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Deaths of Famous People

Otzi the Iceman and 5,300 Years of the Diseases of Inflammation

In 1991, hikers in the Italian Alps discovered Otzi the Iceman, a man who was preserved in ice after his murder about 5,300 years ago. He was killed by a hard hit on his head and an arrow through his shoulder when he was about 46 years old. He is now entombed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy with a life-size statue of him as he may have looked standing nearby.

Steve Harwell: Brain Damage from Alcohol

Steve Harwell was lead vocalist for the rock band Smash Mouth from its formation in 1994 until his retirement in 2021. He produced three top hit songs: "Walkin' on the Sun," "All Star" and “I’m a Believer." He and the band sold more than 10 million albums and had two #1 hit singles, five Top 40 singles, three Hot 100 singles, four Billboard 200 albums and a Grammy nomination. The band also appeared on hundreds of film and television placements and was featured on “Shrek.”

Jimmy Buffett’s Merkel Cell Skin Cancer

Jimmy Buffett was a famous singer and ukelele and guitar player who combined country, rock, folk, calypso and pop music. His top hits that he wrote and sang were "Margaritaville" and "Come Monday," and he had nine platinum albums and eight gold albums.He was also a businessman who was worth more than $1 billion from an incredible number of investments, including restaurant chains named after two of his best-known songs, the Margaritaville Cafe and Cheeseburger in Paradise restaurants.

Tori Bowie, Signals for Help

Tori Bowie was a world-famous track and field star who won three medals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio: a gold medal in 4X100 meter relay, a silver medal in 100 meters and a bronze medal in 200 meters. She also won gold medals in 100 meters and the 4x100 meter relay at the 2017 London World Championships, and a bronze medal in 100 meters at the 2015 Beijing World Championships. At age 32, on May 2, 2023, her dead body was found in her home and her autopsy reported that she had died several days earlier during labor, possibly from eclampsia.

Edith Piaf, Old Too Young

Edith Piaf was a French cabaret singer who became famous throughout the world during the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. She captivated listeners with her sad, seemingly autobiographical songs of lost love, sorrow and deprivation.

Robbie Robertson and Prostate Cancer

Robbie Robertson was a Canadian musician who played lead guitar and sang and wrote songs for Bob Dylan in the 1960s and 1970s, and with “The Band” until 1978. Then he continued his successful career as a solo recording artist and film music composer, and wrote books. He worked on films with Martin Scorsese as an actor and music writer, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Canada's Walk of Fame, and the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Sinead O’Connor and Mental Illness

Sinead O'Connor was a very successful and popular Irish singer and musician who in 1987, at age 21, released her debut album, “The Lion and the Cobra,” that made her famous internationally. Her second album, released in 1990, “I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got,” sold more than seven million copies throughout the world and included "Nothing Compares 2 U", which was voted the top single by Billboard Music Awards and earned her a Grammy Award.

Marian Anderson, a Voice that Made History

In 1930, 33-year-old Marian Anderson responded to this discrimination by going to Europe where she was acclaimed as one of world's greatest singers. Back in the United States in 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) would not allow the now world-famous contralto to give a concert in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. Because of this, Eleanor Roosevelt resigned from the DAR and asked her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to have Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, open the Lincoln Memorial for Anderson to perform a concert on Easter Sunday.

Lisa Marie Presley’s Cause of Death

Lisa Marie Presley died from scar tissue from weight loss surgery. She died on January 12, 2023 at the very young age of 54, from intestinal obstruction caused by previous scar tissue from her gastric-bypass weight loss surgery that was supposed to prevent food from passing through her stomach. The original reports of her death listed the cause as cardiac arrest, and these autopsy findings have just recently been released.

The Heat Stroke Death of Korey Stringer

The heat wave that has affected much of North America this summer should remind us of the signs and dangers of heatstroke. Twenty-two years ago, on August 1, 2001, Korey Stringer died of heat stroke at age 27. He was 6' 4" tall, weighed 335 pounds and had been an All American tackle at Ohio State University. He became an All Pro lineman for the Minnesota Vikings in 1995.

Antonin Scalia: Incredibly Bad Health Decisions

Today's extremely conservative U.S. Supreme Court members are all aware of the opinions of Antonin Scalia, who was appointed to the Court by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Scalia was the first Italian-American justice and he spent the next 30 years as one of the most conservative Court members ever. He defended many of his votes and opinions by claiming that he wanted to prevent any changes to the U.S. Constitution that was written 200 years ago.

Raquel Welch: Heart Failure and Dementia

Raquel Welch was a Hollywood actress and television star whom Playboy called the "Most Desired Woman" of the 1970s and ranked her as Number Three on their "100 Sexiest Stars of the Twentieth Century" (after Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield). She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical or Comedy in 1974 for her performance in The Three Musketeers, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Television Films for her performance in the film Right to Die (1987).

Micheline Ostermeyer, Olympian and Concert Pianist

It takes so much work and time to train to become outstanding at any endeavor that there are very few people who have risen to the top of the world stage in more than one field. One of the most impressive people who ever lived was Micheline Ostermeyer of France. She was born in 1922 and died at age 78 in 2001, and was a concert pianist who won three Olympic medals in the 1948 Olympics.

Gustav Born: Choosing the Right Parents

Gustav Born was a physician and pharmacologist who taught the world about blood clotting. In 1945, he was posted as a British army doctor in Hiroshima, and noticed that most of the survivors of the atomic bomb suffered from chronic bleeding. He demonstrated that exposure to radiation destroys the body's platelets to cause the bleeding and laid the basics for treatment of bleeding and clotting disorders, some of which are still used today.

