans against hundreds of years of oppression and inequality and created almost as many enemies as supporters, yet he was determined to change the status quo by non violent means.
By 1968, years of demonstrations and confrontations were beginning to wear on him.
He was tired of marches, going to jail, and living under the constant death threats. He was becoming discouraged at the slow progress of civil rights in America and the increasing criticism from other African-American leaders.
On April 3rd 1968, in what proved to be an eerily prophetic speech, he told supporters, he said the following “I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”
The next day, while standing on a balcony outside his motel room he was shot dead by a sniper. The assassin was a former convict called James Earl Ray, was eventually caught two months later at Heathrow airport in London, England trying to broad a flight to South Africa.
The killing sparked riots and demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the USA. In 1969, Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating King and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He died in prison on April 23, 1998.
2. Princess Diana
Born Diana Spencer on July 1, 1961, she became Lady Diana Spencer after her father inherited the title of Earl Spencer in 1975. She married Prince Charles the heir to the British throne, on July 29, 1981 and became Diana, Princess of Wales.
The wedding was broadcast around the world to an estimated 750 million viewers, this was the stuff of dreams, a commoner marring into the most famous royal family, this propelled her to incredible fame around the world.
The couple had two sons but later divorced in 1996. Even after the divorce, Diana maintained a high level of popularity. She devoted herself to her sons and to charitable works to end the use of land mines.
It was her 1997 romance with Dodi Al-Fayed the son of Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed the owner of Harrods of London which created a lot of attention and media frenzy.
It was this media attention that would lead to the death of both Diana and Dodi when their car was chased through the streets of Paris by photographers on motorcycles on the night of August 30th 1997.
The car they were travelling in entered a road tunnel at high speed but lost control and struck a central support pillar at about 70 mph. Dodi Al-Fayed died at the scene along with the driver, Diana was taken to Hospital but died 3 hours later.
News of her sudden, senseless death shocked the world. Hundreds of Thousands turned out to pay tribute to the “people’s princess” during her funeral procession. More than one million bouquets were left at her London home, Kensington Palace.
The funeral was held at Westminster Abbey was watched by an estimated 2.5 Billion people in 200 countries in 44 languages.
1. John F. Kennedy (JFK)
The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States on November 21st 1963 came as one of the biggest shocks to not only America but also the world.
Not since the Japanese attack on pearl harbor before and the 9/11 attacks after, has an event being etched on to the minds of so many people.
To the American public, as well as historians, John F. Kennedy is a hero, he represented a new start, he was the second youngest ever president and made politics look glamourous. He was a visionary who, if not for his untimely death, might have averted the political and social turmoil of the late 1960s.
In public-opinion polls, JFK consistently ranks with Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln as among the most beloved American presidents of all time.
His inaugural speech and that announcing the initiation of the Apollo missions have gone down as land mark inspiration moments.
He is most well known for facing down the Russians in the Cuban missile crisis when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war and the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty that followed, Apollo, the civil rights act of 1964 and the creation of the peace core to name a few.
Not every thing went well for him though, the Bay of pigs incident when the US tried to over throw Castro in Cuba was a major failure and he was hampered by many who remained stridently opposed to civil rights for black citizens.
JFK will go down as the “What if President”. No one knows what might have happed if he had survived or the plot had been foiled. Would have America of pulled out of Vietnam instead of becoming more involved, would a powerful ally in the Whitehouse have averted the death of Martin Luther King Jr and the turmoil that followed. Would the space program have been expanded and could the cold war have been averted?,
In the end, the death of President Kennedy and the confusion surrounding the facts of his assassination are of political and historical importance because they marked a turning point and decline in the faith of the American people in the political establishment that carries on to this day.