These Are The Most Bizarre Deaths In Music History
Death and the music industry are two things that seemingly go hand in hand. Whether it’s a lifestyle of partying that finally catches up to them, or they take their own life, people in the music industry can seem more likely to die young than the general population. This leads fans to occasionally anticipate artists’ deaths even before they happen. But what about the freak accidents that took some of our favorite musicians away from us without any warning? From getting killed by a bay of hay to being electrocuted onstage, these are some of the most unusual deaths in music history.
Reminder: Don’t play with guns even if you think they aren’t loaded.
Photo Credits: Val Wilmer/Redferns
Keif Relf was the lead singer and harmonica player for the British rock and roll group theYardbirds, the same band that launched the musical careers of Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. After the original Yardbirds split up, Relf went on to start the group Renaissance with his sister Jane. He also had a brief solo career up until the accident that took his life. On May 14, 1976, Relf was playing an improperly grounded electric guitar in his basement recording studio when he stood on a gas pipe. This ended up sending an electrical current through him and killing him. Because his family was so private about his death, rumors circulated that he had been playing the guitar in the bathroom.
Photo Credits: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images
Terry Kath was a founding member and lead guitarist of the band Chicago. Aside from playing the guitar, he played numerous other instruments and was known for his skill on the banjo, accordion, bass, and drums. He was also known to sing for Chicago on tracks such as “Colour My World” and “Make Me Smile”. Although he had a history of drug and alcohol addiction, that wasn’t what directly killed him. While at a crew member’s house on January 28, 1978, Kath was fooling around with guns, unloading them and then pointing them at his head and pulling the trigger. Unfortunately, when he did it with a 9mm it was loaded. He shot and killed himself on accident.
Photo Credits: Ultimate Classic Rock
Bobby Fuller was a singer, songwriter, and guitarist, and the leader of the 1960s rock group The Bobby Fuller Four. The band is best known for their hits such as “Love Made a Fool of You” and “I Fought the Law”. Fuller’s untimely death is still considered to be a bit of a mystery. In 1966, his body was found in his car outside of his Hollywood apartment with his face, chest, and side covered in petechiae hemorrhages believed to be caused by gasoline and summer heat. Originally, his death was assumed to be either an accident or suicide, but others believe that he was murdered. Bandmate Jim Reese believed that Charles Manson had something to do with it although no evidence was ever found.
Photo Credits: American Blues News
Johnny Ace was an American rhythm and blues singer. He rose to popularity in the 1950s and was named the Most Programmed Artist of 1954. However, he had a dangerous habit of playing with his .32-caliber revolver. Members of his band often said that he was known to shoot at street sign out of the window of their car or pull pranks on them. Then, on Chrismas day in 1954, Ace was playing with his gun. Thinking that it wasn’t loaded, he was jokingly pointing the gun at his band members and girlfriend. When they told him to stop, he said “there’s nothing in it”, pointed it at his head and fired. Turns out there was a bullet in the gun and he died instantly.
Mike Edwards had a crazy life and an even crazier death.
Photo Credits: Fin Costello/Redferns/Getty Images
Mike Edwards was a cellist who studied at the Royal Academy of Music before joining the Electric Light Orchestra in 1972. He played with them until 1975. After his time with the Electric Light Orchestra, he became a sannyasin for the philosophical discipline of Osho. From then on, he lived a simple life traveling around to Osho communes around the world until he eventually settled down in Devon, England. On September 3, 2010, Edwards was killed on the road near his home when a 1,300-pound bale of hay rolled down a hill and collided with his van, killing him.
Photo Credits: Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns
Brian Jones was a founding member of the legendary rock and roll group The Rolling Stones. He played a massive role in the band’s early success but felt that he was being isolated by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. His growing drug and alcohol addiction didn’t help either and he was eventually fired from the band in June of 1969. Then, on July 3, 1969, his body was found in his swimming pool. His death was ruled an accident and called “death by misadventure” with the cause most likely attributed to overconsumption of alcohol. Some believe that Jones was murdered, however, after an investigation in 2008 it seems unlikely.
