People We Wish Were Still Alive

Over 176.7K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of People We Wish Were Still Alive
Voting Rules
Vote up the famous people who died before they lived up to their complete potential.

RIP to our world's greatest achievers, those who changed the way we live and the ways we thought. This list of people we wish were still alive includes some of the greatest humanitarians, artists, politicians, and celebrities we wished could have stayed with us longer. These notable dead people passed ahead of their time; regardless of the reason or timing, these are famous people who died while they still had very much to contribute to the world.

There are myriad great people who died too soon on this list. Among them, composers like Mozart, rock musicians like Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix, politicians like JFK, and even celebrity personalities like the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. All these famous dead people left too soon, and left a void most people can never fill. This list of dead celebrities features many beloved icons who are still very missed. You'll see great people who have died, like Freddie Mercury and Princess Diana. Prince is a famous dead entertainer who many would likely kill to have back in this world. Robin Williams is another famous dead person who many still celebrate and miss. This list of dead people is really a space to celebrate those we wish had never passed.

Who are some famous dead celebrities who should still be alive? These famous deceased people were gone way too soon. Who are the celebrities that died before their time? There are many reasons you might want to vote up your favorite notable deceased person, so make sure to do so on this list of famous people you wish were still alive. If your favorite dead celebrity isn't listed, feel free to add them to the discussion.

