1969



Brian Jones
, (Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones), 7/28/42 - 7/3/69. Born in Chetlenham, England, Brian was an original member of the Rolling Stones. He was a vocalist, keyboardist, guitarist and saxophonist. His death at age 27 made him one of the first members of music's famous who died aged 27 referred to as the “27 Club”. He was known for his excessive drug use and rowdy lifestyle. Brian drowned in his pool while under the influence.

I often wonder what would have happened if Brian had lived. As the story goes, Mick joined the band and he felt pushed out of the spotlight. That's not hard to imagine considering that Mick is bigger than life and there was not enough room on stage for two big egos (that's not a put-down, ego was needed to front this band!). If a picture says a thousand words, then a video clip says even more. This is from 1966.

The Rolling Stones - Ruby Tuesday
via FoxyTunes

1970



Jimi Hendrix, (James Marshall Hendrix), 11/27/42 - 9/18/70. Born in Seattle, Washington, Jimi is often considered the greatest guitarist in rock and roll. He is known for playing guitar left-handed and behind his back. He headlined the famous Woodstock Music Festival in 1968. Jimi was the second member of "The 27 Club”. He asphyxiated on his vomit after ingesting a heavy dose of barbiturates.

Most of the great guitarists of our day have been in some way influenced by Jimi. His music is as good today as it was back then. I see kids wearing Jimi Hendrix t-shirts and smile. I don't think he will ever be forgotten. There have always been rumors that he was murdered, but sadly I think he was another victim of drug abuse. Forgot to mention above that Jimi also played with his teeth! Here's a short video clip, if you can dig it.

Jimi Hendrix - Angel
via FoxyTunes



Alan Wilson, (Alan Christie Wilson) 7/4/43 – 9/30/70. Born in Boston, Massachusetts. Alan was the leader, singer and song writer for Canned Heat. He performed at two of the greatest concerts of the 1960’s, The Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock. Alan died of a barbiturate overdose, many believe it was suicide. He was 27.

What was it about the age 27? Alan was number 2 of 9 of the people I have listed here, but there are many, many more (check out this list on Wikipedia!)that I know of who died at that age. I have two songs by Canned Heat on my iPod, wonder if there would have been more had Alan lived? Suicide and drug overdose is so prevalent among rock musicians. Its hard for a lot of people to understand being so low you don't want to live, but then again there are many of us who do know. I think in this era there is so much more help for depression. Thankfully.

Canned Heat - Going Up To The Country
via FoxyTunes




Janis Joplin, 1/19/43 – 10/4/70. Born in Port Arthur, Texas. Janis grew up in a conservative family. Due to her talent for singing the blues she rose to fame in the 1960s as the lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company and eventually a solo career. Janis was the first female to cross over into rock and roll successfully and inspired many women after her. She struggled with drug addiction and died of an overdose. Janis was the third member of the "27 Club.

Janis. Oh, Janis. I've written about her many times on my other blogs. Her voice is still stand-out unique. She was able to communicate with her voice even when she used no words, just the sounds of an aching heart. Its said that she changed rock music by opening the door for other women. I can't say there has been anyone that has as much soul and passion since, but a few come close. As a person I think many women, myself included, can relate to her longing for love and the disappointments of failed relationships. She had so much to give and was willing to give it all. She did give it all...damn it. I understand, I really do. Especially since my own son is addicted to the same drug. Why is there so much pain in the world? How can a woman surrounded by people feel so alone?

Janis Joplin - Summertime
via FoxyTunes

1971



Jim Morrison, (James Douglas Morrison), 12/8/43 – 7/3/71. Born in Melbourne, Florida he grew up in a military family. Jim was a poet, a singer and a songwriter. He was best known as the lead singer of The Doors, and is considered to be one of the most charismatic and influential frontmen in the history of rock music. He was also an author of several poetry books, a documentary, short film, and three early music videos ("The Unknown Soldier", "Moonlight Drive", and "People are Strange"). Jim died in Paris at the age of 27 making him the fourth member of the “27 Club”. There has never been a confirmed cause of death, but "heart attack" induced by drug use is the most common theory.

I fell in love with Jim when I was 12 years old. He'd been dead for awhile but when I heard The Doors - and saw a photo of him - I was hooked. Has there ever been a more beautiful face or a more haunting voice (that was a rhetorical question!). Since then I've read a lot about him and respect him in spite of his many character flaws, after all, don't we all have plenty ourselves? I think he was a poet first, then a songwriter, then a performer. I believe Jim was frustrated that people did not appreciate The Doors music in the way he intended. Yet, in the midst of it all, he got caught up in the typical lifestyle of super-stardom. Those things may have contributed to his drinking/drug problems. I wonder what he'd be doing today if he were still here?

Doors - The End
via FoxyTunes



Duane Allman, (Howard Duane Allman), 11/20/46 – 10/29/71. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Duane was known for playing slide guitar and was a founding member of The Allman Brothers Band. He was known for being a great slide guitar player and appeared as a session musician on albums by Eric Clapton and others. He died in a motorcycle accident at age 24.

