Before their time
December 4, 2011 5:19 PM   Subscribe

200+ Famous Musicians Who Died Too Young. Ordered by age, from 17 to 54, with brief descriptions and links to their last.fm pages.
posted by madamjujujive (71 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
This was compiled in October 2010 - so there are likely some omissions. Amy Winehouse comes to mind. But it's a pretty good list through 2010.
posted by madamjujujive at 5:22 PM on December 4, 2011



posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:27 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


27 wins!
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:33 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Airplanes and overdoses have a way of killing off musicians.
posted by birdherder at 5:35 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


There are a sad number of typos and grammar errors in that article.

Also, River Phoenix?
posted by cjorgensen at 5:43 PM on December 4, 2011


I think Buddy Holly's death probably represents the greatest loss of music....
posted by therubettes at 5:46 PM on December 4, 2011


27 wins!

When I turned 28, I breathed a sigh of relief that I had not died in spite of my awesome rocking. And then I realized that the fact that I had lived past 27 without becoming a rock star meant that I probably never would become one. Curses.
posted by The World Famous at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Amy Winehouse was 27? Wow, I didn't realize she had joined "The Club."
posted by Yowser at 5:50 PM on December 4, 2011


Where's Clarence White?
posted by jonmc at 5:54 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Missing Stevie Plunder and Andy Lewis - The Whitlams.
posted by unliteral at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2011


Number of occurences in article of:

Alcohol: 49
Heroin: 63
Cocaine: 30
Speedball: 7
Crash: 38
Drowned: 4
Suicide: 74
Coma: 12
Cancer: 40
Murdered: 45
Overdose: 80
Gardening: 1
posted by swift at 5:55 PM on December 4, 2011 [18 favorites]


I just realized that in the folly of my youth, I bought a print of the Dali ripoff painting "Forever 27" by this jerk.. Oh, the crap we buy.
posted by Yowser at 5:56 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read the article expecting the suicides and the drug overdoses. The amount of musicians who died in plane crashes surprised me.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:03 PM on December 4, 2011


Also, no Michael Hedges.
posted by swift at 6:03 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Amy Winehouse was 27? Wow, I didn't realize she had joined "The Club."

There was a pretty big deal made of it at the time (I'm actually sick of hearing about it (the 27 club) myself) even to the point people talked about Winehouse having premonitions of "joining the club".
posted by edgeways at 6:03 PM on December 4, 2011


Also, River Phoenix?

See Aleka's Attic, the surprisingly decent band he was in with some of his family.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 6:14 PM on December 4, 2011


Not famous enough: Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Chopin...
posted by in278s at 6:21 PM on December 4, 2011 [15 favorites]


The amount of musicians who died in plane crashes surprised me.

Small planes crash a lot. The people I know who fly regularly (biologists, pro skiers, medical personnel, firefighters, me) are real picky about their pilots and aircraft. Touring musicians probably just get who they get.
posted by fshgrl at 6:21 PM on December 4, 2011


First, how depressing.

Second, more Russian Roulette than I had expected.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:24 PM on December 4, 2011


Yes, 27 wins, but 50 may become the new 27.
posted by holdkris99 at 6:34 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


First of all, this:

The fear of the LORD prolongeth days:
but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.
Proverbs 10:27


Is that supposed to be a joke or is this guy seriously blaming all these people for their own deaths?

Second, Luther Vandross and Eddie Kendricks. Vandross was 54 so perhaps that why he was left off this list. But wow, once an artist hits 54 they might as well just die already?
posted by fuse theorem at 6:36 PM on December 4, 2011


Recently, he [Leslie Cheung] was voted into CNN's "top five most iconic musician of all time" placing behind Michael Jackson and The Beatles.

I had to google him, and I'm still none the wiser.
posted by Curious Artificer at 6:39 PM on December 4, 2011


I'm not convinced that GG Allin "died too young".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 7:04 PM on December 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


I knew he'd died young, but I had no idea Duane Allman was only 24 years old. It's amazing what he produced in those few short years. Wow.

