musicians who died in their prime
Keith John Moon (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) was an English musician best known as the drummer of the English rock group the Who. He was noted for his unique drumming style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. In 2011, Moon was voted the second-greatest drummer in history by a Rolling Stone readers’ poll. His drumming continues to be praised by critics and musicians.
Because of the Who’s early stage act’s reliance on smashing instruments and Moon’s enthusiasm for damaging hotels, the group were in debt for much of the 1960s; Entwistle estimated they lost about £150,000. Even when the group became relatively financially stable after Tommy, Moon continued to rack up debts. He bought a number of cars and gadgets, and flirted with bankruptcy. Moon’s recklessness with money reduced his profit from the group’s 1975 UK tour to £47.35.
In mid-1978 Moon moved into a flat in Curzon Place (later Curzon Square), Shepherd Market, Mayfair, London, renting from Harry Nilsson. Cass Elliot had died there four years earlier; (see below) Nilsson was concerned about letting the flat to Moon, believing it was cursed. Townshend disagreed, assuring him that "lightning wouldn’t strike the same place twice".
After moving in, Moon began a prescribed course of Heminevrin (clomethiazole, a sedative) to alleviate his alcohol withdrawal symptoms. He wanted to get sober, but due to his fear of psychiatric hospitals he wanted to do it at home.
Clomethiazole is discouraged for unsupervised detoxification because of its addictive potential, its tendency to induce tolerance and its risk of death when mixed with alcohol.
The pills were prescribed by Geoffrey Dymond, a physician who was unaware of Moon’s lifestyle. Dymond prescribed a bottle of 100 pills, instructing him to take one pill when he felt a craving for alcohol but not more than three pills per day.
By September 1978 Moon was having difficulty playing the drums, according to roadie Dave "Cy" Langston. After seeing Moon in the studio trying to overdub drums for The Kids Are Alright, he said: "After two or three hours, he got more and more sluggish, he could barely hold a drum stick."
On 6 September Moon and Walter-Lax were guests of Paul and Linda McCartney at a preview of the film, The Buddy Holly Story. After dining with the McCartneys at Peppermint Park in Covent Garden, Moon and Walter-Lax returned to their flat. He watched a film (The Abominable Dr. Phibes), and asked Walter-Lax to cook him steak and eggs. When she objected, Moon replied "If you don’t like it, you can fuck off!"
These were his last words.
Moon then took 32 clomethiazole tablets. When Walter-Lax checked on him the following afternoon, she discovered he was dead.
Curbishley phoned the flat at around 5 pm looking for Moon, and Dymond gave him the news. Curbishley told Townshend, who informed the rest of the band. Entwistle was giving an interview to French journalists when he was interrupted by a phone call with the news of Moon’s death. Trying to tactfully and quickly end the interview, he broke down and wept when the journalist asked him about The Who’s future plans.
Moon’s death came shortly after the release of Who Are You. On the album cover, he is straddling a chair to hide his weight gain; the words "Not to be taken away" are on the back of the chair.
Police determined that there were 32 clomethiazole pills in Moon’s system. Six were digested, sufficient to cause his death; the other 26 were undigested when he died.
Max Glatt, an authority on alcoholism, wrote in The Sunday Times that Moon should never have been given the drug.
Moon was cremated on 13 September 1978 at Golders Green Crematorium in London, and his ashes were scattered in its Gardens of Remembrance.
Townshend convinced Daltrey and Entwistle to carry on touring as the Who, although he later said that it was his means of coping with Moon’s death and "completely irrational, bordering on insane".
AllMusic’s Bruce Eder said, "When Keith Moon died, the Who carried on and were far more competent and reliable musically, but that wasn’t what sold rock records".
In November 1978, Faces drummer Kenney Jones joined The Who. Townshend later said that Jones "was one of the few British drummers who could fill Keith’s shoes"; Daltrey was less enthusiastic, saying that Jones "wasn’t the right style". Keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick, who had rehearsed with Moon earlier in the year, joined the live band as an unofficial member.
Jones left the Who in 1988, and drummer Simon Phillips (who praised Moon’s ability to drum over the backing track of "Baba O’Riley") toured with the band the following year. Since 1994 The Who’s drummer has been Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey, who learned to drum from Moon (whom he called "Uncle Keith") as a teenager.
