16 Famous Bands Whose Members Died, And How They Handled It
How do bands go on after a core member dies, especially at the very height of their fame? Every group handles band member deaths differently: Nirvana broke up, Queen tried out different singers, and INXS turned to reality TV to find a new front man.
This list explores all the possibilities - from bands whose lead singers died to bands left without drummers, bassists, guitarists, and keyboardists. Here are the biggest bands that had a main member die and how they moved on.
- Photo: APA-Agency for the Performing Arts Management / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Member who died: Jim Morrison of a heroin overdose, 1971
The Doors' lead singer, Jim Morrison joined the 27 Club in 1971 when he died of a heroin overdose. The remaining members attempted to keep the band together, with Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger taking over on lead vocals. That arrangement only lasted for two years before the Doors officially disbanded.
- Photo: Beth Scupham / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0
Member who died: Duane Allman of a motorcycle accident, 1971
Duane Allman, founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, was just 24 when he was killed in a motorcycle accident. The band kept playing without Allman; as drummer Butch Trucks put it, "We all had this thing in us and Duane put it there. He was the teacher and he gave something to us - his disciples - that we had to play out."
Member who died: Clarence Clemons of stroke complications, 2011
Clarence Clemons was perhaps the most famous member of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band. The saxophonist was with the group from the '70s all the way up until his 2011 passing. Clemons accomplished more in death than most people do in life, though - he was posthumously inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 along with the other members of the band. These days, the E Street Band tours with a new saxophonist - Jake Clemons, Clarence's nephew.
- Photo: Herb Greene / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain
Member who died: Jerry Garcia of a heart attack, 1995
The legacy of the Grateful Dead - and the group's singer, Jerry Garcia - still lives on, even 25 years after Garcia's passing. The Dead went into retirement for a short time after Garcia passed, but the Deadheads (the group's fan base) weren't having it. The rest of the band is touring again as Dead & Company, fronted by John Mayer.
- Photo: Eva Rinaldi / Flickr / CC-BY-SA 2.0
Member who died: Michael Hutchence of suicide, 1997
When the lead singer of INXS, Michael Hutchence, passed in 1997, the band went on hiatus for a few years. In 2005, they began the search for a new singer through a reality TV show competition called Rockstar: INXS. Singer J.D. Fortune won, and played with the band for six years - but INXS just wasn't the same.
- Photo: LiveJpegConcert5 / Flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
Member who died: Bon Scott of acute alcohol poisoning, 1980
AC/DC's Bon Scott had been the band's lead vocalist for six years when he was found unconscious in a Renault 5 car in London. He was later pronounced dead upon his arrival at the hospital. The group replaced him with Brian Johnson, who helped propel the group to rock-legend status. Johnson was replaced by Axl Rose in 2016, but AC/DC still lives on.