Short-Lived Big Impact

The man who brought the Kung-Fu Film to the West.

"It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years."
Tom Lehrer

Sometimes a show, performer or franchise, for some reason or another, doesn't last too long. Perhaps Executive Meddling reared its ugly head and it was Screwed by the Network, perhaps Author Existence Failure was involved, or maybe it was simply ahead of its time. However, a few years down the road, the genre that it belonged to explodes in popularity, and when you interview the creative minds behind the genre, they ALWAYS put that particular work front and center as their biggest influence. Quite simply, it was a Short-Lived Big Impact.

This trope is about something having left a noticeable impact on its genre, even though the work/artist was cut short. Short works that were great but have not influenced their genre a lot yet (ex: Firefly, Arrested Development) don't go here.

In serial media (comic books, anime, western cartoons, etc.), this trope can manifest as a work that was cut short or simply not meant to be a Long Runner, but the impact it left on the genre is still felt.

In music, this is not a One-Hit Wonder: a Short-Lived Big Impact musical act might actually have multiple hits before they left the scene, or even no hits at all. One Hit Wonder usually refers to an artist or act that left no impact beyond the popularity of their one hit, a Short-Lived Big Impact's effect on their genre is still felt.

Can overlap with Dead Artists Are Better, Too Good for This Sinful Earth and Too Cool to Live. Some of the examples in One-Book Author fit here too.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kuso Miso Technique was just a one-shot manga. Its impact in form of the "yaranaika" meme and helping to bring the Bara Genre to the attention of the anime fandom came... 20 years after its publication.
  • The original Neon Genesis Evangelion was a whopping 26 episodes and one season long. It spawned a massive fandom and franchise and created many modern Anime tropes whole cloth. The kicker? The show was initially unpopular on its original time slot (aimed at young adolescents) until an older audience discovered it and put Studio Gainax on the map.
  • Cowboy Bebop. Much like Evangelion, if a 26-episode series is frequently hailed as one of the best anime ever created, if not the best, even by those who don't like anime.

  • While Bill Hicks started young, most of what's available from him comes from 1988 to 1993, shortly before his death from pancreatic cancer at the age of 32. His material has influenced a whole generation of comics such as David Cross, Patton Oswalt, and Sarah Silverman.
  • Mike Nichols and Elaine May formed an influential and ground-breaking improvisational comedy team in the late 1950s, but had disbanded by 1961.

    Comic Books 

  • James Dean starred in only three Hollywood films and died in a tragic car crash at age 24 shortly after finishing the third one, but his performances in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause (especially the latter) defined the "misunderstood bad-boy teen" image of the era.
    • He already had a somewhat longer TV career at that point, though.
  • Bruce Lee didn't star in very many films, and died at the age of 33, but he is widely credited with introducing martial-arts films to the United States, and popularizing Asian culture. His fighting philosophy still lives on to this day, and he has inspired dozens upon dozens of Bruce Lee clones.
  • Eddie and the Cruisers is an in-world example: the eponymous band is hailed as the forerunners of modern rock even though the band disbanded after the sudden death/disappearance of their lead singer/songwriter.
  • Heath Ledger was just 28 when he died, but with his performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight, he became the first actor to get an Academy Award (as Best Supporting Actor) for a comic book movie.
  • John Cazale only acted in five films during his career, before dying of lung cancer. However, his work is some of the most enduring in Hollywood history: Those five filmsnote  were all nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, and are all seminal classics of the "New Hollywood" era.
  • Grace Kelly herself wasn't particularly short-lived, but her career was short; she only appeared in 11 films between 1951 and 1956 before giving up acting for good to become the Princess of Monaco. She appeared in several classic films, won an Academy Award and in 1999, the American Film Institute included her among the top 50 greatest screen legends in American film history.
  • Indiana Jones: There were only three movies made in the 1980s, but they had a tremendous impact on popular culture then and especially the adventure film genre.