The London 2012 Summer Olympic Committee contacted Who manager Bill Curbishley about Moon performing at the games, 34 years after his death. In an interview with The Times Curbishley quipped, "I emailed back saying Keith now resides in Golders Green crematorium, having lived up to The Who’s anthemic line ‘I hope I die before I get old’ … If they have a round table, some glasses and candles, we might contact him".
Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen; September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. In 1998, Elliot, John Phillips, Denny Doherty, and Michelle Phillips were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their work as The Mamas & the Papas.
At the height of her solo career in 1974, Elliot performed two weeks of sold-out concerts at the London Palladium. She telephoned Michelle Phillips after the final concert on July 28, elated that she had received standing ovations each night. She then retired for the evening, and died in her sleep at age 32. Sources state her death was due to a heart attack.
Elliot died in a London flat, No. 12 at 9 Curzon Place, Shepherd Market, Mayfair, which was on loan from singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson. Four years later, The Who’s drummer Keith Moon died in the same flat at the same age.
Elliot was buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.
An oft-repeated urban legend claims that Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwich. The story, which spread soon after the discovery of her body, was based on speculation in the initial media coverage. Although an autopsy had not yet been performed, police told reporters that a partially eaten sandwich found in her room might have been to blame.
Despite the post-mortem examination finding that Elliot had died of a heart attack and no food was found in her windpipe, the false story that she choked on a sandwich has persisted in the decades following her death. In fact, Elliot had lost 80 pounds (36 kg) in the eight months before her death by fasting four days a week.
Janis Lyn Joplin; January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American rock singer in the 1960s whose voice propelled her to the pinnacle of stardom in her 20s. She sang in the band, Big Brother & The Holding Company. In October 1968 their second album, Cheap Thrills, reached #1 on the Billboard charts and raced ahead of other albums, becoming the most successful album of 1968.
In 1969 she appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, a popular American TV show. That year she quit her band to sing in the Kozmic Blues Band, which she started. She also made her first of three appearances on the American TV show, The Dick Cavett Show. And, she sneaked on to the stage during a Rolling Stones concert in New York City.
In 1970 she left singing in the Kozmic Blues Band to start the Full-Tilt Boogie Band, which performed to large audiences such as at the Sports Arena in San Diego. That year – after she attended her ten-year high school reunion in Port Arthur, Texas – she went to Los Angeles to work on another album.
On October 4, 1970, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood where Joplin was staying.
He saw Joplin’s psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot. Upon entering Joplin’s room (#105), he found her dead on the floor beside her bed.
The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly compounded by alcohol. Cooke believes that Joplin had accidentally been given heroin that was much more potent than normal, as several of her dealer’s other customers also overdosed that week.
Peggy Caserta and Seth Morgan had both failed to meet Joplin the Friday immediately prior to her death, October 2. She had been expecting both of them to keep her company that night. According to the book Going Down With Janis, Joplin was saddened that neither of her friends visited her at the Landmark Motor Hotel as they had promised.
During the 24 hours Joplin lived after this disappointment, Caserta did not phone her to explain why she had failed to show up. (Caserta admitted to waiting until late Saturday night to dial the Landmark switchboard, only to learn that Joplin had instructed the desk clerk to get rid of all her incoming phone callers after midnight.)
Morgan did speak to Joplin on the telephone during the last 24 hours, but it is not known whether he admitted to her that he had broken his promise.
Joplin’s will funded $2,500 to throw a wake party in the event of her demise. The party, which took place October 26, 1970, at the Lion’s Share in San Anselmo, California, was attended by Joplin’s sister Laura, fiancé Seth Morgan, and close friends, including tattoo artist Lyle Tuttle, Bob Gordon, Jack Penty, and road manager Cooke.
Marc Bolan; born Mark Feld; 30 September 1947 – 16 September 1977) was an English singer-songwriter, poet and guitarist. He is best known as the frontman of glam rock group T. Rex.
Bolan died on 16 September 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday. He was a passenger in a purple Mini 1275GT (registration FOX 661L) driven by Gloria Jones as they headed home from Mortons drinking club and restaurant in Berkeley Square.
Jones lost control of the car: it struck a steel reinforced chain link fence post and came to rest against a sycamore tree after failing to negotiate a small humpback bridge near Gipsy Lane on Queens Ride, Barnes, southwest London.
Richard Madeley of daytime TV fame informed fans that low tyre pressure contributed to the fatal crash. Neither occupant was wearing a seat belt. Bolan was killed instantly, while Jones suffered a broken arm and broken jaw and spent time in hospital; she did not learn of Bolan’s death until the day of his funeral. Bolan’s home, which was less than a mile away at 142 Upper Richmond Road West in East Sheen, was looted shortly thereafter.
