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Celebrities Who Died in Their 40s

by Legacy Staff

When a celebrity leaves us too soon, we’re sad to see a life cut short — and often haunted by the life and career that could’ve been. We remember legends and budding stars from film, television, music and sports gone much too soon with a photo gallery of celebrities who died before 50. Click to view the slideshow, then click links under the photos for more info about your favorite celebrities who died in their 40s.

Verne Troyer (1969–2018)

Kristian Dowling / Getty Images

Actor VERNE TROYER (1969 – 2018) was best-known as Mini-Me in the “Austin Powers” movies with Mike Myers.

View Verne Troyer’s obituary

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Dolores O’Riordan (1971–2018)

Getty Images

With the plaintive vocal style of frontwoman DOLORES O’RIORDAN (1971 – 2018) and the fusion of alt rock and Celtic elements, Irish rock band The Cranberries forged their unique pop sound and found worldwide fame with ’90s hits “Zombie” and “Linger.”

View Dolores O’Riordan’s obituary


Prodigy (1974–2017)

Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic

PRODIGY (1974 – 2017) co-founded critically acclaimed hip-hop duo Mobb Deep with Kejuan Muchita (aka Havoc) in the early 1990s and together they became one of the most successful and influential rap duos in hip-hop history. The rapper suffered from sickle cell anemia.

View Prodigy’s obituary


Chester Bennington (1976–2017)

Getty / Jennifer Lourie

The lead singer of rock group Linkin Park, CHESTER BENNINGTON (1976 – 2017) was just 41 when he died by suicide. The band’s song “One More Light,” about the death of a friend, was released after Bennington’s death.

View Chester Bennington’s obituary


Amanda Peterson (1971–2015)

Everett Collection / Buena Vista

Actress AMANDA PETERSON (1971 – 2015) starred alongside Patrick Dempsey in the 1980’s teen classic “Can’t Buy Me Love.” She was only 43 when she died.

View Amanda Peterson’s obituary


Stuart Scott (1965–2015)

AP Photo / Matt Sayles

STUART SCOTT (1965 – 2015), the longtime “SportsCenter” anchor and ESPN personality known for his enthusiasm and ubiquity, died at 49.

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Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967–2014)

AP Photo / Invision / Danny Moloshok

Before his death of a heroin overdose at 46, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN (1967 – 2014) appeared in award-winning films such as “Capote,” “The Master,” and “Doubt,” as well as blockbuster hits including “Mission Impossible III,” “Moneyball,” and the latest installment of the “Hunger Games” series.


Paul Walker (1973–2013)

AP Photo / Joel Ryan

Actor PAUL WALKER (1973 – 2013), known best as the star of the “Fast & Furious” movie series, died at 40 in a tragic car crash.

View Paul Walker’s obituary


Jenni Rivera (1969–2012)

AP Photo / Reed Saxon

Fans got to know the Mexican-American singer-songwriter JENNI RIVERA (1969 – 2012) through her music — in which she often touched on personal themes such as domestic abuse, divorce, and weight loss — as well as through her reality shows, including “I Love Jenni.” Rivera died in a plane crash at 43.

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Adam Yauch (1964–2012)

AP Photo / Mary Altaffer

ADAM YAUCH (1964 – 2012), known best as MCA, the gravelly voiced rapper of the seminal hip-hop group Beastie Boys, died of cancer at 47.

View Adam Yauch’s obituary


Junior Seau (1969–2012)

Getty Images / Jim McIsaac

JUNIOR SEAU (1969 – 2012) spent nearly 20 years in the NFL, earning dozens of honors before retiring after the 2009 season. When Seau took his own life at 43, an examination of his body revealed chronic brain damage that some doctors believe drove the former linebacker to suicide.

View Junior Seau’s obituary


Whitney Houston (1963–2012)

AP Photo / Matt Sayles

The award-winning, chart-busting singer influenced popular music as few others have done. The era of the pop diva all but began when WHITNEY HOUSTON (1963 – 2012) boldly belted out her first songs, and generations of her followers have aspired to be the next Whitney. The troubled superstar died in an accidental drowning at 48.

View Whitney Houston’s obituary


Heavy D (1967–2011)

Getty Images / WireImage / Dr. Billy Ingram

More than just a rapper, HEAVY D (1967 – 2011) created music that was fun, catchy and transcended borders. Back in 1991 you didn’t need to be a rap fan to be drawn in by the infectious and exuberant sound of “Now That We Found Love.” Heavy D died at 44 of a pulmonary embolism.

