9 People Who Became Famous After Death

In the world we live in, some people become famous when children, others when they reach adulthood and there are even some who crack the fame bubble in their latter years; however, there is also a pretty hefty list of people who for one reason or another achieved fame posthumously. Here are Nine-stein’s 9 People Who Became Famous After Death.

Anne Frank


Probably the saddest name on this list due to her dying when she was only 15 years old; Anne Frank was a diarist and writer. Born in German, her family being Jewish decided to leave the country in the early 1930s when the Nazi Party rose to power and move to the Netherlands.

Sadly, as Hilter’s invasion of Europe spread, the Netherlands became a German-occupied country. And with the Nazi’s persecutions of the Jewish population increasing all the time, Anne Frank and her family were forced into hiding in some concealed rooms behind a bookcase in the building where Anne’s father worked in Amsterdam. They avoided capture for around two years until someone grassed on them and the Germans discovered their hideout in August 1944. All the family members were taken to concentration camps, which is where Anne died in February or March 1945.

Her Work

Anne was given a diary on her 13th birthday in which she chronicled her life from the 12th of June 1942 until 1st August 1944. Anne’s father, Otto, was the only surviving member of the family and upon his return to Amsterdam after the war; he found that his daughter’s diary had been saved by a helper and thus through Otto’s efforts ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ was published in 1947. It has since gone on to be translated into 67 languages, selling more than 30 million copies, which is truly amazing given the tender age of Anne when she penned it.



nine stein king tut

It’s fair to argue; as Tutankhamun was an Egyptian pharaoh that he would have been reasonably well-known while he was alive.

However, we are talking about a period in time around 1300 BC and King Tut (as he is often referred to these days) was only a young boy aged 9-10 when he ascended to power and he died around 9 years after that. So let’s be honest, other than Cleopatra and Tutankamun, how many other pharaohs can you name? According to Egyptologists, there were around 170 in total but we can’t name them all.

The reason for Tutankhamun’s modern-day fame is largely thanks to Howard Carter and George Herbert. It was those two gentlemen who discovered King Tut’s tomb virtually still intact way back in 1922 in the Valley of the Kings. This wonderful discovery has given a fascinating insight into his life at that time.

Respect must also go to the engineers and builders of the tomb. To stand the test of time for more than 3,000 years is an achievement to be mightily proud of.


Horst Wessel

nine stein - horst wessel

Many people would not have heard of young Horst but he certainly had his 15 minutes of fame, or infamy some might say, after his death.

Unfortunately, for Horst, he was shot dead – straight in the face from point blank range on January 14th, 1930 – in which was believed to be a planned assasination by members from the KPD. However, before his death, he managed to pen a song titled ‘Die Fahne hoch’ which turned out to be his legacy.

His Work

As Horst was a member of the Nazi party and his original song had been written for it; Hilter and his closet advisors decided to use Horst’s death as a propaganda tool against the communists of the time. Hilter changed the name to ‘The Horst Wessel Song’ and it became the anthem of the Nazi party from 1930 to 1945.

In hindsight, perhaps not the best way to be remembered but saying that, Wessel deserves his place on our list as thousands more people knew of him post death than during his life.


Eva Cassidy

eva cassidy

Most people have either heard the name Eva Cassidy or they would recognize her voice; but as the theme of this post suggests – this wasn’t really the case while she was alive.

Born in America, Eva was a vocalist and guitarist and it is fair to say that she had a loyal following in her local area around Washington D.C. – after all – she was honoured by the Washington Area Music Association. Unfortunately, Eva died of melanoma at the age of 33 in 1996.

Her Work

A few years after her death, Eva’s musical talent was introduced to the British public when her wonderful versions of Sting’s ‘Fields of Gold’ and ‘Over the Rainbow’, which was originally heard way back in 1939 when performed by Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, were played on BBC Radio 2.

The response to those who heard Cassidy’s angelic voice was phenomenal and so a camcorder recorded version of ‘Over the Rainbow’ was aired on Top of the Pops 2. This led to the compilation album Songbird, which was released 2 years after her death, soaring to the top of the UK charts. It was this success in the UK which led to the much increased worldwide attention of her wonderful music.


Emily Dickinson

emily dickinson

One of the modern world’s best known poets – now – but that wasn’t the case during her life. The story of Emily Dickinson comes across as quite sad; however, this is an outsider’s view and for all we know she may have been very happy and content with her life. She led a very reclusive life, hardly ever leaving her family’s homestead before passing away in 1886 aged 55.

Although her family had known of some of her poems, it wasn’t until after her death that the treasure trove of her work was discovered and eventually brought to the public’s attention for all to enjoy. This outstanding collection, which was unearthed by Emily’s sister Lavinia, is what places Emily Dickinson as one of America’s great names in the world of literature.

Her Work

With so many excellent poems to choose from, it is a case of where do you start when looking at Dickinson’s work. A few of the classics among classics are:

‘I tasted a liquor never brewed’

‘Success is counted sweetest’

‘Wild night – wild nights!’

