Jim Morrison was an icon of counterculture, one of the most famous rebels of all time. We remember Morrison’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
Jim Morrison was an icon of counterculture, one of the most famous rebels of all time. As the lead singer of the Doors, he had an enormous influence on 1960s and ’70s pop culture and music, and indeed on rock music for decades to come. Songs including “Light My Fire,” “Love Her Madly,” and “People Are Strange” are enduring classics. So is Morrison’s image, that of a handsome and slightly dangerous-looking man with tousled hair who remains, in our imaginations, forever young. Morrison was just 27 when he died in 1971, adding fuel to the “27 Club” fire that was building around the then-recent deaths of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin at the same age. We remember Morrison’s life today as well as the lives of other notable people who died this day in history.
2020: Emily Howell Warner,professional pilot who was the first woman hired by a U.S. commercial airline as a permanent pilot, in 1973, dies at 80.
2016: Noel Neill, U.S. actress best known for her role as Lois Lane on the classic Superman TV series, dies at 95.
2015: Diana Douglas, U.S. actress who was married to actor Kirk Douglas and was the mother of actor Michael Douglas, dies at 92.
2012: Andy Griffith, U.S. actor known for his hit television series “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Matlock,” dies of a heart attack at 86.
Griffith could easily have been fenced in by his work on “The Andy Griffith Show,” always playing some version of the gentle, civic-minded sheriff and single father (and the straight man to the bumbling comic relief of Don Knotts‘ Deputy Barney Fife, Jim Nabors’ Gomer Pyle, and George Lindsey‘s Goober Pyle). The show has gone down in TV legend as one of the most successful, best-loved and longest-lived shows of all time. During its eight seasons, “The Andy Griffith Show” consistently ranked in the top 10, and even 44 years since its end, it still lives on as a TV Land favorite. Read more
2009: John Keel, U.S. journalist and ufologist known best for his book “The Mothman Prophecies,” dies at 79.
2008: Larry Harmon, U.S. entertainer known better by his alter ego, Bozo the Clown, dies at 83.
Although not the original Bozo, Harmon portrayed the popular clown in countless appearances and, as an entrepreneur, he licensed the character to others, particularly dozens of television stations around the country, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. The stations in turn hired actors to be their local Bozos. “You might say, in a way, I was cloning BTC (Bozo the Clown) before anybody else out there got around to cloning DNA,” Harmon told The Associated Press in a 1996 interview. Read more
2007: Boots Randolph, U.S. musician known best for his hit saxophone song “Yakety Sax,” dies at 80.
He recorded more than 40 albums and spent 15 years touring with the Festival of Music, teaming with fellow instrumentalists Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer, according to his obituary by The Associated Press. As a session musician, he played on Elvis Presley‘s ”Return to Sender,” Roy Orbison‘s ”Oh, Pretty Woman,” Brenda Lee’s ”Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree” and ”I’m Sorry,” REO Speedwagon’s ”Little Queenie,” Al Hirt’s ”Java,” and other songs including ones by Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash. Read more
2006: Benjamin Hendrickson, U.S. actor remembered best for his regular character, Hal Munson Jr., on the soap opera “As the World Turns,” dies by suicide at 55.
2001: Johnny Russell, U.S. country singer-songwriter who wrote the song “Act Naturally,” which became a hit for Buck Owens and was also recorded by the Beatles, dies at 61.
1999: Mark Sandman, U.S. singer, songwriter, and musician who was the lead singer of the popular indie band Morphine, dies of a heart attack at 46.
1995: Pancho Gonzales, U.S. professional tennis player who was ranked world No. 1 for a record eight years from 1952 until 1960, dies of cancer at 67.
1993: Don Drysdale, U.S. Major League Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers who was a nine time All-Star and won three World Series titles, dies of a heart attack at 56.
1993: Joe DeRita, U.S. comedian known best for his stint as Curly Joe as a member of The Three Stooges in the late 1950s and ’60s, dies of pneumonia at 83.
1989: Jim Backus, U.S. actor known for his classic role as Thurston Howell on “Gilligan’s Island” and who provided the voice for the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, dies of pneumonia complications at 76.
1988: Gabriel Dell, U.S. actor who was one of the original members in the “Dead End Kids” serials, dies of leukemia at 68.
1987: Viola Dana, U.S. film actress who was popular in the silent era, dies at 90.
1986: Rudy Vallee, U.S. singer and actor who became one of the first teen idols in the 1920s and whose acting appearances included “The Palm Beach Story” opposite Claudette Colbert, dies of cancer at 84.
1981: Ross Martin, Polish-born U.S. actor who was well-known for his starring role with Robert Conrad on the television series “The Wild Wild West,” dies of a heart attack at 61.
1978: James Daly, U.S. actor known best for his starring role as Dr. Paul Lochner on the hospital drama series “Medical Center,” dies of heart failure at 59.
1971: Jim Morrison, U.S. singer-songwriter and poet known as the lead singer for the Doors, dies of a heroin overdose at 27.
Revered by fans as a rebel rocker, the charismatic frontman for the Doors was known for his serpentine dance moves and seemingly endless sex appeal. He was notorious during his lifetime – for his indecent exposure arrest and for performing while under the obvious influence of alcohol, among other things. His Washington Post obituary noted that Morrison exemplified onstage “everything most adults found distasteful about rock music and the youth culture.” Read more
1969: Brian Jones, English musician who was a founding member and multi-instrumentalist for the Rolling Stones, drowns in his pool at 27.
Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, contributed unique instrumentation that helped the band’s sound grow and evolve. From the early days of the band’s career, Jones played harmonica on a variety of tracks, and he soon branched out to include more unusual instruments – traditional and ethnic instruments like sitar and dulcimer; keyboards like organ, accordion, and harpsichord; woodwinds like saxophone and oboe; and more. Read more
1957: Judy Tyler, U.S. actress who was known for playing Princess Summerfall Winterspring on “The Howdy Doody Show” and starred opposite Elvis Presley in “Jailhouse Rock,” dies in a violent car collision at 24.