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The Death of Rock: The Chronology

The Sixties

Artists are listed alphabetically within year of demise. Feel free to scroll, or click the year you wish to view and skip ahead.

Key

Some 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.

1960

Jesse Belvin

Jesse Belvin

Jesse Belvin
car accident - suspected murder. He was 27. Belvin was a soulful crooner, marketed as "the black Elvis" to a still-segregated South. While leaving his first integrated concert, in Little Rock, Belvin's car was involved in a head-on collision. One of the first state troopers on the scene stated that both of the rear tires on the black cadillac had been "obviously tampered with." Belvin and his driver died at the scene (Hope, AR); his wife Jo Ann succumbed to her injuries at the hospital. Belvin was co-author of The Penguins' hit, "Earth Angel," and his recording of "Goodnight My Love" was the closing theme for Alan Freed's rock & roll radio show for several years. Visit Jesse Belvin's Tribute, which expands on his his career and offers other suspicious details surrounding his death.

Eddie Cochran space saver Cochran's Wreck

Eddie Cochran; Cochran's wreck.

*Eddie Cochran
(Raymond Edward Cochran), car accident; he was 22. Fellow rocker Gene Vincent (see 1971), and several others were injured when their taxi skidded into a lamppost. Cochran was thrown through the windshield and survived his brain injuries less than a day. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #84). Cochran was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and he is a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Read about Cochran's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly. "Summertime Blues," "Sittin' in the Balcony," "Three Steps to Heaven" (posthumous release)

Johnny Horton
(John Gale Horton), automobile crash; he was 35. Country singer whose song, "The Battle of New Orleans" was a huge hit in 1959; it won the 1960 Grammy for Best Country & Western Recording and the Grammy Hall of Fame Award. In 2001, the song was named one of the "Songs of the Century." In 1960, Horton was driving home from the Austin Skylight Club when his car was struck head-on by a drunk driver. Ironically, this was also the last place Hank Williams played before his alcohol-related death in 1953 (and both musicians died in Cadillacs). Horton had married Williams's widow, Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar. He was returning from a performance when he heard on the radio about Hank Williams's death, on Highway 79 going through Milano, Texas - the same town where Horton would have his fatal accident seven years later. Horton was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and was posthumously inducted into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in Louisiana. "Sink the Bismarck," "North to Alaska"

1961

(Rocco) Scott LaFaro
automobile accident. LaFaro was an influential jazz bassist and worked with such luminaries as Chet Baker (see 1988), Benny Goodman, Percy Heath, and Bill Evans. LaFaro was 25 at the time of his death. "Bohemia After Dark," "Cherokee," "Scene is Clean"

"Stick" McGhee
(Granville "Stick" McGhee), lung cancer. McGhee was an American guitarist (Walter "Brownie" McGhee's younger brother) best known for "Drinkin' Wine, Spo-Dee-O-Dee", later covered by Jerry Lee Lewis. The alcoholic fruit drink "spodi" supposedly takes its name from the song. He earned the nickname "Stick" by pushing his polio-stricken older brother, "Brownie" (died 1996, age 80; stomach cancer), on a cart that he propelled with a stick. "Drinkin' Wine," first recorded in 1947 and remade in 1949, became a huge R&B hit for "Stick." He died at the age of 44. "Tennessee Waltz Blues," "Jungle Juice," "Double Crossin' Liquor," "Six to Eight," and "Head Happy with Wine."

1962

Ronnie Smith
suicide. Smith was lead vocalist for the Poor Boys, which included drummer Carl Bunch. Bunch replaced Buddy Holly's regular drummer on the ill-fated Winter Dance Party tour (see 1959). (Waylon Jennings and Tommy Allsup substituted for Holly's regular bassist and guitarist, respectively.) After the fatal plane crash, Ronnie Smith replaced Holly as vocalist on the remainder of the tour. Smith, Bunch, Jennings, and Allsup later formed the Jitters. In 1962, Smith was committed to a state hospital for drug abuse; he hanged himself in one of the bathrooms. His age at the time of his death was approximately 24. Read about Smith's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.

Stuart Sutcliffe
cerebral hemorrhage. Early member of The Beatles, famous for quitting right before their massive popularity so he could spend time with his girlfriend. Sutcliffe was 21. "Hard Day's Night, "Eight Days a Week"

1963

Jack Anglin
car accident. He was 5 days shy of his 47th birthday. Anglin was a member of country music's Anglin Brothers, who are members of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. He later teamed up with his brother-in-law, forming Johnnie and Jack. Anglin was killed in a car crash while heading to the funeral of singer Patsy Cline (also 1963). Singer Jim Reeves (see 1964) was a pallbearer at Anglin's funeral. With the Anglin Brothers: "They Are All Going Home But One" With Johnnie and Jack: "Poison Love," "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight, "Stop the World and Let Me Off"

Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline

#Patsy Cline
(Virginia Patterson Hensley), plane crash in Tennessee; 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

Cowboy Copas

Cowboy Copas
(Lloyd Estel Copas), "The Oklahoma Cowboy," plane crash in Tennessee. 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)

Hawkshaw Hawkins

Hawkshaw Hawkins

Hawkshaw Hawkins
Hawkshaw Hawkins (Harold Franklin Hawkins), plane crash in Tennessee. 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"

Dinah Washington

Dinah Washington

*^Dinah Washington
(Ruth Jones), mixed alcohol and pills. 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)

1964

David Box
(Harold David Box), plane crash; 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"

Johnny Burnette
boating accident. Johnny, along with his brother, Dorsey (see 1979), enjoyed success as a teen-idol crooner during the early 1960s. Johnny was boating after dark when a cabin cruiser rammed his unlit fishing boat. The impact threw him from the boat and he drowned. He was 30. (Johnny's son, Rocky, would have a hit in 1980 with "Tired Of Toein' The Line.") Burnette was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. "Dreamin'," "You're Sixteen," "Little Boy Sad," "God, Country and My Baby"

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

*Sam Cooke
murdered. Member of the gospel group, the Soul Stirrers, and wildly successful solo artist. Cooke was staying in a LA motel with a woman he had picked up. He realized his money and clothes were stolen and assumed the manageress of the motel was in on the scam. Cooke, half-naked, accosted her. She brandished a gun and a struggle ensued. Cooke was fatally shot; he was 33. Over 200,000 fans payed their respects in Chicago. Cooke was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 1986; the Soul Stirrers were inducted in 1989. Visit Sam Cooke's Tribute for details about his career and suspicious death. "You Send Me," "Twisting the Night Away," "Chain Gang," "Bring It On Home"

*Rudy Lewis
drug overdose. 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.

Jim Reeves space saver Reeves's memorial

Jim Reeves; Reeves's memorial.

#Jim Reeves
plane crash; 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. (Anglin was killed in a car crash on his way to Patsy Cline's funeral; she perished in a plane crash - with Cowboy Cowpas, Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cline's manager/Copas's son-in-law, Randy Hughes - leaving a benefit for the widow of "Cactus" Jack Call, who died in an automobile accident - all in 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, Randy Hughes and Jack Anglin). The inscription on his memorial 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."

1965

Bill Black
brain tumor. He was 39. Black backed Elvis Presley (see 1977) before forming Bill Black's Combo and placing eight hits in the US Top 40. "White Silver Sands," "Josephine," "Smokie - Part 2"

Nat

Nat "King" Cole

*Nat "King" Cole
(Nathaniel Adams Cole), lung cancer. He was 45. Cole sang and hosted a weekly variety show, The Nat King Cole Show, on NBC in 1957. It lasted for 64 episodes; Cole was the first black man to host a program on televison. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Alabama Hall of Fame in 1985. Cole was also named an Icon and awarded the Jay McShann Lifetime Achievement Award from the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 2005. "Unforgettable," "Mona Lisa"

Charles Fizer
shot by the National Guard during the Watts Riots. He was 24. Fizer was a member of the vocal quaret, The Olympics. Friday, the 13th of August, marked the third day of rioting in the Watts neighbordhood of Los Angeles. President Lyndon B. Johnson had sent in the National Guard to quell the hostilities. Thirty-four people would be killed and over 1,000 injured before the violence ceased. Fizer was on his way to rehearsal on the 13th when he was struck and killed by a National Guard bullet. Also killed was the sister of Melvin King, who had replaced Fizer in The Olympics for a year while Fizer served a jail sentence for drug possession. King, devastated by the loss of his sister, played only one more show with the group. He was replaced by Mack Starr, who was killed in a motorcylce accident (see 1981). "Western Movies" (which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100), "(Baby) Hully Gully," "Big Boy Pete," "Good Lovin'"

Eddie Sulik

Eddie Sulik

Eddie Sulik
car crash; he was 36. Sulik was a songwriter, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the rockabilly duo the Echoes. The Echoes appeared with perfomers like Johnny Burnette (see 1964), Johnny Tillotson, and the Temptations. In 1960, the Echoes embarked on a brief tour with the Miss Universe Pageants, and appeared on radio and TV. Sulik went solo in 1961, garnering the attention of record executive Archie Bleyer. Bleyer invited Sulik to his office in New York City two weeks before Christmas, 1965; Chet Atkins was going to be in town. Sulik was killed in a car accident just hours before the meeting. Sulik was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Vist The Archive's Tribute to Eddie Sulik. "Bye-Bye My Baby," "Ectasy," "Bounty Hunter Dale," "Anna Marie"