‘I’m Nobody! Who are you?’

‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers’

And my favourite; ‘Because I could not stop for death’ which can be read and adored below.

Because I could not stop for Death –

He kindly stopped for me –

The Carriage held but just Ourselves –

And Immortality.

We slowly drove – He knew no haste

And I had put away

My labor and my leisure too,

For His Civility –

We passed the School, where Children strove

At Recess – in the Ring –

We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain –

We passed the Setting Sun –

Or rather – He passed Us –

The Dews drew quivering and Chill –

For only Gossamer, my Gown –

My Tippet – only Tulle –

We paused before a House that seemed

A Swelling of the Ground –

The Roof was scarcely visible –

The Cornice – in the Ground –

Since then – ’tis Centuries – and yet

Feels shorter than the Day

I first surmised the Horses’ Heads

Were toward Eternity –


Vincent van Gogh

van gogh

When it comes to tragic tales, the story of Vincent van Gogh is very high up on the list. This man was a gifted genius; however, the true appreciation for what he gave the world was not realized until after his death.

Hailing from the Netherlands, van Gogh was born in 1853. His mother was an artist and it is assumed this is where his natural talent was born. Van Gogh’s life had many twists and turns which could have been brought about by the mental health issues he struggled with for so long. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, aged only 37, poor and virtually unknown.

His work

Remarkably, van Gogh had no formal art training – another clear indication of his immense talent. After his death, van Gogh’s sister-in-law Johanna, who had always been an admirer of Vincent’s art, collected as much of his work as she could although she found out that much of it had been destroyed or lost. 71 of van Gogh’s paintings were displayed at a show in Paris in 1901 and this was probably the true beginning of the appreciation for van Gogh’s art that we know and love today. Today, his paintings titled ‘Irises’ which sold for $53.9 million, the ‘Portrait of Dr Gachet’ selling for a staggering $82.5 million and his ‘Sunflowers’ series are among some of the most identifiable paintings on earth.


Karl Marx


Whether you know much about Marxism or not, the chances are you would have heard the name Karl Marx at some point in your life. With a reported turnout of 11 people at his funeral – I think it is fair to say that more people know of the man today than they did when he was alive and kicking. As an extremely influential revolutionary thinker and philosopher, Marx’s ideas and writings were used to form the theoretical base for modern communism after his death.

Born in Prussia in 1818, Marx went on to explore sociopolitical theories at university and later became a journalist. His socialist writings led to him being expelled from several countries in Germany and France. He later moved to London which is where he remained until his death in 1883.

His Work

Probably the piece which is he is best known for is his co-authoring with Friedrich Engels of the ‘Communist Manifesto’ which was published in 1848 but he also wrote ‘The German Ideology’ and ‘Theses on Feuerbach’ which were both published after his death. Another great work of Marx was ‘Das Kapital’ which focuses on capitalism and economic theory – the first volume of this was published during his life but rest was brought to the public once he had departed God’s green earth – leading to his legend growing ever more since.


Franz Kafka


Another author hits our list in the shape of Franz Kafka. Born in Prague in 1883, Kafka went on to study law at the University of Prague before working within the insurance sector. Outside of his day job – Kafka spent the majority of his time writing, but other than a small, devoted group of readers Kafka’s novels were virtually unknown to the world during his life. Unfortunately, after suffering from ill-health for several years, Kafka died in 1924 from tuberculosis.

His Work

Due to Kafka’s self-doubt, which, by many, is blamed on his strict upbringing from his father, he did not wish for the majority of his work to be published. He even requested that his friend Max Brod, who acted as his literary executor, destroy all unpublished works after his death.

Brod went against Franz’s dying wish, however. In 1925, a year after Franz Kafka’s death, his novel The Trial was published which has proved to be one of his greatest pieces. Other gems from this wonderful writer including The Castle, Amerika and The Great Wall of China – all published posthumously – received their due acclaim as well.

A marker of Kafka’s value was seen when his handwritten manuscript of The Trial was auctioned in 1988. It fetched $1.98 million which at the time was the highest price ever paid for a modern manuscript. Certainly a sign of his greatness we feel.


Johannes Vermeer


Last, but by no means least, a second Dutch painter makes the list by way of Vermeer, who is actually one of my personal favourites. Born in the 1600s, Vermeer had moderate success during his lifetime but ultimately passed away leaving a lot of debts which signals reasonably clearly that his work was not as appreciated then as it is today.

His Work

Perhaps he most well-known masterpiece is The Concert (below), which was stolen during the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, valued at 130 million pounds, it is thought to be the most valuable unrecovered stolen work of art in history.


Other superb pieces include Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid (below), and Women with a Water Jug. The attention to detail in this man’s work is absolutely spell-binding and we can only thank our lucky stars that it eventually found its way into the public’s light for everyone to enjoy.



Anyone whom we have missed? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.

(all photos are courtesy of Google images and Wikipedia)

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