Dying on your birthday is an auspicious event, and it’s more common than you’d think! (After all, there’s a 1 in 365 chance of it happening – 366 in a leap year – and those odds aren’t that low).
Many cultures, religions and even astrologers have their ideas and beliefs about what it means to die on your birthday. In Judaism, for example, the Talmud (a central text of Rabbinic Judaism and the primary source of Jewish religious law and theology) writes that it is special and righteous to die on your birthday. In astrology, death during one’s solar return (when the sun returns to its exact position at birth) is also considered particularly significant, as it is thought to signify a new cycle or a transformational phase in the afterlife. Fascinating, right?
Today, we’re pinning the focus on 5 famous people who died on their birthdays.
Curious? Take a look:
Civil Rights & Human Rights Activist
December 13, 1903 - December 13, 1986
Ella Baker’s career spanned more than five decades. Her grandmother had been an African American slave whose owner had forced her to marry a man. But she refused. It was her resilience and defiance that inspired Baker to keep her grandmother’s legacy alive. Baker worked alongside civil rights leaders of the 20th century, including the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. She was a mentor to many emerging activists, too.
Baker died in her sleep at the age of 83.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr.
American Politician, Lawyer & Businessman
August 17, 1914 - August 17, 1988
Not to be confused with his father – congressman and four-term U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt – Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. served three terms in U.S. Congress and two in Presidential administrations. Aside from serving in politics, he was also a lawyer and a businessman who worked in the automotive car industry.
Roosevelt Jr. passed away on his birthday from lung cancer at age 74.
August 29, 1915 - August 29, 1982
You may remember Ingrid Bergman from the classic film Casablanca, where she played the leading lady, Ilsa Lund. Like Ella Baker, with a career spanning five decades, Bergman is also celebrated for her roles (for which she was awarded numerous awards) in For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), Gaslight (1944), The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945) and Joan of Arc (1948). She also starred in three films with the ‘master of suspense’ director, Alfred Hitchcock.
The iconic Swedish-born actress and three-time Academy Award winner sadly died from breast cancer on her 67th birthday in 1982.
May 14, 1897 - May 14, 1959
Jazz lovers will be familiar with the name Sidney Bechet. As a soprano saxophonist and innovative musician (who also played the clarinet!) – Bechet played a prominent role in creating the style that would differentiate jazz from ragtime. He basically helped to create a whole new musical genre.
Bechet died on his 62nd birthday from lung cancer.
Playwright, Poet & Actor
April 23, 1564 - April 23, 1616
This last one’s a little debated among scholars, because they’re not 100% sure if William Shakespeare’s birthday was on April 23, but they do know it was close to this date. This leads us to the theory of why he died in 1616 at the approximate age of 52 – possibly after a night of heavy drinking during his birthday celebrations (allegedly, we might add).
It’s clear that across different religions, cultures and modes of thought, dying on your birthday is believed to be a special, auspicious event. Now that you’ve brushed up on your history knowledge, you can dig a little deeper into what we like to call our ‘interesting tidbit archives’. If you liked this blog, we think you’ll love these: