There are some artists who completely redefine their vocations. Michael Jordan completely changed the game of basketball, Muhammad Ali is often considered the greatest prizefighter of all time, and who could forget the first time they saw one of Takeshi Matsuura's championship Yo-Yo routines? Unreal.
And while the world is packed with tons of gifted comics, there are only a few who are generally regarded as trailblazers. Richard Pryor is one of them, and sadly some of his personal habits attributed to an early cause of death.
What happened to Richard Pryor?
If you aren't familiar with the comic, he was known for no-holds-barred, unabashed stand-up routines that never diverted from jokes about race, sexuality, politics — there wasn't a single subject that was off-topic for Richard. He was attributed to changing comedy forever, and one of the hallmarks of his shows were audiences of mixed races and ethnicities.
Richard controversially implemented the use of the n-word in many of his stand-up routines, a stark contrast to the "clean" comedy of Bill Cosby. In a 1974 interview, when questioned about his unabashedly free speech, he stated, "I think that people should say what they feel. I mean, you know, I don't give a (censored) if it's racism or whatever ism it is."
He continued, "I mean, whatever, man. Just to be yourself is such a nice thing. I like to be accepted, you know, but usually in order to be accepted by white people, you have to compromise so much from your hello."
There are a large number of stand-up comics who attribute their start to Richard. Eddie Murphy said that he decided to become a comedian after listening to one of his shows.
Richard's prominence as a stage performer translated to several TV and film appearances, and he soon became one of America's most celebrated performers. And just as he pushed the envelope in his art, he also did the same in his daily life. While on the set of the film Stir Crazy, he doused himself in rum and set fire to his body after binge-freebasing cocaine.
He poked fun at himself in a 1982 stand-up routine, stating the the incident occurred after he dunked a chocolate chip cookie into a glass of low-fat pasteurized milk which caused an explosion.
What was Richard Pryor's cause of death?
In addition to using cocaine, Richard was also a habitual drinker and smoker, factors that doctors claim contributed to the series of heart attacks he sustained throughout his life. His first heart attack occurred when he was only 37 years of age in 1977. In January of 1986, he was then diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
In 1990 while in Australia, he sustained a second heart attack, which necessitated a triple bypass surgery in 1991. It was reported by the actor's sister over a decade later in 2004 that Richard lost his voice, something that the comedian rejected on his website: "I'm sick of hearing this s--t about me not talking ... not true ... I have good days, bad days ... but I still am a talkin' motherf--ker!"
On Dec. 10, 2005, he suffered his third heart attack, and the comedian didn't recover from it. Doctors reportedly stated that his years of smoking contributed to coronary heart disease, which was responsible for his multiple heart attacks. He died in Los Angeles. His wife, Jennifer Lee, who was with him as he died, said that Richard went out smiling: "At the end, there was a smile on his face."