My introduction to Duane Allman was in the summer of '75. I was at Main Beach in Laguna and noticed a whitewashed brick wall in the distance. It was just sitting there on the beach like it used to be part of something but only that wall remained. Very odd. The front of the wall said "Duane Allman - We Love You". There were other things written on it too, little tributes to Duane. There were objects left on top of the wall (don't remember what). After seeing the wall my interest was piqued. Back in those days you had to research in the library OR ask your best friends older brother :) I heard the story of Duane. Since then I have listened to his music with a lot of respect and a sense of loss for a GREAT SLIDE GUITARIST.

Duane Allman & Delaney Bonnie & Friends - Livin On the Open Road
via FoxyTunes

1972

Justify Full
Berry Oakley
, (Raymond Berry Oakley), 4/1/48 – 11/21/72. Berry was born in Chicago, Illinois. He was a founding member of the Allman Brothers and was known for his long melodic bass playing. Sadly only a year after losing Duane Allman, Berry died of a brain hemorrhage after a motorcycle crash. Berry was 24.

I can not imagine what it was like for the band to lose another member in the same way just a year later! 24 years old. They persevered and are still around today, too bad Berry did not live to enjoy the success.

1973



Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, 9/8/45 – 3/8/73. Born in San Fransisco, California he was a founding member of the band Grateful Dead. He was sang, played organ, harmonica, percussion, and occasionally guitar. Pigpen began experiencing congenital liver problems, likely exacerbated by his years of excessive drinking after suffering a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. He was 27.

Another 27...this makes six, three more to come. The Grateful Dead, to this day, has such a strong following. I can only imagine the sadness that gripped each fan when they heard the news that he had passed. His grave marker aptly says, "Pigpen was, and forever now is, one of the Grateful Dead".

The Grateful Dead - Sugar Magnolia
via FoxyTunes




Gram Parsons, (Cecil Ingram Connor), 11/5/46 - 9/19-1973, Gram was born in Winter Haven, Florida. He was a member of several bands including The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Known for writing music, playing guitar and piano he was well respected by other musicians. Gram died of a heart failure from tequila & morphine overdose . He was 26.

Sad. So much talent...gone so soon. The story of his death and what happened afterward is incredible, "In the late 1960s, Parsons became enamored of Joshua Tree National Monument in southeastern California. Alone or with friends, he would disappear in the desert for days searching for UFOs while under the influence of psilocybin or LSD. Less than two days after arriving, Parsons died September 19, 1973 in Joshua Tree, California at the age of 26 from a lethal combination, purportedly of morphine and alcohol. According to Fisher in the 2005 biography Grievous Angel: An Intimate Biography of Gram Parsons, the amount of morphine consumed by Parsons would be lethal to three addicts and thus he had likely overestimated his tolerance considering his past experience with opiates. Fisher and McElroy were returned to Los Angeles by Kaufman, who dispersed the remnants of Parsons' stash in the desert.

Parsons' body disappeared from the Los Angeles International Airport where it was being readied to be shipped to Louisiana for burial. Prior to his death, Parsons stated that he wanted his body cremated at Joshua Tree and his ashes spread over Cap Rock, a prominent natural feature there; however, Parson's stepfather arranged for a private ceremony back in New Orleans and neglected to invite any of his friends from the music industry.To fulfill Parsons' "funeral" wishes, Kaufman and a friend stole his body from the airport and in a borrowed hearse drove it to Joshua Tree where they attempted to cremate it by pouring five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin and throwing a lit match inside. What resulted was an enormous fireball. Police chased them, but according to one account they were unencumbered by sobriety and got away. The two were arrested several days later. Since there was no law against stealing a dead body, they were only fined $750 (or $700) for stealing the coffin and were not prosecuted for leaving 35 lbs of his charred remains in the desert."

The Byrds - Ballad Of Easy Rider
via FoxyTunes



Jim Croce, 1/10/43 – 9/20/73, Jim was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a talented singer/song writer and played the piano, guitar and harmonica. Jim was best known for his hits Bad Bad Leroy Brown, and Time in a Bottle. The album “I Got a Name” was released posthumously and some believe Jim had yet to produce his best work, while others maintain that his death was what gave his music publicity. He died in a plane crash. Jim was 30.

I was shocked by the news of Jim's death. That summer I had spent a lot of time with an older cousin who played all of Jim Croce's well known songs on his guitar. In a way it seemed like a personal loss because he was so open in his lyrics, you felt like you knew him.

Jim Croce - I Got A Name
via FoxyTunes

1974



Duke Ellington, (Edward Kennedy Ellington) 4/29/1899 - 5/24/74. Born in Washington DC, Duke was one of the twentieth century's best-known African-American celebrities. He was a band-leader, pianist and composer. Along with numerous other awards and accolades he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1966. Duke died of lung cancer. He was 75.

An icon. Glad he lived a long life. I hope someone volunteers to share their thoughts on Mr. Ellington since I don't feel qualified having not listened to much of his music.

