The Death of Rock: Plane Crashes
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.
- (Aaliyah Dana Haughton), plane crash in the Bahamas in 2001. Aaliyah was a rising R&B star and actress ("Romeo is Bleeding," "Queen of the Damned"); she was 22. Aaliyah and her entourage boarded a twin engine Cessna 402B (N8097W) for a flight to the US following a video shoot ("Rock the Boat") in the Bahamas. Aaliyah's entourage insisted that their equipment accompany them rather than leave it behind. The National Transportation and Safety Board report states that, "the total weight of the luggage, fuel on board at the time of the accident, plus the weight of the passengers showed that the total gross weight of the airplane was substantially exceeded...the center of gravity was significantly outside the flight envelope past the aft center of gravity." "(Dust Yourself Off and) Try Again," "Back and Forth," "Rock the Boat"
- The Bar-Kays
- The original Bar-Kays: James Alexander (bass), Ronnie Caldwell (organ), Ben Cauley (trumpet), Phalon Jones (saxophone), Carl Cunningham (drums), and Jimmy King (guitar). Chosen by Otis Redding as his backing band, all were en route to a show when the plane crashed into a lake in Wisonsin in 1967. Ben Cauley was the only survivor; James Alexander was not on the flight. (Visit Otis Redding's Tribute for photos and detailed information about the plane crash.) "Soul Finger"
- "The Big Bopper"
- (Jiles Perry "J.P." Richardson, Jr.), plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in 1959. (Visit the Archive's Tribute to Rock's Royal Trinity.) Richardson was a radio disc jockey and novelty rocker. He took the seat on the plane that was intended for Holly's bassist, Waylon Jennings. (Read about the connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.) Elvis Presley (see 1977) sent flowers to Richardson's funeral. 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"
- David Box
- (Harold David Box), plane crash in 1964; he was 22. Box was one of several lead singers employed by The Crickets, Buddy Holly's backing band, after Holly's death. Holly also died in a plane crash, and at the same age (see 1959). Read about the connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.) "Peggy Sue Got Married"
- a promising jazz-rock ensemble, founded by trumpeter Bill Chase. In 1974, while leaving Texas for an appearance in Minnesota, Chase (age 39), his drummer Walter Clark (age 25), guitarist John Emma (age 22), and keyboardist Wally Yohn (age 27) were killed when their plane crashed. The cause was sited as pilot error and poor radio communication. View the National Transportation and Safety Board Report. "Get It On"
- #Patsy Cline
- (Virginia Patterson Hensley), plane crash in Tennessee in 1963; she was 30. Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas were returning from a benefit for the widow of a local disc jockey who died in a car crash. Randy Hughes, both Copas's son-in-law and Cline's manager, was piloting the plane; he was also killed in the crash. While on the way to Cline's funeral, another country musician, Jack Anglin (also 1963), was killed. Cline was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973 and she is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. She was also honored on a United States postage stamp. Proceed to the Patsy Cline Tribute, which details the crash and includes photos and the official crash report. "Crazy," "I Fall To Pieces," "Leavin' on Your Mind" (the single at the time of her death)
- Cowboy Copas
- (Lloyd Estel Copas), "The Oklahoma Cowboy," plane crash in Tennessee in 1963. Copas was 49. Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Patsy Cline, were returning from a benefit for the widow of a local disc jockey who died in a car crash. Randy Hughes, both Copas's son-in-law and Cline's manager, was piloting the plane; he was also killed in the crash. Proceed to the Patsy Cline Tribute, which details the crash and includes photos and the official crash report. You can alslo read about Copas's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly. "Filipino Baby," "Signed, Sealed and Delivered," "Alabam'," "Goodbye Kisses" (posthumous release)
- Jim Croce
- (James Joseph Croce), plane crash in Louisiana in 1973. The Beechcraft D-18 that Croce had chartered snagged the top of some pecan trees during take-off and crashed, one day before the release of his third album, I Got A Name. Croce was 30. In 1990, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Visit the Archive's Tribute to Jim Croce. "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "You Don't Mess Around with Jim," "I Got A Name," "I'll Have to Say I Love You In A Song," "Time in a Bottle"(The latter three songs were released posthumously.)