View Heavy D’s obituary


Gary Coleman (1968–2010)

Getty Images / NBC / Herb Ball

GARY COLEMAN (1968 – 2010) charmed audiences as Arnold Jackson on “Diff’rent Strokes” and gave us the beloved catchphrase, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” Coleman died at 42 of injuries sustained in a fall.

View Gary Coleman’s obituary


Alexander McQueen (1969–2010)

AP Photo / Michel Euler

British fashion designer ALEXANDER MCQUEEN (1969 – 2010) was known for his dramatic creations and impeccable tailoring. He died by suicide at 40.


Natasha Richardson (1963–2009)

AP Photo / Peter Kramer

Tony Award-winning actress Natasha Richardson (1963 – 2009) was born into a film and theater dynasty, and she brought an amazing talent to every role she played. She died at 45 of a brain injury sustained during a skiing accident.

View Natasha Richardson’s obituary


Steve Irwin (1962–2006)

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Conservationist STEVE IRWIN (1962 – 2006) gained international fame through his television series “The Crocodile Hunter.” The son of a wildlife expert father and a wildlife rehabilitator mother, Irwin grew up around crocs in his family’s Queensland Reptile and Fauna Park. He died at 44 after a stingray barb punctured his chest.

View Steve Irwin’s obituary


Wendie Jo Sperber (1958–2005)

AP Photo / Nick Ut

WENDIE JO SPERBER (1958 – 2005) starred on TV’s “Bosom Buddies” with Tom Hanks, who called her “a walking inspiration” after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She died of the disease at 47.


Laura Branigan (1957–2004)

Getty Images / Harry Langdon

LAURA BRANIGAN (1957 – 2004) had her first big hit in 1982 with “Gloria.” The song grew so popular that it landed Branigan a gig on one of the hottest TV shows of the day, “CHiPs.” Branigan died in her sleep of a brain aneurysm at 47.

View Laura Branigan’s obituary


Walter Payton (1954–1999)

Getty Images / Jonathan Daniel

WALTER PAYTON (1954 – 1999), the beloved running back known as “Sweetness,” played for the Chicago Bears for 13 seasons and boasted an incredible list of career accomplishments. Payton was just 45 when he died of bile duct cancer.

View Walter Payton’s obituary


Phil Hartman (1948–1998)

AP Photo

Famous since his eight-year run on “Saturday Night Live,” PHIL HARTMAN (1948 – 1998) was at the height of his career in 1998. He was working on projects including “The Simpsons” and “News Radio,” preparing to voice the goofy spaceman Zapp Brannigan on “Futurama,” thinking about creating a live-action movie about his Simpsons character Troy McClure, and more. His sudden, tragic death at 49 — killed by his wife in a bizarre murder-suicide — left his friends and fans shocked and baffled.

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Laura Nyro (1947–1997)

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Singer-songwriter and pianist LAURA NYRO (1947 – 1997) was critically acclaimed whose songs became hits for such artists as The Fifth Dimension. She died at the age of 49 from ovarian cancer.


Margaux Hemingway (1954–1996)

Getty Images / WireImage / Gijsbert Hanekroot

MARGAUX HEMINGWAY (1954 – 1996) was the granddaughter of the famous novelist Ernest Hemingway. She was a fashion model and actress. She died of suicide by drug overdose in 1996 at the age of 42.


Danitra Vance (1954–1994)

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives / NBC

Comedian and actress Danitra Vance (1954 – 1994) is known best as a “Saturday Night Light” cast member. She died at 40 of breast cancer.

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John Candy (1950–1994)

AP Photo

In movies like “Stripes,” “Uncle Buck,” and “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” JOHN CANDY (1950 – 1994) delighted legions of fans. When he died at 43 of a heart attack, he was mourned by a huge community of friends who fell in love with him during his all-too-brief career making people laugh.

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Arthur Ashe (1943–1993)

AP Photo

When tennis star ARTHUR ASHE (1943 – 1993) announced in 1992 that he was battling HIV — and then died less than a year later at 49 — his illness seemed to overshadow his illustrious career. Contracted from blood transfusions he received during heart surgery, Ashe’s HIV lingered for years before it became too prominent to hide.


Andre the Giant (1946–1993)

Getty Images / Russell Turiak

By Andre Roussimoff’s 12th birthday, he had grown to 6 feet 3 inches and 240 pounds. As an adult, he would reach 7 feet 4 inches, 500-plus pounds and be known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” Most of us know him simply as ANDRE THE GIANT (1946 – 1993). He died at 46 of congestive heart failure.