.
posted by alms at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


**NTH MAN SPOILER ALERT**

"The Day Music Died" is also the day that Colonel Vavara Novikova spontaneously combusted after jumping through the time portal that John Doe created using the powers he took from Alfie O'Meagan in the not-so-hit comic series "Nth Man" by Larry Hama, writer of GI Joe comics.
posted by symbioid at 7:08 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like how Townes has got (what looks to me like) the longest blurb in this. RIP, man.
posted by notsnot at 7:10 PM on December 4, 2011


Maybe it's assumed that this is actually stuff we already know.

But ffs I cannot parse

After he was arrested and charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, he had a small gathering to celebrate his detoxed from heroin a few months later. His mother delivered some heroin again. He overdosed himself too much of the nearly 100%-pure heroin to shoot up the third dose himself.

From "celebrate his detoxed" through "overdosed himself too much" I literally have no idea what actually happened. I have enough information to "Wikipedia it" and feel ignorant for not knowing the details of Sid Viious's death already, but wouldn't that kind of be the point of an article like this?
posted by Bokononist at 7:15 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not a professional product, for sure, but the author is from the Netherlands and can be cut some slack for awkward English. (And yes, I know many Dutch people speak and write perfect English.)

"Jeff Healey: Cancer. Healey underwent surgery to remove metastatic tissue from both lungs. In the previous eighteen months, he had two sarcomas removed from his legs. Healey died of cancer."

There's that odd repetition, and no mention of the fact that Healey was blind from infancy after his eyes had to be removed following his diagnosis of retinoblastoma, which is what eventually, slowly killed him. But I didn't know that he had undergone so many surgeries shortly before he died, so I learned something.
posted by maudlin at 7:18 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


While we're on the subject, I was shocked to learn that Notorious B.I.G. was murdered and killed.
posted by agentofselection at 7:20 PM on December 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yowser, I just read a Guardian article about that guy. Yowser, indeed!
posted by symbioid at 7:21 PM on December 4, 2011


therubettes, you might like this clip that purports to be the earliest ever footage of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Just a glimpse of both, but kinda neat. Also Carl Perkins & Johnny Cash.

It's not a professional product, for sure, but the author is from the Netherlands and can be cut some slack for awkward English.


You got it, maudlin - it's really just a blog post, but I thought it compiled quite a bit of interesting stuff that was new to me.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:37 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


No Kevin Gilbert? Really?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:38 PM on December 4, 2011


Wow, thanks swift for that quantification. I was going to write: "Summary: heroin, alcohol, cocaine, suicide, car crash, gunshot, plane crash, and—after 40 years of age—cancer and heart disease." The plane crashes are really mostly from 1950-1970, with two or three in the 80s. I'd guess that musicians are less likely to charter small planes these days. But maybe they're much safer.

And, yeah, there are a few russian roulette deaths—more than one where the victim had just claimed there were no bullets and then proved himself wrong.

Here's two accounts that piqued my interest:
Lee Morgan (1938-1972)

Murdered. He was murdered in the early hours a jazz club in New York where his band was performing. After a fight with his drugdealer, he phoned up his girlfriend and ordered her to come to the club and bring his pistol with her. When she arrived see saw Morgan flirting with another woman, and shot him in the chest, killing him within moments.
There's a lesson in that, somewhere. And:
Elliott Smith (1969-2003)

