The Death of Rock: Drugs & Alcohol
KeySome entries have special notations prior to their names. They represent induction into one of the following Halls of Fame:
- * 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.
- G.G. Allin
- (rumored to be Jesus Christ Allin, later changed to Kevin Allin, then G.G.), heroin overose; 1993. Controversial shock rocker who often mutilated himself and defecated on stage. Allin was 36.
- Bix Beiderbecke
- (Leon Beiderbecke), alcoholic seizure in 1931. The official cause of death was pneumonia and edema of the brain. He was 28. Beiderbecke was a popular coronetist with a distinct New York sound, standing apart from the New Orleans jazz that dominated the era.
- Mike Bloomfield
- drug overdose in 1981. He was 38. Bloomfield was the lead guitarist for The Paul Butterfield Blues Band (for Paul Butterfield, see 1987) and founder of The Electric Flag. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #22). The Paul Butterfield Blues Band recorded the album "A Long Time Comin’" and the soundtrack to the 1967 psychedelic film, "The Trip."
- Tommy Bolin
- drug overdose; 1976. He was 25. Bolin replaced Ritchie Blackmore as guitarist for Deep Purple. "Smoke On the Water"
- *John Bonham
- aspiration of vomit after ingesting alcohol; 1980. He was 32. Bonham ("Bonzo") was the drummer for Led Zeppelin, inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. "Whole Lotta Love," "Stairway to Heaven," "When the Levee Breaks"
- Tim Buckley
- heroin overdose in 1975. He was 28. Musician and father of Jeff Buckley (see 1997).
- Paul Butterfield
- heroin overdose (1987). He was 44. Butterfield lead The Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
- *Elbridge "Al" Bryant
- cirrhosis of the liver (1975). He was 36. Bryant was a founding member of The Temptations. Because of his unreliablilty and volatile behvior (due to alcohol) and/or his frustration with the band's lack of success, Bryant's behavior became intolerable. In 1963, Bryant and fellow Temptation, Paul Williams (suicide; see 1973), had an argument taht culminated with Bryant smashing a beer bottle across Williams's face; he had to be hospitalized. Bryant was replaced by David Ruffin (cocaine overdose; see 1991). Two other former Temps are recognized in The Archive: Eddie Kendricks, who succumbed to lung cancer in 1992, and Melvin Franklin, who died after a seizure in 1995. The Temptations were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1999. "The Way You Do The Things You Do," "My Girl," "Just My Imagination," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"
- David Byron
- excessive alcohol consumption. Byron was the lead singer of 70's rock band Uriah Heep, until he was dismissed from the band because of his drinking problem. He was found dead in his home in 1985; he had suffered a heart attack brought on by severe alcoholism. Byron was 38. (Heep bassist, Gary Thain, died from a heroin overdose in 1975.) "Easy Livin'," "Sweet Lorraine," "Stealin'"
- Stuart Cable
- aspiration of vomit (2010). Cable was the drummer with British alternative band, Stereophonics, from 1992 until 2003 and was a member of Killing for Company at the time of his death. Cable had been drinking at a local Aberdare (Wales) pub, the Welsh Harp Inn, where he left his car and walked home with friends. He continued drinking and reportedly choked to death on his own vomit while asleep. He was 40. "Dakota," "Have a Nice Day," "The Bartender and the Thief"
- *Gene Clark
- cumulative effects of alcohol; 1991. He was 50. Clark was the singer-songwriter of The Byrds, which also featured Gram Parsons and Clarence White (see 1973 for both) and Michael Clarke (see 1993). The Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Turn! Turn! Turn!" "Eight Miles High"
- Steve Clark
- substance abuse; 1991. Clark was the guitarist for Def Leppard. He died in his sleep after ingesting alcohol, barbituates and anti-depressants at a party. Clark was 30. "Pour Some Sugar On Me," "Love Bites," "Photograph"