Duke Ellington And Louis Armstrong - I'm Just A Lucky So And So
via FoxyTunes



Cass Elliot, (Ellen Naomi Cohen ), 9/19/41 – 7/29/74. Cass was born in Baltimore, Maryland. She is best remembered as Mama Cass of the pop quartet The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she had a successful solo career, releasing nine albums. Elliot was found dead in her hotel room in London from an apparent heart attack after two sold-out performances at the Palladium. She was 32.

California Dreamin....Mama Cass had a great voice. Its sad that she died so young and suddenly. I am sure the people who saw her perform those last two nights must have felt a bittersweet connection to the concerts they attended.

The Mamas And The Papas - California Dreamin'
via FoxyTunes




Bill Chase, (William Edward Chiaiese), 10/24/34 – 8/9/74. Bill was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a rock-jazz musician with a band called “Chase”. He played the trumpet. He died along with 3 of his bandmates in a plane crash. Bill was 39.

Wow. I suppose the reason so many musicians are lost in planes is because they travel extensively. Three people lost, it won't be the last time. Very sad. RIP, Bill.


Nick Drake
, (Nicholas Rodney Drake), 6/9/48 - 11/25/74. Nick was born in Arden, England. He landed a record deal at age 20 and went on to make several albums. Nick was known for playing the guitar but also played piano, clarinet and sax. His music continues to gain audiences to this day and he is considered one of the most influential English songwriters of the last 50 years. Nick suffered from severe depression which led to his overdose and suicide at the age of 26.

I have loved music since I was 4 years old. A guy I was dating (not at age 4, more like 24) was stunned and disappointed that I did not know who Nick Drake was. I made it my goal to find out and yes, I loved his unique lyrics and can easily see how his depression influenced his music. Another tragic loss that breaks my heart. I've lost four people in my life to suicide, two of my closest friends and two cousins. I understand, but I hate the way it devastates those left behind.

Nick Drake - One of These Things First
via FoxyTunes

1975



Peter William Ham, 4/27/47 - 4/24/75. Peter was born in Swansea, South Wales. He formed a local rock group called The Panthers which evolved into The Ivey which eventually became Badfinger. Peter co-wrote many of their hit songs. He hung himself after years of disputes with his former financial manager. Pete was 27.


Number 7 of the "27 Club". I loved Badfinger as I was growing up and don't remember hearing of his death, media news ("the news" in the old days) was a bit different back then. I've read the details behind his death and its tragic. I am an advocate for helping victims of suicide (those of us left behind) understand it better and hopefully lessen the bitterness and anger that inevitably surfaces. But in this case, it seems like he was running from his problems leaving behind his girlfriend who was 8 months pregnant with his daughter.

Badfinger - Day After Day
via FoxyTunes



Tim Buckley, (Timothy Charles Buckley III) 2/14/47 - 6/29/75. Born in Washington DC, Tim was a vocalist and musician who's music style is hard to define but has been referred to as jazz, funk, soul and avant-garde rock. He was father to the late Jeff Buckley. Tim died of an accidental heroin overdose He was 28.

Jeff looks so much like his father and inherited his talent as well as his good looks. I don't know much about Tim Buckley but it sure is a shame he never lived to hear his son's stunningly beautiful voice and witness his success.

1976



Tommy Bolin, (Thomas Richard Bolin), 8/1/51 – 12/4/76. Tommy was born in Sioux City, Iowa. He was a guitarist with Zephyr, The James Gang and Deep Purple and also had a solo career. Tommy had a heavy drug problem. It was after opening for Jeff Beck that he partied on a combination of drugs and alcohol that he died. There are conflicting reports of the actual cause of death. He was 25.

Again, incredible talent that was nipped in the bud due to drug and alcohol abuse. Tommy was a self taught, versatile and very talented guitarist. No doubt he had great future in front of him. "Tommy Bolin burst upon the mid-seventies scene like a ball of fire, bringing jazz inventiveness to the heavy metal style. Just as quickly, it seems, the flame was out, but the afterglow is still with us." The funny thing about "accidental overdoses" is that they are really another form of suicide, its the Russian roulette method.

Deep Purple - Highway Star
via FoxyTunes

1977


Elvis Presley, (Elvis Aaron Presley,) 1/8/35 – 8/16/77. Elvis was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He is considered by many to be “The King of Rock and Roll”. In addition to being a singer/songwriter and playing guitar, he also had a successful acting career. His lifestyle took a toll on his health and Elvis died as a result of a drug induced heart attack. Elvis died at age 42.

He was a turning point in rock and roll. His influence is everywhere from his dance moves to his sensual sneer. Talent? Sure he had it, he was original and gusty. I think it was more about the larger than life presence and his great looks. But like so many others he could not deal with life on its own terms. Was it fame? Depression? An emptiness that money, women and material objects could not fill? Expectations that he could not live up to? Who knows. There's a scene in the movie "Rattle and Hum" where Larry Mullens Jr. sits on Elvis's bike at Graceland. Larry was obviously honored and thrilled. It was very moving. There was something about Elvis that made him lovable, like rooting for the underdog. But also a sadness when he ended up doing the whole Vegas thing. Sometimes its better to walk away and leave them crying for more instead of trying to please everyone up to the last minute. He was only human. I think people made him feel like he was a god and so he acted like one sometimes.

