“It’s funny how most people love the dead. Once you’re dead, you’re made for life.” — Jimi Hendrix.
Some of the best musicians in history tragically died before their time. Whether it be a result of drugs, illness, or some other factor, their talent was gone too soon. Regardless the cause, they all have something in common: While their loss left a void in the world of music, their legacies will live on forever.
Here are 46 tragic facts about musicians who died young.
46. Frustration and Fury
Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Lincoln Park was known for his unique sound, which was a mix of hip-hop, hard rock and rap. He was also good friends with Chris Cornell, who took his own life earlier this year. Bennington had always been open about his troubled youth, and his previous drug and alcohol use. Lincoln Park’s first two albums explored his feelings of “frustration and fury.” On July 20, 2017, he was found dead in in his Los Angeles home of an apparent suicide by hanging at age 41.
45. The Day the Music Died
On Feb 3, 1959, the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly and Richie Valens boarded a flight that was headed to their next tour stop. Unfortunately, the musicians, along with their pilot were all killed when the plane crashed. The 1971 hit “American Pie” by Don Maclean remembered the crash as “the day the music died”” and the tragedy marked the end of the careers of three young, remarkable talents.
44. Starved to Death
Karen Carpenter was the lead singer of the popular 70s soft-rock duo The Carpenters. The duo was one of the most successful groups of the early 70s, but in 1975, it was revealed that Carpenter was suffering from anorexia nervosa. On Feb 4, 1983, the 32-year-old Carpenter collapsed and later died of heart failure, likely brought on by her ongoing battles with anorexia.
43. There Was a Light
Chris Bell joined the infamous 27 club (musicians who died before age 28) when he lost control of the sports car he was driving, and crashed into a light pole on the side of the road. Bell was the founding member of the pop band Big Star, but the band failed to find success with their debut album, and he later dropped out.
42. Modern Metal Stylist
Dimebag Darrell was an acclaimed hard-rock guitarist and song-writer who co-formed the heavy-metal band Pantera. On December 8, 2004, the 38-year-old Darrell was shot dead by a concert-goer while on stage with his new band Damagepla. His death was a shock to the music community, and he is remembered as one of the most influential stylists in modern metal.
41. Lady Day
Billie Holiday is remembered as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. She was discovered at age 18 while performing in a Harlem Jazz club, and she had an expressive and melancholy voice. She was also known for her problems with heroin and drinking, dying at age 44 from alcohol and drug-related complications. More than 3000 people attended her funeral, including a who’s-who from the jazz world.
40. The Hillbilly Shakespeare
Hank Williams was one of America’s first country-music superstars, and scored his first hit in 1948 with “Honky Tonkin.” Heartbreak and turmoil seemed to always be part of his life, and as his success grew, so did his dependency on alcohol and morphine. On New Year’s Day 1953, his hard-living caught up with him, and he died at age 29 of a heart-attack in the back-seat of his car.
39. Moon the Loon
Keith Moon was the drummer in The Who, and was known for having a distinctive, hard-driving style that made the drums a lead instrument. His stunts earned him the nickname “Moon the Loon,” and he had a hard-partying lifestyle. In 1978, he died unexpectedly at the age of 32 from an accidental overdose of Clomethiazole, the drug that was prescribed to wean him off of alcohol. He left behind the solo album Two Sides of the Moon and influenced countless other artists.
38. A Ghost in the Daylight
Singer, Songwriter and producer Nick Talbot died suddenly at age 37 in 2014 from an unknown cause of death. Talbot was in the middle of a European tour when he died, and he played his last concerts in Rome and Ravenna Italy.
37. The King of Evil Disco
Wayne Static’s, nicknamed “The King of Evil Disco” had roots tracing back to the Midwest where he grew up. The guitarist/singer was the frontman for the group Static-X, which was a fusion of industrial and nu-metal music. In 2014, his wife found Static dead of a multiple toxicity overdose at age 48. Static had struggled with drugs for several years, and it was a combination of oxycodone, hydromorphone, alprazolam and alcohol that caused the overdose.
