Some people use their last breath to make deathbed confessions. Other folks’ last words might seem prophetic, or be declarations of love (such as in the case of legendary baseball slugger Joe DiMaggio who, on his deathbed and referring to ex-wife Marilyn Monroe, said "I’ll finally get to see Marilyn.") Some speak with the knowledge of impending death so their words are profound; others are taken by surprise so their dying words are simple, casual exchanges, like Elvis Presley telling his girlfriend he’s off to the bathroom to read).
Suffice it to say that any living soul’s parting remarks are inherently fascinating simply because it’s the last thing they’ll ever say.
Here's a list of 15 famous people and their fascinating last words.
15 Steve Jobs
According to a November 2011 New Yorker article, trailblazing tech pioneer Steve Jobs’ talent wasn’t so much about inventing as it was about editing and tweaking technology.
Even toward the end of his life, Jobs criticized the design of the hospital’s oxygen masks. “He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told them it was ugly and too complex.” Jobs continued to criticize the function and design even of the technology helping to prolong his life in his last days.
Right before Jobs passed, he’d looked at "his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.” His last words were: “Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow."
14 Princess Diana
Princess Diana’s death was a generational-defining moment. People tend to remember where they were and what they were doing when they first heard the news of her August 1997 car crash in Paris.
In an interview published by Rolling Stone, Xavier Gourmelon, one of the firefighters who came to Diana’s aide in the Pont de l’Alma tunnel, said that Diana was conscious with her eyes open when he pulled her from the wrecked Mercedes. "She was moving very slightly and I could see she was alive ... I could see she had a slight injury to her right shoulder but, other than that, there was nothing significant. There was no blood on her at all."
Gourmelon reports in the same interview that Diana’s last words were: “My God, what’s happened?”
13 Elvis Presley
It might seem a strange coincidence that two of the most iconic singers of the 20th century (Judy Garland and Elvis Presley) both died in bathrooms.
Elvis’s last public words were at a press conference where he told the audience "I hope I haven’t bored you.”
In the early morning hours of August 16, 1977, unable to sleep, Elvis played racquetball with friends. He then sat at his piano and sang two gospel songs, as well as “Blue Eyes Crying In the Rain.”
Still sleepless after taking too many pills, at around 9:30 a.m., Elvis took his Frank Adams book A Scientific Search for the Face of Jesus and told girlfriend Ginger Alden, “I’m going to the bathroom to read.” Ginger later discovered Elvis’s body in his bathroom at 1:30 p.m. that afternoon.
12 Robin Williams
Robin Williams was an actor/comedian who first came to international attention back in 1978 when he played “Mork from Ork” on the popular ABC sitcom Mork & Mindy. He went on to a hugely successful movie career, starring in Mrs. Doubtfire and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1998 for his role in Good Will Hunting.
Beneath his manic exterior and rapid-fire impressions, Williams had problems. He battled addiction, personal issues and a declining career with lesser roles.
His health was failing too. Not long before his death, Williams had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a dementia related to Alzheimer’s.
Williams’ wife, Susan Williams, appeared on Good Morning America and reported that Williams’ last words to her on the night of his suicide were “Good night, my love.”
11 Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain became another tragic member of rock & roll’s exclusive “27 Club.” If you were alive in the early '90s, you may not remember where you were when you first heard Cobain had died, but you probably remember where you were when you first heard Nirvana’s music.
Cobain’s band was hugely popular, but he never seemed comfortable with fame. He was always wary and guarded in interviews and never chilled in front of a mic unless performing. There were tabloid rumors he was addicted to heroin.
Kurt took his own life on April 5, 1994. He left a suicide note ending with this message for his wife and daughter: “Please keep going Courtney for Frances. For her life will be so much happier without me. I love you. I love you.”
10 Frida Kahlo
Frida Kahlo was an artist who frequently depicted her own personal suffering in her paintings. She certainly had a solid history of assorted emotional and physical agonies to draw upon. Some people bore everyone silly with their tales of prolonged sicknesses and disability; Kahlo created tortured and stunning self-portraits that hang in museums.
Kahlo’s also known for her famous unibrow, which, apparently, was actually one of her favorite facial features (she reportedly carried a special little comb to groom it with).
Kahlo lived a full life, leaving a rich legacy of painterly masterpieces behind. Her parting words were poetic and eloquent and reveal that she was sooo done with this crazy world once her time was up: “I hope the exit is joyful. I hope never to return.”
9 Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson was a superstar probably from as far back as he could remember. Imagine going through life where your whole existence includes tabloids, paparazzi, selling out coliseums and worldwide fame? Staying up past your bedtime not to watch Johnny Carson but to appear on his show? By the time this wunderkind was 9 years old, he was supporting the Jackson family extravagantly—and no wonder: he was extraordinarily talented. Even in this talented show biz family, Michael’s gifts truly set him apart.
Jackson’s last recorded public words were in response to a fan calling out “I love you!” to which Michael replied: “I love you more!”
Privately, his final words were for Dr. Conrad Murray, whom Jackson begged for more propofol (a potent and dangerous anesthetic), or as Jackson called it “milk."
8 Tom Petty
Tom Petty’s recent passing was heartbreaking because it was so sudden. It feels like Petty was gone before he could be sufficiently honored and appreciated for his amazing song catalogue of true American classics.
