“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. Think of the mythical 27 Club, with “members” like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin. Whether it be a result of substance abuse, illness, or some other factor, their talent was taken from the world far too soon. Regardless of the cause, they all have something in common: their loss left a void in the world of music, but their legacies will live on forever.
Here are 50 tragic facts about musicians who died too young.
Musicians Who Died Too Young Facts
50. 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 years old at the time of her death, and a series of white doves were released at her funeral to celebrate each year of her life.
49. Come Back To Earth
Fans were blindsided in 2018 when it was announced that rapper Mac Miller had died. After all, he was only 26 years old. Despite his young age, he’d been quite prolific, working with artists like Ariana Grande (who he also dated), SZA, and Vince Staples. A friend found him unresponsive on September 7, 2018, and was pronounced dead when first responders arrived. The cause of death has been listed as an accidental overdose.
Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970, less than one month after Jimi 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.
47. 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 for 27 years, he is described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.”
46. Frustration and Fury
Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin 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 in May of 2017. Bennington had always been open about his troubled youth, and his previous drug and alcohol use. Linkin Park’s first two albums explored his feelings of “frustration and fury.” On July 20, 2017, he was found dead by suicide in his Los Angeles home at the age of 41.
45. The Day the Music Died
On February 3, 1959, three musicians boarded a flight that was headed to their next tour stop. Unfortunately, the musicians, the Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens, along with their pilot, were all killed when the plane crashed.
The 1971 hit “American Pie” by Don McLean memorializes 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, perhaps best known for the song “We’ve Only Just Begun.” The duo was one of the most successful groups of the early ’70s. In 1981, she asked a friend who had battled with anorexia nervosa for help and began seeing a psychotherapist. Despite multiple attempts at treating her illness, on February 4, 1983, the 32-year-old Carpenter collapsed. She 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 in 1978. Bell was a founding member of the pop band Big Star, but the band failed to find success with their debut album, and he later dropped out of the group. Big Star might not have been one of the most popular groups in their time, but their sound ended up being hugely influential on groups like R.E.M. and The Replacements.
42. Modern Metal Stylist
Darrell Lance Abbott, AKA Dimebag Darrell, was an acclaimed hard-rock guitarist and songwriter 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 Damageplan. The Marine who shot Darrell also killed three more people and injured several others during the incident.
41. Lady Day
Billie Holiday is remembered as one of the greatest jazz singers of all time. The circumstances of her final weeks on earth are utterly horrifying—she’d been pursued by agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for decades, and when she was first admitted to hospital in 1959, “She was arrested and handcuffed for drug possession as she lay dying, her hospital room was raided, and she was placed under police guard.” The narcotics bureau would never get the chance to pursue her legally, as she died shortly after.
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 backseat of his car while he was being driven to a show
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—it’s actually said that Animal from the Muppets is primarily based off of Moon’s persona and antics.
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 has influenced countless other artists.
38. A Ghost in the Daylight
Although they formed in the ’80s, the Manic Street Preachers definitely crested on the wave of the popularity of British rock bands in the ’90s—that us, until their guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared on February 1, 1995. Edwards had been due to fly to the US, but had been taking out £200 a day from his bank account for two weeks prior to his disappearance, totaling £2,800.
At 7:00 AM on February 1, he checked out of a hotel, leaving behind his suitcase and some medication, the rest of which he took with him, along with his wallet and passport. He was reportedly spotted periodically in the next two weeks, but on February 14 his car was first ticketed and later reported abandoned near a site of many known suicides, appearing to have been lived in. Since then, he’s been periodically spotted across the globe (probably about as frequently as Elvis or Tupac), while his family refused to have him declared dead until 2008.
37. The King of Evil Disco
Wayne Richard Wells, AKA Wayne Static, also 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, whose musical style was a fusion of industrial and nu-metal. 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. Sadly, his wife, adult star Tera Wray, took her own life only a short few years later.
