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Elvis Presley


8 January 1935 – 16 August 1977 (Aged 42)

Elvis was an American singer who came to be an icon of the 20th century and earned the title of the “King of Rock and Roll”.

Born in Tupelo, Mississippi before moving to Memphis, Tennessee, Presley first recorded a song in 1953 after graduating from high school.

The next year he recorded a single which quickly gained him fans after it received some airtime on the local radio.

Elvis was signed to a record contract and released his first single ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in January 1956.

In November of that year, he made his film debut in Love Me Tender as he soared to becoming a superstar.

In 1958, Elvis was drafted into the military for two years before taking up where he had left off.

Presley spent much of the 60’s making films and the accompanying soundtracks before an acclaimed TV special in 1968 returned him to top billing.

An extended residency contract in Las Vegas followed soon after, which proved to be the beginning of the end.

His six-year marriage to Priscilla broke up in 1973, while Elvis battled prescription drug abuse, weight problems, and an out of control lifestyle.

Presley died in his Graceland home from heart failure at the age of 42. He had already received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award aged only 36.

Elvis remains one of the biggest names in music and one of the most influential people of the 20th century.

Charlie Chaplin


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16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977 (Aged 88)

Chaplin was one of the biggest film stars of the 20th century.

The British-born actor became an icon of the silent era, with his reprised role of “The Tramp” seen as one of the most influential and important characters in film history.

Born into poverty, Chaplin found acting at an early age and went on to have a 75-year career within the industry.

City LightsThe Gold Rush, Modern Times, and The Great Dictator are some of his most famous films.

In The Great Dictator, he ridiculed Hitler’s actions in Germany, however, his political views saw him run into trouble with U.S. authorities, and in 1953 had his permit revoked.

He moved to Vaud, Switzerland, where he lived until his death.

Chaplin returned to the U.S. just once more in 1972, where he received an honorary Academy Award. His final years saw a decline in his health, before dying from a stroke at the age of 88.

In March 1978, Chaplin’s coffin was stolen and a ransom was demanded for its return. It was retrieved over two months later and two men were arrested.

Chaplin was one of the most influential people of the 20th century, with his on-screen character one of the most recognizable in the world.

He also co-founded the United Artists Corporation.

Bing Crosby


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3 May 1903 – 14 October 1977 (Aged 74)

Crosby was a hugely popular and prolific American singer and actor who was the biggest-selling artist of the 20th century.

His immensely popular radio show, running from 1931 to 1954, made him one of America’s most loved personalities.

On Christmas Day 1941, Crosby released his record-breaking single ‘White Christmas’, while among his other famous songs are ‘Pennies from Heaven’ and ‘Swinging on a Star’.

In 1944, Crosby won an Academy Award for his performance in Going My Way.

Shortly before his death in 1977, Crosby pre-recorded a Christmas special and a duet with David Bowie of ‘Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy’.

He died of a heart attack while playing golf in Alcobendas, near Madrid, Spain.

Crosby is one of a select group of people to have three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, recognizing his impact in the world of radio, music, and film.

Groucho Marx


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2 October 1890 – 19 August 1977 (Aged 86)

Groucho was a much-loved American comedic actor who was one of the famous Marx Brothers.

Renowned for his quick wit and distinctive appearance, Groucho is regarded as one of the finest comedic actors of all time.

After the Marx Brothers broke up in 1949, Groucho became a successful Emmy-winning TV host and, later, performed a one-man show in Carnegie Hall.

In 1974, Groucho was given an honorary Academy Award for his life’s work.

His health declined considerably in his later years before he succumbed to pneumonia after being hospitalized for nearly two months.

Maria Callas


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2 December 1923 – 16 September 1977 (Aged 53)

Callas was an iconic American-born opera singer, seen as one of the most influential singers of the 20th century.

She was known for her wide vocal range, captivating audiences in Italy, where she made herself a star.

In her personal life, Callas had a famous affair with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Callas died from heart failure at the age of 53, after being cremated her ashes were later scattered in the Aegean Sea, off Greece, the homeland of her parents.

Steve Biko


South African History Online / Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

18 December 1946 – 12 September 1977 (Aged 30)

Biko was a South African civil rights activist.

He became a renowned anti-apartheid campaigner, leading what was known as the Black Consciousness Movement.

During his the course of one of his multiple arrests, Biko was severely beaten in custody by state security officers and died from the head injuries he sustained shortly afterward.

Following his death, Biko became an icon of the anti-apartheid movement and is seen as one of the most important black political leaders in South African history.

Read more about Biko here.

Joan Crawford


 PixabayCC-BY-SA-3.0 / GFDL

23 March 1904 – 10 May 1977 (Aged 73)

Crawford was an American actress who was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars for much of the 1930s, 40’s and ’50s.

In 1945, she won an Academy Award for playing the lead role in Mildred Pierce.

In her personal life, Crawford was married four times, marrying actors Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Franchot Tone, and Phillip Terry.

She then married Pepsi-Cola chairman Alfred Steele until his death in 1959, after which she served on the company’s board of directors.

Crawford died from a heart attack at the age of 73.

Gummo Marx


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23 October 1893 – 21 April 1977 (Aged 83)

Gummo was the second youngest of the famous Marx Brothers comedy act and was the first of the brothers to leave the group in order to serve during World War I.

Instead of returning to acting after the war, Gummo started a raincoat business and later ran a talent agency.

In 1919, he was also granted a patent for a clothes packing rack.

After establishing himself as a respected businessman throughout his life, Gummo died from a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 83.