- *Michael Clarke
- (Michael James Dick), cirrhosis of the liver due to alcohol abuse (1993). He was 49. Clarke was the drummer for The Byrds, which also featured Gram Parsons, Clarence White (see 1973 for both) and Gene Clark (1991). The Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Turn! Turn! Turn!" "Eight Miles High"
- Brian Cole
- drug overdose in 1972. He was 29. Member of the group, The Association, who were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. "Never My Love," "Cherish," "Windy," "Along Comes Mary"
- Darby Crash
- (Jan Paul Beahm, a.k.a. Bobby Pyn), heroin overdose the day before John Lennon's murder. Founder of seminal L.A. punk band The Germs; Crash was 22. "Lexicon Devil"
- Jesse Ed Davis
- (Jesse Edwin Davis), heroin overdose; 1988. Davis was a respected and popular session guitarist who appeared on albums by Eric Clapton, John Lennon (see 1980), Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, Harry Nilsson and Steve Miller. Davis also participated in George Harrison's (see 2001) The Concert for Bangladesh. Davis collapsed and was pronounced dead in a laundry room in Venice, California. He had various drugs in his system, but his death is thought to have been caused by a heroin overdose. He was 43 years old.
- Tommy Dorsey
- aspiration of vomit (1956). 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)
- Kevin DuBrow
- accidental cocaine overdose (2007); age 52. DuBrow was the lead singer of '80s metal group, Quiet Riot. He formed the band in the late '70s with guitarist Randy Rhoads (see 1982). "Cum On Feel the Noize," "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)," "Slick Black Cadillac"
- *John Entwistle
- heart attack (2002) brought on by cocaine use. He was 57. Virtuoso bassist for The Who, he died in his sleep, the day before the band's latest tour was to begin. The remaining members decided to proceed in tribute to the bassist. The Who (including drummer Keith Moon, see 1978) were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. "Baba O'Reilly," "Pinball Wizard," "Behind Blue Eyes"
- *Howie Epstein
- (Norman Howard Epstein), heroin overdose in 2003 at the age of 47. Epstein was the bassist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The band (including Epstein) was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. "Free Fallin'," "Learnin' to Fly," "I Won't Back Down," "Refugee"
- *Pete Farndon
- heroin overdose in 1983; he was 30. Farndon was the bassist for the Pretenders, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. "Brass in Pocket," "Talk of the Town," "Message of Love." The Pretenders minus Farndon: "Back on the Chain Gang," "I'll Stand By You"
- Zac Foley
- (Zachary Sebastian Rex James Foley), collapsed (2002) after combining ecstasy, crack cocaine, morphine and barbiturates along with vodka and beer. Member of the early-'90s one-hit wonders, EMF (Epson Mad Funkers?). He was 31. "Unbelievable"
- Judy Garland
- (Frances Ethel Gumm), barbituate overdose in 1969; she was 47. Singer/actress from Hollywood's Golden Age. Appeared in several hit musicals, including "The Wizard of Oz" (for which she won a special juvenile Academy Award), "Meet Me in St. Louis," "Easter Parade," and "A Star is Born." Mother to entertainers Liza Minelli and Lorna Luft. "Over the Rainbow"
- Paul Gray
- drug overdose in 2010. Gray (also known as "#2" or "The Pig"), was bassist for the metal outfit, Slipknot. The band only appeared publicly wearing grotesque masks and jumpsuits. Gray was found dead with a hypodermic needle and a bottle of pills in a hotel room in Iowa. Reportedly, he and his wife were expecting their first child at the time of his death. He was 38. Slipknot was nominated for seven Grammy Awards and a Video Music Award; the group took home a Grammy in 2006 for Best Metal Performance ("Before I Forget"). "Wait and Bleed," "Psychosocial," "Duality"
- Tim Hardin
- drug overdose in 1980. He was 39. "Bird on a Wire."
