The Death of Rock: The Chronology
Artists are listed alphabetically within year of demise. Feel free to scroll, or click the year you wish to view and skip ahead. (There are currently no entries available for the years 1951 or 1952.)
- * denotes induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
- # indicates induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
- ^ symbolizes induction into the Blues Hall of Fame.
- *Tommy Gaither
- car accident. He was 20. Gaither was the guitarist and second tenor for The Orioles, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an "Early Influence" in 1995. After a New York show, an exhausted Gaither drove the group's yellow Dodge into the front wall of a restaurant. Orioles' vocalist George Nelson survived the fatal crash (see 1959). "Crying In The Chapel," "Tell Me So," "Forgive and Forget," "It's Too Soon To Know"
- Django Reinhardt
- (Jean Baptiste Reinhardt), brain hemorrhage. He was 43. Reinhardt was a French Gypsies (Manouche). After surviving a house (caravan) fire which disfigured two of his fingers, he created a revolutionary technique for fingering guitar. He formed the Quintet of the Hot Club of France. In 1953, he suffered a fatal brain hemorrhage. "Tiger Rag, "I Saw Stars, "Minor Swing," "Belleville," "Nuages"
- *#Hank Williams
- (Hiram King Williams, Sr.), severe heart attack because of excessive drug and alcohol consumption. Williams was 29. In 1961, he was the first artist selected for the Country Music Hall of Fame. Williams was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1985 and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He was also honored on a United States postage stamp. Country Music Television ranked him second on their "40 Greatest Men of Country Music" in 2003. (Johnny Cash got top honors.) In 2010, he was awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer Prize Committee. For a complete list of Williams's numerous awards, a detailed account of his career, and information on the Curse of Hank Williams (in relation to fellow country crooner, Johnny Horton), visit Hank Williams's Tribute. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'"
- Johnny Ace
- (John Marshall Alexander), accidentally shot himself. He was 25. Ace was an extremely popular rhythm and blues singer. While taking a break during a Christmas Eve show, he decided to impress his girlfriend, Olivia, and blues singer, "Big Mama" Thornton. With Olivia on his lap, he put a gun to his head, certain he would not get the one bullet loaded in the chamber. He did. "My Song," "Cross My Heart," "Please Forgive Me," "The Clock," "Yes, Baby," "Never Let Me Go," "Pledging My Love"
- *Danny Cedrone
- (Donato Joseph Cedrone), broken neck. He was one of Bill Haley's Comets, playing lead guitar. Cedrone was responsible for the scorching guitar solo in the classic rock hit, "Rock Around the Clock." While leaving the second floor of the 819 Bar in Philadelphia with a bag of roast beef sandwiches, he fell down a flight of stairs and broke his neck, dying instantly. He was three days shy of his 34th birthday. Cedrone is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. The Comets were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. "Rock Around the Clock," "Rocket 88," "Rock the Joint"
- Ulysses K."Ronnie" Hicks
- heart condition. He was 22. Hicks joined the Five Keys, an R&B/doo-wop singing group, in 1952. The Five Keys were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2002. "Ling, Ting, Tong," "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," "Wisdom of a Fool," "Teardrops in Your Eyes," "Story of Love"
- *Bob King
- cause of death undisclosed; he was 49. King was a member of the gospel/pop vocal group, The Soul Stirrers. (Sam Cooke - see 1964 - was another Soul Stirrer alum.) The group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 (Early Influence) and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000. "By and By," "Touch the Hem of His Garment," "Any Day Now," "Mean Old World"
- Charlie Parker
- (Charles Christopher Parker, Jr.), pneumonia. Innovative jazz saxophonist who worked with artists such as bassist Charles Mingus (see 1979). Parker suffered form ulcers and cirrhosis of the liver possibly caused by heroin addiction; he was 34. "A Night in Tunisia," "Groovin' High," "Repetition"
- Tommy Dorsey
- aspiration of vomit. Formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, which once included trombonist Glenn Miller (see 1944), with brother Jimmy (see 1957). Tommy ingested a large dinner and was accustomed to using pills to help him sleep. He was 50. The Dorsey Brothers had a live television series, "Stage Show," where Elvis Presley (see 1977) made his first national TV appearance. "Opus One" (with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra)
- Jimmy Dorsey
- throat cancer. He was 53. Formed the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra, which once included trombonist Glenn Miller (see 1944), with brother Tommy (see 1956). The Dorsey Brothers had a live television series, "Stage Show," where Elvis Presley (see 1977) made his first national TV appearance. "So Rare," "Ampola"
- Joe Hil Louis
- (Lester/Leslie Hill), tetanus. Louis was an early musician on the seminal Sun Records, who billed himself as "Be-Bop Boy and His One-Man Band." He was fairly popular in his day and had a radio show (WDIA) on which he was known as "The Pepticon Boy." He severely cut his thumb, supposedly on a guitar string, and it became infected; he died of tetanus at the age of 35.
