Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Live Fast, Die Young: 20 Great Artists that Never Reached 30

Live Fast, Die Young: 20 Great Artists that Never Reached 30

The phrase Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse, originally spoken by actor John Derek in Nicholas Ray's Knock on Any Door (1949), emphasizes how unfulfilled promises have always been fascinating and intriguing for many of us. While some great artists lived up to their full potential, sometimes through decades of fruitful careers, others have passed away long before that, leaving many of us wondering which masterpieces might have lost along with their elder years. Following are 20 great artists that enlightened our souls with their art for a short time, but signed-off to rest in peace before reaching the age of 30.

1) Jean Vigo

French film maker Jean Vigo contributed to poetic realism in film in the 1930s and influenced the French New Wave of the late 1950s and early 1960s. He died of Tuberculosis on October 5, 1934 when he was 29.
More about Jean Vigo
Picture: lucidscreening

2) Egon Schiele

Austrian painter Egon Schiele is well known for his twisted body shapes repeating in many of his paintings and drawings. Schiele became one of the notable exponents of Expressionism but died of Influenza on October 31, 1918 when he was 28.
More about Egon Schiele
Picture: myspace

3) Janis Joplin

In 2004 American singer and songwriter Janis Joplin was ranked by the Rolling Stone magazine #46 on a list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. She was a heroin addict and died of heroin overdose on October 4, 1970 when she was 27.
More about Janis Joplin
Picture: herbgreenefoto

4) Kurt Cobain

American musician, singer, guitarist and songwriter Kurt Cobain was co-founder of the Seattle based rock band Nirvana and their leading singer. Even though there are many different versions for what really happened with that shotgun on April 5, 1994 the official version is that Cobain shot himself to death when he was 27.
More about Kurt Cobain
Picture: justnevermind

5) Brian Jones

British musician Brian Jones was a founding member, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist of British rock band The Rolling Stones. Jones drowned in his own private swimming pool in Sussex, England on 3 July 1969 when he was 27.
More about Brian Jones
Picture: preciousstones

6) Jim Morrison

American singer, poet, songwriter, writer and (frustrated) film director Jim Morrison, also known as The Lizard King and Mr. Mojo Risin', was the founder, leading singer and lyricist of the legendary rock band The Doors. Considered by many as the greatest, most charismatic and influential figure in rock history, Morrison ended up with very few friends and a heart attack while bathing in a Paris hotel room on July 3, 1971. He was 27.
More about Jim Morrison

7) Jimi Hendrix

American guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimi Hendrix is considered as one of the greatest and most influential guitar artists in rock music history. According to Dr. Bannister who attended the star at the time of his death Hendrix was drowned in his own vomit, almost entirely red wine served at an earlier party. The full circumstances which led to his death, however, have never been fully uncovered. Hendrix was 27.
More about Jimi Hendrix
Picture: guitarch

8) Jean Harlow

American film actress Jean Harlow was one of the most prominent sex symbols of the 1930s. Also known as the Platinum Blonde and The Blonde Bombshell, Harlow starred in several films, mainly designed to showcase her magnetic sex appeal. She died of uremic poisoning and kidney failure on June 7, 1937 when she was 26.
More about Jean Harlow
Picture: doctormacro

9) Sharon Tate

American film actress and Golden Globe-nominated Sharon Tate was one of Hollywood's most promising upcoming stars even before her marriage to genius film director Roman Polański. She was murdered on August 9, 1969 by the Charles Manson gang. Tate was 26 years old and two weeks from giving birth at the time of her horrific death. This famous photo (from John Gilmore and Ron Kramer's Manson: The Unholy Trail of Charlie and the Family) shows Tate on the murder day.
More about Sharon Tate
Picture: lehigh

10) Georg Heym

German poet Georg Heym is known for his outstanding groundbreaking expressionist poetry. He drowned in a frozen lake during a skating trip while trying to save his friend Ernst Balcke. It was January 16, 1912 and the genius poet was just 25.
More about Georg Heym
Picture: wikimedia

11) James Dean

Double Oscar-nominated American film actor James Dean became a cultural icon following his roll as Jim Stark in Nicholas Ray's monumental film Rebel Without a Cause. He played two more pantheon rolls (Cal Trask in East of Eden and as the Jett Rink in Stevens' Giant) but was killed in a car crash accident at the age of 24. Dean was one of the most talented and original style actors Hollywood has ever seen. He was the first actor to receive an "after death" Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Actually, Dean the only actor ever received two such nominations.
More about James Dean
Picture: smu

