The final years of Monroe's life were marked by illness, personal problems, and a reputation for being unreliable and difficult to work with. The circumstances of her death, from an overdose of barbiturates, have been the subject of conjecture. Though officially classified as a "probable suicide", the possibility of an accidental overdose, as well as the possibility of homicide, have not been ruled out. In 1999, Monroe was ranked as the sixth greatest female star of all time by the American Film Institute.
Gilbert Millstein of The New York Times, who had been the narrator at Billie Holiday's 1956 Carnegie Hall concerts and had partly written the sleeve notes for the album The Essential Billie Holiday , described her death in these same 1961-dated sleeve notes: "Billie Holiday died in the Metropolitan Hospital, New York, on Friday, July 17, 1959, in the bed in which she had been arrested for illegal possession of narcotics a little more than a month before, as she lay mortally ill; in the room from which a police guard had been removed – by court order – only a few hours before her death, which, like her life, was disorderly and pitiful. She had been strikingly beautiful, but she was wasted physically to a small, grotesque caricature of herself. The worms of every kind of excess – drugs were only one – had eaten her ... The likelihood exists that among the last thoughts of this cynical, sentimental, profane, generous and greatly talented woman of 44 was the belief that she was to be arraigned the following morning. She would have been, eventually, although possibly not that quickly. In any case, she removed herself finally from the jurisdiction of any court here below."
The official coroner's report lists "cardiac arrhythmia" as the cause of Presley's death, but this was later admitted to be a ruse entered into by the Presley family along with autopsy physicians Dr. Jerry T. Francisco, Dr. Eric Muirhead and Dr. Noel Florredo to cover up the real cause of death, a cocktail of ten prescribed drugs, taken in doses no doctor would prescribe: the painkillers Morphine and Demerol, Chloropheniramine, an antihistamine, the tranquilizers Placidyl and Vailum.
On Sunday October 4, 1970, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie's road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Hotel. He saw Joplin's psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot. Upon entering her room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol. Cooke believes that Joplin had accidentally been given heroin which was much more potent than normal, as several of her dealer's other customers also overdosed that week. Peggy Caserta and Seth Morgan had both stood Joplin up the Friday immediately prior to her death, October 2, and according to the book Going Down With Janis, Joplin was saddened that neither of her friends visited her at the Landmark Motor Hotel as they had promised to.
In a July 2007 newspaper interview, a self-described close friend of Morrison's, Sam Bernett, resurrected an old rumor and announced that Morrison actually died of a heroin overdose in the Rock 'n' Roll Circus nightclub, on the Left Bank in Paris. Bernett claims that Morrison came to the club to buy heroin for a friend and then did some himself and died in the bathroom. Bernett alleges that Morrison was then moved back to his rue Beautreillis apartment and dumped in the bathtub by the same two drug dealers from whom Morrison had purchased the heroin. Bernett says those who saw Morrison that night were sworn to secrecy in order to prevent a scandal for the famous club, and that some of the witnesses immediately left the country. There have been many other conspiracy theories surrounding Morrison's death but are less supported by witnesses.
On August 3, 1966, Bruce was found dead in the bathroom of his Hollywood Hills home at 8825 W. Hollywood Blvd. The official photo, taken at the scene, showed Bruce lying naked on the floor, a syringe and burned bottle cap nearby, along with various other narcotics paraphernalia. According to legend a policeman at the scene said, “There is nothing sadder than an aging hipster” which itself possibly was one of Lenny Bruce’s lines. Record producer Phil Spector, a friend of Bruce's, bought the negatives of the photographs to keep them from the press. The official cause of death was "acute morphine poisoning caused by an accidental overdose."
On June 22, 1969, Garland was found dead by Deans in the bathroom of their rented house in Chelsea, London. At the subsequent inquest, coroner Gavin Thursdon stated that the cause of death was "an incautious self-overdosage" of barbiturates; her blood contained the equivalent of ten 1.5-grain (97 mg) Seconal capsules. Thursdon stressed that the overdose had been unintentional and that there was no evidence to suggest she had committed suicide. Her autopsy showed that there was no inflammation of her stomach lining and no drug residue there, which indicated that the drug had been ingested over a long period of time, rather than in one dose. Her death certificate stated that her death had been "accidental". Even so, a British specialist who had attended her said she had been living on borrowed time due to cirrhosis of the liver. She had turned 47 just 12 days prior to her death. Her Wizard of Oz costar Ray Bolger commented at her funeral, "She just plain wore out."
Hughes was reported to have died on April 5, 1976, at 1:27 pm on board an aircraft owned by Robert Graf and piloted by Jeff Abrams, en route from his penthouse at the Acapulco Fairmont Princess Hotel in Mexico to The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas. A subsequent autopsy noted kidney failure as the cause of death. Hughes was in extremely poor physical condition at the time of his death. He suffered from malnutrition. While his kidneys were damaged, his other internal organs, including his brain, were deemed perfectly healthy. X-rays revealed five broken-off hypodermic needles in the flesh of his arms. To inject codeine into his muscles, Hughes used glass syringes with metal needles that easily became detached. Phenacetin, used for chronic pain, may have been the cause of his kidney failure.
"When I die, I want people to play my music, go wild, and freak out an' do anything they wanna do." Early on September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London. He had spent the latter part of the previous evening at a party and was picked up at close to 3:00 by girlfriend Monika Dannemann and driven to her flat at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill. Dannemann claimed in her original testimony that after they returned to her lodgings the evening before, Hendrix, unknown to her, had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills. The normal medical dose was a half to one tablet as stated in the literature, but Hendrix was unfamiliar with this very strong Belgian brand. According to surgeon John Bannister, the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, mainly red wine which had filled his airways.