Most divisive: Elsa Brändström
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  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
    1
    Dec. at 39 (1929-1968)
    58,297 votes
    • Birthplace: Georgia, USA, Atlanta
    Martin Luther King Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who became the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1955 until his assassination in 1968. Born in Atlanta, King is best known for advancing civil rights through nonviolence and civil disobedience, tactics his Christian beliefs and the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi helped inspire. King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and in 1957 became the first president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). With the SCLC, he led an unsuccessful 1962 struggle against segregation in Albany, Georgia, and helped organize the nonviolent 1963 protests in Birmingham, Alabama. He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. On October 14, 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance. In 1965, he helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches. The following year, he and the SCLC took the movement north to Chicago to work on segregated housing. In his final years, he expanded his focus to include opposition towards poverty and the Vietnam War. He alienated many of his liberal allies with a 1967 speech titled "Beyond Vietnam". J. Edgar Hoover considered him a radical and made him an object of the FBI's COINTELPRO from 1963 on. FBI agents investigated him for possible communist ties, recorded his extramarital liaisons and reported on them to government officials, and on one occasion mailed King a threatening anonymous letter, which he interpreted as an attempt to make him commit suicide. In 1968, King was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C., to be called the Poor People's Campaign, when he was assassinated on April 4 in Memphis, Tennessee. His death was followed by riots in many U.S. cities. Allegations that James Earl Ray, the man convicted of killing King, had been framed or acted in concert with government agents persisted for decades after the shooting. Sentenced to 99 years in prison for King's murder, effectively a life sentence as Ray was 41 at the time of conviction, Ray served 29 years of his sentence and died from hepatitis in 1998 while in prison. King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states beginning in 1971; the holiday was enacted at the federal level by legislation signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Hundreds of streets in the U.S. have been renamed in his honor, and a county in Washington State was rededicated for him. The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in 2011.
  • Diana, Princess of Wales
    2
    Dec. at 36 (1961-1997)
    52,328 votes
    • Birthplace: Sandringham, England
    Diana, Princess of Wales (born Diana Frances Spencer; 1 July 1961 – 31 August 1997), was a member of the British royal family. She was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, and the mother of Prince William and Prince Harry. Diana's activism and glamour made her an international icon and earned her an enduring popularity as well as an unprecedented public scrutiny, exacerbated by her tumultuous private life. Diana was born into the Spencer family, among the most prominent of the British nobility, and grew up close to the royal family on their Sandringham estate. The youngest daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and Frances Shand Kydd, she was strongly affected by their divorce in 1967. She did not distinguish herself academically, but was talented in music and sports. In 1978, she moved to London, where she lived with flatmates and took on various low-paying jobs. Diana came to prominence in 1981 upon her engagement to Prince Charles, the eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II, after a brief courtship. Their wedding took place at St Paul's Cathedral in 1981 and made her Princess of Wales, a role in which she was enthusiastically received by the public. The couple had two sons, the princes William and Harry, who were then second and third in the line of succession to the British throne. Diana's marriage to Charles, however, suffered due to their incompatibility and extramarital affairs. The couple separated in 1992, soon after the breakdown of their relationship became public knowledge. The details of their marital difficulties became increasingly publicised, and the marriage ended in divorce in 1996. As Princess of Wales, Diana undertook royal duties on behalf of the Queen and represented her at functions across the Commonwealth realms. She was celebrated in the media for her unconventional approach to charity work. Her patronages initially centered on children and youth but she later became known for her involvement with AIDS patients and campaign for the removal of landmines. She also raised awareness and advocated ways to help people affected with cancer and mental illness. As princess, Diana was initially noted for her shyness, but her charisma and friendliness endeared her to the public and helped her reputation survive the acrimonious collapse of her marriage. Exceptionally photogenic, she was a leader of fashion in the 1980s and 1990s. Media attention and public mourning were extensive after her death in a car crash in a Paris tunnel in 1997 and subsequent televised funeral. Her legacy has had a deep impact on the royal family and British society.
  • Albert Einstein
    3
    Dec. at 76 (1879-1955)
    65,692 votes
    • Birthplace: Ulm, Germany
    Albert Einstein ( EYEN-styne; German: [ˈalbɛɐ̯t ˈʔaɪnʃtaɪn] (listen); 14 March 1879 – 18 April 1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics (alongside quantum mechanics). His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = m c 2 {\displaystyle E=mc^{2}} , which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory. Near the beginning of his career, Einstein thought that Newtonian mechanics was no longer enough to reconcile the laws of classical mechanics with the laws of the electromagnetic field. This led him to develop his special theory of relativity during his time at the Swiss Patent Office in Bern (1902–1909). However, he realized that the principle of relativity could also be extended to gravitational fields, and he published a paper on general relativity in 1916 with his theory of gravitation. He continued to deal with problems of statistical mechanics and quantum theory, which led to his explanations of particle theory and the motion of molecules. He also investigated the thermal properties of light which laid the foundation of the photon theory of light. In 1917, he applied the general theory of relativity to model the structure of the universe.Except for one year in Prague, Einstein lived in Switzerland between 1895 and 1914, during which time he renounced his German citizenship in 1896, then received his academic diploma from the Swiss federal polytechnic school (later the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, ETH) in Zürich in 1900. After being stateless for more than five years, he acquired Swiss citizenship in 1901, which he kept for the rest of his life. In 1905, he was awarded a PhD by the University of Zurich. The same year, he published four groundbreaking papers during his renowned annus mirabilis (miracle year) which brought him to the notice of the academic world at the age of 26. Einstein taught theoretical physics at Zurich between 1912 and 1914, before he left for Berlin, where he was elected to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. In 1933, while Einstein was visiting the United States, Adolf Hitler came to power. Because of his Jewish background, Einstein did not return to Germany. He settled in the United States and became an American citizen in 1940. On the eve of World War II, he endorsed a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt alerting him to the potential development of "extremely powerful bombs of a new type" and recommending that the US begin similar research. This eventually led to the Manhattan Project. Einstein supported the Allies, but he generally denounced the idea of using nuclear fission as a weapon. He signed the Russell–Einstein Manifesto with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, which highlighted the danger of nuclear weapons. He was affiliated with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, until his death in 1955. Einstein published more than 300 scientific papers and more than 150 non-scientific works. His intellectual achievements and originality have made the word "Einstein" synonymous with "genius". Eugene Wigner wrote of Einstein in comparison to his contemporaries that "Einstein's understanding was deeper even than Jancsi von Neumann's. His mind was both more penetrating and more original than von Neumann's. And that is a very remarkable statement."
  • Prince
    4
    Age: 65
    49,860 votes
    • Birthplace: Minneapolis, USA, Minnesota
    Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016) was an American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, dancer, actor, and filmmaker. With a career spanning four decades, Prince was known for his eclectic work and flamboyant stage appearances. He was also a multi-instrumentalist and regarded as a guitar virtuoso. Prince was also known for his very wide and extensive vocal range, in particular his far reaching falsetto. His innovative music integrated a wide variety of styles, including funk, rock, R&B, new wave, soul, psychedelia, and pop. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Prince developed an interest in music as a young child and wrote his first song, "Funk Machine", at the age of seven. He signed a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records at the age of 17 and released his debut album For You in 1978. His 1979 album Prince went platinum, and his next three albums—Dirty Mind (1980), Controversy (1981), and 1999 (1982)—continued his success, prominently showcasing his explicit lyrics as well as blending of funk, dance, and rock music. In 1984, he began referring to his backup band as The Revolution and released Purple Rain, the soundtrack album to his successful film debut of the same name. It quickly became his most critically and commercially successful release, spending 24 consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 and selling 25 million copies worldwide. After releasing the albums Around the World in a Day (1985) and Parade (1986), The Revolution disbanded, and Prince released the double album Sign o' the Times (1987) as a solo artist. He released three more solo albums before debuting The New Power Generation band in 1991. In 1993, in the midst of a contractual dispute with Warner Bros., he changed his stage name to an unpronounceable symbol (), also known as the "Love Symbol," and began churning out new albums at a faster rate in order to sooner meet a contractually required quota and so release himself from further obligations to the record label. He released five records between 1994 and 1996 before he signed with Arista Records in 1998. In 2000, he began referring to himself as "Prince" again. He released 16 albums after that, including the platinum-selling Musicology (2004). His final album, Hit n Run Phase Two, was first released on the Tidal streaming service in 2015. Four months later, at the age of 57, Prince died of an accidental fentanyl overdose at his Paisley Park home and recording studio in Chanhassen, Minnesota. Prince pioneered the late 1970s Minneapolis sound, a funk rock subgenre drawing from synth-pop and new wave. He sold over 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. He won seven Grammy Awards, seven Brit Awards, six American Music Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, an Academy Award (for Best Original Song Score for the 1984 film Purple Rain) and a Golden Globe Award. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and 2016 respectively. Rolling Stone ranked Prince at No. 27 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • Bob Ross
    5

