Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"It's better to burn out than fade away"

The death of the young and talented Heath Ledger came as a big shock. Ledger, best known for his role in "Brokeback Mountain" was 28 years old. He was found in his SoHo apartment with a bottle of sleeping pills near him.

The police does not suspect foul play. The Associated Press reported that his father, Kim Ledger, called his death "tragic, untimely and accidental". It always is, isn't it?
It's always a tragedy when a life is lost. It seems like a bigger tragedy when that life has been young and successful.

Ledger, of course, isn't the first star of our generation to die young. First that came to my mind was Kurt Cobain, who was lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for the rock band Nirvana.

On April 8, 1994, Cobain was discovered in the spare room above the garage at his Lake Washington. A shotgun was found at Cobain's side. Cobain's death certificate concluded his death was a result of a "self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head". The report estimates Cobain has died on April 5, 1994.

There was also the lovely and talented River Phoenix, who died on October 31, 1993, at the age of 23. Phoenix overdosed on heroin and cocaine. His death is considered one of show-business's most shocking and tragic - especially because no one could see it coming. Phoenix has been quoted as stating that "I don't want people to forget me". I guess he got his wish.

Another famous heroin-related death is that of Sid Vicious (John Simon Ritchie), who was an English punk rock musician, the bass player of the Sex Pistols. On February 2, 1979, during a small party that was meant to celebrate his getting out of jail on bail, he obtained some heroin and overdosed. Though he was revived, he then fell asleep and died in his sleep. New York Chief Coroner Michael Baden explained at the time, when a person has an accidental heroin overdose, and then falls asleep, their heart slows with every REM phase.

Famous guitarist Jimi Hendrix was found dead on September 18, 1970, in the basement flat of the Samarkand Hotel in London. His death was never fully explained. The assumption is that he died in bed after drinking wine and taking nine Vesperax sleeping pills, then asphyxiating on his own vomit. Hendrix was 27 years old at his time of death.

Legendary film star James Dean has also found his death in a very early stage. Dean has died on September 30, 1955, in a head-on car crash. He was 24 years old. Dean was driving a Porsche 550 when he had the accident. Since his death, his car became infamous for being the vehicle that killed not only him, but several others in the years following his death. In view of this, many have come to believe that the actor's vehicle and all of its parts were cursed.

The murder of the famous rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Latore Wallace) took place about 11 years ago. On March 9, 1997, Biggie was killed by an unknown man in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. He was 24 years old. His double-disc set "Life After Death", released two weeks later, hit #1 on the U.S. album charts and was certified Diamond in the year 2000.

All died young, at the peak of their careers, with what seemed like many more years of glory and stardom. For them, it wasn't meant to be. Cobain wrote in his suicide note: "It's better to burn out than fade away". Whether they wanted to die or not, that's how they will remembered - beautiful, glorious, shining stars. Forever young.