Top 10 Musicians Who Died too Young

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The world of music has seen many legendary shining stars in its course. From the time Music was defined and took a recognizable shape to when it was adopted as a popular art, there have been revolutionaries constantly influencing its identity and leaving their mark while they did so. This list talks about 10 such personalities who may no longer be among us but have left an unending legacy of great music through which they live on. When we say these musicians died too young, it simply means that they died too soon. If they could change music in the ways that they did in such a limited time period, one may wonder what it would have been like if they had been among us for a little longer.

10. Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)

marvin gaye

Cause of death- Killed by his own father

An American singer and songwriter, Marvin Gaye has been rewarded by several institutions after his death including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gaye released a number of mega hits in his career including Grammy-award winning hit ‘sexual healing’ and the ‘Midnight Love’ album. His later recordings even influenced several sub-genres such as quiet storm and neo-soul. His death really did shake the world and not only because it took away one of its most talented musicians but also because of how he was taken. Gaye and his parents had had heated arguments over some lost documents for sometime but who could’ve thought that it would lead to Gaye’s father shooting him with a gun that Gaye himself had presented to his father on last Christmas. This happened just a day before Gaye was  to turn 45.

9. Jimi Hendrix (1942-70)


Cause of death-asphyxiated by his own vomit (unconfirmed)

The American singer-songwriter who changed Rock-n-Roll forever and changed the sound of electric guitar into the voice of God. He was on of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th Century and received a number of accolades in music throughout his period like Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Rolling Stone ranked him as the number one guitarist of all times. And yet again the world of music saw an astonishing setback when Hendrix was found dead by his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, when she awoke. He is said to have asphyxiated by his own vomit being immobilized by excessive intake of his girlfriend’s pills.

8. Bob Marley( 1945-81)


Cause of death- Melanoma (later found out to be Cancer)

The Jamaican musician and song-writer best known for his Reggae Records, is still one of the best-selling performers of Reggae music and is famous for spreading Jamaican music and the Rastafari Movement throughout the world. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Marley as the 11th greatest artist of all-time. His album was declared the album of the century by Time Magazine and he was also awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award along with many others. His death was caused by a malignant melanoma under his toe nail which he chose to be ignorant about and continued to tour around the world. It was really a symptom of an already-existing cancer. The last concert to be done by Marley was at Pennsylvania after which, he fell severely ill as the cancer had spread throughout his body by then. He tried to return back to Jamaica where he wanted to breathe his last but died during the travel. His final words to his son Ziggy were “Money can’t buy life”.

7. Buddy Holly (1936-1959)


Cause of death- died in a plane crash

An American singer and songwriter and the pioneer of Rock-n-Roll, Buddy Holly or Charles Hardin Holley could only see a successful musical career for a year and a half. His works inspired the likes of The Beatles, Elvis Costello, The Rolling Stones, Don McLean, Bob Dylan, Steve Winwood, and Eric Clapton to enter into contemporary and popular music and is said to change the definition of music for many. His death is also believed to be one of the most astonishing music tragedies of all times. The aircraft, in which he was travelling, crashed killing all on-board including the pilot. Many songs commemorate his life and death, the most significant being Don Mclean’s American Pie which refers to the tragedy as ‘The day the Music Died’.

6. Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)


Cause of death- Accidental alcohol poisoning

The English singer-songwriter was well-known for her versatile singing in genres like R&B, soul, jazz and reggae. She was the first British female singer to win 5 Grammy’s for her album “Back to Black”. Her struggle with substance abuse and personal problems of depression and eating disorders attracted a lot of media attention all her life. The ‘Rehab’ singer was quoted saying “I literally woke up one day and was like, ‘I don’t want to do this any more’ in a StyleNews interview.She was found dead in her room with bottles of Vodka and the cause of death was revealed to be excessive alcohol consumption by the police. Since her death, many musicians have paid her tributes through their songs including the rock band Green Day, who wrote a song in her tribute titled “Amy.”

5. Janis Joplin (1943-1970)


Cause of death-Drug overdose

The multi-talented American singer-songwriter saw a 4-year successful career in music first as the lead-singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company and then as a solo artist. During her time in the industry she was often referred to as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” as well as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul”. She gave a number of songs that became popular out of which “Me and Bobby McGee’ became a number one hit. She was included in the “Rolling Stone’s Hall of Fame” in 1995.She was often called the female version of Elvis Presley for her ability to captivate an audience. Joplin’s death (at the age of 27), which was caused by a drug overdose possibly combined with the effects of alcohol, stunned her fans and shook the music industry especially because it occurred just 16 days after the death of the famous rock icon Jimi Hendrix (also 27). Joplin changed the world of music by opening up the rock music industry, which was largely dominated by the male population, for future female singers.