1966

Bobby Fuller

Bobby Fuller

Bobby Fuller
(Robert Gaston Fuller), murdered in 1966. Leader of the Bobby Fuller Four. Their biggest hit, "I Fought the Law," was penned by Sonny Curtis of Buddy Holly's Crickets. (Read about Fuller's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly.) Fuller's body was found in his car at his house. He had been severely beaten, one of his right fingers was broken, and he was drenched in gasoline. Friends stated that Fuller had recently been harassed by local mobsters, possibly in connection with a woman. But the police judged his death a suicide. His death certificate states the causes of demise as asphyxia and inhalation of gasoline, ruled as an "accident." Fuller was 23. Vist The Archive's Tribute to Bobby Fuller."I Fought the Law," "Love's Made a Fool of You," "Never to Be Forgotten"

Leroy Griffin
incinerated. Griffin was a member of The Nutmegs, a doo-wop/R&B vocal group. Griffin returned to a plant where he occasionally worked and had an argument with a colleague. His body was later found in one of the factory's huge furnaces. He was 32. (Fellow Nutmeg, Leroy McNeil, was also murdered. See 1975.) "Story Untold," "Ship of Love"

1967

The Bar-Kays

The Bar-Kays with Otis Redding (seated at right).

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. 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"

John Coltrane

John Coltrane

John Coltrane
liver cancer at age 40. Coltrane was once a member of Miles Davis's group, and is arguably the greatest jazz saxophonist on record. It was rumoured that his liver problems were caused by a lengthy addiction to alcohol and heroin. In 1965, Coltrane was inducted into the Down Beat Magazine Jazz Hall of Fame, and he was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992. In 2007, he was awarded a special citation by the Pulitzer Prize Committee. His legendary albums include My Favorite Things, Live at the Village Vanguard, and A Love Supreme.

Otis Redding

Otis Redding

*Otis Redding
drowned and/or froze to death when his plane crashed into Lake Monona in Wisconsin; 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"

Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie

*Woody Guthrie
(Woodrow Wilson Guthrie), Huntington's Chorea; 1967. Folk hero. Wrote over 1000 songs, folksy-protest ballads. By the mid-1940s, Guthrie began experiencing bouts of depression and disorientation that signaled the onset of Huntington's Chorea (a genetic disorder that had afflicted his mother). His health slowly deteriorated and he was eventually confined to hospitals. He died at the age of 55, leaving behind 3 wives and eight children, including folk singer Arlo Guthrie. Woody Guthrie was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1988. He was honored again in 1996 with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame American Music Masters Series. In 1997, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. "This Land is Your Land," "Dust Bowl Refugees," "So Long, It's Been Good to Know You," "Grand Coulee Dam"

1968

Frankie Lymon

Frankie Lymon

*Frankie Lymon
heroin overdose at age 25. 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?"

Malcolm Hale
carbon-monoxide poisoning. (Some sources site bronchopneumonia as the cause of death.) He was 27. Hale was the lead guitarist for Spanky and Our Gang. He had gone to bed drunk at a girlfriend's, and even though the band called her to wake him, she refused. Twenty-eight hours later, she discovered that he was dead. Hale died of carbon monoxide poisoning, the result of a faulty space heater. He was 27. "Sunday Will Never Be the Same," "Like to Get to Know You," "Lazy Day"

Nervous Norvus
(James Drake), liver failure. He was 56. Norvus reached #8 with the 1956 novelty tune, "Transfusion."

Luther Perkins
house fire. He was 40. Perkins was a guitarist with the Tennessee Three, Johnny Cash's backing band. He is credited with creating Cash's signature "boom-chicka-boom" music style. On 3 August 1968, Perkins fell asleep in his living room with a lit cigarette. His daughter awoke to find the room engulfed in flames and her father collapsed by the door. He was rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries two days later. He is buried near Johnny and June Carter Cash. (Johnny Cash died of complications from diabetes at the age of 71 in 2003.) Luther Perkins was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. With Johnny Cash: "Folsom Prison Blues," "Ring of Fire," "In the Jailhouse Now," "I Walk the Line"

1969

Tommy Edwards
cerebral aneurysm. He was 47. Edwards had the #22 hit song of the decade (1950s), with "All In The Game." ("Many a tear have to fall, but it's all in the game...")

Judy Garland

Judy Garland

Judy Garland
(Frances Ethel Gumm), barbituate overdose; 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"

Brian Jones

Brian Jones

*Brian Jones
(Lewis Brian Hopkins-Jones), drowned. He was 27. Jones was a co-founder of the Rolling Stones, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. Speculation remains that Jones may have been murdered. For the whole story, and to read about the renewed investigation into his death in August of 2009, follow this link. You can also read about Jones's conncetion to the Curse of 27. "Satisfaction," "Red Door," "Sympathy for the Devil"