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The Nine Most Untimely Rock 'N' Roll Deaths

May 12, 2010  |  7:00am
The Nine Most Untimely Rock 'N' Roll Deaths

Yeah, but how do you define untimely? Like this: The artists on our list died when they clearly had their best work ahead of them.

John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Freddie Mercury and so many others left this earth before their time, but they’d each already made a masterpiece. Also, the artists on our list didn’t die by their own hand, whether the quick way (Ian Curtis, Kurt Cobain) or a slower, more accidental path (Hendrix, Charlie Parker, etc). The musicians here were basically minding their own business when their lives were cut short.

9. Cliff Burton (1962-1986)

Metallica’s original bassist died when the band’s bus flipped in Sweden in 1986, before …And Justice For All and the Black Album cemented the band, with replacement bassist Jason Newsted, as the kings of metal. Still, Metallica remained spooked by Burton’s death for decades to come. As recently as this year, longtime guitarist Kirk Hammett confessed to Metallica still being scared of buses.

8. Aaliyah (1979-2001)

The R&B starlet, who gave us the instant-classic “Are You That Somebody,” died in a plane crash in the Bahamas after shooting the video for a song called “Rock The Boat.” Her death sent shockwaves through the hip-hop and R&B communities, even making DMX sentimental.

7. Ronnie Van Zant (1948-1977)

In some ways the quintessential premature rock ‘n’ roll death, Van Zant’s story is well-known to any half-serious music fan. A plane crash killed Lynyrd Skynyrd’s lead singer in 1977, just as punk-rock was ramping up, but the band carried on without him—and indeed kept playing as Skynyrd after subsequent sidemen passed as well, with brother Johnny Van Zant helming the vocals.

6. Jeff Buckley (1966-1997)

In one of pop music’s most heart-wrenching gone-before-their-time stories, this budding singer/songwriter drowned while swimming in the Mississippi River shortly after the release of his album Grace, which became famous for its spine-tingling cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”

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