Famous last words of influential people
No matter how much their contributions to society have shaped culture, famous individuals are either loved or loathed and are not exempt to the inevitable end. Be they famous for their art or infamous for their crimes, when the most groundbreaking members of society speak, the world listens, all the way up until their final moments. Sad, snappy, loving, and accepting are the famous last words of these influential people.
Frank Sinatra’s distinguishable voice is one that has only been matched by few, and his popularity has continued to live on through the ages. Songs like “Fly Me to the Moon” and his rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” can still be heard today featured in commercials, movies, and radio stations.
He lived a long life, dying at the age of 82 from a heart attack with his wife at his bedside. The beloved singer was hospitalized on and off for numerous health problems including high blood pressure, bladder cancer, pneumonia, and later on in life, dementia. Though his wife encouraged him to fight, she can recall his last words being, “I’m losing it.”
It’s hard to imagine a world without iPhones and MacBooks, and if it wasn’t for the world’s favorite college dropout, we wouldn’t have them. Jobs was born in 1955 to two graduate students who were forbidden to be together by their families due to differences in religion. After his birth in San Francisco, he was promised to a family who later backed out of the adoption after deciding they wanted a girl instead.
He was finally adopted by “blue-collar” couple Paul and Ciara Jobs, with a stipulation that he attend college. Jobs never finished college, but he was worth about $7.5 billion. Before leaving his Apple legacy behind him at the time of his death in 2011, he looked at his family and said, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
On Dec. 18, 1997, the world said goodbye to the widely adored Saturday Night Live comedian, Chris Farley. Known for his roles in Coneheads and Tommy Boy, the SNL star battled with alcohol and drug addiction for most of his life. Rehab was a revolving door for Farley, as he was admitted at least seventeen times, sometimes being sent by his directors and producers.
His brother was the one who found him unconscious in his Chicago apartment, following a four-day bender involving drugs, alcohol, and women. The $300 per hour call-girl that he invited over on one of his last days, recalled his chilling last words, “Please don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me.”
Like many Hollywood stars, John Wayne was married three times and divorced twice. Before stomach cancer took his life in 1979, his last words to his wife were “Of course I know who you are. You’re my girl. I love you.” Today, mentioning his name to any one of your grandparents or their peers is sure to evoke some teary eyes and nostalgia-filled hearts.
This beloved American actor and filmmaker was the star of 142 films, 83 of which were Westerns. John Wayne won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe but wasn’t only recognized for his acting achievements. Known for his firm stance as a conservative Republican, Wayne also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1980 from President Carter.
Elvis Presley, famous for his unique voice, astonishing good looks, and rock n’ roll hits is still referred to today as the “King of Rock n’ Roll.” Songs like “Hound Dog” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” are classic hits that still live on today. But the fame of Elvis’ caliber comes with a price. Elvis was known to struggle later on in life with depression and drug addiction and was prescribed many different drugs.
On Aug. 16, 1977, the 42-year-old singer was found dead in his master suite bathroom by his girlfriend, Ginger Alden. The toxicology report showed fourteen different drugs in his system, 10 of which showed up in large amounts. Before going to the bathroom that night, he had told Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Those would be Elvis’ final words.
The world was shocked and devastated when Princess Diana died in a tragic car accident in 1997. Princess Diana and her romantic interest, Mohamed Al-Fayed, were in Paris after spending nine days together aboard Fayed’s yacht on the French and Italian Riviera. The driver, Henri Paul, was trying to avoid a herd of photographers following them, despite their attempt to throw off the paparazzi with a decoy car.
Over the years, the incident has continued to get news coverage. In 2017, a firefighter who arrived at the scene of the accident said that as they pulled her out of the vehicle, she said “My God, what’s happened?” before going into cardiac arrest.
“I’m going away tonight,” was the last thing James Brown, the famous American singer, songwriter, dancer, and producer said before taking three long breaths and dying in his sleep. James Brown was loved and adored by many throughout his 50-year career, earning the name “Godfather of Soul.”
On Dec. 23, 2006, the singer showed up to his scheduled dentist appointment appearing to be ill and in a daze. Instead of carrying out the planned procedure, the dentist sent him to the hospital. Known to perform while ill, Brown had been suffering from pneumonia for a while. He passed away two days later on Christmas day. His memorial was held at the Apollo Theatre in New York where his family and thousands of friends showed up to mourn him.
