The Music, the thing that expresses the inexpressible, has certainly passed through hectic developments and revolutions. The musical world itself has seen many legendary stars in its course. There have been such musicians, who’ve given music a distinct recognition and influenced its identity leaving their mark forever. They have gifted us the music, never to be forgotten but only to be listened to, forever and ever. But sadly, they are no longer with us. We only could wish if they were alive. Had they lived little longer, don’t know what it would be like and what they could have done. I just wonder what this music world would be like if they could have lived little longer. Undoubtedly, this list is about ten most loved musicians, who couldn’t manage to live their life to the fullest. There were many musicians who managed to live a happy and healthy life but there were those who ended up their own life, often pointlessly and in tragic way. With reasons many, they couldn’t manage to make right decisions, and ended up their own lives. We’ve already compiled another list on “Top 10 Great Musicians Who Committed Suicide“; please check out that list as well. But for the time being, let me enlist ten of those musicians, who were taken from us too early in life. They were indeed the rockers lost way too before their time.
10. Buddy Holly (1936-1959)
Age at Death: 22 years Cause of Death: Plane Crash
The pioneer of Rock n Roll and a well-known American singer and songwriter, Charles Holley aka Buddy Holley was one of the first great singers of his genre. By age of 16 only, he was a seasoned performer and was already well versed in several music styles. With his signature vocal hiccup and his all-time hits like “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” and “Not Fade Away”, Buddy entered into contemporary popular music and even believed to have changed the definition of music for many. But so sadly, he could only see his successful musical career for a year and half. On 3rd of February, 1959, he was killed in a plane crash while he was traveling. This day was later called “The Day the Music Died” by Don McLean in his song American Pie. His sudden death came as a shock and one of the most astonishing music tragedies of all time.
9. Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)
Age at Death: 44 years Cause of Death: Murdered by his own Father
Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. aka “The Prince of Soul” or “The Prince of Motown,” was a well-known American Soul and RnB singer, producer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. He used to sing in his father’s church and in the Moonglows before he signed with Motown. He pursued a solo career after the band separated and released many successful solo hits including “What’s Going On,” “Let’s Get It On”, and “I heard It Through the Grapevine.” For his contributions to the music, he has been rewarded with posthumous Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His mega hits including Grammy Award winning hit ‘sexual healing’ and the album ‘Midnight Love’. It’s been said that Gaye and his parents had had some arguments over something personal. And he was shot and killed by own father. This very unexpected and tragic event happened just a day before Gaye’s 45th birthday. The entire world was shocked to know about his death due to such unexpected reason. However, his best albums are still held in really high regard and Gaye is often cited as one of the finest singers of his time.
8. Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)
Age at Death: 27 years Cause of Death: Asphyxiated by his own vomit (unconfirmed)
An extraordinary guitarist, singer and songwriter Jimmy Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix, which later changed to James Marshall, learned to play guitar as a teenager and grew up as an extraordinary rock guitarist. At the very age of 14, Jimi saw Elvis Presley perform and he got his first electric guitar the following year and taught himself to play guitar. Later, he joined US Army in 1961. But amazingly, he could find time for music, even as a soldier. Jimi was the one who’ve changed the Rock n Roll forever, and the way an electric guitar was played. With his outrageous guitar playing skills and really innovative sound, he became one of the most celebrated musicians of 20th century. He received posthumous Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. And again, the music world lost another outstanding talent too early. There’s some mystery around Jimi’s death in London though. He was found dead by his girlfriend when she awoke. As per the official report on his death, he was found asphyxiated in his own vomit consisting mostly of red wine. And that he had taken nine sleeping pills of his girlfriend before going to bed. However, the exact nature and reason of death is still vague.
7. Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)
Age at Death: 27 Cause of Death: Accidental Alcohol Poisoning
Amy Winehouse—the singer and songwriter, was well-known for her versatile singing in genres like RnB, jazz, soul, and reggae. Amy made the record of being the first British female singer to win 5 Grammy Awards for her album “Black to Black”. But the main problem with her was: she was as an addict. She had been struggling with her substance abuse and personal problems of depression and eating disorders. She found dead in her own room with bottles of Vodka. The report after her death revealed that she’d died due to excessive alcohol consumption. She could only live up 27 mere years but had mesmerized the world showing her outstanding singing talent. The popular rock bands like Green Day have even paid tribute to Amy through their song titled “Amy.”