  • John Keats was only 25 when he died, with only three books of his work published, but is considered one of the Great Romantic Poets.
  • Stieg Larsson, author of the Millennium Trilogy (of which The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was the first book), died from a heart attack before finishing what was supposed to be a five-book series. The series became a phenomenon, and many a modern author is already showing influence from his books, especially amongst the Nordic countries.
  • The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne were extremely successful and influential authors, but they only wrote a total of seven books between the three of them. Also, they all died young; Charlotte at age 38, Emily at age 30 and Agnes at age 29.
  • John Kennedy Toole committed suicide at 31 without publishing anything. Years after his death, A Confederacy of Dunces got published, received a Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and became a canonical work of Southern Literature. You'll still find plenty of references to it around New Orleans.
  • Arthur Rimbaud is considered one of the most influential poets of the 19th century, despite giving up writing at 19 years of age.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird is Harper Lee's only published novel, yet it remains a popular and influential one.
  • The tendency of influential and brilliant mathematicians to die young is discussed in G. H. Hardy's essay, A Mathematician's Apology. He points out that "Galois died at twenty-one, Abel at twenty-seven, Ramanujan at thirty-three, Riemann at forty."note  Hardy himself lived to be seventy, but he, like many others, believed that mathematics is often a "young man's game" and had been afraid that his mathematical ability was declining when he wrote the essay in his sixties.
  • Chaucer died having finished only a quarter of his greatest work, The Canterbury Tales. His work popularized English as the language of writing after centuries of obscurity as a commoners language.
  • After writing three novels under other pseudonymsnote , Cordwainer Smith (Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) wrote his first major science fiction story in 1945 although it was not published until 1950. The majority of his science fiction stories were written between 1955 and his untimely death in 1966. They comprise 33 short stories and one novel, and have been collected in two volumesnote . Despite this relative lack of quantity, his work was so innovative and influential that it remains in print to this day while many of his contemporaries languish in obscurity.
  • Nescio, the pen-name of Jan H.F. Grönloh, is generally considered one of the greats of Dutch literature, on the basis of three short stories published within his lifetime plus a smattering of posthumously-discovered fragments.
  • Stephen Crane died at the age of twenty-eight, yet he was one of the earliest Americans to write realistic literature.
  • Mikhail Lermontov is considered to be one of the greatest Russian poets. His literary career lasted only six years; it was cut short by his death in a duel at age 26.
  • Robert E. Howard, forefather of Sword and Sorcery fantasy, committed suicide at the age of 30.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Adam West Batman series defined the Caped Crusader in the public eye for decades (and seemingly permanently in Japan), but the TV show itself only ran for two years.
  • The Prisoner only lasted seventeen episodes, yet it remains a landmark of science fiction television, influencing Twin Peaks, The X-Files and LOST.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series originally lasted for just two seasons, being Un-Cancelled for a third season before dying completely. It's also a cultural icon, having an immense influence on science fiction, as well as western culture as a whole. Good luck finding someone who doesn't recognize Captain Kirk and Mister Spock, even if they were born long after the series was first aired.
