This book is a celebration.
Yes, undeniably, there is some sadness in these pages. Why in the world was Kennedy killed? Why couldn't Marilyn have found happiness? Why did Michael leave the stage so early? But also, we revisit the dynamism of JFK, the beauty of Marilyn Monroe and the pure excitement that was Michael Jackson. In these pages, we lament the premature exits, but thrillingly celebrate the lives that were lived lived, often, to the very fullest.
This special LIFE book is brimful with the stories of people we loved. The fans of Judy Garland, Elvis Presley and John Lennon were legion, and so were those of Tim Russert and John Ritter. These are people who, when we learned they had passed, made us sit up, take notice and focus on why they mattered-deeply-to all of us. LIFE always takes the long view, and so this book salutes historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as well as contemporary celebrities including Christopher Reeve and Farrah Fawcett. What might the world have been like had Lincoln not been shot, or with four score more compositions by Mozart? How richer might we all be with further F. Scott Fitzgerald stories to read, or more James Dean movies to watch?
These many people-more than 100 in all-are commemorated not only in prose but also in the fine, often surprising and sometimes rare pictures for which LIFE is famous. In these pages, those we lost come vibrantly alive once more. We remember these people precisely, and celebrate their important, if too short, lives.