Presumed suicide. Smith died from two stab wounds to the chest. According to girlfriend Jennifer Chiba—with whom he was sharing an apartment at the time—the two were arguing, and she locked herself in the bathroom to take a shower. Chiba heard him scream, and upon opening the door, saw Smith standing with a knife in his chest. She pulled the knife out, after which he collapsed and she called 911. Smith died in the hospital. While Smith's death was originally reported as a suicide, the official autopsy report left open the question of possible homicide. The coroner's report revealed that no traces of illegal substances or alcohol were found in his system at the time of his death, but did find prescribed levels of antidepressant and attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder medications in his system, including Clonazepam, Mirtazapine, Atomoxetine and Amphetamine. With his death not being officially declared a suicide, a journalist noted that some have suspected foul play, but also that the authorities do not seem to be investigating the case further.
There's only one response to this: WTF?? Suicide? Really? An argument with the significant other, check. Stab wounds in the chest, check. Self-incriminating statement that Chiba held the knife in her hand, check. Well, sure, that's obviously a suicide. Uh-huh.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:41 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, Elliott Smith is the most obvious non-suicide in history. It's always perplexed me.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:50 PM on December 4, 2011


It always makes me sad when I realize there's not going to be any more music from Morphine. Dying sucks, unless it's after a long happy life, surrounded by family, but if you have to go early, dying (well, having a heart attack on stage leading to death shortly after) on stage isn't the worst way to go.

At least now I know what I'll be listening to as I check final exams today.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:05 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a pretty big deal made of it at the time (I'm actually sick of hearing about it (the 27 club) myself)

I've heard that there's a turn of phrase in counseling circles: "The shit you're dealing with when you're 27 is the shit you'll be dealing with for the rest of your life." Which I've interpreted as meaning 27 is the real age of maturity. You're just not that cute anymore past your mid-20s. Charm and a smile just don't cut it anymore. You need some gravitas, some resilience. You need to start assuming responsibility for the messes you find yourself in. You need to be a grown up.

None of this sounds very rockstar.
posted by philip-random at 8:06 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


That list represents a lot of talent, and a lot of pain.
posted by caddis at 8:17 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


They forgot Charlie Christian, who died of tuberculosis at age 25 (1916-1942). But I guess he wasn't a big deal — just the first great electric guitarist ever and a clear influence on Chuck Berry.
posted by John Cohen at 8:22 PM on December 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess Jim Ellison isn't famous enough a musician, but I thought it was quite the loss when he killed himself. (or did I just miss him in the list?)
posted by crush-onastick at 8:23 PM on December 4, 2011


Re Elliott Smith's "self-inflicted" stab wounds in the chest, see the entry about Wendy Williams - pretty horrific:

Suicide. Williams had first attempted suicide in 1993 by hammering a knife into her chest; the knife lodged in her sternum and she changed her mind, calling a friend to take her to hospital. She attempted suicide again in 1997 with an overdose of ephedrine. Finally Williams died, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in a wooded area near her home.

BTW, a few other folks that are missing: Gene Clark, Harry Chapin, Ty Longley
posted by madamjujujive at 8:23 PM on December 4, 2011


According to the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, mainly red wine which had filled his airways, as the autopsy was to show.
Senator (Dr) Bob Brown, once a young intern and now Leader of the Australian Greens talks about the night Jimi Hendrix was brought into the emergency ward of St Mary Abbots Hospital.
posted by Kerasia at 8:30 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you:

Phil Ochs (1940-1976)
Suicide. Ochs's drinking became more and more of a problem, and his behavior became increasingly erratic. He frightened his friends both with his drunken rants about the FBI and CIA,...Years after his death, it was revealed that the FBI had a file of nearly 500 pages on Ochs. Much of the information in those files relates to his association with counterculture figures, protest organizers, musicians, and other people described by the FBI as "subversive".

posted by 445supermag at 8:34 PM on December 4, 2011


"..see the entry about Wendy Williams - pretty horrific:"

Yeah, people do occasionally actually kill themselves by stabbing themselves in the chest with a knife. Even more often people shoot themselves in the chest. That's how my grandfather, in fact, killed himself. That Smith died from chest wounds from a knife is, by itself, not what befuddled me.

People are often killed by their SOs. After or during an argument. The police response is what I don't understand. There were no witnesses other than the person who would be the suspect. She said that they argued. She actually handled the knife, she actually told the police herself that she had the knife in her hand when it was in his chest. In all the rest of time and space, this would be investigated as a murder. It's hard to imagine a more suspicious death.

