Today, when we look back on the lives of iconic celebrities who tragically passed away all too young, it’s easy to lose sight of exactly how young they actually were at the times of their deaths. Princess Diana, for instance, died at the youthful age of 36. (For perspective, know that pop stars Beyoncé and Britney Spears both turn 37 this year. The reigning Wimbledon champion, Roger Federer, is also 37.)
In 2018, the actor Heath Ledger wouldn’t yet be 40, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin wouldn’t yet be 77, and civil rights legend Martin Luther King, Jr. would be in his 80s. And that’s just a sampling. Read on for a quick trip through an alternate universe in which our most timeless icons were still with us.
Princess Diana, 57
After her tragic death in car crash, in 1997, Princess Diana of Wales‘s televised funeral was viewed by nearly 2 billion people worldwide.
James Dean, 87
The actor and style icon passed away in a car accident in 1955.
Elvis Presley tragically passed away at his home in Memphis in 1977.
Anna Nicole Smith, 50
The model, actress, and reality-TV star passed away from a drug overdose in 2007.
Kurt Cobain, 51
The Nirvana frontman committed suicide in his Seattle home in 1994.
Freddie Mercury, 71
The Queen frontman—arguably the greatest rock frontman of all time—died in 1991.
Martin Luther King, Jr., 89
The Civil Rights legend was assassinated in 1968.
Heath Ledger, 39
Australian actor Heath Ledger tragically passed away in 2008, just a few months after wrapping on his iconic role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
John Lennon, 77
After his assassination in 1980, John Lennon‘s wife and collaborator Yoko Ono declared that there would be no funeral for the exalted musician. Instead, his ashes were scattered in Central Park.
Jimi Hendrix, 75
In 2015, 45 years after his death, Jimi Hendrix—another member of the “27 Club” (famous musicians who all died at the age of 27, including Kurt Cobain)—was dubbed the “greatest guitarist of all time” by Rolling Stone.
Amy Winehouse, 34
The beloved British singer died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
Anton Yelchin, 29
Anton Yelchin, best known for playing Chekov in the Star Trek reboots, tragically died last year during a freak accident involving his Jeep Grand Cherokee.
Sid Vicious, 61
Despite having died at 21, in 1979, Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious remains one of the most indelible punk figures.
Keith Moon, 71
Keith Moon, known for his stellar drumming for The Who, also gained fame for smashing his kits on stage during performances. He passed away in 1978.
The “Queen of R&B” tragically passed away in 2001 during a plane crash after filming the music video for “Rock the Boat.”
Paul Walker, 44
Paul Walker passed away in a car crash during production of Furious 7 , in 2013.
Janis Joplin, 75
Janis Joplin passed away just 16 days after fellow 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix.
Edie Sedgwick, 75
A stalwart of Andy Warhol‘s Factory, Edie Sedgwick came to be known as one of—if not the—first embodiments of an “It Girl.” She tragically passed away at the age of 28 from a barbiturate overdose.
Tupac Shakur, 47
The 1996 murder of rapper Tupac Shakur has, to this day, still gone unsolved (and his alleged survival is one of the 20 Famous Rumors We All Wish Were True).
Biggie Smalls, 45
Like the death of Tupac, the 1997 murder of Bigger Smalls remains unsolved.
Bob Marley, 73
The face of reggae passed away at 36 due to complications from melanoma.
Jim Morrison, 74
No autopsy was ever performed on Jim Morrison (another member of the 27 Club), in 1971; as such, the cause of his death is unknown to this day.
Chris Farley, 54
The iconic comedian died of a drug overdose in 1997.
Marilyn Monroe, 92
Though her 1962 death was ruled a suicide, conspiracy theories abound that Marilyn Monroe was the victim of a murder plot. These theories were debunked by the L.A. County District Attorney’s office. And while she was with us, Monroe donned one of the 20 Bikinis That Changed Everything.
River Phoenix, 47
River Phoenix, whose cause of death was drug use, was regarded as one of the most fiercely talented actors of his generation.
Buddy Holly, 81
The singer from Texas died in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22. Yes, it was the “the day the music died.”
