A person’s final words can be clever and profound. Sometimes they register as more mundane than anything else, while other times they remind us of how we can live better lives while we still have time. Some of the people on this list, like Lucille Ball and James Brown, said their dying words while they were gravely ill. Other celebrities spoke their last lines before their unexpected deaths.
From Pocahontas to Robin Williams, here are the last words of 30 famous figures from history.
Robin Williams’s third wife, Susan Schneider Williams, revealed her husband’s last words in an emotional ABC interview. As the couple was getting ready for bed, his final words were, “Goodnight, goodnight.” Williams was known as one of the funniest men in the world, making everyone laugh until their bellies ached. He wowed audiences with his acting in films, like Good Will Hunting and Mrs. Doubtfire.
After Robin Williams passed away in 2014, many celebrities, friends, co-stars and fans paid tribute to him. Heartbroken fans built a memorial with flowers, photographs and letters for him at a house made famous by Mrs. Doubtfire in San Francisco. Touched by the world’s support, his wife says that Robin Williams’s greatest legacy was bringing joy and happiness to others.
Winston Churchill died after his eighth stroke. He began suffering from strokes shortly before becoming Prime Minister to the United Kingdom a second time, a responsibility that he almost declined due to his failing health. The preparations for his funeral began 12 years before his death, as it was apparent that his health was failing, and Queen Elizabeth II was insisted that he have a funeral “on a scale befitting his position in history”.
After his final stroke he entered a coma for about two weeks. Though at some point he emerged from his coma to tell his son: “I’m bored with it all”. He died on the 70th anniversary of his father’s death.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The famous creator of Sherlock Holmes died of a heart attack in 1930 at the age of 71. Before his death, he told his wife, “you are wonderful.” Doyle’s love for his wife was no secret, as biographers and historians have documented numerous love letters written to her from him, sometimes twice a day when they were apart.
For many years after his death, he was not able to be buried in a churchyard. He had identified as a Spiritualist while he was alive, disavowing Christianity. He was initially buried on his estate, with the body of his widow buried next to him a decade later. Though eventually both bodies were moved to a churchyard, where his gravestone reads: “Steel true/Blade straight/Patriot, Physician and man of letters.”
In 1997, Princess Diana died in a horrifying car accident. The event shocked more than just the United Kingdom; it shook the world. As an international icon, Diana was known for her activism and fashion. But she also gained popularity for her tumultuous marriage and divorce from Charles, the Prince of Wales.
The paparazzi followed Diana wherever she went, ultimately leading to her death. Her driver, Henri Paul, went 60 mph to escape the paparazzi, but crashed in the Pont d’Alma tunnel. One rescuer at the scene claimed he heard Diana say, “My God, what’s happened?” before going into cardiac arrest.
Reggae legend, Bob Marley, created many unforgettable hits, including Is This Love and Turn Your Lights Down Low. While he was at the top of his career, Marley was diagnosed with a serious skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma in 1977. But Marley decided that the show must go on.
Marley continued to perform and go on tour. In 1980, he collapsed while jogging and was brought to the hospital. The cancer had spread to his brain and throughout his body. In response, Marley cancelled the rest of his tour and sought treatment, but it failed. Before dying, his final words to his son were, “Money can’t buy life.”
Before dying of natural causes, Conrad Hilton said, “Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub.” Who was he speaking to? Maybe housekeeping. After all, Hilton was in the hotel business until his death. In fact, he founded the international hotel chain, Hilton Hotels, in 1919.
Hilton bought his first hotel in Cisco, Texas, in 1919. After expanding west to California and east to New York, Hilton took his business global in 1948. Hilton worked until he became ill of pneumonia, passing away at the age of 91 in 1979.
Hours before her death, Whitney Houston said, “I’m going to go and see Jesus.” On Feb. 11, 2012, she was found unconscious in a bathtub at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. The coroner’s office discovered Houston died from an accidental drowning.
Houston began her music career by singing gospel, but transitioned into pop and R&B in the 1980s. With her powerful voice, Houston moved audiences during her performances. Her memory lives on through her music, with notable songs like I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) and How Will I Know.