Photo Credits: Expose.org
Randy California was the guitarist for the rock band Spirit, with his skill being recognized by other artists such as Walter Becker and Jimi Hendrix. Although it has been proven otherwise, California is also known as the person that his band Spirit claims to have originally written the opening chords of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” in Spirit’s song “Taurus.” However, he never lived to see the outcome of the case as he drowned in Molokai Hawaii on January 2, 1997, after he and his son were caught in a riptide. His son managed to survive but California wasn’t so lucky himself.
Up next: the crazy event that took Sam Cooke’s life.
Photo Credits: Jess Rand/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Sam Cooke was a soul music legend and released numerous classic hits such as “You Send Me”, “Wonderful World” and “A Change Is Gonna Come”. Cooke died on December 11, 1964, at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles. He was only 33 years old. He had been shot by the motel manager who claimed that he had broken into her office residence wearing nothing but a sports coat and one shoe and proceeded to attack her. However, there were numerous sides to the story, all of which had inconsistencies. The murder was ruled as a justifiable homicide and the case was closed on Cook’s death.
Photo Credits: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images
Michael Hutchence was an Australian singer and actor. He was a founding member and frontman for the band INXS, which won Best International Artists at the 1991 BRIT Awards. On November 22, 1997, his body was discovered strangled by his own belt in a Sydney, Australia hotel room. At first, the coroner believed it to be suicide since he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time, but a rumor began to spread that it was an accident due to autoerotic asphyxiation. The circumstances of his death don’t leave any clear evidence of what actually happened although most people believe it was an accident.
Photo Credits: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Dennis Wilson was a singer, songwriter, and most notably, the drummer for the Beach Boys. In the years leading up to his unfortunate death, he had been battling with severe alcoholism. His drinking had caused a lot of issues in his life, and even left him essentially homeless for the month leading up to his death. During one of his drinking benders, he decided to dive into the Marina Del Ray in order to retrieve items that he threw off his yacht three years prior. He drowned in the process and it was assumed that he experienced shallow water blackout just before his death.
See which musician died from choking in a cocktail cherry.
Steve Peregrin Took
Photo Credits: Michael Putland/Getty Images
Born Stephen Ross Porter, he changed his name to Steven Peregrin Took after one of the hobbits from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He became a popular musician after he and Marc Bolan came together and made the band Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967. Eventually, Took’s drug use and desire to have more creative power led to the dissolution of the band. He then went on to perform in a series of smaller bands but never had much success. In a freak accident on October 27, 1980, he died from asphyxiation after choking on a cocktail cherry. Although he and his girlfriend had ingested mushrooms and morphine that night, they aren’t considered to be contributing factors to his death.
Photo Credits: Grunge
Les Harvey performed as a guitarist in several Scottish bands over the years but was most well-known for his work in the band Stone the Crows. On May 3, 1972, while playing a show in Swansea, Wales, there were puddles on the stage. Harvey was electrocuted by a microphone that wasn’t properly grounded. A roadie attempted to unplug the device but it was too late. He died on stage in front of over 1,000 fans. Harvey was only 27 years old and the band broke up not long after the incident.
Photo Credits: Evening Standard/Getty Images
Sandy Denny was an English singer-songwriter and lead singer of the folk-rock band Fairport Convention. She has been described as “the pre-eminent British folk rock singer” who played in multiple bands and had a successful solo career. She was also the only vocalist to ever appear on a Led Zeppelin album when she sang a duet on “The Battle For Evermore” on Led Zeppelin IV. After her husband had left with her daughter because of her issues with substance abuse, Denny died on April 21, 1978. This was a few weeks after she fell down a set of stairs and hit her head on the floor below.