  • Japanese Spider-Man ran for one season (41 episodes) and subsequent sentai series seemed to require Humongous Mecha. Which essentially means that Super Sentai and Power Rangers wouldn't exist, or at least wouldn't be the shows we know today, if Japanese Spider-Man didn't exist.
  • Twin Peaks had only two seasons and 30 episodes, almost half of which are considered dubious by fans. It popularized the Quirky Town genre in American television, having descendants such as Picket Fences and Northern Exposure that ran much longer than Twin Peaks itself. Also, the amount of surrealism, eccentric humor, and horror in it were highly exceptional for a mainstream American drama series of its era, but such elements became much more common in television in its wake in the 1990s and 2000s. It also popularized the use of the Myth Arc in television drama, and David Lynch's active involvement in the show helped break the stereotype that television production was the equivalent of the farm leagues to movies as opposed to a full on competitor.
  • The Greatest American Hero: As lampshaded by Peter Griffin in the title quote, the show only ran for about 2.5 seasons, but is still more or less the go-to show for Superhero parodies. The show lives on today in a comic book, as well as many shoutouts in everything from Seinfeld to The Big Bang Theory to Robot Chicken to Homestar Runner to The Cinema Snob. Of course, having an awesome theme song will do that for you.
  • Your Show Time lasted six months in TV's early days (Jan-Jul 1949), yet its premiere telecast won the very first Emmy Award.
  • Press Your Luck only lasted three years, not a terribly impressive run for a Game Show, but it's still one of the most recognized in the genre, and often regarded as a Cult Classic even to only casual fans. The phrase "Big bucks, no Whammys!" has entered the public lexicon, and the show is a constant fixture on the rerun circuit (1987-1995 on USA Network, and 2001-09/2012-present on GSN).
  • Similarly, the network version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, hosted by Regis Philbin for ABC, lasted only three years. Yet it was huge in its day, prompting legions of big money game shows and a brief, yet obvious, revival of a slowly dying genre. While the syndie version exists nearly In Name Only with its fourth host, it was the original US version that left one of the biggest impacts on the genre.
  • The Monkees TV series only lasted for two seasons, while the band itself lasted just five years (the original lineup didn't last far past the end of the series), but managed to produce many bestselling albums and singles, introduced the hippie counterculture to prime time, influenced many made-for-TV pop groups (animated and live-action), and introduced mainstream audiences to Tim Buckley and Frank Zappa. The show also helped pioneer the music video and popularized the Moog synthesizer through Micky Dolenz' use of it in the promotional clip for "Daily Nightly".
  • That Was The Week That Was was broadcast for just over one year in the UK, with a US version that lasted two whole years. Credited with being one of the most important topical satirical comedy sketch shows, and for being one of the first programmes on The BBC to criticize the political establishment.
  • The Morton Downey Jr Show only lasted two years (1987-1989) but it started the whole "trash television" craze.
  • British Brevity means that, by American standards, many classic British TV shows are fairly short-lived. American viewers unfamiliar with this may be surprised when they get into some of these shows and find that they only had enough episodes to fill half a US TV season. Just a few examples:
    • Fawlty Towers: Two batches of 6 episodes apiece, produced several years apart, for 12 episodes total
    • The Office: 12 episodes plus a Christmas special
    • Spaced: Two batches of 7 episodes apiece, for a total of 14