12) Judy Tyler

American film actress Judy Tyler appeared in the 1957 film Bop Girl Goes Calypso but is mostly remembered for her co-starring with Elvis Presley in the movie Jailhouse Rock. After completing her part of the Presley movie filming Tyler and her husband Greg Lafayette went on a vacation. They were killed July 4, 1957 in a car accident north of Rock River, Wyoming. Tyler was only 24 when she died. She was so young she never got to watch any of her only two films.
More about Judy Tyler

13) River Phoenix

American film actor River Phoenix was an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated and was listed on John Willis's Screen World, Vol. 38 as one of twelve "promising new actors of 1986". On the Halloween morning of October 31, 1993 Phoenix died of speedball (mix of heroin and cocaine) overdose outside a Hollywood night club named the Viper Room. He was 23.
More about River Phoenix
Picture: freewebz

14) Ian Curtis

British vocalist and lyricist Ian Curtis joined the new wave band Joy Division in 1976 and quickly became their undisputed leader. Years after his death Curtis is still a major source of inspiration and a subject for many other artists. Curtis hanged himself in his own kitchen on May 18, 1980 after watching Werner Herzog's Stroszek and listening to Iggy Pop's The Idiot. Amongst suggested reasons for his suicide are epilepsy related problems and failure of his marriage. He was 23 years old.
More about Ian Curtis

15) Dominique Dunne

American actress Dominique Dunne appeared in several made for television movies, television series, and films but was most known for her role as Dana (the oldest daughter) in Poltergeist (1982). Dunne was strangled into coma on November 4, 1982 by her ex-boyfriend John Thomas Sweeney after she refused to reconcile with him. Sweeney, then a popular Los Angeles chef, strangled Dunne in the driveway of her home. She died a few days later, at the age of 22.
More about Dominique Dunne
Picture: nndb

16) Buddy Holly

American singer-songwriter and rock and roll inventor Charles Hardin Holley aka "Buddy Holly" is considered one of the most influential artists in pop music history but only lived to see about one and a half years of success. He was described as "the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll" and in 2004 ranked #13 on a list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time by the Rolling Stone magazine. He died in an airplane crash on February 3, 1959 on his way to Fargo, North Dakota. The plane took off in light snow and gusty winds at around 12:55 A.M., but crashed after only a few minutes.
More about Buddy Holly

17) Sid Vicious

British punk musician John Simon Ritchie also known as Sid Vicious was the bass player of the Sex Pistols and one of the most prominent prophets of the punk-rock decade. He died of heroin overdose on February 2, 1979 at the age of 21.
More about Sid Vicious
Picture: dubhthachsidheag

18) Charles Sorley

Scottish war poet Charles Sorley volunteered for military service in England during World War I and arrived at the Western Front in France as a lieutenant in May 1915. He ranked Captain at the very early age of 20 but was shot in the head by a German sniper at the Battle of Loos on October 13, 1915 and died instantly.
More about Charles Sorley
Picture: thelondonseason

19) Divya Bharti

Indian film actress Divya Bharti born Divya Om Prakash Bharti was a popular Indian film actress in the early 1990s. Bharti was already a shining star in 1990 when she was just 16 years old. In 1992 she appeared in more than 14 Hindi films which was at the time a record for a newcomer to the Hindi film industry. Bharti's career was ended in April 5, 1993 when she mysteriously accidentally fell off a 5-storey apartment building in Mumbai. She was 19 when she died.
More about Divya Bharti
Picture: treklens

20) Tara Correa-McMullen

American actress Shalvah McMullen, better known with her stage name Tara Correa-McMullen, was mostly famous for her role as gang member Graciela Reyes on the CBS TV series Judging Amy. McMullen had just about enough time to co-star with Martin Lawrence in a first feature film - Rebound - but was murdered on October 21, 2005. She was just 16 when she died.

More about Tara Correa-McMullen
Picture: minorcon

Enjoyed this article? See also: 20 (More) Great Artists that Never Reached 30


  1. Truly awesome post ... excellent reading, great sources, three thumbs up!

  2. Anonymous19.3.08

    Good list...may have thought to include John Keats though

  3. Good list, but how about using an actual pic of Buddy Holly instead of some tribute artist?

    1. Anonymous15.6.12

      That IS Buddy Holly you knucklehead!

  4. Great list! More than half died at 27? And more than half by drug overdose...

    I didn't know that Tara Correa-McMullen was dead. Sad news. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Anonymous19.3.08

    What about Brandon Lee? Died at 28 while filming The Crow.

  6. Should I had the magnificient Raymond Radiguet, a french writer, author of two novels (Le diable au corps and Le bal du comte d'Orgel) and a bunch og pornographic poetry. He died from typoïd fever at the age of 20. A few minutes after his death, Jean Cocteau who was a very close friend of his wrotte "Radiguet commence" (Radiguet begins). And what about Arthur Ribaud... ?

