Short-Lived, Big Impact
It is a sobering thought that when Mozart was my age, he had been dead for two years.
Sometimes a show, performer or franchise, for some reason or another, doesn't last too long. Perhaps Executive Meddling reared its ugly head, perhaps it was Too Good to Last, 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 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) go under Too Good to Last, not 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.
Do not confuse this with Too Good to Last, but it can play a part in the untimely demise. Tell who was influenced when you make your example or it goes under Too Good to Last. Can overlap with Dead Artists Are Better, Too Good for This Sinful Earth and Too Cool to Live.
- 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 is still felt, more than 20 years after its publication.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion could be considered this. Just 26 episodes (and a movie). Forever changed the anime industry, desconstructing, making and codifying many tropes that are used this day (much like the Watchmen example below), also spawning a Cash Cow Franchise with many Lighter and Softer spin-offs mangas, games, and tons of Misaimed Marketing.
- Watchmen - a 12 issue monthly comic that ran for just over a year, and protected by an editorial mandate from DC forbidding anything from anything else from being written in the same universe, yet perhaps more than any other comic it made or codified everything about the The Dark Age of Comic Books.
- James Dean starred in only three Hollywood films and died in a tragic car crash shortly after finishing the third one, but his performances in East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause (especially the latter) pretty much defined the "misunderstood bad-boy teen" image of the era.
- 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.
- Older Than Print: The Canterbury Tales was never even finished. It is still considered one of the most influential books of the English language despite the fact it was written in Middle English.
- 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 under mysterious circumstances 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.
- 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.
- The Adam West Batman series pretty much 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.
- Star Trek: The Original Series originally lasted for just two seasons, being Uncancelled 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.
- Twin Peaks: With only two seasons and 30 episodes, it popularized the Quirky Town genre in American television, having descendants such 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.
- The Greatest American Hero: As lampshaded by Peter Griffin in the title quote GAH- after only a 3 season run (Of which both 1st and 3rd seasons were half seasons)- is still quite memorable, and 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.
- 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—basically 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 ACDC, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, etc, who pioneered the Heavy Metal genre.
- 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.
- Janis Joplin—a key player in women coming onto the rock scene; everyone from Paramore to P!nk owes something to her.
- Jim Morrison—in addition to being the lead singer of The Doors, he is widely regarded has having perfected the modern "rock star" image.
- Kurt Cobain—the lead singer of Nirvana, he helped define the image of rock the late 80's and early 90's, and set the stage for the rock scene in the next decade.
- Amy Winehouse—a key influence in revitalizing the stagnated British music scene, and for popularizing soul music, she directly inspired and paved the way for major artists like Adele, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch, Paloma Faith, Jessie J, Duffy, Rebecca Ferguson and Gabriella Cilmi.
- The Sex Pistols had a grand total of one studio album, yet they are considered the pioneers of Punk Rock.
- Led Zeppelin had a career that spanned little more than a decade, cut short by drummer John Bonham's death. Their impact on the rock genre is undeniable, and their sound was one of the precursors to Heavy Metal.
- 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 rock bands of the Nineties.
- 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. both died at 25, leaving a profound influence on rap in their wake.
- Joy Division only released two albums owing to the Author Existence Failure of their lead singer (who died at 23), but 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.
- The Beatles. 12 years together, 7 years recording professionally, little more than a dozen albums...
- 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 pretty much the entire early rock scene.
- 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, and had a big influence on Psychedelic Rock and even Proto-Punk Rock.
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at 35, as noted in the page quote.
- Tom Lehrer. 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 3 albums over 7 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.
- 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.
- UPA [United Productions of America] barely lasted more than a decade as a theatrical cartoon studio, during which time their stylized approach to the medium profoundly changed the way cartoons looked for the next few decades (for better or worse). Even today, their influence, direct or indirect, is felt in shows as diverse as Dexter's Laboratory, The Powerpuff Girls, Beavis and Butthead, Samurai Jack, Home Movies, The Simpsons and My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic.
- The Ren and Stimpy Show at four seasons (the last two of which are barely talked about nowadays) did not last so long as the two other shows in the original Nicktoons line up, Rugrats and Doug, which continued in some form or another for the better part of a decade. And yet, R&S is among the most influential cartoon shows of the last twenty years, spawning dozens of imitators and being the Trope Maker for the Gross-Out Show genre.
- Mighty Mouse the New Adventures managed just 19 episodes before it was shut down in a controversy fueled by Moral Guardians. However, the series was highly influential on later animated series, and those series' snarky, zany, pop-culture obsessed tone. Additionally, it was one of the first examples of "creator-run animation" on American television - animation that had the Creator Thumbprint of a specific artist (in this case Ralph Bakshi) or team of animators.
- Évariste Galois, as a teenaged mathematician, invented what would become the foundations for Galois theory and group theory before being killed in a duel at the age of twenty.