36.Time for Heroes
In April 2015, musician Alan Wass, frontman for “The Lipstick Melodies” and Pete Doherty collaborator died of heart-attack at age 33. Earlier that year, the singer suffered heavy blood loss after severing an artery and two nerves in his arm after falling through a plate-glass window in his home. Pete Doherty dedicated the song “Time for Heroes” to Wass at a concert in 2017.
35 Losing Control
Ian Curtis was best known as the vocalist and lyricist for the band Joy Division. In 1979, he was diagnosed with Epilepsy, and had to take regular medication, which may have been the cause of his intense depression. His experiences also led him to write the song “She’s Lost Control.” In the early hours of the morning on May 18, 1980, he hanged himself with a rope from the clothesline. His wife had the words “Love Will Tear Us Apart” inscribed on his tombstone.
34. For All the Sin.
Matt Holt, the former singer of Nothingface, died in his home on April 15th 2017 at the age of 39, after battling a degenerative illness. He could shift his vocals from feral growls to soaring melodies, and his talent helped establish the band’s signature sound. The band released five studio albums before splitting in 2004, but three of the surviving members reunited to perform the song “For All the Sin” in tribute to Holt.
33. No Longer Anything
Pop Star Tommy Page rose to fame with the hit single “I’ll Be Your Everything,” which he co-wrote with New Kids on the Block. After recording 9 studio albums, he went onto a career as a music executive, working at Pandora, Warner Brother Records and the Village Voice. In 2017, he was found dead of an apparent suicide at age 47.
32. He’s Outta Here!
Dee Dee Ramone was the founding member and songwriter of the iconic punk band The Ramones. He struggled with drug addiction, becoming addicted to heroin in his teens, and dealing drugs and working as a prostitute to fund his habit. His addiction eventually killed him: he overdosed in 2002 at age 49.
31. Before She Exits
Christina Grimmie was only 22 when she was shot 3 times at an autograph signing with Before You Exit following a performance. The talented singer became a YouTube sensation for her covers of popular songs before competing on the Voice. With Adam Levine’s mentoring and her talent on the guitar, she was able make it to the finale and place third in The Voice competition.
30. Sent to the Crossroads
Robert Johnson was one of the greatest blues performers of all time, but largely didn’t find success until after his death from poisoning at age 27. His mythology included a story about how he made a deal with the devil in exchange for his talents, made relevant by his frequent references to the devil. He left behind a legacy of recordings that have been adapted by the Rolling Stones, Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.
Bassist Cliff Burton joined Metallica in 1982 after band-members James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich saw him on stage while he was playing a gig with Trauma. His fast, guitar-like shredding became an important part of Metallica’s sound, and to music. He was tragically killed in 1986 when the band’s tour bus crashed, and he flew through the window.
Born in 1919 in Alabama, Nat King Cole gained prominence as a jazz pianist and for his baritone voice. In 1964, he discovered that he had lung cancer and succumbed to the disease at age 45. His funeral was attended by stars such as Frank Sinatra and Jack Benny, and his music continues to endure.
27. The Depressed Artist
Elliott Smith emerged out of the Pacific Northwest rock scene of the early 1990s. His music was drawn from his life of childhood abuse, drug-addiction, and self-loathing, and earned him the reputation as “the ultimate depressed artist.” On October 21, 2003, Smith died from two stab wounds to the heart. While an apparent suicide note was found by his girlfriend, detectives concluded that his death was possibly suspicious.
26. Left Eye Lopes
TLC singer Lisa Lopes (aka Lisa “Left-Eye”) often found herself in the media for her turbulent relationship, and for setting fire to her boyfriend’s mansion. On April 25, 2002, she was killed in a car crash when her car swerved off the road near the town of Roma, Honduras. She left behind a daughter whom she’d adopted years before, and legions of distraught, grieving fans.
25. Miss Him When He’s Gone.
At the time of his death in 1989, Keith Whitley was on the brink of country-music superstardom. As a part of the neotraditional country movement, he could sing both ballads and honkeytonk. Unfortunately, Whitley suffered from depression, and had been an alcoholic most of his life. His death at 33 was a result of alcohol poisoning after a weekend of partying. His career outlasted his life, but his music remained popular for several years after his death.
