How musicians die

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Fun (morbid!) article! Hey, I wrote a song about the subject, Dead Singers, back in 2002. Enjoy!

I’d like to add Viktor Tsoi to the “Musicians who died in tragic car accidents” list. He was on his way to becoming an international punk rock sensation, but died when his car slammed into a bus. Here’s the Wikipedia article

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When you say “high over Gillsburg” do you mean “had lots of altitude” or “they were high on drugs”? If it’s the former, there’s a good chance of making a successful emergency landing, and bonus, if they were out of fuel, then no fiery explosion on impact.


Turns out it was little bit of both. The plane did run out of fuel, and one of the pilots was impaired by alcohol and cocaine. They tried an emergency landing and hit the woods instead.

I would argue it was probably the LSD that unlocked a latent schizophrenic or other kind of psychotic predisposition; people seldom disappear down LSD rabbit holes without some kind of predisposition.

Also, no mention of John Bonham. Obligatory WHAT THE FUCK you specializing on rock n’ roll alcohol related deaths without mentioning Bonzo? Or Randy Rhoades? Or Bon Scott?

What about the great rock n’ roll suicides: Ian Curtis? Michael Hutchence? Not a mention.

You’re lucky I’ve only had 12 shots of vodka this affernoon, otherwise I might track you down and kick your ass, you punk ass no good Amy Winehouse Fangirl!


Kirsty MacColl died while scuba diving as well, pushing her children out of the way of an out of control speedboat.


Jerry Garcia wasn’t killed by heroin, but by cheeseburgers and milkshakes. Of course, the heroin probably didn’t help.

Pigpen, the Grateful Dead keyboard player, was strongly anti-“drug”, and died of alcohol induced liver failure.


Hank Williams (booze and drugs).
Elvis Presley (prescription drugs, probably).
John Denver (plane crash).

Of course [insert “why not both” GIF], alcohol or drug use may have been a factor in some car crashes.

just leaving this here - -

“he died, he choked on his vomit - - well - they could not prove it was his own vomit,…”


Don’t forget suicide- Michael Huchence, Pete Ham, Keith Emerson, Butch Trucks, and of course Kurt Cobain.

And can we put in an honorable mention for Mayhem? Singer dead from suicide (the crime scene photo was used for an album cover, parts of his skull made into jewelry, and some of his brain allegedly eaten by the guitarist) and a bass player stabbed to death by the replacement guitarist- who also had a hobby of burning down churches.

That’s just metal as fuck and then some.


I know the Manic Street Preachers didn’t really make it in the US, but Richey Edwards disappearance and presumed suicide should also be worthy of a mention.


That was accidental

Canadian folksinger Stan Rogers was another airplane death.

And Keith Godchaux, yet another Grateful Dead keyboard player, died in a car accident; he was a passenger, and IIRC the driver of the other car was drunk.

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Stevie Ray Vaughan?

Not all musicians die tragically. Some, such as Colonel Bruce Hampton, die exactly the way they said they wanted to, onstage and surrounded by friends and loved ones whom they guided and helped. The Colonel knew Frank Zappa, among many other notables. He had a role in the movie Slingblade. He died onstage at the Fox Theater in Atlanta last Monday night while playing an encore at his 70th birthday tribute. RIP Colonel!1

Nick Drake, overdose of antidepressant pills. Probably suicide, but the family disputes this.

Hard to get accurate statistics on suicide, often the family don’t want you to know.

One of my favourites, Gravenhurst (Nick Talbot) died at 37, cause undisclosed.


It should be remembered that the accident that killed Clifford Brown also killed Richie Powell, Bud’s brother and an up-and-coming pianist in his own right.

Frankie Teschemacher was killed in a car driven by trumpeter Bill Davison. Alcohol was suspected, but never proven.

Pee Wee Russell drank himself to death twice (he was saved by emergency surgery in 1940, but his death was reported in the papers).

And of course, disease took many musicians: innovative bassist Jimmy Blanton and legendary guitarist Charlie Christian were both done in by tuberculosis, John Coltrane had pancreatic cancer, Billy Strayhorn got esophageal cancer. Eric Dolphy died in a diabetic coma, and legend has it that the hospital assumed it was drug-related.

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Roy Castle died of lung cancer despite being a non-smoker. Playing the trumpet in smoky clubs was probably equivalent to smoking a few packs every day though.

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Three quarters of the original Ramones died (young) of cancer. Only Dee Dee committed to the part and died (young) of a heroin overdose.

Gabba Gabba We accept you We accept you One of us


Bessie Smith (car crash)


Randy Rhoads died in a plane crash. The plane was trying to buzz the tour bus. The pilot was on coke. Ozzy was on the bus…presumably on all the drugs.