Photo Credits: Fin Costello/Redferns
Randy Rhoads was a heavy metal guitarist who played alongside the likes of bands such as Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. As an original student of classical guitar, he eventually traded in his acoustic for an electric and is on many “Greatest Guitarist of All Time” lists. In 1982, he died after boarding a small plane piloted by his tour bus driver. They wanted to fly close to the tour van in order to scare the rest of the band on the bus. However, they ended up getting a little too close, clipping the back of the bus and crashing.
Photo Credits: Rob Verhorst/Redferns
Porcaro was a drummer, songwriter, and record producer, best known for being a founder of the rock band Toto. He was one of the most recorded session musicians in history, playing on hundreds of albums and thousands of sessions. He has been regarded as the best studio drummer in rock from the 1970s to the 1990s, and the majority of mainstream drumming in the 1980s was a direct mimic of Porcaro’s style. He died on August 5, 1992, after becoming ill from spraying insecticide in his yard. Coroners assumed that he died of a heart attack largely attributed to his cocaine abuse but this was disputed by his family and friends who insist he wasn’t like that and that he had a genetic heart condition.
Up next: This musician was killed onstage by a crazed fan.
Photo Credits: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images
Dimebag Darrel was a heavy metal guitar player, songwriter, and co-founder of the band Pantera and Damageplan, along with his brother Vinnie Paul. His prowess on the guitar and the success of Pantera has labeled him as one of the driving forces behind groove metal. On December 8, 2004, a deranged fan at a Damageplan show rushed the stage and shot Darrell onstage in the head as he was playing. He also managed to shoot three other individuals at the venue. The shooter was an ex-Marine who was upset that Pantera had broken up the year prior and figured it was Darrell’s fault. He was shot and killed at the scene as well by a police officer.
Photo Credits: Andy Willsher/Redferns/Getty Images
Elliot Smith was a singer, songwriter, and musician. Although a multi-instrumentalist, his primary instrument was a guitar and his very distinctive voice. He began a successful solo career in 1994 and has a cult following to this day. Throughout his life, he had trouble with alcohol and drugs as well as suffering from severe depression. In 2003, at the age of 34, his body was discovered in Los Angeles from two stab wounds in the chest. Although the autopsy evidence was inconclusive if the wounds were self-inflicted or note, for the most part, it is believed to have been a suicide.
Photo Credits: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Charlie Hardin Holley, or better known as Buddy Holly, was a major musician in the mid-1950s rock and roll scene. After opening for Elvis Presley in 1955, he decided to pursue music, where his sound started off as a country band and eventually developed into rock and roll. Artists such as Bob Dylan, the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and more have all mentioned him as one of their inspirations. On February 3, 1959, Holly and the rest of his bandmates died in a plane crash after their pilot took off in inclement weather without the proper instruments.
Photo Credits: Gems/Redferns
Judge Dread was an English and ska reggae musician who was the first white man to ever have a hit song in Jamaica. Although he was popular in Jamaica regardless of his skin color, his songs were thought to be a little too lewd for the United Kingdom and many of them were banned. While performing a show in Canterbury, England on March 13, 1998, he collapsed onstage. While the crowd initially thought he was joking, it turned out that he was going into cardiac arrest. Finally, an off-duty doctor recognized the situation and tried to resuscitate him with no success. Dread died at the age of 55.
Photo Credits: The New York Times
Jerry Fuchs was a percussionist with some serious talent known for his music during the 2000s. When he first moved to New York City to join the band Vineland, he also ended up performing with other bands such as !!!, Turning Machine, LCD Soundsystem, and more. Fuchs met his end on November 8, 2009, when his elevator became stuck in the shaft of a Brooklyn loft. In an attempt to free himself, he broke out of the elevator and ended up falling down the elevator shaft five stories to his death.
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Cass Elliot, known lovingly by fans as “Mama Cass,” was one of the original members of the Mamas and the Papas. Mass Cass was known for singing on iconic tracks such as “Dream a Little Dream of Me” before she embarked on her solo career.
