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The Death of Rock: Motor Vehicle Accidents

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.

Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers Band circa 1970: Jai Johanny Johanson ("Jaimoe"), Berry Oakley (d. 1972),

Duane Allman (d. 1971), Butch Trucks (d. 2017), Gregg Allman (d. 2017), and Dickey Betts

*Duane Allman
(Howard Duane Allman), motorcycle accident; 1971. He was 24. Fellow band mate, Berry Oakley, would die under similar circumstances a year later, only a few blocks away. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named Allman one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #2). Allman was the guitarist for the Allman Brothers Band, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. "Ramblin' Man," "Midnight Rider," "Melissa"

Jack Anglin
car accident in 1963. 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"

Stiv Bators
(Stivin Bator), struck by a car; 1990. Bators was a staple of the late ‘70s-early‘80s punk scene and leader of The Dead Boys. He was hit by a car on the way to see his girlfriend, and underestimating the extent of his injuries, refused medical attention. He died later that night in his sleep. Bators was 40. "Sonic Reducer

Chris Bell
automobile crash in 1978; it is speculated that Bell may have been high when he drove straight into a telephone pole. Singer and guitarist for Big Star, which he co-founded with Alex Chilton (heart attack, 2010) and Andy Hummel (cancer, 2010). He was 27. "Thirteen," "September Gurls," "I Am the Cosmos" (as a solo artist)

Jesse Belvin and wife, Jo Ann

Jesse Belvin and wife, Jo Ann

Jesse Belvin
Jesse Belvin, car accident - suspected murder - in 1960. 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.

T.Rex

One version of T.Rex: Bill Legend, Mickey Finn (d. 2003), singer Marc Bolan (d. 1977), and Steve Currie (d. 1981).

*Marc Bolan
(Marc Feld), car accident in 1977. T-Rex; he was 29. Bolan and his girlfriend Gloria Jones were out clubbing when she crashed their car into a tree. Jones was seriously injured; Bolan died. Four other members of T-Rex, Steve Peregrin Took (see 1980) and Steve Currie (see 1981), Mickey Finn (see 2003), and "Dino" Dines (see 2004) would also die prematurely. T-Rex was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. Read about Bolan's connection to the Curse of Buddy Holly. "Bang a Gong (Get it On), "Hot Love, "Telegram Sam," "Metal Guru"

D. Boon
(Dennes Dale Boon), van accident in 1985. Boon was the guitarist for the Minutemen. On a trip to Arizona, Boon's girlfriend fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed their van. Boon was ejected form the vehicle and broke his neck, killing him instantly. He was 27. In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the greatest guitarists of all time (ranking #89). Album: Double Nickels on the Dime

Cliff Burton

Cliff Burton

*Cliff Burton
tour bus accident in Sweden (1986); he was 25. Burton was the bassist for Metallica. He "won his particular bunk for that night. When their tourbus skidded off the road Burton was thrown out the window. The bus then flipped over and landed on him. Burton was inducted with Metallica into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. "One, "Fade to Black," "Enter Sandman"

Tommy Caldwell
auto accident in 1980; he was 30. Bassist for The Marshall Tucker Band. Toy Caldwell's (see 1993) brother. "Can't You See, "Heard It In A Love Song, "Ramblin'

Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin

Harry Chapin
(Harry Forster Chapin), car accident, possibly due to a heart attack suffered while driving; he was 37. On 16 July 1981, Chapin was driving to a free concert at which he was performing, in Eisenhower Park, East Meadow, New York. He was traveling in the left lane on the Long Island Expressway at about 65 miles per hour when he put on the car's hazard lights, dropped to about 15 miles per hour, and veered into the center lane, nearly colliding with another car. He then swerved left, and back to the right, directly in front of a tractor trailer, which slammed into the rear of Chapin's blue 1975 Volkswagen Rabbit, rupturing the fuel tank. The driver of the truck and a passerby pulled Chapin out of the burning car through the window, but he did not survive the ordeal. The official cause of death is "cardiac arrest," but it is unclear whether it was the cause or the result of the auto accident. In 1987, Chapin was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his philanthropic work. (The Congressional Gold Medal, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the highest civilian award in the United States.) "Cat's in the Cradle," "Taxi"

Chi Cheng
complications from a 2008 car accident; he was 42. Cheng was the bassist for the Grammy-winning Deftones. He was involved in an automobile accident, colliding with another car, and was ejected from the vehicle (he wasn't wearing a seatbelt). He was in a coma until 2009, when it was reported that he was in a "semi-conscious state". He remained that way until he died of cardiac arrest in 2013. "Elite," "Change (In the House of Flies)," "Minerva"

Eddie Cochran space saver Cochran's Wreck

Eddie Cochran; Cochran's wreck.