Munchausen’s Syndrome

Every physician eventually is asked to treat patients who fake illness, usually to get attention or for personal gain. In 1951, British physician Dr. Robert Asher described three patients who went from doctor to doctor with multiple fictional symptoms, many unexplained hospitalizations, and multiple scars from surgeries that never should have been performed in the first place. Their stories sounded so real that they convinced honest doctors to operate on them for no good reason.

Tina Turner: High Blood Pressure and Kidney Failure

Tina Turner died on May 24, 2023 at age 83 of kidney failure following many years of severe high blood pressure, a kidney transplant, colon cancer, and several strokes. She was a singer, dancer and actress who rose from depressing poverty and an abusive marriage to become the "Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" as the lead singer of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue, before divorcing him and becoming a very popular solo performer.

Roger Bannister, First Sub-4-Minute Miler

Roger Bannister was the first human to run a mile in less than four minutes, even though his training was totally inadequate for world-class competition because he was a full time medical student who trained on a single 30-minute workout per day, compared to today's runners who train twice a day for as much as three hours.

Fred Kummerow, Hero of the Trans Fat Battle

Fred Kummerow died at age 102 of arteriosclerosis, a disease that he had spent most of his life working to prevent. He was the first researcher to show that trans fats in margarines and many prepared foods cause plaques to form in arteries, with a paper published in Science in 1957.

Can You Die from Fear? The Baskerville Effect

You better believe that you can be scared to death. The “Felony Murder Rule” allows prosecutors in all 50 states to bring first-degree murder charges against a defendant if someone dies during a crime such as burglary, rape, or kidnapping, even if the defendant did not intend to kill the victim.

Harry Belafonte – Singer, Actor and Humanitarian

Harry Belafonte was a Jamaican-American singer, actor and activist who won three Grammy Awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award and starred in several Hollywood films. Above all, he was a humanitarian who took the sides of the downtrodden and advocated the most good for the most people.

Robert Oppenheimer, Remorse for Being Father of the Atomic Bomb

The film Oppenheimer is scheduled to be released on July 21, 2023, by Universal Pictures. It describes the emotional price Robert Oppenheimer paid for creating the atomic bomb.  Seventy-five years ago, on August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States detonated two atom bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing between 129,000 and 226,000 people.

Barry Marshall, from Quack to Nobel Prize

I love stories about quacks who become prophets. Medical breakthroughs are often made by doctors who were first ridiculed by their peers. In 1983, Barry Marshall and John Warren presented a paper to the Australian Gastroenterological Society claiming that stomach ulcers are caused by infection. They never finished their paper because they were laughed off the stage. Barry Marshall became so upset that he swallowed a vial of the bacteria taken from a patient who had stomach ulcers, went into shock and almost died.

Thomas Edison: “Sleep is a Waste of Time”

Thomas Alva Edison invented the phonograph, a long-lasting incandescent light bulb, the kinetoscope, the dictaphone, an autographic printer and rechargeable batteries. He improved the telephone by inventing the carbon microphone. He was arguably the world’s greatest and most prolific inventor, with more than 1093 patents in the United States and 512 more patents in other countries.

Beethoven’s Deafness and Death: DNA Analysis of Hair Samples

Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and concert pianist (1770-1827) whose symphonies and other compositions are still among our most-beloved and often-performed classical music. In 1824, when Beethoven was 54, he finished conducting the first performance of his magnificent Ninth Symphony, and he could not understand why there was no applause.

Bobby Caldwell: Death from Fluoroquinolone Antibiotics

Bobby Caldwell was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist of R&B, soul, jazz, and adult contemporary music who was perhaps best known for "What You Won't Do for Love." In 2017, Caldwell was prescribed a quinolone antibiotic and suffered rupture of both Achilles tendons, followed by extensive nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. He continued to perform, even though he had to do it in a wheelchair, with a cane, and with people to help him.

Topol: 3500 Performances as Tevya in Fiddler On The Roof

Chaim Topol was an Israeli actor, singer, and illustrator, who was most famous for playing “Tevya “ more than 3,500 times from 1967 through 2009, in arguably the most popular musical of all time -- Fiddler on the Roof. He was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Tevya in the 1971 film adaptation. He was the best known of a long line of famous actors who played the role, including Zero Mostel, Theodore Bikel, Herschel Bernardi, Leonard Nimoy and many others.

Tom Sizemore: Brain Aneurysm

Tom Sizemore was a popular and prolific movie actor and television star who appeared in Saving Private Ryan, which was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Motion Picture Cast. His notable films include Black Hawk Down, Heat, Natural Born Killers, and Twin Peaks. He also was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for his role in the television series Witness Protection.

Wilt Chamberlain’s Myocarditis

Wilt Chamberlain was possibly the greatest basketball player and the greatest athlete ever. The 63-year-old Chamberlain was reported to have died of heart damage called myocarditis, but how could arguably the world’s greatest and fittest athlete die of heart damage? A possible explanation would be venereal diseases, which are a common cause of myocarditis. Chamberlain wrote a book, A View from Above (published in 1991) in which he claimed that had had sex with more than 20,000 women.

Tim McCarver: Heart Failure in a Great Athlete

Tim McCarver was twice a major League all-star catcher and was a member of two World Series-winning teams during his 21 years of playing for the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, Montreal Expos and Boston Red Sox. After his playing career, he became a TV broadcaster who won three Emmy Awards, called a then-record 23 World Series and 20 All-Star Games, and in 2016 was inducted into the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame. On February 16, 2023, he died at age 81 of heart failure.

Pelé, the Greatest Soccer Player Ever

Pelé was a Brazilian soccer player who was the best soccer player of all time because nobody could stop him from scoring. During his entire career, he averaged almost one goal in every game he played. He scored a Guinness World record 1,279 goals in 1,363 games because he could run faster than everyone else (under 11 seconds in the 100 meter dash) and jump higher than everyone else (more than six feet off the ground).