    Anayway, it's a beautiful post, thank you.

  7. Anonymous19.3.08

    I am curious about the criteria but an interesting list.

    I second Brandon Lee. Looking at the last girl makes me think of Rebecca Schaeffer (80's sitcom 'My Sister Sam'). Dominique brings to mind the tragedy of Heather O'Rourke and Ian Curtis and Sid Vicious immediately call up Darby Crash of The Germs. No Heath Ledger?

  8. Anonymous19.3.08

    no nick drake.

  9. Anonymous19.3.08

    Brian Jones was an English musician, and as far as I can see never even visited America before he died.

    1. Anonymous15.6.12

      Indeed he did visit America.

  10. Anonymous19.3.08

    Good post.
    Even better spelling and grammar.

  11. maybe you could have posted the REAL pictures of Ian Curtis and buddy holly

  12. Anonymous19.3.08

    Selena? Died at 23. She was one of the most influential Latina artists ever. . .

  13. Good post, and thanks for including the others in the list, so it's more then just the "27 Club" members.

  14. Anonymous19.3.08

    ritchey valens??

  15. John Bonham was 32...he should get an honorable mention

  16. Anonymous19.3.08

    What about Bradley Nowell from Sublime who died at 28

  17. Jeff Buckley just missed this list. He was 30 when he died. He went swimming while clothed in a river and then disappeared. Luckily the found him, sadly it was his corpse. He had a damn great voice.

  18. roobik19.3.08

    Aubrey Beardsley should be considered for the list. He died at age 25 and was a truly influential artist and illustrator.

  19. Anonymous20.3.08

    Tupac Shakur

  20. Great pictures, but there isn't an artist among them, they are ARTISTES!. There is a big difference.

  21. Needs Cliff Burton as well, Died while on tour with Metallica in Sweden. He died when he was 24.

  22. Anonymous20.3.08

    the rolling stones had several american tours under their belt before brian jones drowned.....

  23. Where is Randy Rhoads?

    One of the most influencial and greatest guitarists of all time. He was 25.

  24. Anonymous20.3.08

    "Good list, but how about using an actual pic of Buddy Holly instead of some tribute artist?"

    seriously talk about phoning it in.


    1. Anonymous15.6.12

      Hello? That IS Buddy Holly. The real guy. Not a tribute artist. It is a well known shot of him. Silly boy.

  25. Anonymous20.3.08

    Perhaps you should post an actual picture of Buddy Holly & Ian Curtis. No actors portraying them.

    Not sure about Mr Kurt Cobain either.

  26. tofer21.3.08

    Don't forget Alain Fournier who wrote the extraordinary book "Le Grand Meaulne". Died at 28 during the first world war.

  27. Anonymous21.3.08

    Sid Vicious was a chodish swastika-wearing drug addict in what was pretty much the first punk rock boy band (imagine a prototypical My Chemical Romance) and more importantly a shitty bassist. Otherwise good list I guess.

    1. Anonymous15.6.12

      And yet, Sid is in the history books, and you are not. So stfu.

  28. Anonymous21.3.08

    Layne Staley

  29. Anonymous21.3.08

    What about SELENA?????

  30. Hi all,

    Thank you for the wonderful comments and also for the not so wonderful ones. Took me some time but here we are:

    khan and anonymous: The pictures of Ian Curtis and Buddy Holly have been replaced. Hope you like the new ones. I think the Holly one was indeed Holly but replaced it anyway, just to make sure. Actually I like the new one much better. The Curtis was (probably) a mistake.

    The criteria for the order was age at the time of death going from oldest to youngest.

    Brian Jones was (of course...) an English musician. This was fixed as well.

    Spelling and grammar: well, we are doing our best over here with the English but what can i tell you. you must be right. I guess Lou Reed was also right when he wrote "... but you can't be Shakespeare and you can't be Joyce so what is left instead". I'll be happy to learn so please feel free to post some specific notes.

    FreshSpice: Definition of artist (from is indeed: "One, such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts." but also "A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill" and "One, such as an actor or singer, who works in the performing arts". Therefore I think the term Artistes ("A skilled public performer or entertainer, especially a singer or dancer.") would be too specific for this kind of list (e.g. for Schiele and Heym) and that Artists is better. I wonder what others think about that.

    Lastly, special thanks for all the fantastic additional "under 30" names. This HAS to result with a "part 2" list...

    Stay tuned :)

  31. Anonymous21.3.08

    little cavalier with both the word "great" and "artist" i'd say.