  • The Comedian Harmonists: A German a cappella sextet who were a major internationally succesful group between 1927 and 1933, only to have their career cut short by the rise of Nazism in Germany, which was bad news for two of their Jewish members. They all managed to survive the war, but never had a reunion and sank away in obscurity until the 1970s, when they were part of a revival. Despite everything they were a major influence on a cappella bands.
  • The infamous 27 Club, a group of singers who all died at 27, greatly limiting their output, but they all left profound impacts on music:
    • Robert Johnson – made Blues what it was; was also a profound influence on many of the earliest rock singers.
    • Brian Jones – founded The Rolling Stones, who were the main influences of bands like AC/DC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, etc, who pioneered the Heavy Metal genre. (Musically he was extremely talented, being able to pick up and play virtually any instrument; but he was eventually overshadowed by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, as unlike him they were prolific songwriters, and he was fired by the Stones because he couldn't travel to tour.)
    • Jimi Hendrix – one of the most influential guitarists of all time; the "burn the strings" guitar solo was invented by him, and just about every hard rocker since has imitated it. Recorded three major studio albums during his lifetime.
    • Janis Joplin – a key player in women coming onto the rock scene; everyone from Hayley Williams to Gwen Stefani to P!nk owes something to her. Not bad for someone with only four studio albums to her name.
    • Jim Morrison – in addition to being the lead singer of The Doors, he is widely regarded as having perfected the modern "rock star" image.
    • Chris Bell – guitarist for highly influential Power Pop group Big Star.
    • D. Boon - Famous guitarist from legendary punk band The Minutemen. He died in a traffic accident in Tucson, Arizona in 1996, but left a forever changed rhythm section in rock music. Red Hot Chili Peppers owe a lot to the band's bass work and Modest Mouse owes a lot of their vocal work to Boon.
    • Kurt Cobain – the lead singer/guitarist of Nirvana, a band that only released three studio albums (and only hit it big with the second one), he helped define the image of rock music in the early-mid '90s, and set the stage for the rock scene in the next decade.
    • Amy Winehouse – only released two albums during her lifetime (Frank and Back To Black) before spiraling into drug addiction (A posthumous compilation of unreleased material entitled Lioness: Hidden Treasures was released after her death.) She was a key influence in revitalizing both soul music and a stagnant British pop music scene, she directly inspired and paved the way for major artists (both British and American) like Adele, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch, Paloma Faith, Jessie J, Duffy, Ellie Goulding, Rebecca Ferguson, Emeli Sande, Gabriella Cilmi, and Lana Del Rey.
  • The Sex Pistols had a grand total of one studio album, yet they are considered the pioneers of Punk Rock.
    • Likewise for The Germs, who had one album, but are considered the godfathers (and godmother) of LA's punk rock scene.
  • Eazy-E had his life cut short by AIDS, but his career was one of the most influential in the Gangsta Rap genre.
  • English indie rockers The Stone Roses managed only two albums and yet were a big influence on many Britpop bands of The Nineties.
  • Sublime only released three albums from 1992 to 1996. Their frontman, Bradley Nowell, unfortunately died from a heroin overdose before the release of their self-titled breakthrough album, and the band broke up immediately after. Nevertheless, their music represents the pinnacle of the mid-1990s ska revival.
  • Tupac Shakur and The Notorious BIG both died violently at 25, the former having made only five albums in five years and the latter only two; furthermore, both of their final albums were released posthumously. The two left a profound influence on rap in their wake, which can be seen in the fact that both of them have had more albums released after their deaths (largely pieced together from unreleased recordings mixed with guest verses) than when they were still alive.
  • Joy Division only released two albums (Unknown Pleasures and Closer), owing to the Author Existence Failure of their lead singer (who died at 23), but they are the first thing everyone thinks of when they hear the term Post-Punk, in addition to helping lay the groundwork for what would become Goth Rock. If The Doors did not influence them, usually Joy Division did. Subverted, however, when the remaining members regrouped as New Order.
  • Cream was only together for a couple of years, but in that time they influenced Hendrix, the development of heavy metal (Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple) and jam bands like The Allman Brothers Band and The Grateful Dead.
  • Buddy freaking Holly. He died at 22; without him The Beatles wouldn't even be named the same. (It was a Shout-Out to Buddy Holly and the Crickets.) He was also a massive influence on Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and some of the sixties pop and rock scene.