Famously known as the King of Pop, Michael Jackson created many No. 1 hits, including Thriller, Billie Jean and Beat It. Many sources report that Jackson’s last words were, “I’d like to have some milk. Please, please give me some more.” Jackson had been prescribed propofol due to insomnia. However, he became addicted to the drug, calling it “milk.” Hours after taking a dose of propofol, Jackson died.
A few sources claim that Jackson final words were actually “I love you more.” Jackon’s friend, Travis Payne, told him, “I love you,” after a concert rehearsal. In response, Jackson smiled and said, “I love you more,” before riding away in a golf cart.
One of history’s most famous spies was Mata Hari. Before becoming a secret informer, Hari worked as an exotic dancer throughout Europe, where she gained relationships with high-ranking military officers and politicians. At the age of 40, Hari began spying for the French.
The French hired Hari to seduce the German high command and get their secrets. She tried to exchange gossip with German soldiers to get them to spill classified information. However, the French accused her of being a double agent. As a result, she was executed by a firing squad. Her final words were, “Everything is an illusion.”
Before passing away in his sleep, James Brown’s dying words were, “I’m going away tonight.” In December 2006, Brown arrived at a dentist appointment a few hours late, appearing weak and dazed. Brown had a history of working while ill. On the advice of his dentist, he went to the hospital for observation and treatment. Two days later, he passed away due to pneumonia.
The popular singer, dancer, and record producer was known as the “Godfather of Soul” throughout his 50-year career. Fans couldn’t help, but love Brown’s top-charting singles, including It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World, Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud and I Got You (I Feel Good).
Debbie Reynolds was a musical icon, who starred in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). From 1998 to 2006, she shined in Disney’s Halloweentown series. Her acting career spanned for more than 70 years. She was also the mother of Carrie Fisher, a famous actress known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise.
In 2016, Carrie Fisher passed away. Reynolds and her son, Todd Fisher, spent the next day planning Carrie Fisher’s funeral. Suffering from a broken heart, Reynolds told Todd Fisher, “I miss her so much, I want to be with Carrie.” That same day, she experienced a severe stroke and died in the hospital. Reynolds spent her final moments thinking of her daughter.
“I’m shot. I’m shot,” were John Lennon’s last words. In 1980, Lennon signed a copy of Double Fantasy for Mark David Chapman before going into a recording studio with his wife, Yoko Ono. Chapman waited for Lennon to finish the recording session and shot him while he exited the building.
According to The Independent, Lennon said something else before his death. Ono revealed to The Independent that before Lennon was shot, she asked him, “Shall we go and have dinner before we go home?” Lennon responded with, “No, let’s go home because I want to see Sean before he goes to sleep.” Ono claims that those were Lennon’s real last words.
Lucille Ball was a comedy queen, known for starring in I Love Lucy and for her bright red hair. The successful entertainer and businesswoman’s career spanned more than 50 years. She was so committed to making people laugh that she worked until her death in 1989.
Her last public appearance took place at the 1989 Academy Awards in March. One month later, she suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital, where she received surgery. During her recovery, she was asked, “Is there anything you want?” Ball responded, “My Florida water,” passing away shortly after.
Without Maya Angelou, we wouldn’t have the empowering poem, And Still I Rise, and the great novel, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Many classrooms use her works as part of the curriculum, even though critics of her work have tried to get them banned. Not only was Angelou a writer, but she was also a civil rights activist who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.
It’s no surprise that her final words were also profound. Her last recorded words were, “It has been said often that there are none so blind as those who will not see. There are people who go through life burdened by ignorance because they refuse to see. When they do not recognize the truth that they belong to their community and their community belongs to them…it is because they refuse to see.”
“Music has been my doorway of perception and the house that I live in,” was the last thing David Bowie said to his friend, Gary Oldman. During their final conversation together, Bowie described his music career to Oldman. Shortly after, Bowie died from liver cancer in 2016.
When it came to music, Bowie never stayed with one sound. The English rock star was also known for changing his appearance. For instance, in 1972, he turned into his glamorous alter ego, Ziggy Stardust. As Ziggy Stardust, Bowie wore a dramatic costume and wild, reddish-brown hair. Bowie is considered one of the most influential musicians of all time.