36. The Day the Country Music Died
While “the day the music died” happened in 1959, an incident that has occasionally been referred to as “the day the country music died” happened a few years later, in 1963, when a plane carrying Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Cowboy Copas crashed in Camden, Tennessee. Cline was at the top of her career and had just performed to a standing room only crowd despite battling the flu. The three musicians and the pilot all died in the crash.
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 was made to take regular medication to treat it, 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,” the name of one of Joy Division’s most popular songs, inscribed on his tombstone.
34. Going Off the Rails on a Crazy Train
Randy Rhoads was a talented young guitarist who formed the band Quiet Riot and played with Ozzy Osbourne after his departure from Black Sabbath. Far from the typical rock star stereotype, Rhoads was a student of the guitar and deeply dedicated to his craft. He was even considering quitting the music biz in 1981 to study classical guitar at UCLA. And compared to his bandmate Osbourne—or anyone he was on tour with, for that matter—he was a teetotaler, only enjoying the occasional drink. Osbourne actually recalls that in his last conversation with Rhoads, the guitarist had told him to slow down with his drinking or he’d kill himself.
One night while on tour, the air conditioning on the tour bus broke, so it stopped in Florida. The driver of the bus was also a licensed pilot, and they were near an airfield, so he started up an unattended plane. He took a few of the band and crew members on short joyrides before Rhoads and the band’s makeup artist got on. They decided to “prank” those who were sleeping in the bus by flying low over it to scare them. On their third pass over, the plane wing touched the roof of the bus and broke up, sending Rhoads and the makeup artist through the windshield, and causing the plane to spiral before crashing nearby. Both Osbourne and his then-fiancee Sharon woke up, thinking that the bus had either crashed or exploded, and ran outside to find the horrific wreckage. Rhoads was just 25 years old.
33. Fly Away, Freebird
Another horrific plane crash that forever changed rock music involved the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The band was on a chartered plane that crashed in 1977, taking the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with several members of their entourage. The plane had run out of fuel and attempted an emergency landing.
Eerily, the album that was planned to come out three days after the crash was named Street Survivors and the cover photo featured the band engulfed in flames. Out of respect for the families of the deceased, the photo was changed on subsequent pressings of the record.
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. The song “53rd and 3rd” was reportedly based on Ramone’s real life experiences turning tricks in NYC 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 years old when she was shot three 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 to make it to the finale and place third in The Voice competition. The man who shot her was tackled by Grimmie’s brother before shooting himself. His motives remain unknown but he appeared to be a crazed fan of Grimmie’s.
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 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 in his music. He left behind a legacy of recordings that have been adapted by the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and Eric Clapton.
As the legend goes, Johnson was poisoned by the jealous husband of a woman he’d danced with; he ended up being handed an open bottle of whiskey, which he finished—the whiskey was apparently the vehicle for the poison. However, this story is disputed and the true cause of his death remains unknown.
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 in general. He was tragically killed in 1986 when the band’s tour bus crashed, and he flew through the window. Blame for the crash has been alternately blamed on black ice (by the driver of the tour bus) and fatigue or drunk driving by the tour bus driver, who was ultimately determined not at fault for the accident.
Many tributes to Burton have arisen in the years since his death, but perhaps the most touching came from his own parents. It was recently revealed that they’d been donating Burton’s royalty payments to a scholarship fund for music students at the high school that their son had attended.
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. Don’t Go Chasing Waterfalls
TLC singer Lisa Lopes (AKA “Left-Eye”) often found herself in the media for her turbulent relationships, 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 son and a daughter whom she’d adopted years before, and legions of distraught, grieving fans.
Eerily, she’d been involved in another car accident two weeks prior when a van driven by her assistant struck a 10-year-old boy as he stepped off a median in Honduras. Immediately after the accident, Lopes and the other van passengers loaded the boy, Bayron Isaul Fuentes Lopez, into the van and drove him to the hospital. Lopes cradled his head in the back of the van as they sped to find a doctor. He died the next day in hospital and even though her assistant was not found to be at fault in the accident, Lopes paid for the boy’s hospital bills and funeral costs, also leaving the family close to $1,000 for any other costs. In a documentary filmed around that time, Lopes noted the eerie similarities between hers and the boy’s family names, even noting that perhaps she had been meant to die instead of the young boy.