- *Jimi Hendrix
- (born Johnny Allen Hendrix, his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix when he was 4 years old), aspiration of vomit while sleeping after ingesting alcohol and sleeping pills in 1970. Sources are saying Hendrix's death was actually a homicide; read about Hendrix's murder by his manager. Hendrix was 27 and an established guitar legend. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Hendrix the greatest guitarist of all time. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Noel Redding (see 2003) and Mitch Mitchell (2008; natural causes at age 61), were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. Hendrix was also inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. "Purple Haze," "Foxy Lady," "Manic Depression"
- Gregory Herbert
- heroin overdose in 1978; he was 31. Herbert was a jazz saxophonist and played briefly with Blood, Sweat and Tears: "You've Made Me So Very Happy," "Spinning Wheel," "I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know"
- *^Billy Holiday
- (Eleanor Fagan Gough), cirrohsis of the liver due to excessive alcohol and heroin consumption; 1959. 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)"
- *James Honeyman-Scott
- cocaine overdose in 1982; he was 25. Honeyman-Scott was the guitarist for the Pretenders, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. "Brass in Pocket," "Talk of the Town," "Message of Love." The Pretenders minus Honeyman-Scott: "Back on the Chain Gang," "I'll Stand By You"
- Shannon Hoon
- (Richard Shannon Hoon), heroin overdose in 1995. Lead singer of Blind Melon and back-up vocalist on "Don't Cry" by Guns n' Roses. Hoon was 28. "No Rain," "Tones of Home," "Galaxy"
- *Michael Jackson
- (Michael Joseph Jackson), cardiac arrest in 2009; he was 50. Jackson collapsed at his home and was not breathing when paramedics arrived. He was suffered a cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at UCLA Medical Center. The Los Angeles County coroner has ruled Jackson's death a homicide. Dr. Conrad Murray, Jackson's personal physician, was convicted in 2011 of involuntary manslaughter. Lethal levels of propofol (a powerful anesthetic) were found in the singer's system, in addition to two sedatives, which Murray administered in an effort to get Jackson to sleep.
- Jackson was arguably the most famous entertainer in the world, winning every music (and music video) award in existence. He began his career as lead singer of The Jackson 5, a group consisting of Michael and his brothers. (Singer Janet Jackson is his younger sister.) He went onto a phenomenal solo career, releasing Thriller in 1982, the best-sellling album of all time. He influenced music, dance, music videos and fashion. Jackson co-wrote and performed on "We Are the World," for the charity USA for Africa, which went on to become the best-selling single at the time. He won 13 Grammy Awards, had 13 number one singles and achieved sales of over 750 million albums worldwide. Jackson was named male artist of the millennium at the World Music Awards. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame twice: with the Jackson 5 in 1997 and as a solo performer in 2001.
- By contrast, his personal life was often a subject of controversy. He was married twice, once to Elvis Presley's (see 1977) daughter, Lisa Marie, and he was the father of three children: Michael Joseph, Jr. ("Prince") and Paris Michael Katherine (with second wife, Debbie Rowe), and Prince Michael II ("Blanket") born to an unnamed surrogate mother. Jackson battled several allegations of child molestation occuring at his Neverland Ranch and he came under fire when he once dangled "Blanket" off a balcony in front of the paparazzi. He was also criticzed for his compulsion for plastic surgery and his claim that he suffered from vitiligo, a condition where the skin loses all pigmentation.