I could perhaps accept a long police investigation with a decision to not prosecute. I could especially imagine an exoneration at trial. What I can't understand is a presumption that there's no foul play and nothing beyond a coroner's refusal to rule it a suicide.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:36 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Howie Epstein should be on that list.
posted by brina at 8:44 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this was compiled by a Dutchman, I am surprised - unless I missed it - that he didn't mention the Netherlands' most famous rock star, Herman Brood.

Also, I am probably not the only musician here to recognize the benefits of not having become famous - and thus not prone to small plane travel and easy access to deadly drugs.
posted by kozad at 8:54 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Inexplicably, Keith Richards is still alive.
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:56 PM on December 4, 2011


It's not inexplicable at all; Keith Richards has eaten the souls of all the others on this list.

Well, all except for the ones that Ozzy didn't get to.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:03 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


James Honeyman-Scott (The Pretenders) (1956-1982)
Cocaine-induced heart attack. During a sessions with Stephen Doster in Austin, Honeyman Scott was called back to London for a band meeting...


I've heard a cassette or two of the unfinished Doster project. Austin was really proud to have him as a new Austinite, and that death fucked a lot of people's shit up around here. Doster's incipient career never recovered.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:08 PM on December 4, 2011


I could perhaps accept a long police investigation with a decision to not prosecute. I could especially imagine an exoneration at trial. What I can't understand is a presumption that there's no foul play and nothing beyond a coroner's refusal to rule it a suicide.

I would have quoted the whole comment, Ivan, but this is basically how I feel about the Cobain investigation.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:41 PM on December 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, he was 62 and therefore too old for this list, but by god I looked it up so now i'm gonna link it. The death of Ola Brunkert, drummer for Abba, is so horrifying, it's stuck with me ever since I read about it - one minute, just puttering around the house, the next bleeding out in your front garden.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:48 PM on December 4, 2011


I've heard that there's a turn of phrase in counseling circles: "The shit you're dealing with when you're 27 is the shit you'll be dealing with for the rest of your life." Which I've interpreted as meaning 27 is the real age of maturity. You're just not that cute anymore past your mid-20s. Charm and a smile just don't cut it anymore. You need some gravitas, some resilience. You need to start assuming responsibility for the messes you find yourself in. You need to be a grown up.

Would you knock that off, please? My birthday is the day after tomorrow, FFS.
posted by wreckingball at 9:53 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, they forgot Kevin Gilbert.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:57 PM on December 4, 2011


Also, Euronymous and Dead, both formerly of Mayhem.
posted by jokeefe at 10:53 PM on December 4, 2011


Almost 32 years old, not really that famous, still not dead. Go me!
posted by TheCoug at 12:57 AM on December 5, 2011


heh. I think he meant "famous western musicians from the 20th century who died too young"...
posted by aielen at 1:32 AM on December 5, 2011


I think he meant "famous western musicians from the 20th century who died too young".

Something like that, anyway. I wasn't expecting Nusrat Fateh Ali to be on the list, but I suppose he performed enough in the west to make it.
posted by bardophile at 3:37 AM on December 5, 2011


Curtis Mayfield had a stage lighting fall on him, partially paralyzing him from the neck down. He never fully recovered and died a few years later at 57.
posted by victors at 4:08 AM on December 5, 2011


I'm amused by the contrast between the "How Doctors Die" article vs. this "How Musicians Die" article.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:09 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the possibly questionable "stabbing oneself to death" theme (and also an omission from the list), let's remember Smiley Culture
posted by iotic at 8:17 AM on December 5, 2011


I read the article expecting the suicides and the drug overdoses. The amount of musicians who died in plane crashes surprised me.

