Music

Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely  

Ranker Community
Originally by Ranker Community
254.4k votes 23.8k voters 601.5k views 218 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). Recently-deceased musicians, such as Avicii, are eligible for inclusion as well as those who passed years ago.

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 taken from 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 dead ndividual singer/songwriters and 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.

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 (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His mainstream career lasted ...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 (born John Winston Lennon, 9 October 1940 – 8 December 1980) was an English singer, songwriter and peace activist who gained worldwide fame as the rhythm guitarist for ...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 (born Farrokh Bulsara; 5 September 1946 – 24 November 1991) was a British singer, songwriter, record producer, and lead vocalist of the rock band Queen. Regarded as one of the ...more
4
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Died 1959, age 22 Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of ...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 (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana. He is remembered as ...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 Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer, songwriter and poet, who served as the lead vocalist of the rock band the Doors. Due to his poetic lyrics, ...more
7
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Died 1970, age 27 Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American rock, soul, and blues singer-songwriter, and one of the most successful and widely known rock stars of her era. After ...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 Marley, (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by blending elements of reggae, ...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 (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer for the British rock band Led Zeppelin. Esteemed for his speed, power, fast ...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 (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, and one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in ...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 (born Marvin Pentz Gay Jr.; April 2, 1939 – April 1, 1984) was an American singer, songwriter, and record producer. He helped to shape the sound of Motown in the 1960s, first as an ...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 (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) was an English drummer for the rock band the Who. He was noted for his unique style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. His ...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 (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977), also known mononymously as Elvis, was an American singer and actor. Regarded as one of the most significant cultural icons of the 20th ...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 (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session musician, and founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band was formed in ...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 Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads ...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 (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980) was an Australian singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, best known for being the lead vocalist and lyricist of the ...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. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the ...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 Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was an American musician, known as the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. ...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 (25 February 1943 – 29 November 2001) was an English musician, singer-songwriter, and music and film producer who achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the ...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 (February 10, 1962 – September 27, 1986) was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist for the American band Metallica from December 1982 until ...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 (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather ...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 Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and numerous singles. He ...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 (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, ...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 (December 21, 1940 – December 4, 1993) was an American multi-instrumentalist musician, composer, and bandleader. His work is characterized by nonconformity, free-form ...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 (born Layne Rutherford Staley, August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an American musician best known as the original lead singer and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in ...more