Entertainment
7.7k voters

The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40

Updated February 21, 2020 71.3k votes 7.7k voters 221.5k views152 items

List RulesGreat musicians who died before their 40th birthdays

 

Some of the best musicians in history only lived for a few short decades. This list ranks those musicians whose lives were taken before they turned 40, whether intentionally or accidentally, including everyone from Bob Marley to Mozart. They may all come from different genres and backgrounds, but the loss of each of these musicians left a major emptiness in the world of music. Singers and rock stars like Amy Winehouse, Buddy Holly, and Jimi Hendrix didn’t live to 40, but they did live long enough to secure a lasting legacy in music history.

Many people think of rock stars like Kurt Cobain (of the 27 Club) when they consider musicians who died young, but the world of rap music can be just as deadly. Who can forget the feud between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.? While no one has ever conclusively proven who killed the two stars or even that the two deaths were linked, there is no doubt that both musicians were killed far too early. These musicians were murdered in their prime, and hip hop fans still mourn them.

Other deaths have rocked the music world as well. Can any fan of hip hop or R&B every truly recover from Aaliyah’s death in 2001? She was only 22 years old when her plane crashed in the Bahamas, killing not only her but also eight others. This gifted musician died before reaching the age of 40, and the world of R&B is not the same for her loss.

On this list you’ll find musicians who died before they turned 40. The gifted performers on this list come from all genres. Many of the musicians here died in unfortunate and horrific circumstances, while others passed away more peacefully, some from natural causes. Whatever the case, they have all earned their spots on this list of the greatest musicians who died before 40.

 

Photo:
...more
  • Jimi Hendrix1
    1,915
    623

    Jimi Hendrix

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsFirst Rays of the New Rising Sun, Band of Gypsys, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection, Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Woodstock

    Died at 27 (1942-1970)
    James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Jimi Hendrix 

    Wild Stories From The Guitar-Shredding Life Of Jimi Hendrix#1 of 542 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

  • Bob Marley2
    1,730
    653

    AlbumsThe Wailing Wailers, Soul Rebels, Soul Revolution, The Best of the Wailers, Catch a Fire

    Died at 36 (1945-1981)
    Robert Nesta Marley, (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter....  more
    Buy buy button

    More Bob Marley 

    18 Things Most People Don't Know About Bob Marley#327 of 2,443 The Most Influential People of All Time

  • Kurt Cobain3
    1,790
    708

    Kurt Cobain

    Grunge, Alternative rock

    Albums1993-09-08: Rock Against Rape Benefit, Club Lingerie, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

    Died at 27 (1967-1994)
    Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Kurt Cobain 

    15 Crazy But True Stories About Nirvana#152 of 639 The Greatest Lead Guitarists Of All Time

  • Jim Morrison4
    1,280
    629

    Jim Morrison

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsParis Jim, Dionysus

    Died at 27 (1943-1971)
    James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer, songwriter...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Jim Morrison 

    #37 of 185 The (Male) Singer You Most Wish You Could Sound Like#558 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • Buddy Holly5
    948
    456

    Buddy Holly

    Lubbock sound, Rock music

    AlbumsBuddy, 20 Golden Greats, What You Been A-Missin': What You've Been A-Missin', The Buddy Holly Story, That'll Be The Day

    Died at 22 (1936-1959)
    Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Buddy...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Buddy Holly 

    What Actually Happened The Day The Music Died?#50 of 1,728 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

  • Janis Joplin6
    1,071
    558

    Janis Joplin

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsPearl, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Greatest Hits, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, The Essential Janis Joplin

    Died at 27 (1943-1970)
    Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American rock, soul, and blues...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Janis Joplin 

    The Tortured, Painful Life of Janis Joplin, The Baddest Woman In Rock History#4 of 29 Members of The 27 Club

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart7
    1,309
    716

    AlbumsSymphony Edition, Classical Anthology, Eternal Classics, Concertos for Flute, Harp and Orchestra (Orchestra: Saint Paul's Philharmonic Orchestra; Flute: Ubaldo Rosso; Harp: Ursula Mazurek; Conductor: Silvano Frontalini)

    Died at 35 (1756-1791)
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 

    17 Bizarre, Mind-Blowing Facts and Stories About Mozart#8 of 16 16 Famous Bodies From History Found In Inconspicuous Places

  • Tupac Shakur8
    1,568
    599

    Tupac Shakur

    Hip hop music, Political hip hop

    Albums2Pacalypse Now, Strictly 4 My Niggaz, Thug Life: Volume 1, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Me Against the World

    Died at 25 (1971-1996)
    Tupac Amaru Shakur ( TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Tupac Shakur 

    11 Conspiracy Theories About The Murder Of Tupac Shakur#1063 of 1,172 The Best Writers of All Time

  • Otis Redding9
    877
    464

    Otis Redding

    Southern soul, Soul blues

    AlbumsPain in My Heart, King & Queen, Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, The Soul Album, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads

    Died at 26 (1941-1967)
    Otis Ray Redding Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Otis Redding 

    The Best Otis Redding Albums of All Time#50 of 196 The Greatest Male Pop Singers of All Time

  • Stevie Ray Vaughan10
    925
    524

    Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsTexas Flood, Couldn't Stand The Weather, Soul to Soul, In Step, In Step

    Died at 35 (1954-1990)
    Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Stevie Ray Vaughan 

    The Best Stevie Ray Vaughan Songs of All Time#131 of 739 The Best Singers of All Time

  • The Notorious B.I.G.11
    1,098
    528

    The Notorious B.I.G.

    Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop

    AlbumsReady to Die, Life After Death

    Died at 24 (1972-1997)
    Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), known professionally as The...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More The Notorious B.I.G. 