And it even left out John Denver's leaving on a jet plane.
posted by drlith at 8:45 AM on December 5, 2011


No mention of Danny Gatton (1945-1994)?
posted by Enron Hubbard at 9:10 AM on December 5, 2011


From Ricky Nelson's entry:

Plane crash. In-flight fire due to faulty combustion heater. Nelson dreaded airplane flying but refused to travel by bus. He decided he needed a private plane and purchased a luxurious plane for private use that once belonged to the DuPont family and later to Jerry Lee Lewis. The plane was plagued with annoying mechanical mishaps. In one incident, the band was forced to push the plane off the runaway after an engine blew, and in another incident, a malfunctioning sparkplug prevented Nelson from participating in the first Farm Aid concert. But Nelson's private copilot Ken Ferguson stated there were no areas of "major safety concern" with the plane

I'm pretty sure if at any point I was forced to manually push my plane off a runway, I'd decide it was a lemon and not safe to fly in.

The other thing I remember hearing about Nelson's death is that in the cabin his burned body was found lying on top of his girlfriend's. He'd been trying to shelter her from the flames.
posted by orange swan at 9:44 AM on December 5, 2011


For those of you that say that Elliott Smith was obviously murdered by his girlfriend, it's quite possible that there was supporting evidence of suicide that was never released. For instance the stab wounds might have been made in a manner (i.e., placement, angle, depth, hesitation cuts) that was consistent with self-inflicted wounds and very inconsistent with stabbing by another, there might have been a complete lack of defensive wounds which is usual with a stabbing victim, and the blood spatter patterns on both Smith and his girlfriend might have confirmed her story that he stabbed himself and that she tried to save him. Not definitively saying the police didn't drop the ball on this one of course, just saying there's a lot we don't know about the case and sometimes the public opinion jury should just stay out on a matter.
posted by orange swan at 9:55 AM on December 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Airplanes and overdoses have a way of killing off musicians.

Very few musicians actually die from the combination, however...which goes a long way toward explaining my pre-flight routine.
posted by malocchio at 10:11 AM on December 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a depressing list. So much waste. Heroin has a lot to answer for.
posted by thelonius at 10:18 AM on December 5, 2011


just saying there's a lot we don't know about the case and sometimes the public opinion jury should just stay out on a matter.

I recently met a guy whose wife was murdered a few years ago, rather brutally. Local media was all over it at the time, of course, not to mention various online "experts" (ie: people who watch too much TV). Sad to say, as far as many of these folks were concerned, he was the main suspect ... even though it later transpired he was out of town at the time, and physically incapacitated.

F*** I hate the public opinion jury sometimes.
posted by philip-random at 10:56 AM on December 5, 2011


I'm amused by the contrast between the "How Doctors Die" article vs. this "How Musicians Die" article.

In fairness to musicians, this is a "200 famous musicians who died too young" list, not a "how musicians die" list. For every dead Shannon Hoon, Layne Staley, or John Bonham, there's a whole band full of other guys who typically go on to die of pretty normal causes. It wouldn't be hard to find a list of 200 doctors who died young in all sorts or horrible ways.

Airplanes and overdoses have a way of killing off musicians.

Very few musicians actually die from the combination, however...which goes a long way toward explaining my pre-flight routine.


What, exactly, do you do pre-flight to make sure you don't die from taking too large a dose of airplane?
posted by The World Famous at 11:16 AM on December 5, 2011


A couple more in the "but what about?" category:

Rory Galllagher - 47

Ruby Starr - 45
posted by e1c at 1:47 PM on December 5, 2011


no strummer ?.....
posted by burr1545 at 2:25 PM on December 5, 2011


I remember Elliot Smith's death and I wouldn't categorize the reaction as "quiet acceptance" of Chibas story at all. There was a lot of coverage of the investigation in the media locally. She was certainly tried in the court of public opinion.
posted by fshgrl at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2011


He misses their cutoff by two years, but I've still gotta say Warren Zevon died before his time.
posted by alms at 5:44 PM on December 6, 2011


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