25. Dream a Little Dream of Me
Cass Elliot was one of the founding members of the Mamas & the Papas, and after the band dissolved, was pursuing a successful solo career despite some hiccups, including an embarrassing court case invoving stolen hotel sheets and a disastrous attempt at a Las Vegas residency. She was on her way back up in 1974 when she was found dead of heart failure in 1974, at age 32. To add insult to injury, the first doctor who examined her body spoke to the media too soon and started an awful rumor that she’d choked to death on a ham sandwich. Despite the fact that it’s not true, this mean-spirited rumor has persisted over the years.
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 five months in jail in the late ’90s, and permanently forced him from STP in 2013.
On December 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
Michael Hutchence, 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 many have insisted that he wasn’t suicidal and that his death may have been accidentally caused by autoerotic asphyxiation.
22. Prince of Soul
Marvin Gaye was known as the Prince of Soul, and he had a phenomenal range spanning three vocal styles. He was easily one of the most successful Motown artists. In 1984, Gaye was shot and killed by his own father Marvin Gay Sr. after he broke up a fight between his parents. 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 the age of 53 in 2016 shocked the world, and another pop icon was lost.
20.The King of Pop
A performer since age five, few performers achieved greater success than Michael Jackson. He got his start performing with his brothers in the Jackson Five. There are actually ten Jackson children; Marlon and Brandon, sixth and seventh down the line, were twins born premature by several weeks. Sadly, Brandon died within 24 hours of birth, but he still has an impact on the rest of his siblings.
On June 25, 2009, Michael Jackson suffered cardiac arrest at his home in LA. At Michael’s funeral in 2009, during his eulogy, Marlon asked Michael to give their brother Brandon a big hug from him. His dancing, distinct voice, and style of dressing made him recognizable throughout the world, and he remains a pop icon.
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 joined Audioslave and also performed 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 girlfriend Anita Pallenberg left him for Keith Richards in 1967 while the three were on holiday together. After a drug conviction and problems within the band, he was asked to leave the Stones in 1969. Roughly a month after the announcement of his departure, on July 3, 1969, Jones was dragged unconscious from his swimming pool, and eventually pronounced dead. His death was ruled an accident, but many have claimed that he may have been 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. Saldivar had been managing boutiques opened by Selena, and had been accused of embezzling from both the stores and the fan club. The two met to discuss the financial situation, and that’s when Saldivar shot Selena.
According to doctors, if the bullet had hit just a millimeter to the side, Selena would’ve survived. A few weeks later, then Texas Governor George W. Bush declared April 16 Selena Day in her honor in the state.
16. I Will Always…
Whitney Houston was famous for her powerful vocals, and her tumultuous 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.
Since her death, Houston and other members of her family have alleged that Houston was molested by an older cousin when she was a child. Whitney’s half-brother and her former manager also say that Houston told them about the molestation in private. Whitney’s half-brother alleges he was a victim of it as well. The cousin, Dee Dee Warrick, went on to become a singer as well but was eclipsed by her younger family members. The allegations were made public via Whitney, a documentary that premiered at Cannes Film Festival in May 2018. Warrick passed away in 2008, so we will never hear from her side.
15. High Priest of Pop
The artist known as Prince frequently created controversy with his music due to his use of 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. 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. Although never a member of the Bee Gees, he did have a solo career. Fame came too quickly for Andy, and his life was marred with depression, which led him to try and escape with booze, substance abuse, 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.
13. All I Can Say Is That My Life Is Pretty Plain
Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon was not the first or the last of the ’90s grunge icons to die prematurely, but regardless, he was fondly remembered, especially for his band’s hit song and music video, “No Rain,” which infamously featured a young girl in a bumblebee costume. Hoon, unfortunately, had everything to lose at the time of his death; he’d recently entered rehab after the birth of his first child, a daughter, with his girlfriend Lisa Crouse.