While on a two-week tour in London in July 1974, Mama Cass died in her sleep. The musician had been severely overweight and her official cause of death was ruled as a heart attack, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill. The night she passed away, a can of Coca-Cola and a ham sandwich were left half-eaten on her nightstand, sparking rumors that she choked to death.
Photo by Erica Echenberg/Redferns
Johnny Thunders was the guitarist for the New York Dolls. Being in one of the most popular glam rock bands of the era, when Thunders passed away in April 1991, it was assumed it was due to drug-related causes. But when his body was found, rigor mortis has already set in and his home appeared to have been ransacked.
An autopsy did find drugs in Thunder’s system, but in a bizarre turn of events, also revealed the musician had advanced-stage leukemia which as the actual cause of death.
Michael Ochs Archives / Stringer
Wells Kelly (left) might not be a household name, but the New Orleans was responsible for classic hits like “Still the One” and “Dance With Me.” Wells played drums for the band from 1973 through 1976 when he moved to the keyboards. Clearly, a multitalented musician, Kelly also played with Meat Loaf and Clarence Clemons.
While on tour with Meat Loaf, the group went out following a show for a regular night of partying. Out of nowhere, the musician collapsed and died on the front steps of a London apartment. His cause of death was reportedly asphyxiation.
Gijsbert Hanekroot / Contributor
The world still feels John Lennon’s presence in so many ways. His iconic music with and without The Beatles is still in heavy rotation and his views on human rights (and life in general) continue to inspire newer generations. No matter which way you look at it, Lennon had a huge impact on the world while he was alive, which is why his tragic ending was all the more heartbreaking.
On the evening of December 8, 1980, Mark David Chapman shot the musician in front of his New York City apartment. Only 37 years old when he died, we can only imagine the number of great things Lennon would have done had he been alive all these years.
Theo Wargo / Staff
On January 10, 2016, David Bowie passed away from liver cancer. While his death wasn’t necessarily bizarre in itself, the events surrounding it were. David Bowie didn’t know he had terminal cancer until three months before he died, so the news came as a shock to fans everywhere who assumed he was in good health. After all, just two days before he died, the legendary musician celebrated his 69th birthday but releasing a new album, Blackstar.
What’s more bizarre is that fans have speculated that his last single, “Lazarus,” is a parting gift to fans. In the music video, David Bowie is writhing in a hospital bed as he sings, “Look up here, I’m in heaven.” Although the producers of the music video have denied the video was a “parting gift,” you have to admit it makes sense that Bowie wouldgo out in theatrical style.
Bob Baker / Contributor
Jimi Hendrix is one of the most revered guitarists in rock ‘n’ roll history, so it’s easy to forget that his career spanned just four short years. On September 18, 1970, Hendrix’s close friend Monika Danneman found the musician unresponsive in her apartment. He had been in poor health the days prior due to fatigue and exhaustion from overwork. Hendrix was rushed to the hospital where he was declared dead an hour later. His official cause of death was asphyxia due to aspiration of vomit, contributed to by drug intoxication.
Hendrix wasn’t a strange to drug use, so when fans learned he died while intoxicated, it was tragic but not all too surprising. What was bizarre however is that Hendrix joined a long list of other famous musicians who happened to die when they were 27.
Michael Putland / Contributor
Bob Marley survived being shot in 1976, but unfortunately, couldn’t survive the cancer that took his life five years later.
Known for his loving and peaceful nature, Marley was beloved by his family and by a huge fanbase that seems to have only grown larger in recent years as the message carried in his lyrics still applies. This final photograph was taken of Marley while he was at the offices of Island Records in London on July 24, 1975. He died nearly six years later on May 11, 1981, in Miami, Florida. His musical legacy has been carried on by his children.
Bettmann / Contributor
The “King of Rock and Roll” was an American heartthrob and musical game changer. And at a conservative time in history, Elvis Presley was anything but conservative.
This picture was taken shortly after Elvis and Priscilla were married at the Alladin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas in 1967. The two were wed for nearly a decade until Presley turned into what song called a “grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self.” The pair split and Presley who was already overweight and on a steady diet of pills could barely make it through live performances. Sadly, the King’s bizarre downfall from the top led to his demise. He was found dead in his bathroom after suffering a massive heart attack.
