Famous Celebrities Who Died In Their 70s

While some celebrities are blessed to live into their 80s, 90s, and beyond, the average life expectancy for Americans is 77.8 years, according to NPR. Anyone that lives that long, or close to it, can't really complain. Most people at this point in their lives have done nearly everything they wanted or set out to do, both personally and professionally. Still, when you lose a singer, actor, or professional athlete, it can be sad, regardless of how old the individual is.

Many of the celebrities have died after struggling with cancer, heart disease, or other health problems. Yet their legacies live on in their music, films, and other forms of entertainment. These men and women touched people's hearts in one way or another. Without them, the world would have had a little less light, a little less laughter, and a little less love. Check out some famous celebrities who died in their 70s.

Johnny Cash

Singer Johnny Cash died of respiratory failure caused by complications from diabetes on Sept. 12, 2003, at the age of 71, according to the Tennessean. As a teenager, he loved gospel music and country music, and he started playing the guitar and writing songs after he joined the Air Force. After leaving the military in 1954, he formed a band. Before long, he made his mark with hit songs such as "I Walk The Line," "There You Go," "Home of The Blues," and "Big River." He subsequently went on tour and developed a substance abuse problem in the late '50s. 

Looking back, Cash considered the '60s the most creative and productive time of his career, even though the amphetamines he took affected his voice. June Carter wrote "Ring of Fire" in 1963, which became a number-one hit. "A song like that goes on forever," Cash told the Tennessean. Cash eventually divorced his wife and married Carter but still struggled with drug and alcohol problems. Despite his addictions, he was a prolific musician, selling over six million records in 1969. He continued to perform in the 1970s and went to rehab in 1984. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and kept on releasing music. Cash was also honored by the Kennedy Center in 1996. Despite dealing with some health issues, Cash released "American III: Solitary Man" in 2000, which won him his 10th Grammy Award.

John Wayne

Actor John Wayne shot his last film, "The Shootist," in 1976, and its theme hit close to home. He portrayed a gunslinger dying of cancer, and in real life he was also coping with the disease. Wayne struggled with cancer for over 10 years before it finally lead to his death in 1979. He was 72 years old, according to History

Wayne, born Marion Morrison, moved to California from Iowa as a child and got his start in Hollywood as a studio laborer. Before long he landed some bit parts in a few film projects. He changed his name to John Wayne for more tough guy appeal and appeared in several westerns before finally gaining some notice in the film "Stagecoach." He and director John Ford worked together on a variety of successful projects throughout the '40s, '50s, and '60s, including "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon," "Rio Grande," "The Quiet Man," and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Wayne won an Academy Award for "True Grit" in 1969. Over the course of his 40-year acting career, he made over 250 movies.

Dennis Hopper

Known for films such as "Rebel Without a Cause," "Easy Rider,"" Blue Velvet," "Apocalypse Now," and "Hoosiers," actor Dennis Hopper died of cancer at the age of 74 in 2010. The star had been battling prostate cancer for several years, according to the Associated Press (via Huff Post). Hopper had been married five times, and one of his marriages (to singer Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas) lasted just eight days. He had four children.

Hopper's career started off well enough until he got involved with alcohol and drugs, which affected his behavior and caused many problems over the years in both his personal and professional lives. While filming 1969's "True Grit," John Wayne allegedly got so angry with Hopper he threatened him with a firearm. Afterwards, Hopper went on to star in and direct "Easy Rider" for which he earned an Academy Award nomination. The film was a critical and commercial success. His follow-up film, "The Last Movie," however, was a disaster, largely due to the proliferation of drug and alcohol abuse on set and off. He finally cleaned up his act in the mid-'80s and starred in a string of successful films, such as "Hoosiers" and "Blue Velvet," the former for which he earned another Oscar nomination.

Muhammad Ali

Boxing's most famous star, Muhammad Ali, died at the age of 74 in 2016, according to NBC. The athlete had struggled with Parkinson's disease for over three decades and had been hospitalized with respiratory issues prior to his death. Born Cassius Marcellus Clay, he became a professional boxer after earning Golden Gloves titles and winning a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. He used his celebrity status to speak out against racism, became a Muslim, and changed his name to reflect his new religion.