In a 1981 interview, Petty stated he wanted his epitaph to read: “He really liked rock ‘n’roll.”
Petty played his last concert at the Hollywood Bowl on September 25, 2017. This was the final stop of his 40th Anniversary Tour. On the playlist for his final performance were "Free Fallin'," "You Wreck Me," and "American Girl," according to Slate.
Petty’s last words to concertgoers were: “We love you dearly. I want to thank you for 40 years of a really great time. We're almost out of time. We got time for this, right here.”
7 Charlie Chaplin
Anyone who’s watched old, silent Charlie Chaplin movies knows of his enormous talent. His gift for physical comedy was such that W.C. Fields once called Chaplin “the greatest ballet dancer who ever lived.”
Chaplin, who died on Christmas Day 1977 at the age of 88, had one last little quip for the priest administering his last rites. The priest said, as Chaplin lay on his deathbed: “May the Lord have mercy on your soul,” to which Chaplin replied “Why not? After all, it belongs to him.”
Death wasn’t the end of Charlie’s story, however. In March 1978, body snatchers stole Chaplin’s body from his grave and demanded ransom money. They were caught and Charlie (who’d been temporarily buried in a cornfield) was returned to his rightful grave near his family home in Switzerland.
Prince was a phenomenal talent and one of the world’s greatest guitarists. It’s no surprise to hear Prince’s idol was the late, great Jimi Hendrix (who’s #1 on Rolling Stone’s greatest guitar players’ list. Incidentally, Hendrix’s last words were: “I need help bad, man”).
While no one was with Prince at the time of his death so his private last words are unknown, he did appear at a local dance party near his Paisley Park home five days prior to his death. Prince didn’t perform at the party, but he appeared onstage to show the crowd some new equipment, including a piano and guitar. He also addressed public rumors that he’d been ill lately and eerily and prophetically told the audience: "Wait a few days before you waste any prayers."
5 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement leader who’d earned the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his support and advancement of non-violent activism, had organized the “Poor People’s Campaign” in the first few months of 1968. At the time of his death, King had traveled to Memphis, Tennessee to support sanitary public works employees in their quest for fairer wages and better treatment.
King checked into the Lorraine Motel for his stay in Memphis. He was shot while standing on the motel’s second-floor balcony at 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968. According to Jesse Jackson, who was with King, King’s last words were for musician Ben Branch: "Ben, make sure you play "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty."
4 David Bowie
It’s been said that David Bowie, music legend for five solid decades, considered himself more a performance artist than musician. Life wasn’t always rosy for Bowie who suffered from drug addictions that plagued him for many years. In time, Bowie sobered up and married the gorgeous Somali model Iman. He ultimately became a happy family man, having a daughter with Iman and settling into a low-key soccer Dad type existence as New York City’s hippest “Ward Cleaver.”
While Bowie spent his final days in privacy with loved ones and his dying words are unknown, his friend, the actor Gary Oldman, shared with the press Bowie’s final statement on what music had meant to him throughout his life: “(Music) has been my doorway of perception and the house that I live in."
3 Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher
This dynamic mother-and-daughter Hollywood duo died within only one day of each other. Carrie stopped breathing and suffered cardiac arrest on board a flight from London to Los Angeles on December 23, 2016. She passed in hospital four days later, age 60, on December 27, 2016. In her 2008 book Wishful Drinking, Fisher wrote how she hoped her obituary would read that she’d been “drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.”
Her legendary mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, was planning Carrie’s funeral with son Todd the day after Carrie’s death, December 28, 2016 when she suffered a fatal stroke at age 84. Todd Fisher, (Carrie’s brother and Reynold’s son with singer and actor Eddie Fisher) reported that his mother’s last words were: “I miss her so much. I want to be with Carrie.”
2 Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde, the brilliant poet, writer and playwright died far too young, at age 46, from meningitis on November 30, 1900. Although Wilde died early, he was a prolific writer who left behind a solid legacy of enduring plays, stories, poems and novels. Wilde also coined many of the wittiest bon mots ever uttered in the English language.
Sadly, Wilde died broke, breathing his last in a cheap hotel in Paris. It’s widely reported that Oscar’s dying words were a critique of his rented room’s wallpaper: “Either this wallpaper goes or I do,” but according to Wikipedia, Wilde had actually opted for a conditional baptism on his last day on earth and his dying words were reportedly weakly mumbled repetitions of baptismal recitations after a Catholic priest.
1 Sylvia Plath
On the night before American poet Sylvia Plath’s death, she appeared at the door of her downstairs neighbor asking to buy stamps. Plath insisted on paying then and there, stating that if she didn’t she wouldn’t “be right with my conscience before God."
Moments later, Plath’s neighbor again opened his door and found her: “still standing in the hallway with ‘her head raised with a kind of seraphic expression on her face.’" Sensing she was ill, he offered to call a doctor, but Plath said, "No, please don't do that. I'm just having a marvelous dream, a most wonderful vision."
Plath then returned to her flat and later pinned a telephone number to her baby’s carriage with a note that read “Please call Dr. Horder.” She took her own life in the early morning hours of February 11, 1963. Plath was 30 years old.