  32. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  33. Anonymous22.3.08

    I don't know if anyone mentioned this , but I'm a little confused about the term artist here. Sid Vicious is not an artist unless you consider his life art, but I think that's stretching it. He didn't know how to play bass and was high so much his feet never touched the ground. Also how can Jimi be behind Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin? I do not know much about some of the writers and film makers but Jimi Hendrix could be considered the greatest guitarist of all time. I don't know that either Janis Joplin or Jim Morrison could be the greatest anythings. It seems like this post is more about presence than art.

  34. Anonymous25.3.08

    Aaliyah was only 22 when she died in 2001.

  35. Anonymous25.3.08

    Tose Proeski born 25.01.1981
    died in terrible car accident on 16.10.2007, He was only 26 an was the greatest Balkan Pop star, and the greatest Macedonian!

    Pls do a research and make a post for Tose!
    thank you!

  36. Anonymous25.3.08


  37. Anonymous27.3.08

    One does not see "ANY" of her two films, but "EITHER"of them.

  38. Anonymous2.4.08

    "Also how can Jimi be behind Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin?"

    lol if you didn't notice, it went from age 30 down to 16, it's not some order of ~artistic greatness~ k.

  39. This article had me hooked! Love it. Great blog.

  40. How about Basquiat? Great painter who exbitied with Warhol and later died at 28 of an overdose:

  41. Anonymous6.3.09

    I think one poster had it right when they mentioned Brandon Lee who died tragically at 28 whilst filming his last movie. He had talent and definite potential in Hollywood and was just about to get married to his girlfriend Eliza.

    I absolutely loved The Crow (Brandon's final film) and he was the son of the great Bruce Lee who also died before his time. Do you think that you could include Brandon Lee on your list soon?

  42. Anonymous7.4.09

    Jeff Buckley??

  43. Anonymous18.4.09

    long live "The Lizard King"

  44. Anonymous12.5.09

    Cobain again? Are you kidding?

  45. Anonymous13.5.09

    Should we ask Telegram Sam to inform you of Marc Bolan, founder of T. Rex? ----- Get it on, he was a 20th Century Boy.

    ...Great list so far.

  46. Anonymous15.5.09

    No list will ever be complete...

    That being said-I would add Clifford Brown and Charlie Christian-two tremendous and influential musicians...

  47. Mohib26.5.09

    Risk my soul, test my life
    For my bread
    Spend my time lost in space
    Am I dead?
    Let the river flow
    Through my callused hands
    And take me from my own
    The eyes of the damned

    It makes my stomach turn
    And it tears my flesh from the bone
    How we turn a dream to stone

    And we all die young
    Yeah we all die young

  48. Anonymous28.5.09

    Kurt Cobain was an unworthy of life shit basket, the only good thing he ever did was kill himself however he should have been more considerate and done it sooner. I enjoyed this list though, keep up the good work!

  49. Anonymous28.6.09

    Looks like only American and british are real on this life.
    many countries has famous people that the net never add it.
    Sounds like discrimination.

  50. Rob L.30.12.09

    The only way to have any decent list of artists is to have several lists by genre.

  51. Anonymous6.6.10

    Thats because only the truly English matter.

  52. Anonymous21.7.10

    Shelley and Keats

  53. Sid Vicious? Really? He replaced the original bass player for the Sex Pistols and couldn't even play the bass or any other instrument. So let's see, he couldn't play, couldn't sing and couldn't write lyrics. He just stood there on stage looking the part, and never played on any album. So that makes him a great artist?

  54. Now, Amy Winehouse.

  55. Anonymous25.7.11

    Hank Williams.

  56. Anonymous14.8.11

    Tupac and Biggie

  57. irini15.8.11

    Very weird, indeed. I am a macedonian, born and raised in Thessaloniki- Greece and I have never heard of mr. Tose Proeski...
    Perhaps the kind gentleman/ lady would like to explain how a Slav can have a Greek identity?

    I 'll quote Tony Wilson:
    "If you get it, great. If you don't, that's fine too. But you should probably read more."

    Apart from that historically inconsistent comment a great list it is and please include Jeff Buckley!



  58. Ritchie Valens, Mexican American Rock and Roll pioneer and forefather of the Chicano rock movement. Valens' recording career lasted only eight months. During this time, however, he scored several hits, most notably "La Bamba" and "Donna" died at 17.

  59. Anonymous19.12.11

    You might add Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to the list, or at least give him special mention.

    While he did not die under 30, his life was cut short at the young age of 35.

  60. Anonymous12.1.12

    only 1 bolly actor

  61. Anonymous16.2.12

    I love you Divya and miss you so much

  62. Anonymous4.3.12

    What about Tupac Shakur and Biggoe Smalls?

  63. Thanks for adding Divyavarati

  64. Anonymous4.6.12

    Marc Bolan, died at 29 on September 16 1977 in a car crash.


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