- With the Jackson 5: "I Want You Back," "ABC," "Who's Lovin' You," "The Love You Save," "I'll Be There," "Dancing Machine"
- Solo career: "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough," "Rock With You," "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Thriller," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)," "Human Nature," "I Just Can't Stop Loving You" (duet with Siedah Garrett), "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror," "Smooth Criminal," "Black or White," "Remember the Time," "In the Closet," "Scream" (duet with Janet Jackson)
- *Janis Joplin
- heroin overdose in 1970; "Pearl" was 27. Blues legend Bessie Smith (see 1937) lay in an unmarked grave for 33 years, until Joplin and Juanita Green, Smith's former maid and later a chapter-head of the NAACP, donated money for a headstone. "Pearl" was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. "Me and Bobby McGee," "Piece of My Heart," "Summertime," "Mercedes Benz"
- Paul Kosoff
- heart attack resultant of drug abuse; he was 25. Kossoff was the guitarist for Free. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #51). "All Right Now"
- Jani Lane
- (John Kennedy Oswald), acute alcohol poisoning; found dead in a Los Angeles hotel in 2011. Lane, age 47, was the lead singer for '80s hair-metal band, Warrant. The group had six Top 40 singles: "Heaven," "Cherry Pie," "Sometimes She Cries," "Down Boys," "I Saw Red," and "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
- Gerald Levert
- accidental mix of prescription and over-the-counter drugs in 2006; age 40. Levert released several solo albums (hits include "I Swear," "I'd Give Anything," and "Baby Hold On to Me"), was a member of Levert ("Casanova," ""Baby I'm Ready," and "(Pop, Pop, Pop, Pop) Goes My Mind") and LSG ("My Baby"). He was the son of O'Jays member, Eddie Levert, Sr. and the brother of Sean Levert, also a member of Levert, who died in 2008.
- *Rudy Lewis
- drug overdose in 1964. He was 28. Lewis sang lead for the Drifters from 1960-64. His vocal credits include "Up On the Roof" and "On Broadway." Lewis was found dead in his hotel room, having overdosed the night before the group was supposed to record "Under the Boardwalk." The Drifters were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
- *Frankie Lymon
- heroin overdose at age 25; 1968. Lymon was only 13 when "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?" reached #1 on the R&B charts. Within ten years, three members of the group would be dead: Lymon, Sherman Garnes (see 1977), and Joey Negroni (see 1978). Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000. "I Want You to Be My Girl," "Who Can Explain?"
- Phil Lynott
- substance abuse (1986). Lynott was abusing alcohol and drugs; he was rushed to the hosptal with both liver and kidney infections. He died several days later from heart failure and pneumonia. He was 36. Lynott was the singer for Irish rock band, Thin Lizzy. A life-size bronze statue of Lynott was dedicated in Dublin in 2005. (Guitarist Gary Moore would be found dead in a hotel room in 2011.) "The Boys Are Back in Town," "Whiskey in the Jar"
- Jimmy McCulloch
- heroin overdose in 1979, age 26. McCulloch played lead guitar in Paul McCartney's Wings (which also featured MSir Paul's wife, Linda Eastman McCartney - see 1998). "Band on the Run," "With a Little Luck," "Listen to What the Man Said"
- Robbie McIntosh
- drug overdose in 1974. McIntosh was the drummer for the Average White Band. While attending a party, McIntosh inhaled what he thought was cocaine; it was actually heroin laced with strychnine. He was 24. The Average White Band: "Pick Up the Pieces," "Cut the Cake," "A Love of Your Own"
- *Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
- liver failure due to alcohol abuse (1973); he was 27. Keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. McKernan was the first of four Grateful Dead keyboardists to die prematurely. He was succeeded by Keith Godchaux (see 1980), Brent Mydland (see 1990), and Vince Welnick (see 2006). "Truckin,'" "St. Stephen," "Casey Jones," "Friend of the Devil"
