October 27, 1914 - November 9, 1953: Age 39
Dylan Thomas was justly known as "the modern Keats". Wales' most famous poet took the artistic world by storm with his astonishing poems and his dramatic readings. Although his output was relatively small compared to others, his powerful voice and delivery were perfectly matched to broadcast radio culture.
Thomas embodied a defiant cynical bohemianism that suited the postwar world. Curly-haired and green-eyed, he grew into a chubby, slouching adult who dangled a cigarette from his lips, drank heavily, and offered outrageous quotes for the papers. He had a knack for sound bites: he came to America, he said, "to continue my search for naked women in wet mackintoshes."
He arrived in New York in October 1953 for his fourth American tour, checking in as usual to the Chelsea Hotel with his American girlfriend. His health was obviously suffering from his excesses, and at the time he referred to his wife (who was back in England) as his "widow". During a night of drinking on November 4, he said, "I've had 18 straight whiskies. I think that's the record." He woke up the next morning and returned to the pub, but after a couple of beers began to feel ill and left. Back at the Hotel Chelsea, he began to vomit and experience violent stomach spasms. During that day, he told his girlfriend, "I love you, but I am alone" — a statement thought by some to be his last words. By 2 a.m. the following morning he was unconscious. He died in St. Vincent's hospital four days later, his wife (who had arrived from London) by his side. The official cause of death was pneumonia and a damaged liver.
Sources: Wikipedia, BBC Audio, Under Milk Wood
This entry would not be complete without a link to Thomas reading "Do not go gentle into that good night." Although Thomas was celebrated for his readings, I personally find his style too much. See what you think. Click here to listen to the BBC recording of Under Milk Wood. The first section is Richard Burton, absolutely feasting on his role of "First Voice".
I would like to nominate the following as the Official Quote of A Death A Day: "Hold me, Captain, I'm Jonah Jarvis, come to a bad end, very enjoyable." — Third Voice in Under Milk Wood