    • And Ritchie Valens, who died in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly, was an early progenitor of Latino rock that paved the way for the likes of Carlos Santana and Trini Lopez. He died three months before his 18th birthday.
  • Slint recorded just two albums, with only one (Spiderland) being of major importance. However that record defined most of the sound followed by later indie rock and post-rock artists.
  • The Police; six years and five albums, and they had a huge influence on New Wave and Ska.
  • Syd Barrett was guitarist for Pink Floyd for less than two albums, yet had a big influence on Psychedelic Rock and even Proto-Punk.
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35, as noted in the page quote. Though he was active in the music scene longer than the other artists listed here, it is important to note that in the realm of classical music things are a little different. Most composers spend lifetimes building reputations and fame. Mozart is cited as one of the most influential composers next to Beethoven and Bach.
  • Franz Schubert beat Mozart by 4 years; he died at age 31.
  • Dead and Euronymous of Mayhem, considered the founders of Norwegian black metal, both died violent deaths (Suicide and murder) at young ages (22 and 25).
    • Euronymous founded the Silencelike Death Productions label and laid the foundation for all Black Metal that came after him.
  • Likewise, the proto-Celtic Frost band Hellhammer: the band only lasted for 3 years, but is considered one of the First Wave of Black Metal's most influential bands and is one of the most imitated bands in the metal genre.
  • Tom Lehrer wasn't short-lived (as of 2014 he's still alive at 86) but his recording career in the '50s and '60s produced only three full albums before he grew tired of the industry and retired to a life in academia.
  • Aaliyah only released three albums over seven years before her untimely death at the age of 22. However, she is considered one of the redefining artists of R&B in The Nineties and is probably one of the Trope Codifiers for current R&B singers.
  • Brazilian comedy rock band Mamonas Assassinas is definitely an example. A time interval of only 6 months between their sudden rise to fame, to the tragic airplane crash that killed all members in 1996. They only had one released album, but still remain one of the most popular and influential bands in Brazil to this day.
  • Velvet Underground. 4 albums in 4 years (not counting [[Music/Squeeze1973 Squeeze]]) and they are credited for being the very first Alternative Rock band.
  • Jeff Buckley only had one finished studio album (Grace) and an incomplete studio album (My Sweetheart The Drunk) to his name at the time of his tragic drowning in 1997 (the incomplete album was released eventually, under the name Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk). He is given credit for raising the bar for singer/songwriters in the 90s and into the 2000s.
    • His father, Tim Buckley didn't fare any better. Dying of a heroin overdose at age 29, he left behind a much larger and just-as-acclaimed discography. Though, odds are if it weren't for his son, he probably wouldn't be so well known today, many critics remember him fondly.
  • The Exploding Hearts released one studio album exactly a month before a van accident claimed the lives of 3 out of the 4 members of the band, effectively ending the project. Guitar Romantic is considered to be one of the best punk albums of the 2000s, adding awesome guitar melodies rarely heard or seen before in the genre.
  • Codeine released two albums and one EP before disappearing off of the face of the earth. Their first album, Frigid Stars is considered the Trope Maker for Slowcore and featured guitar textures which very well may have inspired Slint's Spiderland. To this day they are considered to be gods of super depressing music.
    • Galaxie 500 was a contemporary of Codeine and released three albums from 1988 to 1990 that are landmarks of indie rock and influenced the slowcore, shoegaze and dream pop movements.
  • Neutral Milk Hotel only released two albums before disbanding in 1999. Their 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over The Sea is given credit for helping define Indie Rock of the next decade.
  • The Smiths were only together for a little over 5 years, yet every modern indie rock band and their mother cite them as a major influence.
  • Bon Scott was AC/DC's frontman for just 6 years before he drank himself to death in 1980, yet he remains one of hard rock's most popular vocalists.
  • Country Music has several famous artists whose lives were cut short, but are still considered iconic:
  • Jellyfish, while not the most commercially successful band, nor ever a hipster favorite, produced in the lifespan of four years two albums that became influential in the field of Alternative Power Pop, and are constantly praised by fans of melodic, classic pop songwriting. The albums were recently remastered and rereleased on an indie label on vinyl.