- Jonathan Melvoin
- heroin overdose in 1996. Keyboardist for Smashing Pumpkins; Melvoin was 34. "Disarm," "Today"
- *Keith Moon
- drug overdose (1978); he was 32. Moon was the drummer for The Who. On the eve of his death, he previewed The Buddy Holly Story and dined with his girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax, and Paul and Linda McCartney. Moon and Walter-Lax returned to a flat owned by Harry Nilsson (heart failure, 1994, age 52) where "Mama" Cass Elliot had died four years earlier (heart failure, age 32). He supposedly woke up at 7:30 on the morning of the seventh, and returned to bed. At 3:40 pm, Walter-Lax tried to wake him, but he was unresponsive. At some point during the previous night or that morning, he had ingested 32 tablets of Clomethiazole (Heminevrin), a sedative prescribed for alcohol withdrawal. Keith Moon was dead of a prescription drug overdose. The Who (including bassist John Entwistle, see 2002), were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Read about Moon's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly and the Curse of Harry Nilsson. "Baba O'Reilly," "Pinball Wizard," "Behind Blue Eyes"
- Bill Murcia
- drug overdose in 1972; he was 21. Original drummer for The New York Dolls, he was replaced by Jerry Nolan (see 1992). Murcia and Nolan were two of four band members who would die prematurely, the other two being Johnny Thunders (see 1991) and Arthur "Killer" Kane (see 2004). "Personality Crisis," "Frankenstein"
- *Brent Mydland
- morphine and cocaine overdose; 1990. He was 37. Keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Mydland was the third of four Grateful Dead keyboardists to die prematurely. He succeeded Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (see 1973) and Keith Godchaux (see 1980) and was succeeded by Vince Welnick (see 2006). "Truckin,'" "Casey Jones," "St. Stephen"
- Jerry Nolan
- health complications stemming from drug use in 1992; he was 46. Nolan replaced drummer Bill Murcia (see 1972) in the glam-punk outfit The New York Dolls and later joined The Heartbreakers. Vocalist Johnny Thunders (also an alum of both bands) succumbed to drug use the previous year. (Nolan, Murcia, and Thunders were three of four former New York Dolls to die prematurely. The fourth was Arthur "Killer" Kane in 2004.) "You Can't Put Your Arms Around Money" (with The Heartbreakers), "Personality Crisis," "Frankenstein" (with The New York Dolls)
- Bradley Nowell
- heroin overdose in 1996. Singer for Sublime, he was 28. "What I Got"
- Johnny O'Keefe
- heart attack caused by an accidental overdose of prescription medication in 1978. He was 43. O'Keefe was the Australian King of Rock & Roll, and the first Australian to chart (with the hit, "I'm The Wild One"). He opened for Bill Haley (see 1981) and later appeared on the Lee Gordon Tour in 1958 with Paul Anka and Buddy Holly (see 1959). In 1998, O'Keefe was honored on an Australian postage stamp. Read about O'Keefe's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly. "Shout," "She's My Baby," "It's Too Late," "I'm Counting On You," "Move Baby Move," "She Wears My Ring"
- Mark Daniel Olson
- reports suggest his death was bodily wear-and-tear due to chronic alcohol consumption. Olson played keyboards from 1971 until 1984 for rock/soul group, Rare Earth. He died in 1991 at the age of 41. Fellow members John Persh succumbed to a staph infection (1974) and Eddie Guzman died of complications from diabetes (1993). "I Just Want to Celebrate," "Hey, Big Brother," and covers of The Temptations' "(I Know) I'm Losing You" and "Get Ready"
- John Panozzo
- gastrointestinal hemorrhage brought on by alcoholism, 1996. He was 48. Panozzo was a founding member of Styx, with his brother Chuck, Dennis DeYoung and John Curulewski. (Curulewski succumbed to a brain aneurysm in 1988.)Panozzo played drums for the band, whose hits include "Mr. Roboto," "Come Sail Away," "Lady," and "Babe."