Fin Costello / Staff
Make room for the other “King” on our list. Michael Jackson, known by fans everywhere as the “King of Pop,” started his career with his family band The Jackson 5. Eventually, he launched his own solo career which was wildly successful and spanned decades.
In this photo, the singer-songwriter poses with a bird sitting on his right hand, in Jamaica on February 28, 1975, during his prime as a young performer. Through the next three decades, Jackson’s behavior was more than bizarre. Between his ever-changing appearance, purchasing a chimpanzee, to dangling his child off a balcony, MJ was in the headlines for a handful of questionable things for his death in 2009. On June 25, 2009, Jackson went into cardiac arrest and died at his home in Los Angeles. He was only 50 years old when he passed away from died of acute propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication.
Ron Galella / Contributor
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting while in Las Vegas with the leader of Death Row Records, Suge Knight. Tupac had stopped at a red light and was hit by four .40 caliber rounds that were fired from a Glock. There were no witnesses to the shooting and Tupac’s murder went unsolved.
Immediately following his death, various conspiracy theories came about. Because the events surrounding Tupac’s death were suspicious, many believed the police were covering something up. Some even believed that Tupac wasn’t even dead at all. The unsolved murder spawned numerous documentaries, such as Murder Rap, which debuted in 2015. In this documentary, the former LAPD Detective Greg Kading remarks that it had been confirmed by a family member that Orlando Anderson was the one who shot and killed the rapped two decades ago.
David Corio / Contributor
Whitney Houston had one of the most powerful and iconic voices in pop music history. She released her debut album in 1985 which had three singles reach the top on the Billboard Hot 100. She would go on to release the single “I Will Always Love You,” which sold more than 4 million copies and was certified Platinum, four times.
Sadly, Whitney Houston’s light started to fade in the early 2000s. She battled drug abuse and used cocaine frequently throughout her career. It was around this time that rumors circulated about her being fired from her performances of that year’s Academy Awards. The photo above was taken a few days before the 2012 Grammy’s, which Whitney Houston was supposed to attend. Unfortunately, the starlet was found face down in her hotel bathtub and was declared dead before the award ceremony.
Alisdair Macdonald/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Tiny Tim was an interesting man. He was a singer and ukelele player most commonly known for his hits, “Livin’ In the Sunlight, Lovin’ in the Moonlight” and “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” which he sang in a high falsetto voice.
On September 28, 1996, Tiny Tim collapsed on stage from a massive heart attack but lived, although he was hospitalized for three weeks following the event. He was advised by his medical team to cease performing due to his health, weight and heart conditions. Tiny Tim ignored the advice and two months later suffered a fatal heart attack while on stage in Minneapolis. Concertgoers reported his wife, Sue Gardener, ran onto and asked if he was ok, to which he said, “No I’m not.” After hours of CPR at a local hospital, Tiny Tim was pronounced dead.
Michel Linssen / Contributor
Lisa Lopes (center) was best known for being one-third of the girl group, TLC. She was a talented creative who was credited with writing the majority of the group’s song and bringing the overall concepts to life. But this four-time Grammy award winner’s life was cut short in 2002.
Lisa Lopes was in Honduras on a retreat with her sister when they were in a head-on collision. Lisa Lopes was driving a red SUV when she swerved to avoid a truck. The car flipped and rolled into a ditch and Lisa Lopes died immediately from head trauma.
Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images
Singer Marvin Gaye achieved worldwide notoriety for his talent throughout the 1970s and 1980s. But despite his fame and accolades which were obvious to the rest of the world, this wasn’t the case for his father.
Gaye and his father had a tumultuous relationship. Gaye Sr.’s own children described him as overbearing and intense and would brutally whip Marvin. The singer struggled with cocaine addiction which might have played a role in his temperament at the time of his death. Marvin was shot by his own father during a heated argument between his parents in which he intervened. Reportedly, Marvin’s last sad words were, “Father hates me and I’m never coming back.”