Elvis Presley - Love Me Tender
via FoxyTunes



Marc Bolan, (Mark Feld) (aka Toby Tyler), 9/30/47 – 9/16/77. Born in London, England. Marc was one of the original glam rockers and was one of the founding members of T-Rex. Ironically March never owned a car or learned to drive out of fear of early death due to a car accident. He was killed when the car he was a passenger in hit a tree. Marc was 29.

I love Marc Bolan. I love the way sang, his glamrock image, his looks; the fact that he did things his way. Here is a quote from a book called "The Brisish Invasion" by Nicholas Shaffner that puts it like this, "a spunky little dreamer who looked and played the part of an elvish minstrel; whose bizarre voice and songs were dismissed by critics as a fleeting novelty or, worse, a bad joke; and whose most laughable trait of all was a near-mystical belief in his own importance and destiny - in short, a surefire loser who played by rules all his own and went on to become the biggest pop star in Britain."

T. Rex - Bang a Gong (Get It On) [Single/LP Version]
via FoxyTunes



Ronnie van Zant, (Ronald Wayne Van Zant), 1/15/48 – 10/20/77. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Ronnie was the lead vocalist, primary lyricist and founding member of Lynryd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of Donnie (.38 Special) and Johnny Van Zandt (Lynryd Skynyrd). He died when the plane carrying the bland to their next gig crashed as a result of no fuel. Ronnie was known for saying he would not live to be 30, he died at age 29.

I got little chills up my spine just now. Its so hard to find the words to express the loss of Ronnie, Steve and Cassie. I remember hearing the news, seeing the footage on TV and feeling so sad for the rest of the band and the families (the Gaines family especially). I have a personal connection to the song "Freebird". It was the favorite song of one of my best friends, Steve. Steve told me he wanted this song played at his funeral. Ironically two months after this plane crash took the lives of these three, Steve took his own life. We played "Freebird" at his funeral. I still can't listen to it all the way through without crying and that was 30 years ago.

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Free Bird [Live]
via FoxyTunes



Steven Gaines, 9/14/49 – 10/12/77. Born in Senecar, Missouri Steven was a co-guitarist for Lynryd Skynyrd. He wrote their hit "I Know A Little" and co wrote "You Got that Right". Steve lost his life in the plane crash along with his sister, Cassie. He was 28.

I want to thank my friend Sean for reading here discovering some errors I had written regarding Steve. I started this blog, but its truly a group effort because I rely on people to correct me when I have misinformation and to add their thoughts. Such a sad day for the band and the fans - but can you imagine what it was like for the Gaines family? Losing not one, but two children on the same day. I can't fathom the heartbreak.



Cassie Gaines, 7/15/48 – 10/20/77. Born in Senecar, Missouri Cassie was a member of The Honkettes who became the female back-up vocalists for Lynryd Skynyrd. She died in the plane with her brother, Steven. Cassie was 29.

I have a friend who went to high school with Cassie. We were talking one day and her name came up. He was amazed I knew who she was. I assumed everyone knew who she was because she was one of those who perished in this horrible crash. This beautiful young woman just happened to be singing on this tour, I am sure she was thrilled. Very tragic.

1978



Terry Kath, 1/31/46 – 1/23/78. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Terry was the guitarist for Chicago and also played banjo, accordion and drums. He was known for creating Chicago’s guitar sound. Terry was cleaning an automatic handgun not realizing there was a round chambered. He playfully waved it around his head erratically and the gun accidentally went off killing him instantly. Terry was 31.

Tragic ending for a multi-talented musician and vocalist. Here's a quote from my friend, Darrin, who has a great respect for Terry and his musical career, "Known for his blistering guitar solos and his remarkable ability to play rhythm and lead guitar simultaneously, Terry was held in very high esteem by many of his peers including the great, Jimi Hendrix." As a gun owner myself, I can tell you that the first rule of handling any gun is to treat it as if its loaded even when you "know" its not. I wish Terry would have followed that rule.

Chicago - Wishing You Were Here
via FoxyTunes



Sandy Denny, (Alexandra Elene Maclean Denny) 1/6/47 - 4/21/78. Born in London, England Sandy was considered "the pre-eminent British folk rock singer". She began her career as a teen in the mid 1960s and was a member of Fairport Convention. She is also known for a duet with Robert Plant on Led Zeppelin IV. She died after falling down a flight of stairs which resulted in a traumatic mid-brain hemorrhage. Sandy was 31.