- *Gram Parsons
- drug "toxicity" (1973); he was 26. Parsons was a member of the Byrds (with Gene Clark, see 1991, and Michael Clarke, see 1993). Parsons had stated that he wanted his body cremated at Joshua Tree National Monument (CA) and his ashes spread over Cap Rock. But Parson's stepfather had arranged for private ceremony in New Orleans. So to honor Parsons's wishes, music producer, Phil Kaufman, and a friend stole his body, borrowed hearse, and drove to Joshua Tree. They then proceeded to pour five gallons of gasoline into the open coffin, followed by a lit match - creating a huge fireball. They were arrested and fined $750 ($700?) for stealing the coffin. Earlier that year, Parsons sang "Farther Along" at Clarence White's funeral service and created his final song, "In My Hour of Darkness," as a partial tribute to him. White had replaced Parsons in The Byrds when Parsons quit the group in 1968. The Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Eight Miles High"
- John Paulos
- drug overdose in 1980. He was 32. Paulos was the drummer for The Buckinghams on several hits, including "Kind Of A Drag," "Don't You Care," and "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."
- Kristin Pfaff
- heroin overdose in 1994. Bassist for Hole, she was 27. "Miss World," "Doll Parts"
- River Phoenix
- (River Jude Bottom), drug overdose at age 23. Phoenix, although known primarily for his critically-acclaimed acting, was the guitarist for Aleka's Attic. In 1993, Phoenix collapsed and went into cardiac arrest outside the Viper Room on Halloween night. Ephedrine, marijuana, valium, cocaine and morphine were found in the strict vegan's system. Since his death, he has been memorialized in songs by Belinda Carlisle, Natalie Merchant, REM, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and others. "Across the Way," "Too Many Colors," "Note to a Friend"
- Jeff Porcaro
- hardening of the arteries due to cocaine abuse in 1992. Porcaro was Toto's drummer. The group garnered six Grammy Awards in its heyday. Porcaro's death, while gardening, was originally thought caused by an anaphylactic reaction to a pesticide. He was 38 at the time of his demise. "Africa," "Rosanna," "Hold the Line"
- *#Elvis Presley
- drug overdose in 1977; he was 42. Actor in over 30 films and the "King of Rock and Roll." Presley was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998, the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004, and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. He was also honored on a United States postage stamp. Possibly the most-imitated entertainer in history. Read about the King's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly, or the auction of Elvis's crypt. "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Can't Help Falling in Love," "Suspicious Minds"
- Carl Radle
- kidney infection (1980) as a result of long-term alcohol and drug abuse. Radle was the bassist for Derek and the Dominos, George Harrison (see 2001), and Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen. He was 37. Radle was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
- *Dee Dee Ramone
- (Douglas Colvin), drug overdose in 2002. He was 49. Bassist for The Ramones. All three founding members would die within four years of one another. (Joey Ramone died the previous year from lymphoma and Johnny Ramone would succumb to prostate cancer in 2004.) Punk pioneers, The Ramones were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. "I Wanna Be Sedated," "Teenage Lobotomy"
- *David Ruffin
- found at the emergency entrance of a Philadelphia hospital, dead of a cocaine overdose in 1991. Ruffin sang tenor for the Temptations, replacing Elbridge Bryant in 1963. (Bryant died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1975, Paul Williams committed suicide in 1973, Eddie Kendricks succumbed to lung cancer in 1992 and Melvin Franklin died after a seizure in 1995.) Ruffin was 50 at the time of his death. The Temptations were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, and both the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1999. "The Way You Do The Things You Do," "My Girl," "Just My Imagination," "Papa Was a Rolling Stone"