*Eddie Cochran

(Raymond Edward Cochran), car accident in 1960; 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)

T.Rex

One version of T.Rex: Bill Legend, Mickey Finn (d. 2003),

singer Marc Bolan (d. 1977), and Steve Currie (d. 1981).

*Steve Currie
car accident in Portugal in 1981. He was 34. Currie was the bassist for T. Rex. He was one of five band members to die prematurely (see Marc Bolan, 1977; Steve Peregrin Took, 1980; Mickey Finn, 2003; and "Dino" Dines, 2004). T-Rex was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. "Bang a Gong (Get it On), "Hot Love, "Telegram Sam," "Metal Guru"

Pete de Freitas

Echo and the Bunnymen: Pete de Freitas (bottom)

Pete de Freitas
(Pete Louis Vincent de Freitas), motorcycle accident in Staffordshire, England (1989). He was 27. De Freitas was on the A51 when an elderly woman pulled out onto the main road in front of him. He was drummer for Echo and the Bunnymen. (Thanks to Southpaw for the information.) "Over the Wall," "Heaven Up Here, "All My Colours," "The Killing Moon"

Tony Destra
car accident in 1987. Cinderella's founding drummer. He was asked to leave just prior to their mainstream breakthrough. He then formed Britny Fox, but he was killed right before recording the Britny Fox debut. He was 33. Cinderella: "Don't Know What You Got 'Til It's Gone" Britny Fox: "Girlschool," "Long Way to Love"

Razzle Dingley

"Razzle" Dingley

Nicholas "Razzle" Dingley
automobile accident in 1984; he was 24. Drummer for Eighties band Hanoi Rocks. Dingley accompanied a drunk Vince Neil (singer for Motley Crue) on a beer run; Neil crashed his car and Razzle was killed. (Neil served 30 days in jail for vehicular manslaughter.) "Up Around the Bend," "Underwater World," "I Can't Get It"

Jerry Edmonton
(Jerry McCrohan), automobile crash (1993); he was 47. Drummer Edmonton, with bassist Rushton Moreve, (see 1981) was a co-founder of Steppenwolf. "Magic Carpet Ride," "Born to Be Wild"

Falco

Falco

Falco
(Johann "Hans" Holzel), car collision in 1998. Austrian rock singer with several international hits in the 1980s, most notably, "Rock Me Amadeus. As he was pulling onto a highway in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, a passenger bus struck the side of his Mitsubishi Pajero. He sustained severe head injuries and died at Puerto Plata Hospial. Falco was 40. For additional information, continue on to Falco's Tribute. "Vienna Calling," "Der Kommissar," "Jeanny"

*Tommy Gaither
car accident in 1950. 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"

*Keith Godchaux
car accident in 1980; he was 32. Keyboardist for the Grateful Dead, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. Godchaux was leaving a toll plaza and drove into the back of a flatbed truck. He was the second of four Grateful Dead keyboardists to die prematurely. Godchaux replaced Ron "Pigpen" McKernan (see 1973) and was succeeded by Brent Mydland (see 1990) and Vince Welnick (see 2006). "Truckin'," "St. Stephen," "Casey Jones," "Friend of the Devil"

Mary Hansen
hit by a truck in 2002. She was 36. Hansen was a member of the British alternative group, Stereolab. She was also a member of the band Schema, with members of the Seattle-based band, Hovercraft. Hansen was killed when she was struck by a truck while cycling around London. She appeared on six Stereolab albums, from 1993's Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements to 2001's Sound-Dust.

