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Bob Marley


6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981 (Aged 36)

Marley was a Jamaican reggae singer who became one of the most famous and recognizable people in the world during his short life.

In 1963, Marley and a group of his friends started a band which came to be known as ‘The Wailers’.

They performed together until 1974, however, as Bob become a star in his own right, he still sang under the name ‘Bob Marley and The Wailers’.

Marley became one of the biggest selling artists in the world with hits such as ‘No Woman No Cry’, ‘Jammin’, ‘One Love’, and ‘Redemption Song’.

His music brought recognition of reggae and the Rastafari movement to the world.

In 1977, Marley was found to have a malignant melanoma in his toe due to cancer, which ultimately spread and caused his health to deteriorate severely in his final months.

Marley died in Florida while trying to fly home to Jamaica from Germany.

In 1994, Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001.

Bobby Sands

(Irish Nationalist)

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9 March 1954 – 5 May 1981 (Aged 27)

Sands was an Irish nationalist and member of the Republican movement in Northern Ireland.

He is renowned for leading the 1981 hunger strikes by Republican prisoners, which he died from after 66 days on strike.

On April 9, 1981, while on a hunger strike, Sands was elected to be a Member of the British Parliament in a by-election.

This prompted the British government to introduce an act to prevent prisoners that were serving more than one year to run for office.

In the months after his death, nine more prisoners died from the hunger strike.

The global response, which varied between praise and criticism, eventually saw the British government give political recognition to the prisoners.

Joe Louis


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13 May 1914 – 12 April 1981 (Aged 66)

Louis was an American heavyweight boxer, nicknamed the “Brown Bomber”, who is considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Louis became world champion in 1937 and went on to successfully defend his title 26 times before retiring in 1949.

Prior to World War II, Louis scored a first-round knockout against German Max Schmeling, which, given the nature of world politics at the time, made him a hero to Americans of all races.

During the war, Louis was a vocal supporter of the war effort, enlisting in the army in 1942, as well as donating much of his boxing prize money to military relief.

After retiring, Louis pursued his interest in playing golf, and in 1952, Louis made history by becoming the first African American to play in a PGA Tour event.

In recognition of the impact Louis had on American life, Ronald Reagan waived eligibility rules so Louis could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors.

He was also awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1982.

In his later years, Louis battled cocaine addiction and ongoing financial issues, before suffering heart problems and dying of cardiac arrest at the age of 66.

Louis is widely recognized as the first African American to be seen as a hero across the United States and has gone down as one of the great sporting icons of the 20th century.

William Holden


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17 April 1918 – 12 November 1981 (Aged 63)

Holden was an American actor who was one of the biggest Hollywood stars at the peak of his career.

He won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Stalag 17.

Among Holden’s best-known films are Network, Sabrina, The Bridge on the River Kwai, and Sunset Boulevard. 

Holden was close friends with U.S. President Ronald Reagan, for whom he was the best man at his wedding.

Holden died after he fell while intoxicated in his California home, and bled to death. His body was found four days later.

Anwar el-Sadat

(Egyptian President)

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25 December 1918 – 6 October 1981 (Aged 62)

Sadat was the Egyptian President from 1971 until his assassination in 1981.

Following his role in signing the Camp David Accords, Sadat was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1978.

In 1952, Sadat was a senior military officer when he took part in the overthrow of the monarchy during the Egyptian Revolution.

He went on to serve twice as vice-president before he became president.

In 1981, during an annual victory parade held in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the crossing of the Suez Canal which started the Yom Kippur War, Sadat was assassinated by a Muslim extremist.

Twelve people were killed in the attack in total, with more than 25 people also wounded.

His funeral was attended by leaders from around the world, however, only three Arab states were represented in any way, with only Sudan’s leader present.

Natalie Wood


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20 July 1938 – 29 November 1981 (Aged 43)

Wood was an American actress who starred in a number of hit films, making her first appearance at the age of four.

She became a household name for her role in Miracle on 34th Street when she was eight years old.

Among her other famous films are West Side Story, Rebel Without A Cause, and The Searchers. 

During the filming of Brainstorm in 1981, Wood died in a boating accident while on a trip with her husband Robert Wagner and co-star Christopher Walken.

Her body had been found a mile from the boat with bruises and a cut on her face. It was ruled as accidental at the time.

However, in 2011, the case was reopened and resulted in the cause of death being changed from ‘accidental’ to ‘undetermined’.

Harry Chapin


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7 December 1942 – 16 July 1981 (Aged 38)

Chapin was an American singer/songwriter.

He is best known for writing the hit song ‘Cats in the Cradle’. He went to become a renowned philanthropist.

Chapin founded the organization World Hunger Year, later re-named WhyHunger, to help fight hunger in the United States and around the world.

He was killed in a car accident in New York at the age of 38.