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16 Famous Bands Whose Members Died Tragically and How They Handled It

Updated June 14, 2019 73.9k views16 items

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.

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  • The Doors
    Video: YouTube

    Member who died: Jim Morrison of a heroin overdose, 1971

    The Doors's lead singer, Jim Morrison joined the 27 Club in 1971 when he died of a heroin overdose. The band attempted to keep it together, with members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger taking over on lead vocals. That arrangement only lasted for two years before The Doors officially disbanded. 

    • Genres (Music): Blues-rock, Rock music, Protopunk, Heavy metal, Jazz fusion
    • Albums: The Doors, L.A. Woman, Strange Days, Morrison Hotel, Light My Fire
  • The Allman Brothers Band
    Video: YouTube

    Member who died: Duane Allman of a motorcycle accident, 1971

    Duane Allman, founding member of the Allman Brothers, 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."

    • Genres (Music): Blues-rock, Boogie rock, Rock music, Instrumental rock, Folk rock
    • Albums: At Fillmore East, Beginnings, Eat a Peach, Brothers and Sisters, Hittin’ the Note

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  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
    Video: YouTube

    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 death. Clemons accomplished more in death than most people do in life, though - he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. These days, the E Street Band tours with a new saxophonist - Jake Clemons, Clarence's nephew. 

    • Genres (Music): Americana, Blues-rock, Country
    • Albums: Born to Run, Born in the U.S.A., The Rising, Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River
    • Nationality: United States of America

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  • Grateful Dead
    Video: YouTube

    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 20 years after Garcia's death. 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 and Company, fronted by pop superstar John Mayer. 

    • Genres (Music): Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk rock, Acid rock, Jam band
    • Albums: American Beauty, Europe '72 (disc 1), Aoxomoxoa, Workingman's Dead, Terrapin Station

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