Reigned as the Queen of Tejano, Selena Quintanilla Perez was a singer, songwriter, model, actress and fashion designer. Her single, Como la Flor, was one of her most popular songs. Selena was a rising star until she was shot and killed in 1994 at the Days Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Before passing away, Selena used her last breath to identify her killer to the desk clerk at the inn. Her last words were “Yolanda . . . 158.” Yolanda Saldivar was Selena’s friend and former manager. Saldivar tried to flee, but ended up in a nine-and-a-half-hour standoff with police and the FBI before surrendering. A crowd of heartbroken fans already arrived at the scene and cried as the police arrested Saldivar.
Fans swooned over Frank Sinatra’s sultry voice. Sinatra became one of the most popular and influential music artists of all time, with famous songs like New York, New York and My Way. He was also a successful film actor, appearing in The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and The Manchurian Candidate (1962).
During the last years of his life, Sinatra often went to the hospital for health problems, including high blood pressure, pneumonia, bladder cancer and dementia. In 1998, he suffered a heart attack and went to the hospital one last time with his wife by his side. She encouraged him to fight, but Sinatra was slipping away. His last words were, “I’m losing.”
Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery and returned to save more slaves as an Underground Railroad conductor. She was also a civil rights activist, a suffragist and a spy for the Union Army. In other words, Tubman was a bonafide legend.
Growing up, Tubman suffered from seizures and headaches. She continued to endure the pain as she aged. In 1913, she became very ill and died of pneumonia. Before she took her last breath, she told friends and family, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Elvis Presley, known as the King of Rock and Roll, produced many popular hits, like Hound Dog and Can’t Help Falling in Love. Many fans loved his music, but parents had a problem with his controversial dance moves. However, that didn’t dampen his star power because he became one of the biggest cultural icons of all time.
In 1977, Presley told his girlfriend, Ginger Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read,” which turned out to be his final words. Hours later, Alden found him unresponsive on his bathroom floor. Doctors reported that he died of a heart attack caused by a combination of drugs.
Frida Kahlo, a famous Mexican artist, was known for her eye-catching eyebrows and intense self-portraits. Her work depicted Mexican folk art and her personal hardships. Throughout her career, she was considered a pivotal figure for Chicanos, the feminism movement and the LGBT movement. Kahlo died of bronchopneumonia in 1954. Her final artwork, the Angel of Death, came with her last written words. It said, “I hope this exit is joyful and I hope never to return.”
Before becoming a prominent artist, Kahlo wanted to attend medical school. But she was in a traffic accident at the age of 18, which caused serious and painful injuries. As a result, she had to change her career plans. She also experienced health problems for the rest of her life.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the most prominent leaders in the civil rights movement until his death in 1968. Using nonviolent activism tactics, King led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and the 1962 struggle against segregation. He also delivered one of the most famous speeches in history: I Have a Dream.
Before an assassin’s bullet killed King, he requested a song from musician Ben Branch. He told Branch, “Man, I tell you, tonight I want that song. I mean, I want you to play it pretty tonight, play it pretty.” In response, Branch nodded in agreement. King smiled and said, “Don’t forget. I mean, I want ‘Precious Lord.’ Play it tonight.” Shortly after, he went out on the balcony and was assassinated.
Pocahontas was a real person, but she wasn’t like the princess in Disney’s cartoon film. She helped the colonists survive as they settled in Jamestown, Virginia. But we’ll never know if she actually saved John Smith from being clubbed to death by her father, Powhatan.
Pocahontas was kidnapped by colonists, but when they let her go, she chose to stay with them. She began an entirely new life by changing her name to Rebecca, tying the knot with John Rolfe, moving to London and having a son. However, her life was cut short when she fell ill in 1617. Before dying, she told her husband, “All must die. ‘Tis enough that the child liveth.”
Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948. He was shot at the Birla House in India, where witnesses can’t agree on his dying words. Some witnesses claim he repeated, “Ram, Ram” (“God, God”), while Gandhi’s personal assistant didn’t hear him say anything.
Gandhi was an Indian lawyer and anti-colonial nationalist, who led the campaign for India’s independence from Britain. Although his methods included nonviolent resistance, Gandhi met a very violent end. Gandhi influenced many civil rights movement leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr., James Lawson and James Bevel. His legacy also inspires many leaders today.
Anne Frank was a young Jewish victim of the Holocaust. She documented her life in a diary, while she and her family were in hiding from 1942 to 1944. However, she was arrested and sent to a concentration camp, where she died of typhus fever. According to a survivor from the camp, Frank’s last words were, “Irma, I am very sick.”