4. Jim Morrison (1943-1971)


Cause of death- drug overdose (alleged)

This American singer-songwriter was a revolution in the world of rock music. He rose to fame as the lead singer of the rock band “The Doors”. Many call him an artist with a difference because of his unique approach to music and because no other rock-n-roll artists (at least notably) had attempted to introduce literature into their music before him. He wrote most of his band’s songs and his style infused poetic imagery into the lyrics, which was unusual for the kind of rock music present during that time. Morrison was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone’s list of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”, and number 22 on Classic Rock Magazine’s “50 Greatest Singers In Rock”. The self-proclaimed King of “Orgasmic Rock” was however a victim of alcohol dependency since a very young age. His death too, is said to be caused because of substance abuse. Though no autopsy was performed, the most widely held theory is that Morrison snorted a bunch of his girlfriend’s heroin thinking it was cocaine and overdosed.

3. Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)


Cause of death- Suicide

Another name in the list of artists who died at the age of 27 (including Winehouse, Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison from this list), this American musician and artist was well-known as the co-founder and lead singer of the band ‘Nirvana’. His death has since become one of the most widely discussed in the music industry. After the first success of Nirvana with their album “Nevermind”, the band became a rage among people and was quickly accepted as Generation X’s flagship band and Cobain was idolized as its voice. It was no secret that Cobain was not able to cope with the sudden fame and media attention. He faced extensive professional as well as personal pressure due to which he fell victim to heroin addiction and severe depression. People closest to Cobain, including his wife, suspected that he was suicidal and tried a number of ways to help him cope with this problem. Cobain entered into a detox program being encouraged by his family but ran away from the establishment the very next day by jumping a 6-feet high fence and traveled back to Seattle. Two days later, he was found dead in his Lake Washington house with a shotgun-wound in his head and a suicide note in his hand. High concentration of heroin was also found in his body. Dave Grohl, the band’s drummer for the longest period, later stated he knew Cobain would die at an early age, saying that “sometimes you just can’t save someone from themselves.”

2. Elvis Presley


Cause of death- Unknown

The King of Rock and Roll” as Presley is fondly known, is a title well-deserved. He was one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century contributing significantly to genres such as pop, blues and gospel. He is also well known to be a centre figure in the development of Rockabilly. He is also said to be the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. Nominated for 14 Grammy’s and winning 3 of them, Presley has been included in multiple halls of fame around the world. He was well-known for his eccentric style and energetic stage presence. When Presley’s drug dependency weakened him physically overtime, it became immediately evident and affected his career significantly. He suffered from multiple ailments: glaucoma, high blood pressure, liver damage, and an enlarged colon, each aggravated—and possibly caused—by drug abuse. He was found dead on his bathroom floor and the cause of death is still unclear and controversial. While it is mostly believed that drug intoxication was the major cause of his death, a sudden heart attack or an anaphylactic shock from codeine pills are also possibilities that surround the mystery of his death.

1. John Lennon (1940-1980)


Cause of death-Murdered by Mark Chapman

He may have lived longer than others on this list but one can never get enough of this legendary musician who conceived the idea and formed the most famous band till date, The Beatles. The band was and still remains to be one of the most successful bands both commercially and critically. He is ranked 5th on the Rolling Stone’s list of ‘Greatest singers of All Times” and has been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. The band’s influence on pop music cannot be overstated. It revolutionized the idea of music altogether and opened the Rock-n-Roll industry to the likes of British rock acts. It is obvious that Lennon’s death stunned the music industry and Lennon’s fans and the immensity of how it happened is still a topic of discussion and fascination among people today. Lennon was shot 4 times by Mark Chapman, a security guard by profession, in front of his apartment. The crowd of fans in front of his apartment and the pleading for autograph was so usual for Lennon and people around him that no one anticipated a murderer hidden in the scene. His death is mourned by fans even today and is subject to numerous tribute and memorials all around the world.


4 Responses

  1. Pontus Johansson

    April 16, 2014 9:49 am

    where’s Cliff Burton? I would put him at least in top 5 after passing away at an age of only 24 he definitely deserves to be on this list!

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