Ali was not known for being humble, declaring himself "the greatest" after beating heavyweight champion Sonny Liston in 1964. It was an accolade that he had no problem backing up throughout the course of his career. Ali refused to go to Vietnam after being drafted by the United States government, lost his boxing title, and was not allowed to fight until he won an appeal four years later. When he returned to the boxing ring, he defeated several opponents, including Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but he also lost a few matches. Ali retired in 1981 and was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1982. His post-boxing interests centered on humanitarian work, earning the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005. He had nine children, and his legacy lives on as boxing's greatest of all time. 

Aretha Franklin

Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer in August 2018, at the age of 76, according to CNN. The singer, who won 18 Grammy Awards, was known for hits such as "Respect," "Think," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." At the height of her popularity in the late '60s through the mid-'70s, Franklin had more than two dozen hits on the Billboard charts. She had been spending time in hospice care at the time of her death and had been in poor health for several years leading up to her death. She stopped touring in 2017 but still booked occasional performances over the next year until she died.

The Tennessee native spent her childhood in Detroit and got her start singing gospel music at church. Much of her music resonated with African-Americans, civil rights activists, and feminists who found inspiration in the lyrics. She sang at Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral and at President Bill Clinton's inauguration in 1992. She also kept churning out hits in the '80s with "Freeway of Love" and "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves." Franklin, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, started experiencing health issues in the 2010s. Her passing was mourned by several high-profile people, including President Barack Obama.

Lucille Ball

Actress and comedienne Lucille Ball died in April 1989 following emergency heart surgery, according to the Los Angeles Times. The 77-year-old survived the surgery but experienced a ruptured abdominal aorta several days later. The star appeared in several films in the '30s and '40s before transitioning to television and appearing on the highly successful TV program "I Love Lucy" alongside her real-life husband, Desi Arnaz. The pair also created the production studio Desilu together.

Ball was groundbreaking in that her TV series aired in syndication, creating what would become known as a "rerun." The series was massively popular with viewers, and even when it was revealed that Ball had Communist connections, she was so beloved that all was forgiven for her past indiscretions (she insisted she registered with the Communist party on the request of her sick grandfather). In addition to the success of "I Love Lucy," her production studio churned out TV hits such as "Star Trek" and "Mission: Impossible." She continued to act in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. While her final TV project, "Life With Lucy," was a bust, she will forever be remembered for her role as the feisty redhead who made millions of Americans, and fans worldwide, laugh at her antics during the 1950s.

Elizabeth Taylor

On March 23, 2011, actress Elizabeth Taylor died at the age of 79 from congestive heart failure. In addition to her acting credits, Taylor was known for her tireless work for the HIV/AIDS community. She was survived by four children, 10 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Taylor got her start in show business by appearing in the 1944 film "National Velvet" at the age of 12, according to ABC News. Later acting credits included "A Place In The Sun," "Raintree County," and "Cleopatra." She received Academy Awards for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Butterfield 8."

Taylor created the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation after her good friend and fellow actor Rock Hudson died from the disease. She supplemented her income with perfume and jewelry lines and was famously married seven times, twice to actor Richard Burton. Her son Michael Howard Wilding said in a statement following her death: "Her remarkable body of work in film, her ongoing success as a businesswoman, and her brave and relentless advocacy in the fight against HIV/AIDS, all make us all incredibly proud of what she accomplished."

Johnny Carson

One of, if not the most iconic TV hosts of all time, Johnny Carson died on Jan. 25, 2005, from emphysema. Carson, a long-time smoker, was 79 years old. He hosted "The Tonight Show" for 30 years, from 1962 until 1992, when he passed the reins on to Jay Leno, according to CNN. Carson enjoyed performing magic acts as a teenager and joined the Navy during World War II before obtaining a bachelor of arts degree in 1949. He got his start in show business by being a radio announcer in Nebraska and then Los Angeles, California.