- Stefanie Sargent
- heroin overdose in 1992; she was 22. Sargent was the guitarist for Seven Year Bitch, an all-female band from Seattle's early-'90s grunge scene. Sargent abused alcohol and heroin, choking on her own vomit. From Sick 'Em: "Tired of Nothing," "You Smell Lonely," "Dead Men Don't Rape"
- John Baker Saunders
- heroin overdose in 1999. He was 44. Saunders was bassist for Mad Season, which featured Alice in Chains vocalist, Layne Staley (who would also die a heroin-related death in 2002.) "River of Deceit," "Above," "Wake Up"
- *Bon Scott
- (Ronald Belford Scott), aspiration of vomit after excessive alcohol consumption in 1980. He was 33. Scott performed lead for AC/DC. The band, including Scott, were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. "(You Shook Me) All Night Long," "Back in Black," "Dirty Deeds (Done Dirt Cheap)"
- Bobby Sheehan
- drug overdose in 1999; he was 31. Sheehan was the bassist for the popular '90s band, Blues Traveler. Valium, cocaine, and heroin were found in his system. "Run Around," "The Mountains Win Again," "Hook"
- *Hillel Slovak
- heroin overdose in 1988; he was 26. Slovak, born in Israel to Holocaust survivors, was a founding member and the guitarist for California funk-rock band, Red Hot Chili Peppers. He appeared on their first two albums and was included in their 2012 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, but the band's success didn't ignite until several years after the guitarist's death. Post-Slovak: "Higher Ground," "Under the Bridge," "Give It Away"
- Layne Staley
- heroin overdose in 2002. Staley was 34. Lead singer of Alice in Chains and Mad Season, Staley was found dead in his apartment, his body undiscovered for 2 weeks. He died on 5 April, the date fellow grunge icon, Nirvana singer, Kurt Cobain, took his life in 1994. Mike Starr, former bassist for AIC, was the last known person to see Staley alive; he spent time with the singer the day before he died. Starr stated that Staley was extremely ill, but would not call 911. The two argued and Starr stormed off with Staley calling after him, "Not like this, don't leave like this." Starr regretted not calling 911 to save his friend's life and blamed himself for Staley's death. (Mike Starr would die of a suspected drug overdose in 2011. Coincidentally, Staley's bassist in Mad Season, John Baker Saunders, died of a heroin overdose in 1999.) AIC had the heaviest sound of the early '90s grunge movement, with songs like "Would?," "No Excuses," "Down in a Hole," and "Angry Chair."
- Mike Starr
- (Michael Christopher Starr), suspected drug overdose; he was 44. Starr was the bassist for grunge icons, Alice in Chains. He was replaced in the group in 1993 after the release of the album, Dirt, because of his addiction to heroin. In February 2011, he was arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance in Salt Lake City, Utah. A month later, he was found dead in a Salt Lake City home. In 2010, Starr appeared on the television series, Celebrity Rehab for heroin addiction. He remembered Alice in Chains lead singer, Layne Staley, and his death in 2002. Starr was the last known person to see Staley alive; he spent time with the singer the day before his death. He stated that Staley was extremely ill, but would not call 911. The two argued and Starr stormed off with Staley calling after him, "Not like this, don't leave like this." Starr regretted not calling 911 to save his friend's life and blamed himself for Staley's death. AIC had the heaviest sound of the early '90s grunge movement, with songs like "Would?," "No Excuses," "Down in a Hole," and "Angry Chair."