At Bolan’s funeral, attended by James Stroud, Les Paul, David Bowie, Tony Visconti, Eric Clapton, Paul Davis and Rod Stewart, a swan-shaped floral tribute was displayed outside the service in recognition of his breakthrough hit single "Ride A White Swan".
His funeral service was at the Golders Green Crematorium which is a secular provision in North London. His ashes were buried at Golders Green Crematorium. His crash site has subsequently become a shrine to his memory, with fans travelling from all over the world to leave tributes beside the tree. In 2013, the shrine was featured on the BBC Four series Pagans and Pilgrims: Britain’s Holiest Places. The site, referred to as Bolan’s Rock Shrine, is owned and maintained by the T. Rex Action Group.
Bolan never learned to drive, fearing a premature death. Despite this fear, cars or automotive components are at least mentioned in, if not the subject of, many of his songs. He also owned a number of vehicles, including a white 1960s Rolls-Royce that was loaned by his management to the band Hawkwind on the night of his death.
Jimi Hendrix, The American musician (born November 27, 1942) was one of the most influential guitarists of the 1960s.
His Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography says he "was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music. Hendrix expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before. His boundless drive, technical ability and creative application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll."
On September 18, 1970, the American musician Jimi Hendrix died in London, aged 27 years. One of the most influential guitarists of the 1960s, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes him as "arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music."
In the days before his death, Hendrix had been in poor health, due in part to fatigue caused by overworking, a chronic lack of sleep, and an illness assumed to be influenza-related.
Insecurities about his personal relationships and disillusionment with the music industry had also contributed to his frustration. Although the details of his final hours and death are disputed, Hendrix spent much of his last day with Monika Dannemann. During the morning of September 18, she found him unresponsive in her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill. She called for an ambulance at 11:18 a.m. and he was taken to St Mary Abbot’s Hospital where an attempt was made to resuscitate him. He was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m.
The post-mortem examination concluded that Hendrix aspirated his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates. At the inquest, the coroner, finding no evidence of suicide and lacking sufficient evidence of the circumstances, recorded an open verdict. Dannemann stated that Hendrix had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping tablets, 18 times the recommended dosage.
On October 1, 1970, Hendrix was interred at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, Washington. In 1992, his former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham asked UK authorities to reopen the investigation into his death. A subsequent inquiry by Scotland Yard proved inconclusive, and in 1993, they decided against proceeding with the investigation.
When Eric Clapton met Jimi Hendrix
Robert Ernest "Bob" Hite (February 26, 1943 – April 6, 1981) was the American lead singer of the blues-rock band, Canned Heat, from 1965 to his death in 1981. His nickname was "The Bear".
“This shit won’t even get me high.” Those were the last words of Bob “The Bear” Hite, lead singer of the blues/boogie band Canned Heat. Best known for their entrancing single “On the Road Again” Hite was a huge, gregarious man—hence his nickname—and like most musicians from the sixties and seventies, he had a penchant for booze, drugs and wild living.
On April 5, 1981, during a break between sets at The Palomino Club in North Hollywood, Hite was handed a drug vial by a fan. Thinking it contained cocaine, Hite stuck a straw into the vial and snorted it. The drug turned out to be heroin and Hite turned blue and collapsed. Some roadies put Hite in the band’s van, and drove him to a nearby home where he died of an overdose.
Alan Christie Wilson (July 4, 1943 – September 3, 1970) was a co-founder, leader, and primary composer for the American blues band Canned Heat. He played guitar, harmonica, sang, and wrote several songs for the band.
On September 3, 1970 Wilson was found dead on a hillside behind band mate Bob Hite’s Topanga Canyon house. He was 27 years old. An autopsy identified his manner and cause of death as accidental acute barbiturate intoxication.
Wilson reportedly had attempted suicide a few months earlier, attempting to drive his car off a freeway in Los Angeles. He was briefly hospitalized for significant Depression, and was released after a few weeks.
Although his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not clearly established and he left no note. Wilson’s death came just two weeks before the death of Jimi Hendrix and four weeks before the death of Janis Joplin.
Along with his talent and intellect, Wilson had a reputation for social awkwardness and introversion which may have contributed to his depression. Retrospectively, some close to Wilson believe he may have been on the Autism Spectrum.