- Jay Perkins
- (James Buck Perkings), automobile accident. Member of the Perkins Brothers (which included Clayton and Carl). In 1956, while on their way to perform Carl's composition, "Blue Sude Shoes" on "The Perry Como Show," the driver of their vehicle fell asleep at the wheel and slammed into a pickup truck. Jay suffered a fractured neck and internal injuries. He was left to watch on television as Elvis Presley (see 1977)hijacked the single (simultaneously bolstering his phenomenal career). Perkins continued to suffer the consequences of his injuries, finally succumbing in 1958. He was 28. His brother, Clayton, never recovered from Jay's death and committed suicide at the age of 38 (see 1973). Carl died of throat cancer in 1998; he was 65.
- *^Billie Holiday
- (Eleanor Fagan Gough), cirrohsis of the liver due to excessive alcohol and heroin consumption. A jazz legend; Holiday was 44. "Lady Day was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. "God Bless the Child, "Nobody's Business (If I Do)
- *George Nelson
- fatally gagged during an asthma attack. He was 33. Nelson was a vocalist for The Orioles ("the first R&B vocal group") and was involved in the auto accident that claimed the life of Orioles' guitarist Tommy Gaither (see 1950). The Orioles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an "Early Influence" in 1995. "It's Too Soon to Know," "Tell Me So," "Crying in the Chapel"
- "The Big Bopper"
- (Jiles Perry "J.P." Richardson, Jr.), same plane crash that claimed Buddy Holly and Richie Valens. Richardson was a novelty rocker. He took the seat on the plane that was intended for Holly's bassist, Waylon Jennings. Richardson was 28. He was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2004 and he was also inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "Chantilly Lace, "Little Red Riding Hood," "That's What I'm Talking About," "White Lightnin'," "Purple People Eater Meets the Witch Doctor," wrote and sang back-up on Johnny Preston's "Running Bear
- *Buddy Holly
- (Charles Hardin Holley), plane crash in Iowa; he was 22. Holly's bassist, Waylon Jennings, jokingly told Holly, "I hope your plane crashes, after being denied a seat on the aircraft in favor of "The Big Bopper. Ritchie Valens was also killed. Holly was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and he is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Visit the Tribute to Rock's Royal Trinity and read about the Curse of Buddy Holly. "Peggy Sue, "That'll Be the Day, "Rave On," "Oh Boy!"
- *Ritchie Valens
- (Richard Steven Valenzuela), same plane crash that claimed Buddy Holly and "The Big Bopper; Valens was 17. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and he has also been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "La Bamba, "Oh, Donna," "We Belong Together," "Ooh, My Head"
There are currently no entries for 1951.
There are currently no entries for 1952.
"Bird" Charlie Parker
"The Big Bopper," Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.
Visit the Archive's Tribute to The Day the Music Died.
Read about the Curse of Buddy Holly.