    Bob Ross

    Dec. at 52 (1942-1995)
    11,324 votes
    • Birthplace: Daytona Beach, Florida, USA
    Robert Norman Ross (October 29, 1942 – July 4, 1995) was an American painter, art instructor, and television host. He was the creator and host of The Joy of Painting, an instructional television program that aired from 1983 to 1994 on PBS in the United States, and also aired in Canada, Latin America, and Europe. Ross went from being a public television personality in the 1980s and 1990s to being an Internet celebrity in the 21st century, becoming popular with fans on YouTube, Twitch, and many other websites many years after his death.
  • Abraham Lincoln
    6
    Dec. at 56 (1809-1865)
    42,476 votes
    • Birthplace: Hodgenville, Kentucky, USA
    Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) was an American statesman and lawyer who served as the 16th president of the United States from 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the nation through the American Civil War, its bloodiest war and its greatest moral, constitutional, and political crisis. He preserved the Union, abolished slavery, strengthened the federal government, and modernized the U.S. economy. Born in Kentucky, Lincoln grew up on the frontier in a poor family. Self-educated, he became a lawyer, Whig Party leader, Illinois state legislator and Congressman. In 1849, he left government to resume his law practice, but angered by the success of Democrats in opening the prairie lands to slavery, reentered politics in 1854. He became a leader in the new Republican Party and gained national attention in 1858 for debating national Democratic leader Stephen A. Douglas in the 1858 Illinois Senate campaign. He then ran for President in 1860, sweeping the North and winning. Southern pro-slavery elements took his win as proof that the North was rejecting the constitutional rights of Southern states to practice slavery. They began the process of seceding from the union. To secure its independence, the new Confederate States of America fired on Fort Sumter, one of the few U.S. forts in the South. Lincoln called up volunteers and militia to suppress the rebellion and restore the Union. As the leader of the moderate faction of the Republican Party, Lincoln confronted Radical Republicans, who demanded harsher treatment of the South; War Democrats, who rallied a large faction of former opponents into his camp; anti-war Democrats (called Copperheads), who despised him; and irreconcilable secessionists, who plotted his assassination. Lincoln fought the factions by pitting them against each other, by carefully distributing political patronage, and by appealing to the American people. His Gettysburg Address became an iconic call for nationalism, republicanism, equal rights, liberty, and democracy. He suspended habeas corpus, and he averted British intervention by defusing the Trent Affair. Lincoln closely supervised the war effort, including the selection of generals and the naval blockade that shut down the South's trade. As the war progressed, he maneuvered to end slavery, issuing the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863; ordering the Army to protect escaped slaves, encouraging border states to outlaw slavery, and pushing through Congress the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which outlawed slavery across the country. Lincoln managed his own re-election campaign. He sought to reconcile his damaged nation by avoiding retribution against the secessionists. A few days after the Battle of Appomattox Court House, he was shot by John Wilkes Booth, an actor and Confederate sympathizer, on April 14, 1865, and died the following day. Abraham Lincoln is remembered as the United States' martyr hero. He is consistently ranked both by scholars and the public as among the greatest U.S. presidents.