bands/musicians The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40  

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List Rules Great 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.

list ordered by

1
646 186
Jimi Hendrix is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Horse in a Bookcase added Jimi Hendrix Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock Died at 27 (1942-1970) 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

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2
494 184
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Opera, Ballet, Art song Died at 35 (1756-1791) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his ...more

3
491 197
Jim Morrison is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Jim Morrison Blues-rock, Rock music, Acid rock Died at 27 (1943-1971) 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

4
573 246
Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Bob Marley Reggae Died at 36 (1945-1981) 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

5
541 224
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Kurt Cobain Grunge, Alternative rock, Punk rock Died at 27 (1967-1994) 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
390 209
Janis Joplin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Janis Joplin Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music Died at 27 (1943-1970) Janis Lyn Joplin was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to fame in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as ...more

7
352 162
Otis Redding is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Otis Redding Southern soul, Soul blues, Rock music Died at 26 (1941-1967) 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

8
337 177
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Stevie Ray Vaughan Blues-rock, Rock music, Instrumental rock Died at 35 (1954-1990) 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

9
355 165
Buddy Holly is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Buddy Holly Lubbock sound, Rock music, Rockabilly Died at 22 (1936-1959) 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

10
155 97
Keith Moon is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
steveresin added Keith Moon Skiffle, Pop music, Rock music 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

11
176 83
John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
KcXfiles added John Bonham Blues-rock, Folk rock, Heavy metal 1948-1980. 32 years old. Led Zeppelin drummer. 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

12
245 164
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Patsy Cline Rock music, Swing music, Rockabilly Died at 30 (1932-1963) Virginia Patterson Hensley, known professionally as Patsy Cline, was an American singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music. She ...more

13
275 202
Karen Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Karen Carpenter Pop music, Soft rock Died at 32 (1950-1983) Karen Anne Carpenter was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970s duo Carpenters. Although her skills as a drummer earned admiration from drumming ...more

14
242 157
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Jim Croce Pop music, Rock music, Folk music Died at 30 (1943-1973) 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

15
276 162
Sam Cooke is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Sam Cooke Pop music, Rhythm and blues, Jazz Died at 33 (1931-1964) Samuel "Sam" Cooke was an American recording artist and singer-songwriter, generally considered among the greatest of all time. Influential as both a singer and composer, he is ...more

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16
201 126
Randy Rhoads is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Randy Rhoads Glam metal, Heavy metal, Neo-classical metal Died at 25 (1956-1982) Randall William "Randy" Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. He died in a plane accident while on tour with Osbourne in Florida in ...more

17
340 252
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Amy Winehouse Doo-wop, Pop music, Neo soul Died at 27 (1983-2011) 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

18
230 137
Frédéric Chopin is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Frédéric Chopin Romantic music, Art song, Classical music Died at 39 (1849-1810) Fryderyk Chopin is a film score composer.

19
199 140
Robert Johnson is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Robert Johnson Rock music, Blues, Country blues Died at 27 (1911-1938) Robert Leroy Johnson was an American singer-songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has ...more

20
126 54
Hank Williams is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Hank Williams Outlaw country, Western music, Folk music Died at 29 (1923-1953) Hiram King "Hank" Williams, Sr. was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential singers and songwriters of the 20th Century, ...more

21
196 119
Ronnie Van Zant is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Ronnie Van Zant Rock music, Southern rock Died at 29 (1948-1977) 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

22
131 65
Bon Scott is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Bon Scott Blues-rock, Rock music, Heavy metal Died at 33 (1946-1980) 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 his death ...more

23
184 113
Duane Allman is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Duane Allman Blues-rock, Rock music, Jazz fusion Died at 24 (1946-1971) Howard Duane Allman was an American guitarist, session musician, co-founder and leader of the The Allman Brothers Band until his death in a motorcycle accident in 1971 at the age of 24. The ...more

24
183 140
George Gershwin is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
George Gershwin Opera, Musical theatre, Film score Died at 38 (1898-1937) George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known. Among his best-known ...more

25
125 103
Franz Schubert is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
mwahahahaha added Franz Schubert Opera, Romantic music, Lied Died at 31 (1797-1828) Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer. Schubert died at 31 but was extremely prolific during his lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works, seven complete ...more

26
340 236
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Tupac Shakur Hip hop music, Political hip hop, Gangsta rap Died at 25 (1971-1996) Tupac Amaru Shakur, also known by his stage names 2Pac and briefly as Makaveli, was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. Shakur has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him one ...more

27
116 76
Dimebag Darrell is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Dimebag Darrell Glam metal, Thrash metal, Groove metal Died at 38 (1966-2004) Darrell Lance Abbott, also known as Diamond Darrell and Dimebag Darrell, was an American guitarist and songwriter best known as a founding member of two bands, Pantera and Damageplan, alongside ...more

28
244 178
Selena is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Selena Mexican cumbia, Pop music, Latin American music Died at 23 (1971-1995) Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, known by the mononym Selena, was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, actress, and fashion designer. Called the Queen of Tejano music, her contributions ...more

