Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

The Death of Rock: The Chronology

1917 - The Forties

Artists are listed alphabetically within year of demise. Entries are available for the following years. Feel free to scroll, or click the year and skip to those entries.

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.

1917

Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin
dementia paralytica, the result of suffering most of his life with syphilis. He was 49. The "King of Ragtime" composed "Treemonisha," the first grand opera by an African American. In 1973, his music was featured in the film, "The Sting," which won an Academy Award for its score. In 1976, Joplin was awarded a citation for his contributions to American music. "Maple Leaf Rag," "The Entertainer"

1929

^Blind Lemon Jefferson
(Lemon Henry Jefferson), possibly hypothermia, possibly a heart attack. Jefferson was one of the earliest blues artists to record, recording over a hundred titles between 1926-1929. Reports about his death are conflicting; the commonly accepted story has Jefferson freezing to death in a Chicago snowstorm. Another version states that during a snowstorm, he suffered a heart attack while in his car and was abandoned on the street by his driver. No death certificate has ever been found. Jefferson was between 32 and 37 years old. Jefferson was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980. "Matchbox Blues," "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," "Easy Rider Blues," "Jack O'Diamonds"

1931

Bix Beiderbecke

Bix Beiderbecke
(Leon Beiderbecke), alcoholic seizure. 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.

1935

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel

Carlos Gardel
plane crash. 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"

1937

George Gershwin

George Gershwin

George Gershwin
brain tumor. He was 38. Astounding American composer who won a Pulitzer for the musical comedy "Of Thee I Sing." "Rhapsody in Blue," "An American in Paris," "Porgy and Bess"

Bessie Smith

"Empress of the Blues," Bessie Smith

*^Bessie Smith
automobile accident; she was 43. "Empress of the Blues," it is believed she was coached by "Mother of the Blues," Ma Rainey (see 1939). Two versions circulate regarding Smith's death. The first states that Smith's vehicle slammed into a parked truck. A doctor saw the accident and stopped to help the singer, whose arm was nearly severed. Before he could move her to his vehicle, hers was struck by another car. Smith died later that day from her injuries. Another version has Smith's vehicle being hit head-on by a truck. Her arm was practically severed, but she was denied care at several "whites-only" hospitals. When she finally arrived at a "coloreds-only" hospital she had lost too much blood and died. She lay in an unmarked grave until 1970, when Janis Joplin (see 1971) and Juanita Green, Smith’s former maid and later a chapter-head of the NAACP, donated money for a headstone. Smith was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. "Down Hearted Blues," "Backwater Blues," "St. Louis Blues"

1938

Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

*^Robert Johnson
(Robert Leroy Johnson), poisoned; he was 27. Father of the Blues, "King of the Delta Blues". Legend has that Johnson was living in Mississippi with no outstanding talent for guitar playing, but a strong desire to master the blues. He took his guitar to a crossroads at midnight, where he was met by a mysterious man who took the guitar and tuned it. Thereafter, Johnson possessed the unparalleled ability to play blues guitar. He had sold his soul to the devil in order to be the greatest bluesman. Johnson was infamous for his womanizing; while in Mississippi, he was supposedly given a bottle of whisky that had been poisoned by a jealous husband. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Johnson one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #5). He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. He was also honored on a United States postage stamp. "Crossroads," "I Think I'll Dust My Broom" "Hellhound on My Trail"

1939

Ma Rainey

Ma Rainey

*^Ma Rainey
(Gertrude Pridgett), heart attack at the age of 53. Rainey was "Mother of the Blues." She was the first woman to incorporate blues into vaudeville, minstrel and tent shows, and it is believed that she coached a young Bessie Smith (see 1937) while touring with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. Rainey was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. "C.C. Rider," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "Broken Hearted Blues"

1941

Jelly Roll Morton

Jelly Roll Morton

*Jelly Roll Morton
(Ferdinand Joseph Lematt), heart trouble and asthma. He was 50. Morton, who started his career playing in whorehouses, was arguably the first great jazz pianist. Prior to his success as a musician, he was employed as a gambler, pool shark, vaudeville comedian, and pimp. He attributed his failing health to a voodoo curse. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998. "Original Jelly Roll Blues," "Dead Man Blues," "Black Bottom Stomp," "Red Hot Pepper"

1943

Fats Waller
(Thomas Wright Waller), pneumonia. He was 39. Waller was a legendary jazz pianist and composer. Two of his compositions, "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" are in the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, "Ain't Misbehavin'" was also listed in the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

1944

*Orville "Hoppy" Jones
brain hemorrage. He was 39. Jones was the bass vocalist for the vocal quartet, The Ink Spots. According to a letter to the editor of "Good Old Days Magazine" (June 2009), a couple helped some stranded motorists near Seneca, Kansas. As a thank you, the group gave the couple a photo of themselves - The Ink Spots. A few weeks later, a color television arrived, courtesy of the vocal group. The Ink Spots were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999. "If I Didn't Care," "I Don't Want to Set the World On Fire," "Maybe"

Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller

Glenn Miller
(Alton Glenn Miller), his plane disappeared on a flight from England to France. 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"

1948

Vernon Dalhart space saver Vernon Dalhart's grave

Vernon Dalhart and photo I took at his grave.

#Vernon Dalhart
(Marion Try Slaughter, Sr.), succumbed to his second heart attack; he was 65. Dalhart was a pioneering country musician. In the 1920's he released "Wreck of the Old 97", which was the best-selling single in its time, and was the biggest-selling non-holiday record in the first seventy years of recorded music. "The Prisoner's Song" was estimated to be a #1 hit for 12 weeks in 1925-26. His lifetime recording sales is estimated at 70 million copies. In 1998, "The Prisoner's Song" was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the Century. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970, into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and into the Gennett Records Walk of Fame in 2007. (Technically, Dalhart is too old for inclusion in The Archive, but he has an entry because of his status as a Country pioneer and because he worked and was buried in my hometown.)