  • While My Bloody Valentine has been ongoing as a band since 1984, the same cannot be said about most of their contemporaries. After the Shoegazing fad ended in the mid-90s, many of the bands were pressured into drastically changing their sound. Most of the bands that were part of this movement ended up breaking up out of lack of funds. Lush nearly pulled off a successful Genre Shift into Britpop territory until their drummer killed himself. Catherine Wheel changed their sound into Hard Rock and broke up in 2000 after being together 8 years. Ride couldn't adapt to Britpop and ended their career after the disaster that was Tarantula. Slowdive were Screwed by the Network. So many of these bands ended abruptly, but Shoegazing's influence on modern Indie Rock is undeniable as can be seen in how mostly all of it is slathered in reverb and echo.
  • Jazz trumpeter Clifford Brown died in a car accident in 1956 at the age 25. His career lasted barely three years but he still managed to influence a tremendous number of later trumpet players, wrote two major jazz standards, and Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford," written in honor of Brown, has itself become a standard.
  • Although he played from the late-1930s to 1955, saxophonist Charlie Parker's life and career were nonetheless cut short at the relatively young age of 34 due to his ongoing problems with drugs and alcohol. During that span he was a constant innovator and experimenter whose effects on saxophonists in particular, jazz especially, and even music in general, are still being felt to this day. Many of his contemporaries continued to speculate on what new ideas he might have come up with even years after his death.
  • The Dixie Chicks had actually been around since 1992, but their major-label hitmaking years ranged only from 1998 to 2003, at which point country radio had a total backlash against them over a comment made by lead singer Natalie Maines over then-president George W. Bush in concert. Still, those five years (in addition to comprising high critical acclaim, album shipments over 28 million, and six #1 country hits) raised the bar for crossover country from the Turn of the Millennium onwards.
  • The Birthday Party: Only four years of releases; still inspiring Post-Punk, Goth Rock and Deathrock bands to this day.
  • The 2 Tone label was very influential on British new wave music and the second wave of ska in particular, but its time in the sun lasted barely two years, from mid-1979 to mid-1981, and the label's aversion to long-term deals meant that its two biggest names (apart from founders The Specials), Madness and The Beat, each jumped ship after one single apiece. There was a long slow decline ahead of it, but the label's days as a major cultural force ended when The Specials fell apart in the summer of 1981.
  • Selena lived for just 23 years and recorded less than half of an English language crossover album before she was brutally murdered (the crossover album, Dreaming Of You, did get released eventually, albeit padded with some of her Spanish hits and previously unreleased tidbits), but still became a household name in the US in part because of her folk hero status in the Mexican-American community, and due to the success of the 1997 biopic. Selena's also credited with bringing Tex-Mex music, the genre that launched her career, to mainstream attention, and opening the door for the "Latino Invasion" in entertainment of the late 90s. Her cultural impact, especially the way in which her death galvanized Mexican-Americans as consumers and later on, as voters and shapers of mainstream American culture, is the stuff of numerous sociology papers, and even a college textbook has been written about her cultural legacy. And that's just in the English-speaking world.
  • Nick Drake died at 26 after only releasing 3 albums. He's still well-known for his songwriting, lyrics, and unique style of guitar playing that typically revolves around fingerstyle techniques in unusual tunings.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes. Short-lived by newspaper comic standards, running from 1985 to 1995 (with over a year of that time spent in sabbatical). Yet nearly two decades after Bill Watterson's retirement, it remains one of the most beloved and revered modern newspaper comics of all time.
  • The Far Side ran for exactly fifteen years, from 1980 to 1995 (including a sabbatical in 1989). During that time it had a tremendous impact on comics, paving the way for more surrealist humor (which had been completely absent from the papers since Krazy Kat). It also served as an inspiration to scores of scientists who loved creator Gary Larson's biology-based jokes; academics eventually named a species of louse and a butterfly after Larson, and "thagomizer" (taken from a joke about a stegosaurus) has become an accepted scientific term.
  • Although Krazy Kat ran in some form or another for nearly 30 years (note that that is still not a very long time in this medium), the part that is most-remembered – the full-colour full-page Sunday strips – ran for less than ten – a brief stint in 1922, and then from 1935 until George Herriman's death in 1944. It was unpopular during its original run (surviving only because William Randolph Hearst himself was its biggest fan), but has since become widely recognized as the most important newspaper strip ever made, serving as inspiration for nearly every cartoonist to follow, most notably Charles Schulz of Peanuts fame, and Bill Watterson (who counted both Herriman and Schulz among his influences).