- John Denver
- (Henry John Deutschendorf Jr.), plane crash in California, 1997. Denver was piloting the plane; he was 53. Visit John Denver's Tribute for artist information, photos, and a detailed account of the fatal plane crash. "You Fill Up My Senses (Annie's Song)," "Rocky Mountain High," "Thank God I'm a Country Boy"
- Carlos Gardel
- plane crash in 1935. He was 44. Gardel enjoyed notoriety in Argentina as part of a folk-singing duo. In the 1920s, he went solo with his "tango singing," and this brought him international fame. Gardel was killed when the Ford Tri-Motor airplane he was travelling in collided in midair with another Ford Tri-Motor plane over Columbia. Fans grieved from New York to Puerto Rico, and a woman in Havana committed suicide. The singer's body made the journey to its final resting place in Buenos Aires, traveling first to Colombia, New York and Rio de Janeiro so that fans could pay respects. To this day, a devoted following keeps the legend alive, playing his music daily, placing a lit cigarette in the hand of the life-sized statue at his tomb and keeping his films in circulation. (Thanks to Fuller Up: The Dead Musician Directory for the information.) "Por Una Cabeza," "Cuesta Abajo," "Volver"
- Hawkshaw Hawkins
- Hawkshaw Hawkins (Harold Franklin Hawkins), plane crash in Tennessee; 1963. Hawkins was 41. Hawkins, Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline, were returning from a benefit for the widow of a local disc jockey who died in a car crash. Randy Hughes, both Copas's son-in-law and Cline's manager, was piloting the plane; he was also killed in the crash. Proceed to the Patsy Cline Tribute, which details the crash and includes photos and the official crash report. "Lonesome 7-7203" (entered US charts three days prior to his death), "I Love You A Thousand Ways," "Slow Poke," "Bad News Travels Fast," "Soldiers Joy"
- *Buddy Holly
- (Charles Hardin Holley), plane crash in Iowa in 1959; 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!"
- Walter Hyatt
- plane crash in 1996. He was 47. Hyatt was a Texas singer and songwriter who formed Uncle Walt's Band. Hyatt was involved in the Austin, Texas music scene from its beginning and is credited with being the "original Americana Artist." View the detailed account of Hyatt's plane crash (the National Transportation and Safety Board report on the crash of ValuJet Flight 592). Album: Some Unfinished Business, Volume One
- Cassie Gaines
- plane crash in Mississippi (1977); she was 29. Cassie was one of The Honkettes, the backing vocalists for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Cassie's brother, guitarist Steve Gaines, and manager Dean Kilpatrick were also killed. Gary Rossington, Allen Collins (see 1990), Billy Powell (see 2009), Artimus Pyle and Leon Wilkeson (see 2001) survived, but not without serious injuries. Lynyrd Skynyrd were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. (The Honkettes were not included in the induction.) Visit the Archive's Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute. "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man"
- *Steve Gaines
- plane crash in Mississippi (1977); he was 28. Steve was a guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, Steve's sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, and manager Dean Kilpatrick were also killed. Gary Rossington, Allen Collins (see 1990), Billy Powell (see 2009), Artimus Pyle and Leon Wilkeson (see 2001) survived, but not without serious injuries. Lynyrd Skynyrd were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Visit the Archive's Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute. "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man"
- *Ronnie Van Zant
- plane crash in Mississippi (1977); he was 29. Ronnie was the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd. Guitarist Steve Gaines, Steve's sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, and manager Dean Kilpatrick were also killed. Gary Rossington, Allen Collins (see 1990), Billy Powell (see 2009), Artimus Pyle and Leon Wilkeson (see 2001) survived, but not without serious injuries. Lynyrd Skynyrd were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2006. Visit the Archive's Lynyrd Skynyrd Tribute. "Free Bird," "Sweet Home Alabama," "Gimme Three Steps," "Simple Man"
- Dino Martin, Jr.