Johnny Horton
(John Gale Horton), automobile crash in 1960; 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"

Tim Kelly
(Timothy Patrick Kelly), head-on collision with an 18-wheeler, 1998. He was 35. Kelly was the guitarist for '90s metal band, Slaughter. "Up All Night," "Fly to the Angels," "Streets of Broken Hearts"

(Rocco) Scott LaFaro
automobile accident in 1961. 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"

Brent Liles
hit by a truck while bicycling (2007). He was 43. Liles was the bassist for the '80s punk outfit, Social Distortion, from 1981-1983. He later played with other punk acts, including Agent Orange. From Social Distortion's Mommy's Little Monster: "It Wasn't a Pretty Picture," "Another State of Mind," "Moral Threat"

Lisa Lopes space saver Crash site

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes; the wreckage.

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes

car crash in 2002 in Honduras. Lopes was one third of the R&B trio, TLC, considered the best-selling girl group of all time. "Left Eye was spending a month in Honduras, when several days before the end of her stay, she said she felt she was being "chased" by a spirit. A vehicle she was riding in struck and killed a young boy - Lopes thought it was a mistake on the spirit's part; the boy's last name was Lopes. A few days later she was driving an SUV and the vehicle rolled. Nine people were involved; Lopes, who reportedly was wearing her seat belt, was the only fatality. She was 30. "Baby, Baby, Baby, "Ain't Too Proud to Beg, "Scrubs, "Unpretty, "Waterfalls"

Mitch Lucker
motorcycle crash. Lucker was the lead singer of metal band, Suicide Silence. He lost contorl of his motorcycle on Halloween night 2012, crashing into a light pole; he died the following day of his injuries. Lucker was 28. Suicide Silence released three albums: The Cleansing, No Time to Bleed and The Black Crown.

Jacob "Killer" Miller
car crash in Kingston, Jamaica; he was 27. Miller was an original member of the reggae group, Inner Circle. They initially gained popularity by covering US pop hits. In later years, the group had hits with "Bad Boys," the theme to the television show, COPS, and "Sweat (A La La La La Long)." At the time of Miller's death in 1980, Inner Circle were preparing for a tour with Bob Marley and the Wailers (see 1981). Side note: Miller was the uncle of British R&B singer, Maxi Priest ("Close to You," "Set the Night to Music" with Roberta Flack).

Dave Matthews Band

The Dave Matthews Band: Leroi Moore, Boyd Tinsley,

Dave Matthews, Carter Beauford, and Stefan Lessard.

Leroi Moore
complications from an ATV (All-Terrain Vehicle) accident in 2008. He was 46. Moore was the saxophonist and a founding member of the Dave Matthews Band. "Ants Marching," "Crash," "What Would You Say," "Satellite"

Rushton Moreve
(John Russell Morgan), automobile crash in 1981; he was 33. Bassist Moreve, with drummer Jerry Edmonton, (see 1993) was a co-founder of Steppenwolf. "Magic Carpet Ride," "Born to Be Wild"

Alex Nelson
automobile accident in 2004. He was 41. Nelson was guitarist for '80s hair band, Lizzy Borden. "Me Against The World," "American Metal," "Master Of Disguise"

Allman Brothers

The Allman Brothers Band circa 1970: Jai Johanny Johanson ("Jaimoe"), Berry Oakley (d. 1972),

Duane Allman (d. 1971), Butch Trucks (d. 2017), Gregg Allman (d. 2017), and Dickey Betts

*Berry Oakley
(Raymond Berry Oakley), motorcycle accident in 1972; he was 24. Oakley played bass in the Allman Brothers Band, who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. His motorcycle accident eerily mirrored that of Duane Allman a year before, and occurred only a few blocks away. Oakley refused medical treatment at the scene of the accident and later died from a fractured skull and brain hemorrhage. Oakley was replaced by Lamar Williams (see 1983), who was then replaced by Allen Woody (see 2000). "Ramblin' Man," "Midnight Rider," "Melissa"

Criss Oliva
struck head-on by a drunk driver in 1993; Oliva was 30. Oliva was the guitarist for the metal outfit, Savatage. The driver who was responsible for the accident was eventually convicted of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to five years in prison (he served 18 months), and ten years' probation. "Hall of the Mountain King," "Prelude to Madness," "Price You Pay"

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.