    Web Original 
  • In the early years of video game FAQ-writing, one username stood out above the rest as a good model of how to properly detail gameplay, both in the long form needed for RPGs such as Final Fantasy VII and the short form used for such genres as fighting games: Kao Megura. Sadly, he passed away in 2004, but his influence is seen in FAQs to this day.

    Western Animation 

  • Évariste Galois, as a teenage mathematician, invented what would become the foundations for Galois theory and group theory before being killed in a duel at the age of twenty.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson only ran two minority governments over a total of five years, but the list of things he accomplished is truly remarkable. His government established the modern Canadian flag, established a national healthcare system and pension plan, accelerated Central Canada's industrial development with policies like the Auto Pact, created the Royal Commission that paved the way for Pierre Trudeau's introduction of official bilingualism, created another Royal Commission that helped create legal equality for women, decriminalized homosexuality (with Trudeau as his Justice Minister), built on John Diefenbaker's colour-blind immigration policy and oversaw Canada's successful 1967 centennial celebrations. Pearson's influence can also be noted by the fact that he recruited no less than three future Prime Ministers into his Cabinet. Trudeau would succeed Pearson, John Turner would succeed Trudeau, and Jean Chretien would bring the Liberals back to power after the Conservative reigns of Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell.
    • On top of that, in his previous tenure as Foreign Minister, he called for neutral troops to maintain a buffer zone in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. Thus he became a principal architect of modern peacekeeping.
  • Gough Whitlam holds a similar status in Australia. In just three years as Prime Minister, he: abolished conscription and the death penalty, introduced universal health care, decriminalised homosexuality, established relations with the People's Republic of China, changed the national anthem from "God Save the Queen" to "Advance Australia Fair", replaced the honours system, got Australia out of The Vietnam War, outlawed racially discriminative laws with the Racial Discrimination Act, and ended the last vestiges of the White Australia Policy. And this was despite the fact the opposition controlled the Senate for most of his term.
  • William Henry Harrison, the ninth President of the United States, has the distinction of having served the shortest term in US presidential history, as he passed away from pneumonia on his 32nd day in office. He was also the first President to ever die while in office. Though he's largely forgotten by history, since he never really got the chance to actually do anything as President, his death briefly sparked a constitutional crisis, as the Constitution was unclear about exactly what action should be taken in the event that a President died, resigned, or was otherwise unable to perform their duties. Thankfully, though, his death led to these issues being resolved.
  • When General Boulanger, whom many people tipped to become a Napoleon-type dictator of France during the early years of the Third Republic, gave himself airs in the National Assembly, he was heckled by a deputy with: "When Napoleon was your age, he was dead."
  • England's Interregnum – the period between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of the monarchy under Charles II – lasted only 11˝ years, from 1649 to 1660. However, the events during that time had a profound impact on English culture – it showed the English people would no longer take kindly to absolute rule, and was the first of many times Parliament would prove its superiority over the King. The excesses of Cromwell and his supporters left the English with a very poor opinion of Puritanism (which led to more Puritans going to America, which irreversibly impacted the already rather Puritan culture there). And, Cromwell's Commonwealth militia would eventually become the British Army (it's the only UK military branch without "Royal" in the title because it wasn't established under Royal authority).
  • Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party. Ruled Germany for a mere twelve years, causing untold death (around 35 million), suffering, and destruction. The effects of their rule are felt across the world to this day. …No one said the impact had to be a good one.
    • To take some positive out of it, it was Hitler's regime and WWII that made (most) of the world say "you know what? Maybe fascism isn't as cool as we thought it was."
  • James K. Polk is sometimes referred to as "America's greatest one-term President", and not without reason. In his one term, he expanded the United States to the Pacific Ocean through one war with Mexico and one act of diplomacy with Britain that prevented a second war. He decided not to run for a second term, having accomplished everything he wanted to do in his first. He also died relatively young, at the age of 53, only 103 days after the end of his presidency.
