“On the plus side, death is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down.”
– Woody Allen.
While Woody was just doing what he does best, being Woody, it seems a lot of musicians took it up as a challenge.
There may be more articles on the lifestyles of musicians and the fatalities caused by it than the number of bibles sold. Not all of the dead superstars died of substance or alcohol overdose. It feels like they found it too boring to die in that manner.
Terry Kath, the founding member and lead guitarist of Chicago, had a history of drug and alcohol problems. It was the 1970’s, which rock star didn’t have these addictions? At a party at a crew member’s house on Jan. 23, 1978, Terry thought it would be fun to fool around with guns. He picked up an unloaded .38 revolver and put it to his head and pulled the trigger. Unfortunately, the 9mm semiautomatic pistol he picked next was loaded. And guess what? Terry ‘accidentally’ shot himself to death.
Keith Relf was the lead singer and harmonica player from the Yardbirds, the British blues rock band comprising of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. Keith electrocuted himself while playing an improperly grounded electric guitar in his basement recording studio.While Keith met his end in his house, 1000’s of fans witnessed Lee Harvey, from Stone the Crows, get electrocuted on stage while tuning up.
Another musician to meet the lord of death on stage was Darrell Lance Abbott, AKA Dimebag Darrell. The guitarist- songwriter and co-founder of the heavy-metal band Pantera, was shot dead by a concert-goer while on stage with his new band Damageplan. The marine who shot Darrell also killed three more people and injured several others during the incident.
Marvin Gaye, the Prince of Soul, was shot and killed by his own father Marvin Gay Sr. His crime? He broke up a fight between his parents.
For humans, fights are a common reason to end someone’s life. From trusted friends to mortal enemies, is the story of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Their feud goes beyond the East Coast-West Coast rap war. In 1996, an unknown assailant shot and killed Shakur in a storm of gunfire in Las Vegas. Six months later Notorious B.I.G was shot dead. The murders remain the most legendary unsolved murders of all time. There have been many conspiracy theories around Tupac’s death with many believing the rapper is still alive. There have been numerous reported ‘sightings’ of Tupac.
42 years after his death, fans still believe Elvis Presley is alive. The King’s death was believed to be due to drug-induced arrhythmia. This was until the autopsy report revealed the real cause, chronic constipation. The autopsy revealed that his colon was irregular in size. It was likely the primary cause of his weight gain later in his career and not overeating as is the popular notion. Unlike Elvis, Casa Elliot has only her eating disorder to blame. The mama from the Mamas and Papas, Casa died from a heart attack in her sleep, but the most infamous rumour involves choking on a ham sandwich. That is not the strange part. Four years later, in the same flat, The Who‘s drummer Keith Moon died. At the same age. He died from an accidental overdose of clomethiazole, the drug that was prescribed to wean him off of alcohol.
“Death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.”– George Carlin.
Would the larger than life rock stars believe in small doses?
On Sept 17, 1970, Jimi Hendrix enjoyed ‘some wine’ with an excessive amount of his girlfriend’s sleeping pills. The next morning, the left handed guitarist was found unresponsive and covered in vomit. Jimi choked on his own vomit and bid adieu to the world. In 1980, Jon Bonham and his band Led Zeppelin, met to rehearse for an upcoming tour. On the first of the rehearsal, Bonham began drinking with breakfast. Over the course of the day, he managed to ingest over a litre of vodka, causing him to vomit and choke. The coroner ruled it as an accidental death.
The Day the Music Died
On February 3, 1959, Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Richie Valens boarded a flight that was headed to their next tour stop. Unfortunately, the three along with their pilot, were all killed when the plane crashed. The 1971 hit “American Pie” by Don McLean memorializes the crash as “the day the music died.” Another horrific plane crash involved the band Lynyrd Skynyrd. The chartered plane had run out of fuel and attempted an emergency landing. The crash took the lives of band members Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines, along with several members of their entourage. The band’s new album, Street Survivors, was up for release in a few days. Its cover photo featured the band engulfed in flames.
Though these deaths may seem strange, mysterious, tragic et al, the fact remains that all of them were great musicians. All of us have our quirks and these musicians are human after all. There are numerous other tragic ways by which many musical careers have been cut short.
Brian Jones, founding member of the Rolling Stones, was discovered dead in his swimming pool. Noting his alcohol and substance abuse played a role, the coroners called it “death by misadventure.” INXS‘s Michael Hutchence committed suicide while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. The widespread rumour that he died because auto erotic asphyxiation were almost confirmed by his mother in an interview, two years after his death. Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious is said to have been accidentally overdosed by his drug addict mother. Former Metallica baasist, Cliff Burton was killed when the band’s tour bus crashed, and he flew through the window.
Death walks among us, it is said. Looking at some his victims, Azreal seems to be one sadistic angel.