George Harrison was the lead guitarist of The Beatles, often referred to as “the quiet Beatle.” He began with the group, originally named “Quarrymen,” in 1958 when he was only 16 years old (while also working at a local department store). Although he died at the early age of 58, Harrison lived a full life, making music with arguably the most influential bands of all time.
Fame often comes with a price, and in Harrison’s case, it was a pretty violent one. He was once attacked with a knife in his home by a schizophrenic man. Although his lung was punctured, this wasn’t the event that killed him. George Harrison later died after a four-year battle with cancer. Before he passed, he said to his family, “Love one another.”
Lucille Ball broke down the gender barrier in comedy. With hit shows like “I Love Lucy,” “The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour,” and “The Lucy Show,” Ball and husband Desi Arnaz entertained the masses for decades. Despite the glitz and glamour, however, Arnaz and Ball’s marriage was marred by his infidelity.
The two divorced in 1960, and Ball married Gary Martin in 1968. They remained together until her death following open-heart surgery in 1989. When asked if she needed anything, her last words were reported as “My Florida water,” referring to her favorite kind of perfumed water.
There isn’t a more polarizing figure in the entertainment world than the “King of Pop” himself, Michael Jackson. Despite major success with albums like “Off the Wall” and “Thriller,” Jackson’s personal life was rife with recurring scandals.
After being badly burned while filming a Pepsi commercial in 1984, Jackson developed an addiction to painkillers and other sedatives. Prior to his mysterious death on June 25, 2009, Jackson asked for “more milk” (the nickname he had given to the anesthetic propofol). Unfortunately, these last words would lead up to the singer’s fatal overdose.
Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley introduced the world to the musical art forms of dancehall, ska, and reggae. Born in Nine Mile, Jamaica, on Feb. 6, 1945 to a captain in the British Marines and an 18-year-old local girl, Marley’s humble beginnings would stick with him his entire life.
As a prominent figure in the Rastafarian movement, which championed a Pan-African, anti-imperialist worldview, Marley was frequently the target of politically related violence. Despite a December 1976 assassination attempt, Marley persevered as a champion of equality and non-materialism. This rebellious spirit stuck with him until his death from cancer on May 11, 1981. Always for introspection, Marley’s last words were “Money can’t buy life.”
Also known as “Mr. Mojo Rising,” “The Lizard King,” the “leather-clad demon,” or whatever moniker one wishes to bestow on him, Jim Morrison was one of rock’s true warrior poets. As the lead singer for the rock/psychedelic blues band, The Doors, Morrison truly lived out the excess and ethos of that world.
In spite of the band’s success, Morrison decided to take a sabbatical in France on March 11, 1971. There, he spent time with his on-again-off-again girlfriend and muse, Pamela Courson, drinking, writing poetry, and taking in the art scene. Unfortunately, he would never return alive. Jim Morrison died of heart failure on July 3, 1971, calling out to his lover: “Pam, are you still there?”
With songs like “I Will Always Love You,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” and “How Will I Know” (among countless others), Whitney Houston is a pop music icon. Born on Aug. 9, 1963, in Newark, NJ, Houston would win seven Grammy awards during her lifetime.
Like many on this list, however, her fame came at a cost. From her difficult relationship with her husband, musician Bobby Brown, to her own struggles with substance abuse, Houston endured some tough times. Whitney Houston succumbed to coronary artery disease on Feb. 11, 2012. Her last words were reported as: “I’m gonna go see Jesus; want to see Jesus.”
After stealing the screen in the coming-of-age teen dramedy “10 Things I Hate About You,” Heath Ledger became one of the most sought-after actors of his generation. This career trajectory was demanding on the Australian thespian, as he often practiced method-acting while researching a role.
While researching the role of the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” (2008), Ledger became reliant on sleep aids. “Katie, Katie, look… it’ll be fine, you know, I just need to get some sleep,” Ledger said to his concerned sister over the phone. Unfortunately, it would be the last anyone would ever hear from him. He died of an accidental overdose on Jan. 22, 2008.
