Whether it was an accidental suicide, an out-of-character overdose, or a ham sandwich – we’re not quite sure, but here are 11 musicians who got shuffled off this mortal coil in some very dubious and mysterious circumstances.
Brian Jones – Drowning
Died July 3, 1969
When you’re a part of The Rolling Stones during the 1960s, you’d expect an endless list of drug-filled rock star shenanigans to go down every night. But when guitarist Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of a swimming pool, something wasn’t quite right. Despite his passing being ruled as ‘death by misadventure’, the last people who were with Jones believe he was murdered by a disgruntled employee of his. Whether the employee did it or not, only he knows, and unfortunately he took that secret to the grave when he died in 1994.
Richey Edwards – Disappeared
Declared missing February 1, 1995. Age 27
Presumed Dead November 23, 2008. Age 40
Richey Edwards was known as the guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers, but it was his lyricism that brought him critical acclaim. Sadly, just when the band started to climb the ranks, Edwards disappeared without a trace. Despite numerous reported fan sighting over the years, he was never found.
Marvin Gaye – Shot By His Father
Died April 1, 1984
After getting into a vicious argument with his father, Marvin Gaye was shot in the chest and killed. After drugs were found in Marvin Jr’s system, Marvin Sr. was only charged with manslaughter despite family members claiming it was cold-blooded murder.
Robert Johnson – Alleged Poisoning
Died August 16, 1938
Other than being known as the pioneer of blues music and an influence on pretty much every rock musician you know, Robert Johnson’s life and death is shrouded in myth and mystery. Some say he died after drinking some poisoned whiskey whilst others say that he was murdered by the jealous husband of a woman he was flirting with. But our favourite rumour by far is that he sold his soul to the devil for his prodigious musicianship and his death at 27 was just the devil claiming his dues.
Bobby Fuller – Accidental Suicide
Died July 18, 1966
Bobby Fuller’s death was a sad case of ‘what could’ve been’. Only a couple of months after his cover of ‘I Fought The Law’ became a top 10 hit, Fuller was found dead in his mother’s car. Gasoline vapours surrounded his body, but with no bruises, cuts, broken bones or any evidence of a beating, Fuller’s death was ruled as an accidental suicide. However, the accidental suicide ruling was shaky at best, with a lot of people believing that Fuller was murdered with the vapours included as a cover-up.
Michael Hutchence – Auto-erotic Asphyxiation or Suicide
Died November 22, 1997
One of the most charismatic frontmen, INXS’ Michael Hutchence exuded rock star cool from every pore on his body. So after he was found dead in a Sydney hotel room, there was the usual surprise mixed in with some inevitability. Despite the death being ruled a suicide, finding his naked and hanging body in an alcohol and drug-filled hotel room amidst a bitter custody battle brought up more questions than it answered.
Cass Elliot (Mama Cass) – Heart Attack or Alleged Ham Sandwich
Died July 29, 1974
Cass Elliot’s reputation as one of the best female singers in music history has been sadly overshadowed by the circumstances and rumours surrounding her untimely death. Sources say that she died from a heart attack in her sleep, but the most infamous rumour involves choking on a ham sandwich. Yet that’s not even the strangest story to come from this, because four years later, inside the same flat, The Who‘s drummer Keith Moon died. At the same age.
Jim Morrison – Heart Failure From Unknown Causes
Died July 3, 1971
Known as one of the greatest frontmen of all time, and sadly one of the first members of the 27 Club, Jim Morrison was the prototypical rock star: an enigmatic, somewhat troubled, but incredibly talented musician. The Doors singer died in a bathtub from unknown causes as no autopsy was ever carried out. On top of this, he was taken away immediately, and after a closed-casket funeral, rumours spread he’d faked his death.
Jeff Buckley – Accidental Drowning
Died May 29, 1997
Riding high on the success of Grace and in the process of recording his sophomore album, Jeff Buckley seemed poised to become the next big thing. And he did, but in a way no one expected. Deciding to go for a swim at Wolf River (a place he’d swam numerous times before), Buckley went missing. Five days later his dead body was found. With no drugs or alcohol in his system, and no known health problems, personal issues, or a swimming deficiency, Buckley’s strange and accidental death was a bitter end to a rising star’s career.
Elliott Smith – Apparent Suicide
Died October 21, 2003
Elliott Smith’s death robbed the world of a unique brand of soft-spoken indie rock. But whilst his music was brutally truthful, circumstances behind his suicide by stabbing was anything but. His name was reportedly misspelt on his suicide note while an inconclusive autopsy didn’t rule out the possibility of homicide.
Kurt Cobain – Apparent Suicide
Died April 5, 1994
It’s been over two decades since Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain passed, but the mysterious circumstances behind his apparent suicide have been the topic of countless conspiracy theories and documentaries. We’ll probably never know what actually happened, but what we do know is that his legacy as the troubled poster-child of grunge will live on.
I may never win a Grammy, solving the piracy issue is way out of my skillset, and I'll probably die of joy if left alone in a room with The Strokes. All I can do properly is write words about music stuff, and hope that people will read it. If you want to debate why 'Is This It' is the best album ever, or you're just bored one day, hit me up on Twitter @alexandervpanView all posts by Alexander Pan
Artists in this post
May 10, 1965 Krist Novoselic is born. February 20, 1967 Kurt Cobain is born. January 14, 1969 Dave Grohl is born. Fall 1985 Kurt meets Krist. They play in several bands together, including Stiff Woodies. December 1987 Kurt, Krist and drummer Aaron Burckhard form the original lineup of Nirvana in Aberdeen, Washington. January 23, 1988