John Belushi, 69
In 2015, 33 years after his drug-related death in 1982, Rolling Stone ranked John Belushi as the greatest Saturday Night Live cast member of all time.
Robin Williams, 67
After Robin Williams died in 2014, a tunnel on Highway 101, due north of San Francisco, was named after him.
Brittany Murphy, 40
The Clueless actress died of pneumonia in 2009. Six months later, her widower passed away of the same illness.
Steve Irwin, 56
Zoologist and wildlife documentarian Steve Irwin died of a stingray sting while collecting footage off the coast of Queensland, Australia. And for more dangers from the sea, don’t miss the 20 Sea Creatures More Dangerous Than Sharks.
Steve McQueen, 88
Men’s style icon Steve McQueen defied death at every turn, until a bout of mesothelioma—a cancer for which there is no known cure—took his life in 1980.
Marvin Gaye, 79
The Motown and R&B legend died of a gunshot wound in 1984.
Cory Monteith, 36
The beloved Glee star died of drug overdose in 2013.
Bruce Lee, 77
Bruce Lee passed away due to an allergic reaction to a prescribed painkiller. He was Hollywood’s greatest martial artist, so it’s no surprise that he’s featured prominently on our list of the 20 Greatest Fight Scenes of All Time.
Brandon Lee, 53
Bruce Lee’s son, Brandon Lee, died on-set while filming The Crow, when a defective blank in a prop gun accidentally discharged with the force of a live bullet.
Ronnie Van Zant, 70; Cassie Gaines, 70; Steve Gaines, 69
Three members of Lynyrd Skynard—vocalists Ronnie Van Zant and Cassie Gaines, and guitarist Steve Gaines—died in a plane crash in 1977, prompting a several-year hiatus for the band.
Randy Rhoads, 61
Ozzy Osbourne‘s first guitarist, Randy Rhoads, passed away during a plane crash in 1982.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 63
Blues rock legend Stevie Ray Vaughan (center) died in a 1990 helicopter accident.
Sharon Tate, 75
The 1969 murder of Sharon Tate sparked a wave of fear among the Hollywood elite: At her funeral, in fact, Steve McQueen allegedly packed a gun for protection.
Philip Seymour Hoffman, 51
Philip Seymour Hoffman, described by The New York Times as “perhaps the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation,” in an obituary, was found dead in his bathroom in 2014.
Mitch Hedberg, 50
The widely beloved comedian died of a drug overdose in 2005.
Michael Jackson, 59
Web chatter concerning the 2009 death of the King of Pop—the one and only Michael Jackson—was so voluminous that Google, Twitter, AOL, and Wikipedia all went down at some point in the 24 hours following his death.
Otis Redding, 76
Otis Redding, the King of Soul, passed away at 26 during a plane crash en route to his next scheduled performance.
John Bonham, 70
Rather than replace drummer John Bonham after his death in 1980, Led Zeppelin decided to disband.
Whitney Houston, 55
Whitney Houston, the “most awarded female act of all time,” according to the 2009 Guinness Book of World Records, was found unresponsive in her bathtub in 2012.
Bernie Mac, 60
The comedy great tragically died of a cardiac arrest caused by a disease called sarcoidosis in 2008.
John F. Kennedy, Jr., 57
John F. Kennedy, Jr., the publisher of George magazine and heir to political royalty, died in a fatal plane crash off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, in 1999. And for more insight into his family, check out 25 Crazy Facts about the Kennedys You Never Knew.
Andy Kaufman, 69
Rumors persisted for years that Andy Kaufman faked his own death in 1984. In 2013, the L.A. County Coroner’s office put those rumors to bed by re-releasing Kaufman’s death certificate.
Sylvia Plath, 85
Esteemed wordsmith Sylvia Plath created her voluminous body of work before the age of 30; she took her life then, in 1963.
Anne Frank, 89
After two years hiding from Nazi forces, Anne Frank tragically passed away from typhus in a German concentration camp, in 1945. The diaries she kept while on the run provide an essential window into what life under Nazi rule was like.