Still, the band had to tour, so a drug counselor accompanied them, but after he was unable to keep Hoon from abusing, he was dismissed. After an underwhelming concert in October 1995, Hoon went out on a binge, and the next day, he was found unresponsive on the tour bus. He was 28 years old.
12. Dazed and Confused
Led Zeppelin are one of the most influential bands of the 20th century, and their early albums were characterized by the powerful drum sound provided by John Bonham. In 1980, the band was beginning rehearsals from an upcoming tour, and on the first morning they were supposed to meet, Bonham began drinking with breakfast. He continued drinking throughout the day, going to bed just after midnight. Over the course of the day, he’d managed to ingest over a liter of vodka, causing him to vomit and choke. The coroner ruled it an accidental death,
As a result, the group disbanded, releasing a heartbreaking message that read: “We wish it to be known that the loss of our dear friend and the deep respect we have for his family, together with the sense of undivided harmony felt by ourselves and our manager, have led us to decide that we could not continue as we were.”
11. 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.
Speaking of other members of the 27 Club, Morrison and Janis Joplin interacted several times in their lives and were said to have had a drunken one night stand, though according to musician David Crosby, Morrison was very cruel to her. Joplin was no pushover, however; she allegedly took a whiskey bottle to his head after the two of them got into a very public fight.
10. The Quixotic Rebel
Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious was a punk icon, and was viewed by some as a crude, foul-mouthed hoodlum with a corrupting influence. In 1978, he was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, 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.
9. 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 the age of 36, and is remembered as a visionary and revolutionary artist.
On his deathbed, Bob Marley told his son, “Money can’t buy life.” His final words were “On your way up, take me up. On your way down, don’t let me down.”
8. Down in a Hole
Alice in Chains was one of the most influential bands of the ’90s grunge movement, and was adored by their contemporaries. The band was led by singer Layne Staley’s distinctive singing style, but at the height of their success in 1996, it all fell apart for Staley. In October of that year, Staley’s former fiancée, Demri Lara Parrott, died from an overdose. Staley took the loss particularly hard, and many friends saw this sad event as the beginning of the end for the singer.
Staley became reclusive and was virtually isolated from 1999 to 2002. He was often alone for weeks at a time, despite the efforts of friends to get him into a rehab program. In April 2002, after his accountants noticed that he hadn’t taken out money in two weeks, they called his mother, realizing she also hadn’t heard from him. After a 9-1-1 call, first responders broke down his door and found his partially decomposed body. He’d been dead for two weeks, from an overdose. He was 34 years old.
Years later, his former bandmate Mike Starr confessed to Staley’s mother that he’d visited with Staley the day before his death and had threatened to call 9-1-1 due to Staley’s disturbing appearance. Starr ended up storming out, and the last thing he heard was Staley yelling “Not like this, don’t leave like this”—possibly the singer’s last words. It’s believed that Staley died the next day, and Starr carried the guilt with him for many years, despite receiving forgiveness from Staley’s mother. Starr tragically also died from an overdose in 2011, despite attempts to get clean through rehab.
7. Love Is a Losing Game
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.
Biographer Chloe Govan’s Amy Winehouse: The Untold Story made some headlines when it alleged that Winehouse tried to kill herself when she was ten. According to an old friend, Winehouse was emotionally devastated by her parent’s divorce and this led her to overdose on pills. The friend says she found Winehouse clutching her stomach, with her mouth foaming. Old acquaintances talking about suicide attempts seems to be a trend, since Winehouse’s ex also claimed she cut herself eight weeks prior to her death. According to Fielder-Civil, Winehouse had called him up on their wedding anniversary day, but his new wife was in labor at the time so he filled Winehouse in on the situation and hung up. When Fielder-Civil called back the next day, she allegedly said that she had cut herself really badly. However, with all of the stories that swirled through the tabloids following Winehouse’s death, it can be hard to really separate truth from fiction.