    A Timeline Of How Biggie And Tupac's Friendship Turned Into An Infamous Feud#3 of 235 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time

  • Amy Winehouse12
    1,097
    631

    Amy Winehouse

    Doo-wop, Pop music

    AlbumsFrank, Back to Black

    Died at 27 (1983-2011)
    Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter....  more
    Spotify buy button

    More Amy Winehouse 

    ‘Amy’ Is A Deeply Upsetting Documentary That Forced Us To Re-Examine Her Tragedy#21 of 602 The Best Female Vocalists Ever

  • Hank Williams13
    611
    346

    Hank Williams

    Outlaw country, Western music

    AlbumsCold, Cold Heart, Beyond the Sunset, Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, Hillbilly Hero

    Died at 29 (1923-1953)
    Hiram King "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American...  more
    Spotify buy button

    More Hank Williams 

    The Best Hank Williams Songs#4 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time

  • John Bonham14
    622
    436

    John Bonham

    Blues-rock, Folk rock

    AlbumsRock and Roll Highway

    1948-1980. 32 years old. Led Zeppelin drummer.
    John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More John Bonham 

    #3 of 532 The Best Drummers Of All Time#33 of 154 The Druggiest Rock Stars of All Time

  • Ronnie Van Zant15
    581
    359

    Ronnie Van Zant

    Rock music, Southern rock
    Died at 29 (1948-1977)
    Ronald Wayne Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977) was an American musician, known as...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Ronnie Van Zant 

    #41 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters#199 of 213 The Greatest Rock Songwriters of All Time

  • Patsy Cline16
    674
    446

    Patsy Cline

    Rock music, Swing music

    AlbumsPatsy Cline, Patsy Cline Showcase, Sentimentally Yours

    Died at 30 (1932-1963)
    Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley; September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) was an...  more
    Spotify buy button

    More Patsy Cline 

    #4 of 160 The Top Female Country Singers#5 of 215 The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time

  • Eazy-E17
    678
    366

    Eazy-E

    Hip hop music, Old-school hip hop

    AlbumsEazy-Duz-It, Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton

    Died at 31 (1963-1995)
    Eric Lynn Wright (September 7, 1964 – March 26, 1995), known professionally as Eazy-E, was an...  more
    Spotify buy button

    More Eazy-E 

    #11 of 136 The Dopest Rappers of the '90s#7 of 188 The Best Rappers From Los Angeles

  • Bon Scott18
    478
    335

    Bon Scott

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsThe Early Years 1967-1972, With the Spektors and the Valentines, Round and Round: The Forgotten Years, Round and Round and Round, Seasons of Change Raven/RCA 1971-72 (disc 2)

    Died at 33 (1946-1980)
    Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980) was an Australian singer,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Bon Scott 

    #10 of 298 The Best Frontmen in Rock#24 of 193 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely

  • Selena19
    790
    422

    Selena

    Mexican cumbia, Pop music

    AlbumsSelena, Ven Conmigo, Entre a Mi Mundo, Amor Prohibido, Dreaming of You

    Died at 23 (1971-1995)
    Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Selena 

    #14 of 94 The Best Singers Who Only Need to Go By One Name#69 of 266 The Most Powerful Women Of All Time

  • Sam Cooke20
    638
    400

    Sam Cooke

    Pop music, Rhythm and blues

    AlbumsSongs by Sam Cooke, Twistin' the Night Away, Encore, Swing Low, Cooke's Tour

    Died at 33 (1931-1964)
    Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Sam Cooke 

    Rising Soul Singer Sam Cooke Perished Under Mysterious Circumstances In 1964 And The Case Is Still Unsolved#10 of 100 The Greatest Motown Artists Of All-Time

  • Frédéric Chopin21
    473
    368

    Frédéric Chopin

    Romantic music, Art song

    AlbumsComplete Edition, Classical Anthology, Chopin: Complete Works, The Mazurkas, Spectacular Classics

    Died at 39 (1849-1810)
    Frédéric François Chopin (, also UK: , US: , French: [ʃɔpɛ̃], Polish: [ˈʂɔpɛn]; 1 March 1810 –...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Frédéric Chopin 

    #65 of 159 The Best Pianists in the World#77 of 816 These Poetic Geniuses Wrote Your Favorite Songs of All Time

  • Mac Miller22
    456
    240

    Mac Miller

    Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop

    AlbumsWatching Movies with the Sound Off, Macadelic, In the Air, But My Mackin Aint Easy, On and On and Beyond

    Malcolm James McCormick (January 19, 1992 – September 7, 2018), known professionally as Mac...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Mac Miller 

    The Best Songs Feat. Mac Miller#15 of 191 The Best New School Rappers

  • XXXTentacion23
    963
    655

    XXXTentacion

    Rock Hip Hop Emo

    Albums17,revenge,?

    Jahseh Onfroy was a musican artist who began their c

    Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, better known by his stage name XXXTentacion, was an American rapper,...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More XXXTentacion 

    The Best XXXTentacion Songs, Ranked#5 of 70 The Complete List of Rappers Who've Been in Prison

  • Jim Croce24
    559
    414

    Jim Croce

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsFacets, Jim & Ingrid Croce, You Don't Mess Around with Jim, Life and Times, I Got a Name

    Died at 30 (1943-1973)
    James Joseph Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Jim Croce 

    The Best Jim Croce Albums of All Time#28 of 355 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

  • Randy Rhoads25
    475
    398

    Randy Rhoads

    Glam metal, Heavy metal
    Died at 25 (1956-1982)
    Randall William Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) was an American heavy metal...  more
    Amazon buy button

    More Randy Rhoads 

    #3 of 210 The Best Metal Guitarists and Guitar Teams#50 of 150 Bygone Musicians You Most Want to See Perform as Holograms