RICCO TORRES / Stringer
Selena was a Tejano music sensation and well known to many within the Mexican and Mexican-American communities. When Selena was just 23 years old, she was murdered by the former president of her fan club, Yolanda Saldivar. One the day of her slaying, Selena met with Yolanda who had been stealing from the star. Afraid she would be turned into the police, Yolanda shot the star and tried to play it off as self-defense.
Selena fled to the hotel lobby where an employee heard her utter her last words, “Yolanda . . . 158,” the name of her murderer and the room number she had gone to meet her in. Selena was on the brink of an English music crossover album, which would have undoubtedly catapulted her to even more notoriety.
Frank Micelotta Archive / Contributor
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of the, now iconic, grunge band Nirvana. Kurt famously shied away from the limelight and was known to struggle immensely with the notoriety that came with his music. He also had a tumultuous relationship with fellow musician Courtney Love.
Towards the end of his life, Kurt’s drug addiction became more and more dangerous with the star ultimately going to rehab. However, it was short lived and the musician literally escaped the facility by jumping over the fence. After his wife and various friends and relatives could not find him, he was later located by an electrician at a home he owned in Seattle. Kurt had committed suicide at the age of 27. He left a note next to him that said, “I don’t have the pas anymore, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Peace, love, empathy.”
Chris Christoforou / Contributor
Compared to many music icons, Amy Winehouse was relatively new to the industry before her death, yet her musical contributions are undeniable. She was the first in a string of many who brought back the retro sound in her work with producer Mark Ronson, followed by the likes of Adele and Bruno Mars. But Amy also struggled with severe alcoholism, drug addiction, and a tumultuous marriage throughout most of her adult life.
One of her most famous songs, “Rehab,” was even about her refusal to get help for her problems. Although she was able to kick her drug use, she was never able to stop drinking. Only hours before her death, Amy was overheard on the phone saying, “I don’t want to die.” The next morning her bodyguards found her unconscious and she was unable to be revived. Amy died at age 27 of acute alcohol poisoning in 2011.
Kevin Mazur / Contributor
Eclectic legend Prince was known for his outlandish fashion and out-of-this-world performances. The singer was also known to be quite private, especially about his personal life. For instance, Prince was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and was known by fellow churchgoers as “Brother Nelson.”
However, Prince also had a darker secret that he kept from the public which was his ongoing struggle with prescription medication. Unfortunately, it ultimately came to a head and his health began to suffer tremendously. In 2016, at one of his last shows, he told the audience, “Wait a few days before you waste any prayers.” Only days later, Prince suffered a fatal overdose of medication including fentanyl while at home. He was 57 years old.
Richard E. Aaron / Contributor
Tom Petty completed a summer tour in 2017 to commemorate 40 years with his band, The Heartbreakers. He had recently said he planned to stop touring in order to spend more time with his family including a baby granddaughter.
The world was shocked when it was announced that Tom Petty had died at the age of 66. He suffered complete cardiac arrest while at home and was unable to be saved. In his last concert, Tom had some meaningful last words for the audience. He said, “I wanna thank you for 40 years of a really great time. God bless you! Goodnight!”
Ellidge / Stringer
David Cassidy shot to stardom as a teen heartthrob as the star of the Partridge family and his subsequent pop music career in the 1970s. He also battled a well-documented fight with alcoholism over the years. He had two children—a daughter and a son—however, David did not raise his daughter Katie. Katie was raised by her mother and became an actress herself starring in a long list of televisions shows and films. In recent years, David and Katie mended their relationship and grew closer.
In November of 2017, it was reported that David was suffering from organ failure and was in a coma. His family, including daughter Katie, went to be with him in the end. Katie reported that her father’s last words were, “So much wasted time…” and she vowed to cherish all the time she had with her loved ones. David was just 67 years old.