“Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.” So goes the famous saying, and it’s a credo that numerous artists unfortunately seem to have taken to heart over the years. Many of our greatest stars burned brightly in their youth but never got the chance to show us whether their best was still to come.
The Lizard King always claimed the most formative experience in his life, and inspiration for much of his work in The Doors, was when at the age of four his family drove past the scene of a car accident and he witnessed a group of injured Native Americans by the roadside. Wild Jim eventually died in a Parisian bathtub, and until recently his grave at the Pere Lachaise cemetery was a major pilgrimage site for fans.
Like Morrison, Hendrix’s grave in the city of his birth, Seattle, was at serious risk of degradation due to the amount of fans who visited. Hendrix died in London, supposedly of a sleeping tablet overdose although the circumstances remain mysterious. Thus ended the star-spangled career of one of rock’s most talented and psychedelic guitarists, though he left behind an enduring musical legacy.
One of the most respected recording artists of the 60s, a rebellious streak ran through Joplin that led her to San Francisco where her singing career took off, her bluesy vocals chiming well with the times. Appearances at Woodstock and Madison Square Gardens cemented her fame although Joplin was never happy with her performances. Like so many others in this list, sadly the drugs got her in the end.
Troubled Jones, a formative member of the Rolling Stones and its mercurial guitarist, died tragically in the swimming pool at his home. Foul play was long suspected after he argued with his builder but has yet to be proven. Bizarrely, both Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison dedicated work to Jones, and both died themselves within the next two years, the same age as him, 27. He was buried in a casket donated by Bob Dylan.
Cobain, with his band Nirvana, was at the forefront of the grunge scene that came from Seattle, and although the band fast became one of the biggest acts in the industry, their frontman was never able to balance fame and success with his need for privacy and artistic integrity. He took his own life in 1994, aged 27, an act which triggered grief around the world.
Neither the most pleasant character, nor the most talented of musicians, nevertheless Sid carved out a vivid reputation as the Sex Pistols’ bass player. He was nicknamed after John Lydon’s pet hamster, and died the evening he was released on bail, having been charged with murdering his girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
The wall adornment of choice for student residences up and down the country, Marley’s legacy is to have spread the reggae sound and the Rastafari movement far beyond their roots in Jamaica. His easygoing nature and the lilting music he personified belied the strong political purpose behind his songs.
Blessed with an incredible voice that brought her success at a young age, Winehouse tragically fell victim to the alcohol and drug addictions she was unable to shake through years of well-publicised attempts and failures.
One of the foremost icons of the Delta Blues movement, Johnson’s career was cut short, apparently by poisoning. Legend had it he sold his soul to the Devil at a crossroads in order to become a master of the blues. Today, it’s possible to take a tour with companies such as Grand American Adventures and visit that legendary crossroads just outside Memphis.
Rob is a rock music lover and is desperately trying to emulate his heroes but without the early death bit