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Freddie Mercury (1946–1991)

AP Photo / Gill Allen

As the lead singer for Queen, FREDDIE MERCURY (1946 – 1991) was bombastic, with a four-octave range that swept from a low growl to soaring heights. As a performer he was darn near godlike, packing stadiums and delighting audiences with his theatrical antics and fantastic music. Mercury died at 45 of AIDS-related pneumonia.

View Freddie Mercury’s obituary


Gilda Radner (1946–1989)

Getty Images / Anthony Barboza

GILDA RADNER (1946 – 1989) was the very first performer cast in “Saturday Night Live.” Radner died at 42 of ovarian cancer, but her sketches remain funny — and many of her characters have gone down in comedy history.

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Ricky Nelson (1940–1985)

Getty Images / Hulton Archive

RICKY NELSON (1940 – 1985) was just 9 when he began appearing with his family on the radio program “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” As he grew up, he graduated to movie and TV star, then teen idol and recording artist. He died at 45 in a plane crash.

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Marvin Gaye (1939–1984)

Getty Images / Gado / Afro American Newspapers

MARVIN GAYE (1939 – 1984) personified the changing landscape of rhythm and blues in a career that spanned not just the tumultuous 1960s, but also 26 years that saw the art form go from innocent street corner doo-wop to the sexually charged soul music of the 1980s. Gaye was shot and killed by his father at 44.

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Marty Feldman (1934–1982)

Getty Images / ullstein bild

MARTY FELDMAN (1934 – 1982) was a comic actor who was known for his roles in the Mel Brooks movies “Young Frankenstein” and “Silent Movie.” He died from a heart attack at 48.


Natalie Wood (1938–1981)

Getty Images / Silver Screen Collection

NATALIE WOOD (1938 – 1981) was one of the rarest types of actors — the child star who transitions seamlessly into teenage ingénue before another successful move to adult stardom. Wood died in a mysterious drowning at 43.

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John Lennon (1940–1980)

Getty Images / Susan Wood

JOHN LENNON (1940 – 1980) was the first of the Beatles to die, and his shocking murder at 40 ended an era. Lennon’s legacy lives on and on — in the music he created, in his musically talented family, and in the call for world peace that he sounded, still resonating today.

View John Lennon’s obituary


Bob Crane (1928–1978)

Getty Images / Silver Screen Collection

BOB CRANE (1928 – 1978) is known best for his role as Col. Hogan in the popular sitcom “Hogan’s Heroes.” Crane was bludgeoned to death at 49, a homicide that remains unsolved.

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Elvis Presley (1935–1977)

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Rock ‘n’ roll musician and movie star ELVIS PRESLEY (1935 – 1977) died at 42 of a heart attack decades ago, but he remains a larger-than-life icon.

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Judy Garland (1922–1969)

Getty Images / Hulton Archive / Silver Screen Collection

The career of JUDY GARLAND (1922 – 1969) began long before she played Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz,” and continued long after. But Garland, who died of a drug overdose at 47, will forever be associated with the farm girl who dreams of a better life over the rainbow.

View Judy Garland’s obituary


Robert F. Kennedy (1925–1968)

Getty Images / Time & Life Pictures / Bill Eppridge

ROBERT F. KENNEDY (1925 – 1968) was well on his way to being named the Democratic nominee for president in 1968, when he was assassinated at 42. His murder came just two months after the killing of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and fewer than five years after the assassination of his brother, President John F. Kennedy.


Nat King Cole (1919–1965)

Getty Images / Michael Ochs Archives

Popular singer, pianist, and television host NAT KING COLE (1919 – 1965) died at 45 of lung cancer, but remains unforgettable nearly half a century after his death.

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John F. Kennedy (1917–1963)

Wikimedia Commons

President JOHN F. KENNEDY (1917 – 1963) was just 46 when he was assassinated. His death was a defining moment in 20th century America.

View John F. Kennedy’s obituary


Billie Holiday (1915–1959)

Wikimedia Commons

Jazz legend BILLIE HOLIDAY (1915 – 1959) is one of the most celebrated singers of all time with fans continuing to discover and relish her unique and poignant sound. She died at 44 of liver and heart disease following years of drug abuse.

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Tyrone Power (1914–1958)

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Dashing leading man TYRONE POWER (1914 – 1958) was known for his roles in swashbuckling movies such as “The Mark of Zorro.” He died from a heart attack at the age of 44.

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