- Bob Stinson
- (Robert Neil Stinson), body gave out in 1995 after years of alcohol and heroin abuse; he was 35. Founder and guitarist for The Replacements. "I Will Dare," "Unsatisfied," "Bastards of the Young"
- Rory Storm
- (Alan Caldwell), overdose in 1972. He was 34. Storm fronted The Hurricanes with Johnny Guitar (see 1999) and future Beatle Ringo Starr. He and his mother ingested sleeping pills in a double suicide after the death of his father. "Dr. Feelgood," "America"
- Vinnie Taylor
- (Chris Donald), heroin overdose in 1974; age unknown. Taylor was the lead guitarist for the nostalgic "Greaser" band, Sha Na Na. (Fellow member, David "Chico" Ryan, would die of undisclosed causes in 1998.) "Good Night, Sweetheart"
- Gary Thain
- heroin overdose in 1975; he was 27. Thain was the bassist for Uriah Heep. During his final tour, Thain was electrocuted, blacked out, and suffered serious burns. He also (supposedly) contracted an untreatable STD. He was found dead in the bath by his girlfriend. (Heep vocalist, David Byron, would succumb to excessive alcohol consumption in 1985.) "Easy Livin'," "Sweet Lorraine," "Stealin'"
- Johnny Thunders
- (John Anthony Genzale), methadone and alcohol overdose in 1991; he was 39. Thunders was the vocalist for glam-punk outfit The New York Dolls and later joined The Heartbreakers. Drummer Jerry Nolan, who replaced Bill Murcia (see 1972) in The NY Dolls and also later joined The Heartbreakers, succumbed to drug use the following year. (Thunders, Nolan, and Murcia are three of four former New York Dolls to die prematurely. The fourth was Arthur "Killer" Kane in 2004.) "You Can't Put Your Arms Around Money" (with The Heartbreakers), "Personality Crisis," "Frankenstein" (with The New York Dolls)
- Steve Peregrin Took
- co-founder of T. Rex, ingested morphine and magic mushrooms. His throat numbed by the combination, he subsequently choked to death on a cherry. It was 1980 and he was 31. Took was one of five members of T-Rex to die prematurely: see Marc Bolan, 1977; Steve Currie, 1981; Mickey Finn, 2003; and "Dino" Dines, 2004. "Bang a Gong (Get it On)," "Hot Love," "Telegram Sam," "Metal Guru"
- *Sid Vicious
- (John Simon Ritchie), heroin overdose in 1979. Sex Pistols' bassist; he was 21. Vicious died while on bail after being charged in his girlfriend's murder. It is speculated that the overdose was administered by his mother and was intentionally fatal. The Sex Pistols were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. "Anarchy in the U.K.," "God Save the Queen"
- *^Dinah Washington
- (Ruth Jones), mixed alcohol and pills in 1963. She was 39. Washington was the most popular black female artist of the 1950s, with several top 10 R&B hits. She was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003. "Wheel of Fortune," "Cold, Cold Heart," "Baby Get Lost," "Baby (You've Got What It Takes)" (with Brook Benton)
- *#Hank Williams
- (Hiram King Williams, Sr.), severe heart attack because of excessive drug and alcohol consumption (1953). 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. "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'" For a complete list of Williams's 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.
- Amy Winehouse
- found dead in her apartment, acute alcohol poisoning (2011). She was 27. Winehouse, a Grammy-winning soul singer with a retro sound, very publicly battled with drug addiction. She often made headlines for her erratic behavior and her shockingly thin and dissheveled appearance. At the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, Winehouse's second (and final) album, Back to Black, won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album (and was nominated for Album of the Year). The single, "Rehab," won Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year; Winehouse won Best New Artist. (In "Rehab," she refers to fellow soul singer, Donny Hathaway, who committed suicide in 1979.) "Tears Dry on Their Own," "You Know I'm No Good," "Back to Black"
- Andrew Wood
- heroin overdose in 1990 in Seattle. Lead singer of Mother Love Bone, precursor to Pearl Jam, and former roommate to Chris Cornell (lead of sludge-metal pioneers, Soundgarden). Wood was 24. "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns," "Bone China"
Quiet Riot: Carlos Cavazo, Kevin DuBrow, Rudy Sarzo, Frankie Banali.
Mitch Mitchell (d. 2008), Jimi Hendrix (d. 1970) and Noel Redding (d. 2003).
Shannon Hoon; newspaper item from 14 October 1995, reporting Hoon's death.
The King of Pop; Jackson's casket arriving at the morgue.
Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
The Ramones: Johnny, Dee Dee, Joey & Marky
The Temptations, 1964-68: David Ruffin (d. 1991), Paul Williams (d. 1973),
Eddie Kendricks (d. 1992), Melvin Franklin (d. 1995), & Otis Williams (clockwise from bottom left).
Alice in Chains, circa 1992: Mike Starr (d. 2011), Jerry Cantrell, Layne Stayley (d. 2002) and Sean Kinney.