- (Dean Paul Martin, Jr.), plane crash. He was 35. Member of Dino, Desi and Billy and son of legendary Rat Packer, Dean Martin. Junior died when the Air National Guard jet he was piloting crashed into a mountain in 1987. "I'm a Fool," "Not The Lovin' Kind"
- Glenn Miller
- (Alton Glenn Miller), his plane disappeared on a flight from England to France in 1944. Popular leader of The Glenn Miller Orchestra and The Army Air Force Band. Also a former member of the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra (see Tommy, 1956 and Jimmy, 1957). It is speculated that Miller's plane was accidentally shot down by a US bomber. He was 40. "In the Mood," "Moonlight Serenade"
- *Rick Nelson
- (Eric Hilliard Nelson), plane crash in 1985; he was 45. Son of TV's "Ozzie and Harriet" and father of Matthew and Gunnar (of the early Nineties band, Nelson). Nelson's plane, which was previously owned by fellow rocker Jerry Lee Lewis, made an emergency landing after the pilot detected smoke in the cockpit. All survived the landing, but the craft then burst into flames, killing Nelson, his fiancee, and his band (the pilot and co-pilot survived). The cause was cited as faulty heater wiring. Read the National Transportation Safety Board Report, with photos of the crash site/wreckage. Also read about Nelson's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly. Nelson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "Travelin' Man," "Hello Mary Lou"
- Passion Fruit
- crash of Crossair Flight 3597 in 2001. Passion Fruit, a Euro-dance trio, scored several international hits, the biggest being 1999's "The Rigga-Ding-Dong-Song."After a performance in Berlin, the group was flying to Zurich, when the pilot descended below the minimum descent altitude and crashed into a hill in Bassersdorf, Switzerland, killing 24 of the 33 people on board. Debby St. Marteen survived; Nathalie van het Ende (age 25) and Maria Serrano-Serrano (age 27) were killed, along with Melanie Thornton of the dance group La Bouche. Proceeds from Passion Fruit's posthumous single, "I'm Dreaming of a. . .Winter Wonderland" went to families of the crash victims.
- The Reba McEntire Band
- On 15 March 1991, country crooner Reba McEntire finished a show in California. While she decided to stay the night in San Diego, her band piled into two Hawker-Siddeley planes destined for Indiana. Unfortunatley, one of the aircraft slammed into a mountain moments after take-off. On board were Chris Autin (vocals, guitar, mandolin), age 27; Kirk Capello (keyboards), age 28; Joey Cigainero (synthesizer), age 27; Paula Kaye Evans (vocals), age 33; Terry Jackson (bass), age 28; Tony Saputo (drums), age 34; Michael Thomas (guitar), age 34; Jim Hammond (road manager), age 40; and two others, including the pilot. View the National Transportation and Safety Board report which includes photos of the musicians. McEntire dedicated her 1991 album, From My Broken Heart, to the fallen musicians.
- *Otis Redding
- drowned and/or froze to death when his plane crashed into Lake Monona in Wisconsin during 1967; he was 26. All but one member of Redding's backing band, The Bar-Kays, also perished. Redding was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. Visit the Archive's Tribute to Otis Redding. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" released posthumously, "These Arms of Mine," "Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)," "That's How Strong My Love Is"
- #Jim Reeves
- plane crash in 1964. He was 40. Reeves was a popular country artist who enjoyed cross-over success. He and his manager, Dean Manuel, were killed when the small aircraft Reeves was piloting crashed during a thunderstorm near Nashville. He had been a pallbearer at singer Jack Anglin's funeral, 18 months earlier (see 1963). Reeves was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967 and the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998. "He'll Have To Go," "Welcome to My World," "Am I Losing You," "Adios Amigo" Jim Reeves is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens, Goodlettsville, Tennessee (along with Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins - see 1963). The inscription reads, "If I, a lowly singer, dry one tear, or soothe one humble human heart in pain, then my homely verse to God is dear, and not one stanza has been sung in vain."