Steve Irwin was an Australian conservationist, waterman, surfer, wildlife expert, and zookeeper best-known for his show “The Crocodile Hunter.” With his enthusiastic catchphrase (‘Crikey!’) and love for all animals, Irwin captured audiences’ hearts around the world.
Despite his frequent encounters with Apex predators in the wild, Irwin always seemed to find a way out of dangerous situations — remaining unscathed. On Sept. 4, 2006, Irwin had a fatal encounter with a giant stingray, saying “I’m dying” to his crew before his passing.
With DJ/producer Mark Ronson, Amy Winehouse went from a relatively unknown songstress to an international superstar. Her unique blend of blue-eyed soul and R&B resonated with a wide array of listeners — skyrocketing her popularity.
This instant success was too extreme for Winehouse, however. And this caused the singer to endure several stints in rehabilitation centers and other treatment facilities. Following her last stay, Winehouse was detoxing from alcohol when she said: “I don’t want to die.” She would pass away from alcohol intoxication on July 23, 2011.
To be the founder of the world’s first international hotel chain, you’d probably have to know a thing or two about good housekeeping. It’s no surprise that Hilton’s last words before dying of old age were, “Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.”
Conrad Hilton, the great-grandfather of Paris Hilton, founded the Hilton Hotels in 1919. If you haven’t stayed in one of these hotels before, then surely you’ve at least heard of them. During the Vietnam war, John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono stayed at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam for their very first Bed-In for Peace. The room later became a very popular tourist destination.
Edgar Allen Poe
Known for his famously morbid tales of romance and mystery, Poe was in a dark place at the time of his death. Just a few days before his death, the poet was found wandering around the streets of Baltimore in a hysterical state and appeared to be in need of help. When Poe was taken to the hospital, they found that he was wearing clothes that did not belong to him, but he wasn’t well enough to tell the doctors what had happened.
He died on Oct. 7, 1849. Many say that throughout his hospitalization, Poe repeatedly would call out the name, “Reynolds,” but his last words were, “Lord, help my poor soul!” At the time, his death was considered to be from alcoholism, but many speculate that it was actually from alcohol withdrawal.
After her father’s hat business went bankrupt and her mother became sick and died, Mata Hari was determined to do what she could to survive on her own. Originally from the Netherlands, she moved to France and became an exotic dancer. But, her seductive abilities would ultimately open up more opportunities for her as she grew older.
When she was around the age of 40, she took on a job spying for the French. Her plan was to seduce German soldiers into spilling their secrets but instead ended up being accused of being a double agent and was executed by a firing squad (after being thrown into a cell filled with rats). Before she was killed, her last words were, “Everything is an illusion.”
Ernest Hemingway was an American author and journalist, known for works such as A Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises. On July 2, 1961, before shooting himself in the foyer of their Idaho residence, he said to Mary Welsh, “Goodnight my kitten.” One of the most noteworthy writers of the 20th century, Hemingway’s characters were mostly inspired by World War I as well as activities that he loved such as bullfighting and fishing.
Those weren’t the only activities he loved, however, as Hemingway was also well-known for his love affairs. After having his heart broken by Italian nurse Agnes von Kurowsky, he made sure to abandon his love interests before they abandoned him. The legendary writer went on to have a total of four wives, ending with Mary.
For years, it’s been said that Oscar Wilde’s last words before he died were, “Either that wallpaper goes, or I do.” This wouldn’t have been out of character for Wilde, as he was known to be quick-witted. After all, during his time, he was one of the most popular poets in London. Best known for his works, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and “The Importance of Being Earnest,” Oscar Wilde stood out for his flamboyant style.
Unfortunately, the end of his life wasn’t so filled with joy. After being charged with sodomy and forced to run on the treadmill for hours a day in prison, Wilde eventually became very ill. He died of meningitis at the age of 46 in 1900.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Was there anything Leonardo Da Vinci couldn’t do? He had his hands in geology, literature, anatomy, botany, writing, history, and pretty much everything else. He was an architect and also known to be one of the greatest painters of all time. Many scholars refer to Da Vinci as the “universal genius.”
Just before he died on May 2, 1519, he regretfully said: “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.” Though his last words are ironic, they are no indication of the impact that he had on the world. The “Mona Lisa” is not only of his most famous works but probably one of the most iconic paintings of all time.