24. He Knows It’s Too Late
Scott Weiland was only 48 when he died, but prior to his death, he’d enjoyed a successful career as the lead singer of the Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver. Problems with substance abuse led him to spend 5 months in jail in the late 90s, and permanently forced him from STP in 2013. On Dec 3, 2015, Weiland was found dead on his tour bus having died in his sleep. A deadly mix of cocaine, ethanol and methylenedioxyamphetamine (MDA) was found in his system.
23. Too Much Excess
The lead singer of INXS led a life that matched the name of the band (chosen as a reflection of their lifestyle- always in excess), and indulged in an excess of women, drugs and alcohol. At age 37, he was found hanged in his Sydney hotel room. His death was ruled a suicide, but his brother insisted that he wasn’t suicidal and that it was autoerotic asphyxiation.
22. Prince of Soul
The Prince of Soul had a phenomenal range spanning three vocal styles, and he found success with the group Motown and as a solo artist. In 1984, Gaye was shot and killed by his father Marvin Gaye Senior. Three years after his death, he was inducted into the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame.
21. Go Go No More.
George Michael was the biggest British Pop star of the 80s. He found early success with the pop group WHAM, and in 1985, the band became the first Western pop group to tour the Republic of China. Michael’s solo career was even more successful, and his debut album sold over 20 million copies worldwide. His death from heart and liver disease at age 53 in 2016 shocked the world, and another pop icon was lost.
20. Long Live the King!
The King was the most popular singer of the Rock ‘n Roll era, and he had a major impact on American pop culture. On August 16, 1977, the day before he was set to begin a new concert tour, Elvis was found dead in his Graceland mansion from a heart attack–a result of his multiple health problems. 3 decades after his death, Elvis continues to be celebrated as a superstar.
19. Grunge Pioneer
Chris Cornell was pioneer of Seattle Grunge, forming Soundgarden in the mid 80s. They achieved multi-platinum sales with Superunknown, but disbanded in 1997. Cornell then joined Audioslave and then went solo before reuniting with Soundgarden in 2010. In May, 2017, the 52-year-old singer’s suicide shocked the world, and both fans and fellow musicians paid tribute to his indelible influence on rock music.
18. The Maker of the Stones
Brian Jones was the original frontman of the Rolling Stones, forming the group, and even giving them their name. In the mid 1960s, Jones began drinking and experimenting with drugs, and fell deeper into drugs and depression when his wife left him for Keith Richards in 1967. On July 3, 1969, Jones was dragged unconscious from his swimming pool, and eventually pronounced dead. His death was ruled an accident, but his ex-girlfriend wrote a book claiming he was murdered.
17. Latina Madonna
At age 15, Selena won the Tejano Music Award for Female Entertainer of the Year, which led to a deal with a major record label. Her music was able to cross cultural boundaries, and she was sometimes hailed as the “Latina Madonna.” On March 31, 1995, at 23-years-old, Selena was fatally shot in the back by her friend, and president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar. A few weeks later, then Texas Governor George W. Bush declared April 16 Selena day in her honor.
16. I Will Always…
Whitey Houston was famous for her powerful vocals, and her relationship with singer Bobby Brown. Throughout the 90s and 2000s, struggles with drugs and poor health threatened her career. In 2012, she died of accidental drowning in her hotel bathtub, but heart disease and the cocaine found in her system were also contributing factors to her death.
15. High Priest of Pop
The artist “Prince” frequently created controversy with his music due to the sexual and religious themes, but he cemented his superstar status with hit singles like “When Doves Cry.” On April 21, 2016, Prince was found dead at his compound in Minnesota from an accidental overdose of the synthetic opiate fentanyl. On the night of his death, thousands of mourners sang to “Purple Rain” in downtown Minneapolis.
14. East Coast Saviour
Notorious B.I.G is credited with leading East Coast Rap into the post Dr. Dre age, and for its revitalization. He helped by Sean Combs’ label become the biggest hip-hop imprint in America, and paved the way for future stars like Jay Z. The shooting death of Notorious B.I.G took place just six short months after the shooting of his rival Tupac. Biggie was just 24-years-old when he died, and his death made him a symbol of the senseless violence that was plaguing the inner cities.