Sandy is one of the artists I am unfamiliar with so have no personal thoughts to share. In reading about her I've learned that her legacy lives on and today people are still doing covers of some of her songs. She's the only person to ever appear as a guest on a Zeppelin album, you can hear her beautiful voice in the song "The Battle of Evermore". There was some controversy over her death, was the fall caused by drug use or by a brain tumor? Either way, she left us way too soon.

Sandy Denny - LATE NOVEMBER
via FoxyTunes



Keith Moon, 8/23/46 - 9/7/78. Born in London England, Keith was the drummer for The Who. Considered one of the best drummers of all time he was also known for his wild and destructive lifestyle. Keith died of an accidental overdose on Hemenephirin. He was 32.

Wild. Crazy. Destructive. Daring. Reckless. Uncontrollable. There are lots of words that can describe the antics of Keith Moon. I recently saw the famous Hyatt Hotel and envisioned him tossing a TV set out the window and blowing up a toilet with a Cherry Bomb. His restless and wild nature also showed up on stage. I saw The Who in the late 70's and witnessed firsthand his blistering powerhouse drumming. I love watching old footage of him pounding away on his drum kit with every ounce of strength and energy. Its so very sad that his overdose was on a drug prescribed to help him overcome his addiction to alcohol. Like a typical addict, he took more than he needed probably thinking it would work "better" or "faster". Instead, it killed him. It was not a shocking death like some considering his lifestyle and personality. But it was a great loss to a great band. I don't think The Who was ever the same without Keith. He was far from a typical drummer in the "background" of a band. He was the centerpiece. Pete Townsend often called him "the conductor" of the band. I heard someone in an interview describe the uniqueness of his drumming by saying that Keith played "up" and Pete played "down". You can check it out here in this video along with several drum solos.

The Who - My Generation (Mono)
via FoxyTunes

1979



Sid Vicious, (John Simon Ritchie), 5/10/57 – 2/2/79. Born in London England, Sid was the bassist for the punk group, The Sex Pistols. Many agreed that Sid had no talent for playing bass, nevertheless he was in the band. He was best known for his drug addiction and many run-ins with the law. He had a failed attempt at suicide after being accused of murdering his girlfriend. Sid died of a heroin overdose. He was 21.

Sid Vicious is synonymous with punk rock. He really embodied all the attributes of what punk rock stood for: violence, wild behavior, excess drug and alcohol use, and an air of being apathetic about life in general. Unfortunately he also died young which seems to be the only acceptable end for his life. He was 21! Just a baby. Yet his name is known all over the world and he will always be an iconic figure in the punk rock movement.

The Sex Pistols - Anarchy In The U.K
via FoxyTunes




Lowell George, (Lowell Thomas George) 4/13/45 - 6/29/79. Born in Hollywood, California, Lowell was was an singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer, who primarily achieved fame as lead vocalist and frontman in the rock band Little Feat, where he specialized as a slide guitarist. After putting on an excellent show he returned to his hotel room and died of a heart attack that was said to be related to his heavy drug use. George was 34.

I did a little research on Lowell and found myself intrigued so tried to watch a YouTube video but all of them have been removed due to rights violations (don't you hate it when that happens to some of your favorite vids?). Lowell had just recorded his first solo album and it received great reviews. Too bad he did not live long enough to enjoy that success and create more good music. Drugs. Sigh.

Little feat - Dixie Chicken
via FoxyTunes

1980



Bon Scott, ( Ronald Belford Scott ) 7/9/46 – 2/19/80. Born in Kirriemuir, Scotland, Bon was lead singer for AC/DC. He was vocalist on their album “Highway to Hell”. After a heavy night of drinking he was left to sleep in a car and was found dead the next day. There is controversy over his cause of death some saying he chocked on his vomit, but the official report listed alcohol poisoning. He was 33.

Bon was often heard saying that if the band (AC/DC) didn't make it big soon he was going to quit. Less than a year after his death they came out with Back in Black, one of the best selling albums of all time. His friend, Vince Lovegrove, is quoted as saying this about Bon, "There was unquestionably an undercurrent of resigned sadness behind his impish grin. "

Ac/Dc - Back In Black
via FoxyTunes



Ian Curtis, (Ian Kevin Curtis) 7/15/56 - 5/18/80. Ian was the vocalist and lyricist, as well as occasional guitarist and keyboardist, of the band Joy Division. People still discuss the his work today, his writing was influenced by a troubled life. Ian committed suicide. He was 23.

When Ian was a teenager he was obsessed with David Bowie and decided that he too would have a life as a musician. After watching a Sex Pistols show, he and three friends decided to start a band and Joy Division was born. Its said that many of the songs he wrote hinted of his eventual suicide. I guess no one will ever know for sure if that is true or not. There is a movie on his life called "Control", I plan to watch it soon. RIP, dear young Ian.

Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart (Permanent Mix)
via FoxyTunes




John Bonham, (aka Bonzo) (John Henry Bonham), 5/31/48 – 9/25/80. Born in Worcestershire, England John was drummer for the legendary band, Led Zeppelin. He is considered by many to be the best rock drummer of all time and known for using “heavy sticks” in his hard hitting drum style. John was heavy drinker and died from asphyxiation of vomit after a day and night of consuming alcohol. John was 32.