Very few have filled as many shoes as Sir Winston Churchill, the British politician, writer, and army officer known for leading Britain to victory in World War II. Born in 1874, Churchill spent the majority of his life dedicated to public service and took on a variety of roles from everything to the Prime Minister of the U.K. to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Churchill even won the 1953 Nobel Prize in Literature for his collection of books colorfully describing the historical events of World War I and II. With a life as full and as rich as this one, it’s no surprise that before he died of a stroke at the age of 90, Churchill’s last words were “I’m bored with it all.”
Captain Lawrence Oates was a British army officer who applied to be a part of Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to the South Pole in 1910. He was selected because of his experiences working with horses and his $1,120 donation, which was quite a lot of money at the time. The expedition took a total of three years and played an important role in scientific and geological discovery.
Toward the end, weather conditions were growing harsh and Oates became ill, slowing down the rest of the group. He knew that carrying on in poor health would put the others at risk, and one night he left his tent saying “I am just going outside and may be some time.” His memorable sacrifice has inspired The Oates Museum, as well as schools named after him.
There aren’t many playwrights who can compete with the esteemed Shakespeare, but Henrik Ibsen wasn’t too far behind. His play, A Doll’s House, became the most performed play in the world by the early 20th century. Known for his scandalous plays, Ibsen exiled himself from Norway and didn’t return for 27 years, giving the word “dramatic” a whole new meaning.
Known as the “father of realism,” the Norweigan playwright became known as one of the most influential playwrights of all time. Ibsen suffered a series of strokes that ultimately led to his death on May 23, 1906. Just the day before, a nurse was reassuring one of his visitors that he was getting better, to which Ibsen interjected, “Quite the contrary!” Those were his last words.
Buddy Rich was one of rock n’ roll’s most influential drummers of all time. Before he died, Rich made it very clear that one thing he wouldn’t roll with was country music. In 1987, the jazz virtuoso suffered from a malignant brain tumor that needed to be surgically removed.
While being prepped for the operation, a nurse asked him, “Is there anything you can’t take?” to which he replied, “Yeah, country music.” He died shortly after, due to complications resulting from his treatments. Dedicated to his craft, the drummer toured all the way up until the time of his death. Aside from his regular work, he was also a session drummer for many artists including Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
“I’d like you to give my love to my family and friends,” Ted Bundy said just moments before he was executed. The notoriously violent serial killer has been the subject of documentaries, books, and a Netflix movie that focuses on his relationship with then-wife, Carole Anne Boone. Bundy is infamous for brutally murdering, raping, and kidnapping countless young women in the ’70s.
During his taped interviews, Bundy confessed to the murders of 30 women, but there is no telling how many actual victims there were. As part of his confession, Bundy blamed his evil behavior on a need to seek revenge on a college girlfriend who dumped him. The savage serial killer managed to escape custody twice, before finally being convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
Frida Kahlo, famous for her prominent eyebrows and symbolic self-portraits, was a Mexican artist who used her talents to examine a broad range of social issues. Before she achieved fame for her artwork, Kahlo was a bright and budding student who planned to attend medical school. However, a tragic car accident that caused her to endure injuries and chronic pain deterred her from these plans and caused her to resort back to her childhood love of art.
In 1927, Kahlo married Mexican Artist Diego Rivera, who was known for carrying on multiple romantic affairs with different women, including Kahlo’s younger sister. On July 13, 1954, Kahlo died of bronchopneumonia. Her last written words on her “Angel of Death” drawing were, “I hope this exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”
Many consider Joe DiMaggio to be one of the greatest baseball players of all time, most famous for his 56-game hitting streak. DiMaggio was an MVP all 13 years that he played on the New York Yankees. While his athletic skills were enough to make him a beloved public figure, his marriage to Marilyn Monroe has made him one of the most romanticized and adored people of all time.
“I’ll finally get to see Marilyn,” were his last words before he died of lung cancer in 1999 at the age of 84. Some have questioned this final moment, but either way, DiMaggio was clearly dedicated to the love of his life. Following Monroe’s death in 1962, DiMaggio would send a half-dozen roses to her crypt three times a week for 20 years. He never married again.
