Live fast, die young, is the mantra for rock stars. Drugs and alcohol can quickly take their toll on a person living in the fast lane, but so can the hand of fate. So many musicians died at 27 years old, which led to the nickname “The 27 Club,” but dying before 27 or living to 30 and beyond, has also become the norm. The rock stars on this list proved that if you make enemies, you might get murdered, and if you have fame, money and success, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. All of these artists died way too soon and at the peak of their careers. If they would’ve lived longer, who knows what they may have accomplished. But in death, they seem to have grown more in popularity, and their legacies have only become stronger.
is still alive.
9. Jeff Buckley – 30
The singer-songwriter with a distinctive falsetto voice only released one album, but his legacy as one of the best musicians of his generation remains. His album, Grace came out in 1994 and was a success. Buckley moved to Memphis to record his follow-up album, My Sweetheart the Drunk. While waiting for his band to arrive from NYC, Buckley decided to take a swim in the Wolf River, wearing his clothes. He got caught in a wake from a boat and disappeared until a few days later, when his body was found on June 4, 1997. His death was ruled an “accidental drowning.” Since his untimely death, a few posthumous albums have been released, and a movie called, Greetings from Tim Buckley came out in 2012.
8. Mama Cass Elliot – 32
Ellen Naomi Cohen, aka Mama Cass, was a member of the group “the Mamas and the Papas”. After the Papas broke up, Cass embarked on a successful solo career. The overweight Cass struggled with obesity, even losing 100 pounds once. Before her death, she had lost 80 pounds. But on July 29, 1974, Cass died of a heart attack in London. Rumors fluttered around that she had actually died from choking on a ham sandwich, but those rumors proved to be false. In an eerie coincidence, four years later, Keith Moon died in the exact same London flat as Cass, and he was also 32 years old.
7. Elliott Smith – 34
The Oscar-nominated singer-songwriter died on October 21, 2003, by his own hand. For years, Smith struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, and severe depression. A month before he died, he sobered up and even cut out red meat and sugar from his diet. He was in the midst of recording what would be his final record, From a Basement on the Hill. On the day of his demise, he reportedly stabbed himself in the chest and was pronounced dead in a L.A. hospital a few hours later. One report refuted the suicide, claiming there was foul play involved. If Smith would’ve lived, he would be 45 years old today.
6. Aaliyah – 22
Critics have said that if the R&B singer had lived, she would’ve had the career of Whitney Houston, or the like. But by the age of 22, Aaliyah had accomplished so much: she had already released three albums (they sold millions of copies), starred in two movies and won a Grammy. On August 25, 2001, she was in the Bahamas shooting a music video. Aaliyah and her crew got aboard a plane, which proceeded to crash and kill everyone on board. The pilot was blamed—he wasn’t a licensed pilot and he had traces of drugs in his system. Aaliyah would’ve turned 35 years old this year.
5. Sam Cooke – 33
Known as the “King of Soul” and one of the greatest singers of all time, Sam Cooke had 30 top 40 hits, in the span of seven years. On December 11, 1964, Cooke was staying at the Hacienda Motel in L.A. For some reason, Cooke, who had been drinking, apparently broke into the motel manager’s office, wearing only a sports coat and a shoe. The manager, Bertha Franklin, felt threatened and shot Cooke in self defense. She also severely beat him with a broom. Supposedly Cooke had a woman in his room, who had escaped with Cooke’s clothes. Cooke’s family felt the woman and the manager had conspired to murder, but his death was ruled a justified homicide.
4. Selena – 23
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was known as “The Queen of Tejano Music” and as the “Mexican Madonna.” She was better known throughout Latin communities and became one of the top-sellng Latin artists of the ‘90s. Selena lived in Texas (tejano music is Tex-Mex music), and when financial issues arose in her fan club, she unfortunately took matters into her own hands. On March 31, 1995, Selena confronted her former fan club president, Yolanda Saldívar, who had embezzled money from the club. They met at a motel—why was Selena by herself?—and after a verbal scuffle, Saldívar shot and killed Selena, 16 days before the singer’s 24th birthday. In death, Selena became more popular and mainstream than ever. Her posthumous records sold well, and Jennifer Lopez played the singer in the 1997 biopic film, Selena.
3. Keith Moon – 32
Regarded as one of the greatest drummers who ever lived, The Who drummer was gravely addicted to brandy and Champagne (and explosives), to the point where he would pass out during performances. On several occasions, Moon would fall asleep during a live show. In order to reduce his addiction to alcohol, Moon started taking clomethiazole, a med that helps wean the addicted from alcohol. A renowned pill-popper, Moon overdosed on September 7, 1978, at a London flat. He ingested 32 clomethiazole tablets—an insane amount—with six having digested by the time of death.
2. John Bonham – 32
Yet another British drummer, John Bonham, like Keith Moon, was 32 when he suddenly passed away. Bonham was the drummer of Led Zeppelin, and is considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. Right before the band was to tour the U.S. in 1980, the band had rehearsed and stopped for breakfast. Bonham proceeded to drink 16 shots of vodka. He kept drinking for the rest of the day, and by the time he fell asleep, he had consumed about 40 shots of vodka, in a 24 hour period. Bonham apparently choked on his vomit and died on September 25. The impact of Bonham’s death hit the rest of the band so hard, that they broke up.
1. Tupac – 25
The rapper-actor died young, but like every artist on this list, he had accomplished a lot. Shakur was involved with the violent East Coast-West Coast hip hop war, culminating with his murder on September 13, 1996. The rapper, along with Death Row label co-founder Suge Knight, had gone to a boxing match in Vegas. They got into a fight with gang members and were supposedly followed by the gang. When the car Knight and Shakur rode in stopped at a light, an unknown person pulled out a gun and shot him. Six days later, he died in the hospital. To this day, the identity of the shooter remains a mystery, and in a strange twist, Shakur’s rival, The Notorious B.I.G, was shot and killed a few months later. He was only 24 years old. Shakur’s image was resurrected at Coachella in 2012, when a hologram of him appeared onstage.