Richard Pryor, who pushed the envelope on racial themes and vulgarity with standup and movie comedy, died of cardiac arrest Saturday, his wife said.
Jennifer Pryor told CNN the groundbreaking comedian died shortly after he was stricken at home Saturday morning.
"He did not suffer," she said. "He went quickly. At the end there was a smile on his face."
Pryor had several high-profile health problems over the past two decades. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1986 and survived a heart attack and triple bypass surgery in 1990.
After gaining fame in standup comedy, he achieved stardom in Hollywood with such comedy hits as "Silver Streak" with Gene Wilder, and dramatic turns in "Lady Sings the Blues" and "Blue Collar."
He survived a near-fatal accident in 1980 when nearly half his body was burned as he was preparing to freebase cocaine.
Pryor won an Emmy in 1974 as a writer on a Lily Tomlin special. He earned four Emmy nominations, including one in 1996 for his performance as a MS patient on "Chicago Hope."
He won five Grammys for Best Comedy Recording for albums including "Live on the Sunset Strip" (1982) and "Is It Something I Said?" (1975).