Morris “Moe” Berg was a professional baseball player who played on four teams in the 1920s including the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox. Though there wasn’t anything particularly special about Berg’s athletic abilities, he definitely had a knack for knowledge. A Princeton University Graduate, Moe Berg spoke eight languages and was known to routinely read ten newspapers a day.
He soon became known as “the brainiest guy in baseball.” Berg later went on to spy for the U.S. government in Yugoslavia before being sent to Italy to gather information from physicists relevant to the Nazi German nuclear program. Moe Berg lived a full life and passed away at age 70 after injuring himself during a fall. Before he died, his last words to his nurse were, “How did the Mets do today?”
Known for being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone. It didn’t stop there; Earhart continued to venture out and take other solo trips as well as the popular Purdue University-sponsored world trip. During this perilous venture, a problem with the radio signal made Earhart unable to communicate with the radioman on the ship. The search parties commenced just one hour after her last radio message was sent.
The official $4 million search efforts lasted until July 19. Neither she nor her partner or the airplane was found, and she was pronounced dead two years later. In the last letter sent to her husband, she wrote, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
Although many people believe that this classic Hollywood icon uttered “I should have never switched from scotch to martinis,” just before he died, this is likely untrue. Humphrey Bogart was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1956 and died in 1957. During one of his final moments, his wife left his bedside to pick up the kids from school and as she left he said, “Goodbye, kid. Hurry back.”
Before becoming an actor, Bogart served in the navy where he was said to have gotten his trademark scar and loveable lisp. After starring on Broadway and being cast as supporting roles in his first few films, Bogart became famous for his roles in films such as High Sierra and Casablanca.
Vincent van Gogh
“La tristesse durera toujours,” which means “the sadness will last forever,” were the last words of the artist responsible for approximately 2,100 artworks, known for their bright colors and unpredictable brushwork. The irony of Vincent van Gogh is that while he is now viewed as one of history’s most esteemed artists, he was not commercially successful while he was alive.
Van Gogh lived in poverty and suffered from mental illness throughout his life, even admitting himself to an asylum at one point. In 1890, the artist shot himself in a wheat field but didn’t die right away. He passed out for a while, but then was able to walk back home, where he died two days later.
Karl Marx had a lot of opinions to share with the world during his lifetime, which is probably why his last words were “Go on, get out! Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough!” before dying of pleurisy in 1883. The philosopher, who said “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please,” certainly did not want to overshadow his life’s work.
Marx was a German philosopher, economist, and social revolutionary who believed that society was built around the ramifications of social struggle, specifically “class conflict.” He wrote the Communist Manifesto with the help of Friedrich Engels, which outlined the issues with capitalism and is widely known to be one of the most influential political documents of all time.
There was once a time in history where death by guillotine was something of the norm, and in fact, people would gather around to witness the event. Marie Antoinette, who was at the time, Queen of France and married to King Louis XVI, was only 37 when she was charged with treason and sentenced to death on Oct. 16, 1793, leaving behind very young children. During the time that she was in prison, a friend came to visit Antoinette in her cell along with her son.
Antoinette instantly hugged and kissed the child, and burst into tears about her own son, who she feared she would never see again. On the morning that she was beheaded, a guard cut off her hair and put it in his pocket before walking her to the guillotine. She stepped on her executioner’s foot on the way and said: “Pardonnez-moi, monsieur” (Forgive me, sir).
King Louis XIV
King Louis XIV wasn’t quite the healthy, vivacious king that he oftentimes tried to portray. The king, also known as “Louis the Great” actually suffered a lot of health problems including everything from diabetes, recurring boils, dental abscesses, fainting spells, hot flashes, and gout.
He even had to undergo an excruciating surgery to correct an anal fistula with a scalpel that was custom made for the occasion. As if the health concerns above weren’t enough, King Louis eventually died of gangrene four days before his 77th birthday. During a final conversation with his five-year-old grandson, his last words were, “Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?”
Known for classic novels like Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen typically wrote about the dependence of women on men. She felt strongly about this and never got married, making it a priority to achieve happiness in other ways. Austen was ahead of her time in writing stories that combined romanticism, comedy, and realism.
Austen became extremely ill at the beginning of 1816 and slowly grew sicker as time went on. Some have said that she was sick with Addison’s disease, although some believe she died from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Either way, Austen’s illness was making her so miserable that her last words to her sister were, “I want nothing but death.”