Carson gained the attention of clown Red Skeleton, who hired Carson to write for him, before he hosted "The Johnny Carson Show" and later the game show "Who Do You Trust?" in which he became acquainted with Ed McMahon, who would become his wingman on "The Tonight Show." The late-night program won seven Emmy Awards, and 50 million people tuned in when he aired the final episode. Comedians like Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, and Garry Shandling got major bumps in their careers after appearing on his program. His influence was so relevant that Carson received the Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush, as well as a Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award.

Eddie Money

Singer Eddie Money, known for hit songs such as "Take me Home Tonight," "Two Tickets to Paradise," and "Baby Hold On," died in 2019 at the age of 70, according to Newsweek. Up until that point, he was actively performing in the U.S. He passed away after struggling with stage 4 esophageal cancer. The singer was open about his health issues because he wanted to be honest with those around him. It wasn't a surprise to fans, who heard about the diagnosis a month earlier during a preview clip from his reality show, "Real Money."

The singer talked about visiting the doctor for a routine check up and finding out that he had cancer. "It was in my liver and my lymph nodes and a little bit in my stomach ... It hit me really, really hard," he said (via Newsweek). Ironically, the episode revealing his cancer diagnosis premiered one day before he died. Prior to his passing, he had to cut his summer tour short after contracting pneumonia. He also had heart valve surgery. Neither condition was related to his death. Money, who initially was a police officer, according to his website, produced a stream of hits in the '80s. In the years leading up to his death, his daughter Jesse Money joined him frequently on stage. The singer sold over 28 million records during the course of his career.

Luciano Pavarotti

While many people aren't fans of opera or familiar with that particular musical genre, most people know the name Luciano Pavarotti and his famous aria "Nessun Dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot." The 71-year-old Italian tenor died in 2007 from cancer after coping with ailing health for about a year, according to Reuters. One of the reasons why Pavarotti was so endearing to fans is because he enjoyed collaborating with a wide range of people, including pop stars such as Sting and Bono. His willingness to work with musicians from other genres set him apart from many other classical singers who would have snubbed such associations.

Pavarotti made his mark on the world stage after singing with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras at the soccer World Cup in Italy in 1990. Pavarotti, whose figure and voice were equally large and impressive, was beloved by those who knew him best. He performed at the Winter Olympics in Turin in 2006, which would mark the last time he took the stage. In the weeks leading up to his passing, he was still teaching students at his summer home in Italy.

Stanley Kubrick

Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, known for projects such as "Dr. Strangelove," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange," "The Shining," and "Full Metal Jacket," died from a heart attack in 1999. He was 70 years old. The director had a career spanning four decades, yet he only made 13 films, seven of which were made in the span of 11 years, according to Variety. Between 1968 and 1987, he only made five movies. As a result, when a Kubrick film was released, it was monumental. He passed away before the release of "Eyes Wide Shut," starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

Kubrick was one of history's more eccentric filmmakers, and he often chose subject matter that was dark and cold. He was also a bit of a recluse and stayed out of the public eye. Over the years he was described as "egocentric" and "a cold bastard" but also as "unique" and "wise," depending on who was talking about him. During his career he worked with stars such as Marlon Brando, Peter Sellers, and Jack Nicholson. He was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, but only won one Oscar (via IMDb).

Dean Martin

Fifties crooner Dean Martin, known for songs such as "Volare" and "That's Amore," died on Christmas day in 1995 from kidney problems, according to the Washington Post. He was 78 years old. The son of an Italian immigrant, Martin dabbled with boxing and working as a steelworker before hooking up with comedian Jerry Lewis and singing in a variety of nightclubs in the U.S. The duo eventually transitioned to film and TV, but Martin, who played the serious role, countering Lewis' frenzied and nutty personality, decided to pursue a solo career in 1956. He made films with Frank Sinatra and John Wayne and eventually became part of the famous "Rat Pack."

Martin stared in some 40 films over the course of his career and was extremely popular during the '50s and early '60s. The song "That's Amore" from the film "The Caddy" sold over two million records and was nominated for an Oscar for best song. Martin also hosted several comedy roasts and was a headliner in Las Vegas. For a guy who was a high school dropout, he had what most would consider a very successful life. Martin married three times and had seven children.