Wilson was a passionate conservationist who loved reading books on botany and ecology. He often slept outdoors to be closer to nature. In 1969, he wrote and recorded a song, "Poor Moon", which expressed concern over potential pollution of the moon. He wrote an essay called ‘Grim Harvest’, about the coastal redwood forests of California, which was printed as the liner notes to the Future Blues album by Canned Heat.
Wilson was interested in preserving the natural world, particularly the redwood trees. When he died, so too did the Music Mountain organization he had initiated dedicated to this purpose. In order to support his dream, Wilson’s family has purchased a "grove naming" in his memory through the Save the Redwoods League of California. The money donated to create this memorial will be used by the League to support redwood reforestation, research, education, and land acquisition of both new and old growth redwoods.
Stephen Stills’ song "Blues Man" from the album Manassas is dedicated to Wilson, along with Jimi Hendrix and Duane Allman.
Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969) was the founder and original bandleader of the Rolling Stones. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, with his main instruments being the guitar, harmonica and keyboards. His innovative use of traditional or folk instruments, such as the sitar and marimba, was integral to the changing sound of the band.
Although he was originally the leader of the group, Jones’s fellow band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards soon overshadowed him, especially after they became a successful songwriting team. He developed a serious drug problem over the years and his role in the band steadily diminished. He was asked to leave the Rolling Stones in June 1969 and guitarist Mick Taylor took his place in the group. Jones died less than a month later by drowning in the swimming pool at his home on Cotchford Farm in Hartfield, East Sussex.
Original Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman said of Jones, "He formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. … Very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it – highly intelligent – and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away."
At around midnight on the night of 2–3 July 1969, Jones was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool at Cotchford Farm. His Swedish girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, was convinced Jones was alive when he was taken out of the pool insisting he still had a pulse. However, by the time the doctors arrived it was too late and he was pronounced dead. The coroner’s report stated "death by misadventure" and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.
Upon Jones’s death, The Who’s Pete Townshend wrote a poem titled "A Normal Day for Brian, A Man Who Died Every Day" (printed in The Times), Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him on US television, and Jim Morrison of The Doors published a poem entitled "Ode to L.A. While Thinking of Brian Jones, Deceased". Hendrix and Morrison both died within the following two years, both aged 27, the same as Jones.
The Rolling Stones performed at a free concert in Hyde Park on 5 July 1969, two days after Jones’s death. The concert had been scheduled weeks earlier as an opportunity to present the Stones’ new guitarist, Mick Taylor, and the band decided to dedicate the concert to Jones. Before the Rolling Stones’ set Jagger read excerpts from "Adonais", a poem by Percy Shelley about the death of his friend John Keats, and stagehands released hundreds of white butterflies as part of the tribute. The band opened with a Johnny Winter song that was one of Jones’s favourites, "I’m Yours and I’m Hers".
Jones was reportedly buried 12 feet (3.7 m) deep in Cheltenham Cemetery (to prevent exhumation by trophy hunters). Watts and Wyman were the only Rolling Stones who attended the funeral. Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull were travelling to Australia to begin the filming of Ned Kelly; they stated that their contracts did not allow them to delay the trip to attend the funeral.
When asked if he felt guilty about Jones’s death Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: "No, I don’t really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn’t understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you."
Theories surrounding Jones’s death developed soon afterwards with associates of the Stones claiming to have information that he was murdered.
According to rock biographer Philip Norman, "the murder theory would bubble back to the surface every five years or so". In 1993 it was reported that Jones was murdered by Frank Thorogood, who was doing some construction work on the property. He was the last person to see Jones alive.
Thorogood allegedly confessed the murder to the Rolling Stones’ driver, Tom Keylock, who later denied this.
The Thorogood theory was dramatised in the 2005 movie Stoned. In August 2009, Sussex Police decided to review Jones’s death for the first time since 1969, after new evidence was handed to them by Scott Jones, an investigative journalist in the UK. Scott Jones had traced many of the people who were at Brian Jones’s house the night he died plus unseen police files held at the National Archives.
In the Mail on Sunday in November 2008, Scott Jones said Frank Thorogood killed Brian Jones in a fight and the senior police officers covered up the true cause of death. Following the review the Sussex police stated that they would not be reopening the case. They asserted that "this has been thoroughly reviewed by Sussex Police’s Crime Policy and Review Branch but there is no new evidence to suggest that the coroner’s original verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ was incorrect.
As such, the case will not be reopened and Sussex Police ignored a claim made in 1969 by Brian’s driver Joan Fitzsimons that "his death was not what it appeared to be."