Music

Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely  

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Originally by Ranker Community
245.8k votes 23.1k voters 585.6k views 227 items

List Rules Vote and rerank based on how much great music they would have produced had they lived a longer life. People only - not bands.

Dead rock stars, ranked in order of how much potential great music was lost to this world by their untimely passing. The key criteria for this list is to guess "how much greatness they left behind" - in other words, it would be very difficult to justify, for example, Syd Barrett on this list, because although he is a dead rockstar, he died long after he had stopped making music at all. Similarly, although Elvis Presley died an untimely early death, if you were equally a fan of Kurt Cobain and Elvis Presley, you would only rank them equally if you thought Elvis's post-77 output would equal Cobain's post-94 output (although you might still keep Elvis somewhere on your list - he was still playing live and could certainly have cleaned up and made a comeback).

To keep the spirit of this list, your ranking should reflect a combination of a) musical talent (as a performer, songwriter, and recording artist) and b) how much of that talent you think the world missed, based on how early in their career the artist was takenf rom us, and what you think their output would have been had they lived a full life. Please note that this list is focused on ROCK artists, so while you aren't going to be prohibited from adding Hank Williams or Billie Holiday, most would argue that country, jazz, and even blues greats aren't rock musicians (people have been including soul and hip-hop, however). Lastly, this list is about individual dead musicians, not bands – so Ronnie Van Zandt counts but Lynyrd Skynrd does not. Ranking this list requires some thinking - while most rock stars tend to have a finite time of peak talent (particularly with songwriting and recording), certainly there are examples today of artists who have had career resurgences and done some of their finest work into their 50s and 60s. This list includes solo artists as well as the lead singers to some of the best rock bands responsible for some of the best albums of all time - and many who had illustrious careers as both. 

This is a list where we hope to see lots of people making their own ranked lists, because ranked lists can be aggregated far more accurately than just votes. See this Forever 27 list for an eye opener about how many of these untimely rock deaths happened at age 27.
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list ordered by
1
Jimi Hendrix is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1970, age 27 James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most ...more
2
John Lennon is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1980, age 40 John Winston Ono Lennon MBE was an English singer and songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as a co-founder of the band the Beatles, the most commercially successful band in the history of ...more
3
Freddie Mercury is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1991, age 45 Freddie Mercury was a British singer, songwriter and producer, best known as the lead vocalist and lyricist of the rock band Queen. As a performer, he was known for his flamboyant stage persona ...more
4
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Died 1959, age 22 Charles Hardin Holley, known as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter, often considered one of the main figures of the rock and roll genre in the mid-1950s. Born in ...more
5
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1994, age 27 Kurt Donald Cobain was an American musician who was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic in ...more
6
Jim Morrison is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1971, age 27 James Douglas "Jim" Morrison was an American singer, poet and songwriter best remembered as the lead vocalist of the Doors. Due to his songwriting, baritone voice, wild personality and ...more
7
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Died 1970, age 27 Janis Lyn Joplin was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to fame in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo ...more
8
Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1981, age 36 Robert Nesta "Bob" Marley OM was a Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter, musician, and guitarist who achieved international fame and acclaim. Starting out in 1963 with the group the ...more
9
John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1980, age 32 John Henry Bonham was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast bass-drumming, distinctive sound, and ...more
10
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1990, age 35 Stephen Ray Vaughan, known as Stevie Ray Vaughan, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is ...more
11
Marvin Gaye is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1984, age 44 Marvin Gaye was an American singer, songwriter and musician. Gaye helped to shape the sound of Motown Records, first as an in house session player in the 1960s and later as a solo artist with a ...more
12
Keith Moon is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1978, age 32 Keith John Moon was an English drummer who played with the English rock band the Who. He was noted for his unique style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. In 2011, Moon was ...more
13
Elvis Presley is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1977, age 42 Elvis Aaron Presley was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th century, he is often referred to as "the King of Rock and ...more
14
Duane Allman is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1971, age 24 Howard Duane Allman was an American guitarist, session musician, co-founder and leader of the The Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969 and based in the Southeastern ...more
15
Randy Rhoads is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1982, age 25 Randall William "Randy" Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads combined his classical music ...more
16
Bon Scott is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1980, age 33 Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott was a Scottish-born Australian rock musician, best known for being the lead singer and lyricist of Australian hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until 1980. He ...more
17
Otis Redding is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1967, age 26 Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was an American singer-songwriter, record producer, arranger and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a ...more
18
Ronnie Van Zant is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1977, age 29 Ronald Wayne "Ronnie" Van Zant was an American lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and a founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of current lead ...more
19
George Harrison is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 2001, age 58 George Harrison, MBE was an English musician, multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the Beatles. ...more
20
Cliff Burton is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1986, age 24 Clifford Lee Burton was an American musician, best known as the bass guitarist for the American thrash metal band Metallica. Burton joined Metallica in 1982 and performed on the band's first ...more
21
Ritchie Valens is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1959, age 17 Richard Steven Valenzuela, known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather of the Chicano rock movement. During ...more
22
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1973, age 30 James Joseph "Jim" Croce was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles. His singles "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and ...more
23
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 2011, age 27 Amy Jade Winehouse was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. Winehouse's 2003 ...more
24
Frank Zappa is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 1993, age 52 Frank Vincent Zappa was an American musician, bandleader, songwriter, composer, recording engineer, record producer, and film director. In a career spanning more than 30 years, Zappa composed ...more
25
Layne Staley is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely
Died 2002, age 34 Layne Thomas Staley was an American musician who served as the lead singer and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in Chains, which he founded with guitarist Jerry Cantrell in Seattle, ...more