The last step, the eventuality, the final destination that every human being has in common – death. It does tend to trigger the deepest sadness and wrench our hearts when we lose loved ones or close acquaintances, but there is a special unexplainable sorrow that grips us when one of our favorite artists or musicians move on to the next spiritual plane. We reminisce and revisit some of the more untimely and tragic demises of music icons in 10 Shocking Musician Deaths.
In part 1 of this 10-part series, we take a brief look at 4 of the many from the prestigious 27 Club, obviously but not obviously implying that each of these musicians were 27 years old when they moved on.
An innovator and inspiration to thousands, if not millions of guitar players worldwide, Jimi Hendrix redefined the utility of the electric guitar and rebelled the fact that you had to be a right-handed guitar player, at the time. He saw great commercial success with his albums like ‘The Jimi Hendrix Experience’, ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’. He rose to success in the US after he performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Hendrix was the highest paid performer in the world at one point and headlined the iconic Woodstock Festival in 1969.
He did have a relationship with drugs and alcohol. After a long night of partying and eventually passing out at about 7am, his friend Monika Dannemann woke up to find him barely conscious when she awoke at around 11am on the morning of September 18th, 1970 in her apartment at the Samarkand Hotel in London. After futile attempts by paramedics to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead at St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital at 12.45pm. The post-mortem report said that he died of asphyxiation, choking on his own vomit, while simultaneously sedated with 9 Vesparax prescribed sleeping pills, turning out to be 18 times the prescribed dosage.
Powerhouse of a singer, responsible for igniting many a great female voice through her nerve pulling screams and wails, Janis Joplin was a party-hard rock-n-roll girl who rose to fame after her performance at the Monterey Pop Festival with the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. She quit the band in 1969 and started performing with a new backup group she formed – the Kozmic Blues Band – with which she played some noteworthy gigs at the Royal Albert Hall in the UK and most famously a highly intoxicated performance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Joplin was found dead in her hotel room at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles by her road manager and close friend John Byrne Cooke. The post-mortem reports say that she died of a heroin overdose, which may have been accidental in nature, with reports coming in of other users finding a similar fate due to the potency of the drug being more than what they were used to. She allegedly was disappointed that her friend Peggy Caserta and her fiancé Seth Morgan did not show up to meet her as planned at her hotel, expecting their company that night. Caserta had a theory that Joplin’s footwear got entangled in the shag carpet, which led to her falling and banging her head, but did concede that the quantity of drugs and alcohol in her system might hastened her eventuality.
“Break on through to the other side,” sang Jim Morrison, and so did the famous infamous singer and prolific front-man of bluesy 60’s rock-n-roll band The Doors. Known for his exceptional skill at writing beautiful poetry, Morrison, through his time as the vocalist of The Doors grew into one of the baddest bad boys of rock music. He was truly a free spirit and displayed that unquestionably during his performances with the band, and was, in his own way, a notorious personality to deal with (especially for the era’s uptight law enforcement authorities), on and off-stage.
Jim joined his girlfriend Pamela Courson, who rented an apartment for them to live together in Paris in March 1971, after he completed recordings for The Doors’ ‘L.A. Woman’ album in Los Angeles. On July 3rd, 1971, she found him dead in the bathtub of their home. The cause of death was reported to be heart failure by the French police, ascertained without an autopsy, which was not required by law at the time. There are conspiracies, however, saying that he died of an accidental heroin overdose, but none proven so far, due to the lack of circumstantial evidence owing to the absence of a formal autopsy report. He lays to rest at the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, in the company of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde, French cabaret singer Edith Piaf and many more poets and artists of great acclaim.
Anger, pain, depression and the expression of every raw emotion in the most unfiltered and unadulterated way possible, Nirvana’s songwriter and vocalist, one of the most influential people in the world of alternative rock music, Kurt Cobain wasn’t particularly affined to the amount of attention he received when the band destroyed the charts with their groundbreaking album ‘Nevermind’ in 1991. He went through hell as a child growing up in seedy Seattle, and went forth to forge a completely new and unique sonic identity to go with that aesthetic, representing the local sound on an international level, what’s known as ‘grunge’.
Kurt Cobain’s death at his home in Seattle was one of the most tragic news stories to grip the entire world on April 8th, 1994, an alleged suicide. He was found with his ears bleeding by his electrician who was onsite to install a security system. This was after his wife Courtney Love heard of his escape from rehab and probably suspected he would come back home. However, there are strong conspiracy theories that suggest that Love herself staged his death, knowing that she could sway the authorities and public opinion, as it was already quite a well-known fact that Cobain was dissatisfied and turned off by the fame and glamour of show-business. This is vaguely backed up by the fact that the levels of heroin and traces of diazepam found in his body would make it impossible for him to be able to hold a shotgun, leave be pointing it up his neck and firing it. But will we ever know?
The music business can be brutal, while satiating (in many ways) at the same time. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll and unfortunate accidents and whatever other tragic way our icons and idols decide to part ways can really leave a mark on generations of people for decades and centuries to come. Watch out for #2 of the series 10 Shocking Musician Deaths. Now shhhhhh, the reaper’s passing by…