Audie Pitre
(Audie Thomas Pitre), 26-year-old bassist and vocalist for Acid Bath and founder/bassist for Shrum. Shrum featured two bassists (instead of the standard bassist-guitarist combination). In 1997, Pitre, his parents and his brother, Kelly, were riding on the Bourg-Larose Highway in Louisiana when their vehicle was struck by a drunk driver. Audie and his parents were killed. Shrum, still in its formative stages, had yet to release an album or play live. After Pitre's death, an EP was released, Red Devils and Purple Ringers, with proceeds to benefit Audie's son. The band also played some shows with Audie's younger brother, Kelly, filling in on bass. Albums with Acid Bath include When the Kite String Pops and Paegan Terrorism Tactics.

Cozy Powell
(Colin Flooks), auto accident; he was 50. Powell was a drummer who did session work for Jeff Beck, Suzi Quattro, Donovan, and Hot Chocolate. He was a member of Rainbow, White Snake, and later Black Sabbath. Powell crashed his car while driving at 104 mph - in bad weather while talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone. He was not wearing a seat belt and was over the alcohol limit. Albums with Black Sabbath: Headless Cross, Tyr, The Sabbath Stones and Forbidden. With Whitesnake: Slide It In

*Dave Prater
auto accident in 1988; he was 51. He was half of the duo, Sam & Dave. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. "Hold On, I'm Comin,' "Soul Man, "I Thank You

La Reyna de Monterrey
Motor vehicle accident in Mexico; 2013. La Reyna de Monterrey was a group affiliated with the Banda genre of music. The driver of the vehicle that was carrying the band dozed off, hitting the side of a truck then crashing head-on with a tractor-trailer. Ten band members were killed; another five were injured.

Pattie Santos

Pattie Santos

Pattie Santos
(Patricia Dora Santos), automobile accident in 1989. She was 40. Santos was the lead singer for psychedelic rock band, It's A Beautiful Day. The group's eponymous debut album reached number 47 on the US charts. It is speculated that Santos was drunk driving when she failed to negotiate a curve in the road and slammed into a tree (then a fence, followed by another tree). "White Bird," "Time Is," "Hot Summer Day," "Bombay Calling"

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

Mack Starr
(Julius McMichael), motorcylce accident. Mack was a member of the vocal quartet, The Olympics. Vocalist Charles Fizer was replaced by Melvin King for a year while he was imprisoned for drug possession. Fizer was later shot and killed by the National Guard during the Watts Riots (see 1965). King again stepped in to replace Fizer, but distraught over the death of his sister (who was also killed in the riots), he performed only one show before leaving the group. Mack Starr became Melvin King's replacement. In 1981, Starr was knocked off his motorcycle by an out-of-control automobile and killed. He was 45. The Olympics: "Western Movies" (which reached #8 on the Billboard Hot 100), "(Baby) Hully Gully," "Big Boy Pete," "Good Lovin'"

Lynn Strait
(James Lynn Strait), car accident in 1998. Strait was the singer and lyricist for the rock band Snot. He was involved in a six-car crash, but the only fatalities were the musician and his dog, Dobbs (who is featured on the cover of Snot's debut album, Get Some). Strait was 29. "Joy Ride, "Tecato," "Deadfall"

Eddie Sulik

Eddie Sulik

Eddie Sulik
car crash in 1965; 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"

Doreen Waddell
struck by three vehicles and killed in 2002. Waddell, 36, was a former vocalist with Soul II Soul and The KLF. She was being chased after shoplifting from a store in Worthing when she ran onto the A27 and was killed. Soul II Soul: "Back to Life" The KLF: "3 AM Eternal," "Justified and Ancient"

*Clarence White
(Clarence LeBlanc), hit and run in 1973. White was the guitarist for the Kentucky Colonels and for the Byrds, with Gene Clark (see 1991) and Michael Clarke (see 1991). (White joined after Gram Parsons, who also died in 1973, left the group in 1968.) White was loading equipment into his car following a Kentucky Colonels gig when a drunk driver struck and killed him. Gram Parsons sang "Farther Along" at White's funeral service and created his final song, "In My Hour of Darkness," as a partial tribute to him. White was 29. The Byrds were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. "Turn, Turn, Turn," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Eight Miles High"