6. Long Live the King!
Elvis Presley was the most popular singer of the early 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. Four decades after his death, Elvis continues to be celebrated as a superstar.
Contrary to the popular belief that it was drug-induced arrhythmia, Elvis’ long-time friend and physician, Dr. George “Nick” Nichopoulos revealed that The King’s death was caused by his chronic constipation.
“We didn’t realize until the autopsy that his constipation was as bad – we knew it was bad because it was hard for us to treat, but we didn’t realize what it had done.”
According to Dr. Nick, the autopsy revealed that his colon was 5 to 6 inches in diameter (normal width is 2 to 3 inches) and instead of being the standard 4 to 5 feet long, his colon was 8 to 9 feet in length.
Dr. Nick also believes the condition was hereditary and that it was likely the primary cause of his weight gain later in his career.
5. East Coast Savior
Christopher Wallace, AKA the Notorious B.I.G., is credited with leading East Coast rap in the early ’90s. 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 the 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 world of rap at the time.
After the murders of Tupac and Biggie, theories flew around about who was involved, but the FBI actually discovered that there were certain individuals who were present at the deaths of both rappers and that Biggie was shot with a rare gun, a Gecko 9mm, that is only made in Europe and only sold in certain stores in California and New Jersey. The heavily redacted papers released by the FBI reveal that the bureau also suspected corrupt LAPD involvement: some LAPD officers on duty at the party Biggie left before his murder were also, against LAPD policy, employed by rival Death Row record label. Ultimately, however, they couldn’t make those hunches stick, and the mystery still lives on.
4. 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.
One of Mercury’s longtime idols was the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. Mercury had admired Jackson all the way back to his Jackson 5 days, and in 1983, barely a year after Jackson’s Thriller had become the biggest album in the world, Mercury got the chance to collaborate with Jackson. They began recording three demos that were, sadly, never completed. Asked in 1987 why things didn’t work out, Mercury evasively blamed the fact that the two stars were never being in the same country long enough and commented that Jackson had “retreated into his own little world.”
Another story emerged wherein Jackson had allegedly picked a fight with Mercury after catching him using substances during the recording session. A third explanation, from Queen manager Jim Beach, stated that Jackson brought his pet llama into the studio, which astonished and frustrated Mercury’s attempts to record. Turns out you shouldn’t ever meet your heroes.
3. 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 in New York City. Moments after Mark David Chapman shot Lennon, he sat down and started reading The Catcher in the Rye.
Lennon’s murderer, Mark David Chapman, has been close to getting parole a number of times since Lennon’s death. Ono has fought the man’s parole on nine occasions for fear for her own life.
2. Better to Burn Out Than To Fade Away
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.
Due to the high-profile nature of the case and the rampant conspiracy theories perpetuated by fans, Seattle Police decided to revisit the case of Cobain’s suicide in 2014. Detectives claimed an undeveloped roll of film with photographs of the scene that had sat in an evidence locker for years. These photos provided a clearer image of Cobain’s final moments than the Polaroids that had been previously used. Upon re-evaluation of the scene, the detective only confirmed the finding that Cobain had killed himself, but they initially refused to release these new photos to the public, saying “What are people going to gain from seeing pictures of Kurt Cobain laying on the ground with his hair blown back, with blood coming out of his nose and trauma to his eyes from a penetrating shotgun wound. How’s that going to benefit anybody?” However, some of the photos, including one tragically showing the hospital bracelet he still had on his arm from the detox program that he had escaped from just days before his death, were later made publicly available.
1. Still I Rise
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.
According to Las Vegas police officer Chris Carroll, the first on the scene, Tupac’s last words were “f*** you,” after which he refused to speak to any other police officer. Later, in the hospital, it was discovered that someone had called his record company and made death threats against him. The receptionist had informed Las Vegas police, who declined to investigate, saying they were too understaffed to do anything.
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