- Randy Rhoads
- (Randall William Rhoads), airplane crash in 1982. Andrew Aycock, the band's tourbus driver, took Rhoads and Rachel Youngblood up in a 1955 Beechcraft Bonanza F-35 for kicks, buzzing the band's tour bus. The plane's wing clipped the v ehicle and crashed into a nearby house. All three were killed; Rhoads was 25. He founded Quiet Riot with Kevin DuBrow (see 2007) and later gained celebrity as Ozzy Osbourne’s lead guitarist. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #85). "Crazy Train," "Revelation (Mother Earth)," "Suicide Solution"
- Kyu Sakamoto
- (Hisashi Oshima), plane crash in 1985. He was 43. Sakamoto was the first Japanese artist to have a number one hit in the United States with "Sukiyaki" (1963). He was ranked number 18 in a list of Japan's top 100 influential musicians by HMV. Sakamoto was killed when JAL Flight 123 lost pieces of its tail sections, spiraled downward for 30 minutes, and crashed on a thickly wooded mountain about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo. Five hundred and twenty people were killed and four were injured in the worst single airplane disaster in aviation history. You can read a detailed account of the crash with photos of the aircraft - during breakup - and Sakamoto's final resting place.
- Jud Strunk
- plane crash in 1981. He was 45. Strunk appeared on "Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In," "Hee-Haw," "Bewitched," and "The Merv Griffin Show. "Strunk was killed when he crashed his 1941 PT 19 at the Carrabassett Valley Airport in Maine. "Daisy A Day"
- Melanie Thornton
- crash of Crossair Flight 3597 in 2001. Thornton was the singer for dance group, La Bouche. While flying from Berlin to Zurich, the pilot descended below the minimum descent altitude and crashed into a hill in Bassersdorf, Switzerland, killing 24 of the 33 people on board. Thornton, along with Nathalie van het Ende and Maria Serrano-Serrano of the group, Passion Fruit, were killed. Thornton was 34. "Be My Lover," "Sweet Dreams," "Fallin' In Love," "I Love To Love"
- *Ritchie Valens
- (Richard Steven Valenzuela), plane crash that also killed Buddy Holly and "The Big Bopper" in 1959; Valens was 17. Visit the Archive's Tribute to Rock's Royal Trinity. Valens was the first person to chart with a song in Spanish, with "La Bamba." He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2001 and he has also been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. (Read about the connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.) "Come On, Let's Go," "Oh, Donna," "We Belong Together," "Ooh, My Head"
- ^Stevie Ray Vaughan
- helicopter crash into a fog-shrouded, man-made ski hill in 1990. A guitar legend; he was 35. He was nominated for two and won two Grammy Awards. In 2003, Rolling Stone Magazine named Vaughan one of greatest guitarist of all time (ranking number 7). Vaughan was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000. View the National Transportation and Safety Board report on Stevie Ray Vaughan's helicopter crash. "Pride and Joy," "Cold Shot," "Tight Rope"
Aaliyah; the plane wreckage.
The Bar-Kays with Otis Redding (seated at right).
J. P. Richardson - "The Big Bopper"
The band, Chase.
Lynyrd Skynyrd, circa 1977:
Standing, back: Allen Collins (d. 1990).
Middle row: Leon Wilkeson (d. 2001), Billy Powell (d. 2009), Artimus Pyle, Gary Rossington, Steve Gaines (d. 1977).
Sitting: Ronnie Van Zant (d. 1977).
Ronnie Van Zant
Jim Reeves; Reeves's memorial.
Stevie Ray Vaughan; memorial in Austin, Texas.