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Are More Celebrities Really Dying This Year Than Usual?

Matthew Cooper

| Last updated 

Are More Celebrities Really Dying This Year Than Usual?

2016 has felt like an unusually upsetting year for celebrity deaths. Is it the numbers, or the sheer status they held?

Losing David Bowie, Prince and Alan Rickman were arguably the three that affected the largest amount of people. But there have been many in-between that.

So has 2016 really been a celebrity death 'epidemic'? Or are we just more hung up on them because of the status they held in popular culture?

Let's take a look. Here are the most notable deaths that have already occurred in 2016: (please note these are not ALL deaths, full lists can be found on Wikipedia).



  • -David Bowie
  • -Alan Rickman
  • -Glenn Frey
  • -Sir Terry Wogan


  • -Maurice White
  • -Dave Mirra
  • -Harper Lee


  • -Sir George Martin
  • -Frank Sinatra Jr.
  • -Paul Daniels
  • -Rob Ford
  • -Phife Dawg
  • -Johan Cruyff
  • -Ronnie Corbett


  • -David Gest
  • -Victoria Wood
  • -Prince

So that's 17, and that's just the highest profile ones, in reality that barely scratches the surface.

So what is it? Just bad luck I guess, but there's also more to it than that.

"I think it's more sad coincidence than anything else," says Jem Aswad, a Billboard senior editor, speaking just before Maurice White's death. Aswad notes that age or illness were factors in most of those deaths. "One, the average life expectancy of a lot of people who were big in the '60s and early '70s-it's getting to be that time. They're all hitting their 70s. [And] given the era, there were a lot of drugs and a lot of cigarette smoking and being a touring musician performing every single night takes its toll on you."


Compared to the first quarter of last year, has there been a massive spike in deaths? Yes. In February 2015 we lost Leonard Nimoy, the original Spok. A month later we lost Sir Terry Pratchett and Lil' Chris.

That's a substantially smaller number. But what about the bigger picture?

Wikipedia- although it's hardly a scientific source, it's a thoroughly accurate chronicle of deaths and it also shows that 2016 got off to a very gloomy start.

"The encyclopaedia reports 642 notable deaths in January. (Many of these, like Taiwanese businessman Chang Yung-fa or French jeweller Alexandre Reza, would not likely have been reported in American media.) The page for December lists a substantially fewer 466 deaths, and the one for November has 485," Newsweek reported.


In reality, on closer inspection, these deaths are a case of strange coincidences and bad timing. Bowie had been ill (albeit in secret) for a long time. Alan Rickman, just days later shared a few similarities, including age, and sadly succumbing to cancer. He also, had kept his illness private.

"That generation in particular-the hard living combined with ageing of course we're gonna see more [music deaths]," Aswad said of recent events.

BBC's obituary editor Nick Serpell echoed this statement.

"People who started becoming famous in the 1960s are now entering their 70s and are starting to die," he says.

"There are also more famous people than there used to be, in my father or grandfather's generation, the only famous people really were from cinema - there was no television.

"Then, if anybody wasn't on TV, they weren't famous."

He also states another common denominator is the so-called baby-boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1964, which Bowie and Prince were.

The US census bureau said that 76m people in 2014 belonged to the baby-boom generation - that's a staggering 23% of the population.

Now, those famous former babies, aged between 70 and 52, are dying.

In England and Wales for example, it's between the ages of 65 to 69 where death rates really start to increase.

Sadly it's that simple and there's nothing we can do about that. Let's just hope they don't keep coming at the rate we're witnessing right now.

Lead Image Credit: PA

Topics: David Bowie

Matthew Cooper
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