After her death, Frank’s diary became famous, selling 30 million copies in more than 60 different languages. The last entry in her diary notes, “keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if… if only there were no other people in the world.”
“Brothers! Brothers, please! This is a house of peace!” were Malcolm X’s last words, according to most witnesses. However, some eyewitnesses believe his final words were, “Now, now, brothers, break it up, be cool, be calm.” Malcolm X was trying to settle down a staged dispute.
Malcolm X was a human rights activist, who was known for his controversial advocacy during the civil rights movement. In 1965, he was preparing to give a speech at Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom when a disturbance occurred. As he tried to maintain the order, he was assassinated by three men.
In 1937, Betty Klenck was listening to the radio when she heard a terrifying SOS call from a distressed woman. The woman cried for help and repeated, “This is Amelia Earhart! Water’s knee deep!” At the time, Coast Guard officials thought that message was a hoax. However, in 2018, researchers believe the haunting transmission could be real.
Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. During an attempt to fly around the globe, Earheart and navigator Fred Noon went missing. Their disappearance is still an unsolved mystery. Her last written words to her husband were, “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.”
The world would not be the same without Steve Jobs, the creator of the iPhone and MacBook. His biological parents were forbidden to be in a relationship by their families, so they gave him up for adoption. His biological mother, Carole Schieble, was hesitant to let Paul and Clara Jobs adopt him because they had no college education. She only allowed the Jobs family to adopt him under one condition: He must attend college.
However, Jobs dropped out of college and began working. His decision was worth it because he had a net worth of a whopping $7 billion at the time of his passing. Before he passed away due to a tumor, Steve Jobs repeated the same words to his family. He said, “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.”
Dubbed as the Princess of R&B, Aaliyah was one of the most adored singers in the 1990s and the 2000s. The singer appeared in the film, Romeo Must Die, with Jet Li, producing the single, Try Again, for the film’s soundtrack. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay, establishing Aaliyah as the first artist in Billboard history to do so.
In 2001, Aaliyah died with eight others in a plane crash after filming a music video for the song, Rock the Boat, in the Bahamas. Before going to the Bahamas, Aaliyah told her boyfriend that she didn’t like the plane. In response, he advised her not to get on it. But her last words to him were, “You know, I gotta do it.”
Harvey Milk was the first openly gay elected official in California, winning a seat as a San Francisco supervisor in 1977. However, he only served for 11 months before another city supervisor assassinated him. During the last year of his life, Milk fought for more visibility for gay people and to help stop the discrimination and violence they faced.
While in office, Milk received death threats everyday. He was well aware that one day he may be assassinated. As a result, he left a recorded message on a tape that emphasized his thoughts and whom he wanted to succeed him if he were killed. He also made one of his most famous remarks in the recording: “If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”
Tupac Shakur’s murder remains unsolved. In September 1996, the rapper was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. After watching a boxing match with his Death Row Records boss, Suge Knight, Shakur got into a gang-related fight. Shortly after, he was gunned down.
The first police officer at the scene, Chris Carroll, says he asked Shakur who shot him, but he stuck to his no-snitching code until the end. Carroll recalls, “He looked at me, and he took a breath to get the words out, and he opened his mouth. And then the words came out: ‘F—- you.'”
Amy Winehouse’s bodyguard found her unresponsive at her Camden home. The toxicology report discovered that she had died from alcohol poisoning, with 416mg of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood in her system. Hours before her death, Winehouse told her doctor, “I don’t want to die.”
Winehouse was a famous singer, known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals. She won five Grammys, including album of the year and song of the year. Many of her songs, like You Know I’m No Good and Rehab, topped the music charts. Unfortunately, her success was cut short due to alcohol addiction.
After trying to resolve an argument between his parents, Martin Gaye told his mother, “Mother, I’m going to get my things and get out of this house. Father hates me and I’m never coming back.” However, Gaye’s father fatally shot him at their house in 1984.
Marvin Gaye was a singer, songwriter and record producer. His contribution to Motown Records earned him the nicknames, “Prince of Motown” and “Prince of Soul.” He was known for blending soul and gospel music, creating many legendary hits, like Sexual Healing and How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).