This John, and the John below him died within months of each other. I have vivid and emotional memories of hearing the horrific news. On September 25, 1980 I was in a great mood because it was my 20th birthday. I was working at the local community college and as I walked across campus to go celebrate with friends, I noticed some students gathered together obviously upset. As I approached them I could hear that they were talking about the death of John Bonaham. I could not believe it, Led Zeppelin has always been one of my favorite bands. I'd been saddened by the death of a few rockers prior to John, but this was the first time it hit me hard enough to cry. It certainly wasn't the last....

Led Zeppelin - Moby Dick
via FoxyTunes




John Lennon
, (John Winston Lennon), 10/9/40 – 12/8/40. Born in Liverpool, England John was a member of the Beatles and also had a successful solo career. He was shot and killed as he exited his apartment building in New York City. He was 40.

My memory of John's death is almost too eerie to discuss. I wrote about it elsewhere so let me know if you are interested in reading the whole story. The short version: I was looking at a drawing of him that a friend was doing when the news was broadcast over the radio. It was so surreal, I had to wonder if I was having a nightmare. I wasn't, someone had murdered John in cold blood. John was known for his love of peace, his desire for people to get along with one another. The irony of his violent death shocked the world. I still have a hard time thinking about it. In the case of John Lennon, I can’t say enough so I won’t attempt to say much at all. Life can be so damn unfair.

John Lennon - Imagine
via FoxyTunes

1981



Mike Bloomfield, 2/6/45 – 5/11/81. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Mike is known as one of the best session guitarists of all time. He played with JJ Cale, John Mayal Elvin Bishop, Dylan, Al Kooper, and others. Although he died of an accidental heroin overdose, Mike was not a heavy drug user – but it only takes one time to OD. He was 37.

Never had the chance to see him play and only found one video and its not that great, the few moments he's on screen are well worth the watch, he was amazing. He was doing heroin and cocaine together, a popular way to die. Tragic.



Bob Marley, ( Robert Nesta Marley ), 2/6/45 – 5/11/81. Born in Niles, Jamaica Bob was best known for bringing Jamaican and reggae music to the rest of the world. He believed that “violence and racism could be fought with music and love”. Bob’s Rastafarian beliefs kept him from seeking early treatment for melanoma and it spread quickly throughout his body. He died of brain cancer. His final words to his son Ziggy were “money can’t buy life”. He was 36.

I hope someone will offer to share their thoughts on Bob Marley here, I don't feel I can do him justice. An icon, a legend, and he died so young.

Bob Marley & The Wailers - One Love - People Get Ready
via FoxyTunes



Harry Chapin, 12/7/42 – 7/16/81. Born in Greenwich Village, New York, Harry was a much loved singer, songwriter and humanitarian. He has two number one hits, Cats In the Cradle and Taxi. Harry died in a car accident but his cause of death was a heart attack. There was on decision made as to which caused the other but its believed that the heart attack caused him to wreck his car. Harry was 38.

Another excellent story teller. Its hard not to be moved when listening to his lyrics. When I hear his song "Taxi" I can see images of the scene in my head, the rain, the woman in the back of the taxi, the recognition of an old lover... Great stuff. In fact it was so great that when he performed it for the first time, on The Tonight Show, Johnny brought him back the very next night for an encore (that was a first, not sure if it ever happened again).

Harry Chapin - Taxi
via FoxyTunes

1982



Randy Rhoads, (William Randall Rhoads), 12/6/56 – 3/20/82. Born in Santa Monica, California, Randy got his first guitar at age six. He was a talented heavy metal guitarist who helped put Ozzy Osbourne back on the charts in the early 1980's. In 1982 while on tour, the band pilot took Randy for a plane ride. He was buzzing the tour bus when he clipped into some trees and crashed killing them both as the band helplessly stood by. He was 25.

I remember how upset my sister was when we heard that Randy had died. She was a big fan of Ozzy. She got to see Randy play up close when she had front row seats, one of the lucky ones that attended a concert during his era. He was an amazing talent still talked about today as one of the guitar greats of our time. Here's a 6 minute solo, he was also beautiful to look at.

Ozzy Osborne - Bad Bad Boy
via FoxyTunes



James Honeyman-Scott, 11/4/57 – 6/16/82. Born in Hereford, England James was guitarist for The Pretenders. He also sang back-ups and co-wrote several songs. His style influenced many that followed him. James was a cocaine user and died of a heart attack induced by cocaine intolerance. He was 25.

The first time I heard The Pretenders I loved them, the edgy sound and bold lyrics. James co-wrote songs and added his unique guitar style. It was a tragedy that he died so young. Chrissie did not let it prevent the band from moving forward, in fact she had this to say ""One of the things that kept the band alive, ironically, was the death of Jimmy Scott. I felt I couldn't let the music die when he did. We'd worked too hard to get it where it was.... I had to finish what we'd started".