13. The Youngest Bee Gee
Andy Gibb was the youngest brother of Bee Gees Barry, Robin and Maurice, and performed with his brothers from a young age. Fame came too quickly for Andy, and his life was marred with depression, which led him to try and escape with booze, drugs and women. Five days after his 30th birthday in 1988, he died of a heart attack, but nearly two decades later, his music lives on.
12. Lover of Life, Singer of Songs
Known for his flamboyant persona and stage presence, the lead singer of Queen, Freddie Mercury, maintained that he wanted to keep making music as long as possible after being diagnosed with AIDS. After telling the band, he refused to discuss it again, and only confirmed rumors of his illness one day before his death.
Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970, less than one month after Jimmy Hendrix. She was known for her blues-inspired music, and was tough-talking and outrageous. Eventually, her hard-partying ways caught up with her, and she died at 27 from an overdose of heroin and alcohol. Her posthumously released album Pearl became an instant hit, and the single “Me and Bobby McGee” reached the top of the charts.
10. The Left-handed Guitarist
On Sept 17, 1970, Jimi Hendrix enjoyed some wine, and then took an excessive amount of his girlfriend’s sleeping pills. When she returned from buying cigarettes the next morning, he was found unresponsive and covered in vomit. Despite only living 27 years, he is described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
9. Fire Extinguished
Poet and songwriter Jim Morrison is best remembered as the lead singer of the rock band “The Doors.” As the band rose to popularity in the late 60s, Morrison became dependant on alcohol and drugs. On July 3, 1971, his girlfriend found him dead in his bathtub. The official cause of death was heart attack, but no autopsy was ever performed. His death was kept secret until after his funeral in order to keep crowds of fans from attending.
8. Founder of the Fab Four
John Lennon was best known as the founder of the Beatles–one of the most impactful groups of the 20th century. He is also remembered for his activism and pleas for peace, and for his anti-war songs “Give Peace a Chance” and Imagine. In 1980, a deranged fan fatally shot Lennon outside his apartment building. Moments after Mark David Chapman shot Lennon, he sat down and started reading The Catcher in the Rye.
7. The Quixotic Rebel
The Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious was a punk icon, and was viewed by some as a crude, fowl-mouthed hoodlum with a corrupting influence. In 1978, he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend, but four months later, he was dead at 21 of a heroin overdose. His will actually requested that his girlfriend’s grave be the site where his ashes were spread.
6. Tough Gong
Legendary singer/songwriter Bob Marley was best known for helping to introduce Jamaican music to the world. Marley was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1977, but kept the diagnosis secret, and continued touring. He also released the album Kaya, which remained on British charts for 56 weeks. He succumbed to the disease in May,1981 at age 36, but is remembered as a visionary and revolutionary artist.
5.The King of Pop
A performer since age five, few performers achieved greater success than Michael Jackson. On June 25, 2009, he suffered cardiac arrest at his home in L.A. His televised memorial in July 2009 was watched by an estimated 1 billion viewers on TV or online. His dancing, and style of dressing made him recognizable throughout the world, and he remains a pop icon.
4. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain was the iconic frontman for grunge band Nirvana back in the 90s. Throughout his career, he struggled with heroin addiction and depression. In 1994, he committed suicide with a gunshot to the head. The musician has no gravesite and was never buried. His body was cremated, and his ashes scattered in an unrevealed location.
Hip Hop artist Tupac Shakur’s break came in 1991 as a member of the group Digital Underground, and his music was controversial for its mentions of cop-killing and sexual violence. In 1996, the 25-year-old was killed in drive-by-shooting outside a Vegas hotel. His body was cremated, and members of his band claimed to have smoked some of his ashes in his honor.
2. Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number
At age 15, Aaliyah’s debut album sold over a million copies and catapulted the singer onto the R&B charts. Her life was cut short in 2001, when the small Cessna passenger plane carrying her and her video crew crashed and burst into flames. The star was only 22 at the time of her death, and white doves were flown at her funeral to celebrate each year of her life.
British singer Amy Winehouse was known for her deep vocals and her eclectic mix of jazz, soul, pop and R&B. She had a reputation as an unstable party girl, and her top 10 single “Rehab” discussed her refusal to receive treatment for substance abuse. On July 23, 2011, she became a member of the 27 club with her death from accidental alcohol poisoning.
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