  • John F. Kennedy only served two years, 10 months, and 2 days as US President before he was assassinated. He is still revered as an icon by the American left, and his family (most notably his brothers Robert and Edward) has also played a huge role in American politics. He was also the shortest-lived President, dying at age 46.
    • His brother Robert F. Kennedy arguably fits this even more. Whereas JFK had served some 14 years in Congress before becoming president, Bobby had a grand total of 3˝ years as Attorney General and another 3˝ years as US Senator from New York before his assassination in June 1968 during his run for president. He remains to this day a potent symbol for the American Left, as an example of What Could Have Been.note 
  • Jesus, who only preached for three years, has had a significant spiritual impact on the world for more than 2000 years. On the other hand, for people who view him as the Son of God, he can be seen to have influenced the world since before the dawn of time.
  • The Qin Dynasty lasted less than 15 years, but it formed the very foundations of Chinese society, and governance to which future dynasties would base and modify their rule on. They also started the project of building the Great Wall of China and formed the concept of a unified China.
  • Ernie Davis, running back for the Syracuse football team from 1958 to 1961, helped win Syracuse's sole national championship and was the very first African American college football player to win the Heisman Trophy. "The Elmira Express" was in the process of joining the Cleveland Browns and forming what was to be a dynamic running duo with fellow Syracuse veteran Jim Brown, before losing his battle to leukemia at the age of 23.
  • Jonathan Larson died at the age of 35 of an aortic aneurysm, the night of the final dress rehearsal for the Off-Broadway production of RENT, but the show became a cultural phenomenon that ran on Broadway for over ten years and inspired many other musicals.
  • Pierre Mendčs-France was président du conseil (Prime Minister) for only 8 months, but he ended the first vietnam war, and is still cited as an example of a good politician.
  • The Pony Express transcontinental mail service only lasted for a little over a year and a half before telegraph lines made it obsolete, but it had such a profound impact on the public consciousness and became so tied to The Wild West (which mostly came later) that it inspired books, movies, and television shows long after the fact. It's interesting to note that the first U.S. postage stamp not to depict a dead Founding Father chose a representation of a Pony Express rider as a showcase of American technical accomplishment.
  • For that matter, The Wild West era itself. The average timespan has it lasting from 1848 (when the USA took possession of California from Mexico) to 1890 (when the US Census Bureau officially declared the frontier closed, and also the date of the last major Indian battle at Wounded Knee). That's a little over forty years. A stricter definition puts the start around 1868 (when the Civil War had ended and the Transcontinental Railroad allowed more people to move into the frontier). That's barely twenty years. To watch any American media, especially stuff made prior to The Sixties (when The Western was still a viable genre), one would believe that the era lasted much much longer. Romanticism for this era - or rather the perception of it - is to this day one of the major bedrocks of American culture.
  • Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, terrorized the West Indies for only 2 years before being killed during a fight with colonial authorities in what is now North Carolina. To this day he is still the poster boy for the Golden Age of Piracy.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most well-known and important activists for Civil Rights, he gave one of the most famous speeches of all time, and his influence is credited with the creation of laws against segregation. He was assassinated when he was only 39.
  • Al Capone was only a Chicago crime boss for seven years (and the undisputed boss of organized crime in Chicago for only two years). He is still the Real Life inspiration for depictions of The Mafia and other organized crime entities in the United States. To this day, more than 80 years after Capone went to prison and almost 70 years after his death, Chicago is still trying to overcome the image of a Wretched Hive that Capone and his associates gave the city.
    • Capone's New York contemporary, Charles "Lucky" Luciano, was only in de facto command of his own crime family for five years before being imprisoned and subsequently deported. During that time, he more or less created a national syndicate for organized crime, and turned the Mafia from what was yet another ethnic crime gang in a city full of them into the organized pervasive group it is known as today.
    • Billy The Kid: Committed all his major crimes between his 17th birthday and his early death at the age of 21. Nevertheless became the most legendary outlaw of the Wild West.

Alternative Title(s):

Short Run Wide Influence