The Pretenders - Back On the Chain Gang
via FoxyTunes

1983



Karen Carpenter, 3/2/50 – 2/4/83. Born in New Haven, Connecticut Karen was one half of the multi-gold record winning duo, The Carpenters. She is known mostly for her voice and also played drums for the group. Karen struggled with anorexia nervosa and died of a heart attack related to complications. She was 32.

My father was a big fan of The Carpenters so I heard many hours of there music as a child growing up. Karen's voice was extraordinary, it was so clear and so easy to listen to and sing along with. I believe her struggle with anorexia brought a very misunderstood and tragic disease into the public's eye. Its painful to look at this beautiful woman in the last years of her life, so very thin and unhappy.

The Carpenters - Close To You
via FoxyTunes



Pete Farndon, 6/6/52 - 4/14/83. Born in Hereford, England Pete was the bassist for and founding member of The Pretenders. A year after his bandmate James Honeyman Scott’s death, Pete’s drug habit would take his life as well. He was fired from the band when he became intolerable to work with. Two days later he drowned in his bathtub after a heroin overdose. Pete was 30.

They say we usually learn from our own mistakes rather than those of others. I'm
remined of t hat when I think of Pete Farndon so closely following the footsteps of his bandmate. Here is a quote on his influence on The Pretenders image, "
Farndon played a large role in shaping The Pretenders' tough image, often wearing his biker clothing, or later, samurai gear onstage. Hynde later acknowledged that two Pretenders' songs, "Biker" and "Samurai" had "references to a Pete Farndon type of character". Heroin seems to own people and not many escape her hold vicious hold on their lives. Its horrifying to think about as the mother of a young addict. I can show all of these deaths to my son and he would say "it will never happen to me", I hope he's right.

The Pretenders - Mystery Achievement
via FoxyTunes



Chris Wood
, (Christopher Gordon Blandford Wood), 6/24/44 - 7/12/83. Born in Birmingham, England Chris was a founding member of the group Traffic. He played saxophone and flute. He also appeared on Jimi Hendrix’s record “Electric Ladyland”. Chris died of pneumonia while working on his first solo album. He was 39.

Chris taught himself how to play sax and flute at the age of 15! In addition to be a founding member of the super rock group, Traffic, he lent his talent to many projects and groups and musicians including: Christine McVie, Carl Palmer, Blue, Locomotive, Wooden Frog, Dr. John, Ginger Baker's Air Force. Its very sad that this talented musician lost his life so young.

Traffic - The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
via FoxyTunes



Dennis Wilson, 12/4/44 – 12/28/83. Born in Inglewood, California, Dennis was the drummer and a vocalist for The Beach Boys. He struggled with alcoholism and often felt like the least appreciated of his brothers. He drowned after diving off a friend's boat, apparently intoxicated. Dennis was 39.

Like many Southern California girls, I grew up feeling like the Wilson brothers were "my band", especially when they sang songs about me (smile) and Dennis was the one I had a crush on. My grandparents lived in the same city they grew up in but I never had a Beach boy siting until years later when I was in a bar in Newport Beach. I met Dennis and talked to him, he was very handsome and very drunk. I felt sad for him. It was just a year or so later that he drowned. We all have our demons and his were very heavy.

The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations
via FoxyTunes

1984



Marvin Gaye, ( Marvin Pentz Gay Jr. ), 4/2/39 – 4/1/84. Born in Washington DC, Mavin was a singer, song-writer and played multiple instruments. He had several award winning songs and is known for his influential lyrics. Marvin was shot and killed by his father after an argument. He was 44.

I love Marvin! His voice, his lyrics, his sensuality, his class and style. It was hard to hear that he his own father killed him. Some lyrics from one of his song ironically say "Only love can conquer hate". Here he is singing that song in 1973. I still can't stand the thought that he died this way, or that he's gone forever...but certainly not forgotten.

Marvin Gaye - What's Going On
via FoxyTunes

1985



Ricky Nelson, ( Eric Hilliard Nelson ), 5/8/40 – 12/-31/85. Born in Teaneck, New Jersey Ricky was a singer/songwriter with over 50 hit recordings. Ricky was a teenage TV star as well. He died of smoke inhalation from an on-board fire that caused the plane he was traveling in to crash. Ricky was 45.

I remember seeing re-runs of Ozzie and Harriet and thinking that Ricky was "dreamy" . I had the opportunity to see him sing his famous song "Garden Party" once when I was at an amusement park. His career had a lot of ups and downs but apparently was on an upswing when the unfortunate plane accident took his life.

Ricky Nelson - Have I Told you Lately That I Love you
via FoxyTunes

1986

















Philip Paris (Phil) Lynott, 8/20/49 - 1/4/86.  Phil was born in England but grew up living with his grandmother in Dublin.  Best known as the vocalist and bass player for Thin Lizzy, he also produced two solo albums.  Phil was addicted to drugs and alcohol which eventually led to his collapse and death.  He was 36.