6. Bob Marley (1945-1981)
Age at Death: 36 Cause of Death: Melanoma (but later found out to be Cancer)
Bob Marley—another musical talent the world ever had, who couldn’t manage to live his life to the fullest. Bob was a Jamaican musician and songwriter best known for his Reggae records. He was still one of the best-selling performers of Reggae music and is famous for spreading Jamaican music and Rastafari movement throughout the world. He is regarded as one of the greatest artists of all time as even awarded with Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. His death too caused an unexpected shock to the entire world. A malignant melanoma under his toe nail had supposedly taken his life. But it was later found to be a symptom of an already existing cancer. He wanted to return back to Jamaica to breathe his last as he fell seriously ill after his last concert at Pennsylvania, but he died while returning back. “Money can’t buy life” were his last words to his son Ziggy.
5. Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
Age at Death: 27 Cause of Death: Drug Overdose
Janis Joplin—another multi-talented American singer and songwriter who could only see mere four years of her successful musical career. She was firstly the lead singer of the Big Brother and the Holding Company, a psychedelic-acid rock band and then a successful solo artist. She was popularly referred to as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul” as well as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” at her times. With her number one hit “Me and Bobby McGee” and a number of other popular songs, she was able to win the hearts of millions of music lovers. Joplin was often called the female version of Elvis Presley for her outstanding ability to spellbind an audience. She was found dead, alleged reason of which being the accidental heroin overdose. Joplin was the one to open up rock music for future female singers.
4. Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)
Age at Death: 27 Cause of Death: Suicide
Another American musician—Kurt Cobain also comes in the list of musicians who died earlier at the age of only 27. Kurt was a talented singer, troubled performer who became an iconic rock star with his band called Nirvana in the 1990s. The band became a rage among people especially after their first success with their album “Nevermind”. Cobain was not able to handle sudden fame and media attention. As a result, he fall victim to heroin addiction and severe depression. Kurt was found dead in his Washington house with a shotgun wound in his head and a suicide note in his hand. The autopsy found that his body contained the high concentration of heroin. But some people still believe that Kurt’s death was a conspiracy and he was murdered.
3. Jim Morrison (1943-1971)
Age at Death: 27 Cause of Death: Allegedly Drug Overdosed
Jim Morrison was a revolution in the world of rock music. Best recognized as the lead singer and lyricist of The Doors, Jim was also one of the most talented and charismatic singers of rock music. Jim was the first rock n roll artist to introduce literature into the music. His unique style to infuse poetic imagery into the lyrics made many people call him an artist with difference. Known for his alcohol and drug addiction, and his outrageous stage behavior, Morrison left The Doors in 1971 and moved to Paris, where he was found dead in a bathtub at his apartment. As per the report by doctors, he died during the heart failure aggravated by heroin overdose and heavy drinking.
2. Elvis Presley (1935-1977)
Age at Death: 42 Cause of Death: Unknown
Born on 8th of January 1935, Elvis Presley came from a very humble beginning and grew up as one of the biggest stars in Rock n Roll. One of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century Presley was popularly entitled as ‘The King of Rock and Roll’ as he rightly deserved. He has significantly contributed to several genres like pop, gospels, and blues. Well-known for his eccentric style and energetic stage performance, Elvis is known as the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music. Among his many awards and accolades were his 14 Grammy Nominations (3 wins). But on 16th of August 1977, Elvis, 42, was found dead. Presley was found dead on his bathroom floor but the cause of death is still vague and controversial. However, most people believe that the cause of his death was heart failure due to drug overdose.
1. John Lennon (1940-1980)
Age at Death: 40 Cause of Death: Murdered by Mark Chapman
The most iconic Beatles, the most committed rock n roller of his group with his social conscience and slyest verbal wit—John Lennon, was one of the greatest pop singers, composers and songwriters the world ever had. John may have lived longer than others on our list but he couldn’t manage to live as one crazed fan shot killed him at the early age of 40. The Rolling Stone ranked John 5th on the list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Times. His song “You may say I’m dreaming” of his album “Imagine” become his best-known song and international anthem of peace as well. But he was shot four times by Mark Chapman who used to be a security guard in front of Lennon’s apartment. Obviously, his death stunned the entire music industry and his fans all around the world.
We wake up every morning reflecting the reality that how ephemeral this life really is. And it reminds us to slow down our rush and think of enjoying this precious life making right decisions at the right times. But with reasons many, we can’t manage to make right decisions, and at times, time snatches everything from us. Death is by no means a good experience. And dying young is truly tragic. But, death—the ultimate reality, do follow us every now and then. Amidst this uncertainty of life and fear of inevitable death, there are thousands of people who die every day, often untimely. This is the list of top 10 gone too soon musicians. Most of them didn’t even get the chance to reach 35.
I am aware that I don’t have everyone included in this list, I simply can’t. But I think, the musicians included are the ones I believe truly deserve to be here in this list. May they all rest in peace! The world will always remain indebted for the music they have gifted.
Arun is an IT-gradate. But writing is something he has innate passion for. He loves to explore new things, places and ideas.