There are only a handful of Irish rock bands so its no surprise that Bono and Phil met and became friends.  I remember hearing Bono explain that he wrote this song in reference to Phil's heroin addiction.  Its a sad reminder that drugs have a powerful hold on some.  Its a battleground and sometimes the drugs win.


Richard Manuel, 4/3/43 – 3/4/86. Born in Ontario, Canada Richard was a member of The band. He played piano but was best known as their drummer. Richard committed suicide by hanging. He was 42.

Another sad story of a life lost to drugs, alcohol and depression. So many artists use drugs and become despondent when their creativity dries up. That seems to be the case with Richard. On his last night he of life he performed with the band was in a "good mood". Although he did give a hint by thanking Garth Hudson (bass player) for "twenty-five years of incredible music". He then went back to the hotel and hung out with Levon Helm talking about normal things and afterward went back to his own room and hung himself. I wonder if anyone had a clue? A great loss for one of the greatest bands ever.

The Band - Stage Fright
via FoxyTunes


Cliff Burton, (Clifford Lee Burton), 2/10/62 - 9/27/86. Cliff was born in Castro Valley, California. He was a bass guitarist best known for his work with Metallica from 1982 until 1986. Cliff is thought by some to be the best bassist Metallica ever had and was known for his unique style. He died while on tour when the bus hit black ice, he was killed in the accident. Cliff was 24.

Cliff was one of the many Californian rockers who headed for Sunset Strip on the 80's to be part of the hair metal scene. But unlike many, his talent stood out as exceptional. When James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, (Metallica) first heard him playing they assumed it was someone shredding on a guitar and upon learning that it was Cliff on bass, the recruited him into the band. Watch this video and you will see why they thought it was a guitar! Very tragic ending to such a young and talented musician.

Metalica - One
via FoxyTunes

1988



Andy Gibb,(Andrew Roy Gibb), 3/5/58 – 3/10/88. Born in Manchester, England (although he was considered Australian, being raised in Queensland). Andy followed in the footsteps of his older brothers (The Bee Gees) becoming a singer/songwriter. He had years of success followed by drug addiction which eventually contributed to an inflammatory heart virus which ended his life. He was 30.

I can recall that many people were shocked by his death. Andy had the reputation for being a clean cut guy, although I also recall it was well known that he had a drug problem. I imagine that it was very hard for the older brothers to deal with this loss. Once again, fame + fortune = drugs = death.

Andy Gibb - I Just Want to Be your Everything
via FoxyTunes



John Curulewski, 10/3/50 - 2/88. Born in Chicago, Illinois, John played was a founding member and played lead guitar for STYX. He left the band after their first five albums. John died of a brain aneurysm. He was 38.

Its sad to think that so many of the men and women on this page died because of drugs, but to me, its even more tragic when they die unexpectedly from an accident or serious illness. That's the case here. John chose to leave Styx because he wanted to spend more time with his wife and son and made a living teaching guitar (some of his students went on to start successful bands). Sounds like a nice family guy living a good life that was cut short unexpectedly.

Styx - Mr Roboto
via FoxyTunes













Hillel Slovak
4/13/62 - 6/25/88 Born in Haifa, Israiel, Hillel was the original guitarist and founding member of Red Hot Chili Peppers. He recorded two albums with the band, Freaky Styley (1985) and The Uplift Mofo Party Plan (1987). Hillel battled an addiction to heroin and died of an overdose shortly after returning from a successful European tour. He was 26.

Another heartbreaking loss, another victim of heroin. As I was looking for info on Hillel I read that he is originally from Israel and that his parents were Holocaust survivors. I don't know if they are still living, but I imagine they were in 1988. What would it be like to survive the worst horrors of history and then to lose your son to a drug overdose? I live in fear of that very thing. I read that Hillel was speedballing, that's what my son was into. I also found a site that his brother, James, had set up for him. On the site he sells a book he put together of Hillells' art and writing, I would love to see it. Here is what James says on the site, "My brother Hillel Slovak past away in 1988 leaving a legacy of music. His music is well renown, but who he was as a person is only known to the lucky people and friends that got to know him even if it was fora minute. Hillel wasn't just the original guitarist and co-founder of the Red hot chili peppers...he was so much more.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - behind the sun
via FoxyTunes




Roy Orbison, (Roy Kelton Orbison), 4/23/36 – 12/6/88. Born in Vernon, Texas Roy was considered a pioneer of rock music as a singer and songwriter. His career spanned forty years. Roy died of a heart attack. He was 52.

A great line in Springsteen's Thunder Road says a lot about this four-octave range singer and his emotional, often melancholy lyrics: "Roy Orbison singing for the lonely...that's me and I want you only...". Roy had a long career and was respected and admired by many of today's and yesterday's great singer/songwriters including Elvis and Bono. Along with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne and George Harrison he formed the Traveling Wilburys. Unfortunately he only had a year with the band before his death. On their tribute to him they showed a picture of his guitar sitting in a rocking chair. I remember that image and think Roy would have liked it.

Roy Orbison - Only The Lonely
via FoxyTunes