29
151 120
Layne Staley is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
sebbzor added Layne Staley Doom metal, Glam metal, Blues-rock Died at 34 (1967-2002) 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

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30
94 67
Cliff Burton is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Cliff Burton Thrash metal, Progressive metal, Power metal Died at 24 (1962-1986) 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

31
69 57
Dennis Wilson is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Dennis Wilson Pop music, Rock music, Psychedelic pop Died at 39 (1944-1983) Dennis Carl Wilson was an American drummer, singer and songwriter. He is best known as a founding member of the rock band The Beach Boys, alongside his brothers, Brian and Carl, cousin, Mike ...more

32
113 111
Brian Jones is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Brian Jones Blues-rock, Pop music, Rock music Died at 27 (1942-1969) Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones was the founder and original bandleader of the Rolling Stones. Jones was a multi-instrumentalist, with his main instruments being the guitar, harmonica and keyboards. ...more

33
59 68
Phil Lynott is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Phil Lynott Blues-rock, Pop music, Rock music Died at 36 (1949-1986) Philip Parris "Phil" Lynott was an Irish musician, singer and songwriter. His most commercially successful group was Thin Lizzy, of which he was a founding member, the principal ...more

34
171 117
Ritchie Valens is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Ritchie Valens Chicano rock, Rock music, Rock and roll Died at 17 (1941-1959) 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, ...more

35
138 108
Charlie Parker is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Charlie Parker Jazz, Bebop Died at 34 (1920-1955) Charles Parker, Jr., also known as "Yardbird" and "Bird", was an American jazz saxophonist and composer. Parker was a highly influential jazz soloist and a leading figure in ...more

36
138 139
Cass Elliot is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Cass Elliot Pop music, Folk rock Died at 32 (1941-1974) Cass Elliot, also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and member of The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she released five solo albums. In 1998, Elliot, John Phillips, ...more

37
67 54
Bobby Darin is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Bobby Darin Rock music, Swing music, Folk music Died at 37 (1936-1973) Bobby Darin was an American singer, songwriter, and actor of film and television. He performed in a range of music genres, including pop, rock'n'roll, folk, and country. He started as a ...more

38
212 171
Aaliyah is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Aaliyah Hip hop music, Pop music, Neo soul Died at 22 (1979-2001) Aaliyah Dana Haughton was an American singer, dancer, actress, and model. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of 10, she appeared on the television ...more

39
83 65
Jeff Buckley is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Jeff Buckley Rock music, Folk music, Folk rock Died at 30 (1966-1997) Jeffrey Scott "Jeff" Buckley, raised as Scott "Scottie" Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. After a decade as a session guitarist in Los Angeles, ...more

40
72 69
Andy Gibb is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Andy Gibb Disco, Pop music Died at 30 (1958-1988) Andrew Roy "Andy" Gibb was an English singer, songwriter, musician, performer, and teen idol. He was the younger brother of Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, the members of Bee Gees. Gibb ...more

41
234 210
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
The Notorious B.I.G. Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop Died at 24 (1972-1997) Christopher George Latore Wallace, better known by his stage names The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie or Biggie Smalls, was an American rapper. Wallace was raised in the Brooklyn borough of New York ...more

42
92 124
Gram Parsons is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Gram Parsons Rock music, Country rock, Country Died at 26 (1946-1973) Ingram Cecil Connor III, known professionally as Gram Parsons, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, and pianist. Parsons is best known for his work within the country music genre; he ...more

43
55 69
Marc Bolan is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Marc Bolan Psychedelic folk, Protopunk, Pop rock Died at 29 (1947-1977) Marc Bolan was an English singer-songwriter, poet and guitarist. He is best known as the frontman of glam rock group T. Rex.

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44
105 126
Harry Chapin is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Harry Chapin Folk music, Folk rock Died at 38 (1942-1981) Harry Forster Chapin was an American singer-songwriter best known for his folk rock songs including "Taxi," "W*O*L*D," "Sniper", "Flowers Are Red," and ...more

45
90 107
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Opera, Romantic music, Incidental music Died at 38 (1809-1847) Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. A grandson of the ...more

46
162 157
Lisa Lopes is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Lisa Lopes Hip hop music, Pop music, Rap music Died at 30 (1971-2002) Lisa Nicole Lopes, better known by her stage name Left Eye, was an American rapper, singer, dancer, musician, and songwriter. She achieved fame as a member of the R&B girl group TLC. Lopes ...more

47
92 92
The Big Bopper is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
The Big Bopper Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll Died at 28 (1930-1959) Jiles Perry "J. P." Richardson, Jr., commonly known as The Big Bopper, was an American musician, songwriter and disc jockey, whose big rockabilly look, style, voice, and exuberant ...more

48
45 65
Shannon Hoon is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Shannon Hoon Rock music, Folk music, Grunge Died at 28 (1967-1995) Richard Shannon Hoon was an American singer-songwriter and musician. He was the frontman and lead singer of the band Blind Melon until his death from a cocaine overdose in 1995.

49
56 48
Minnie Riperton is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
TroyLowe added Minnie Riperton Pop music, Rock music, Rhythm and blues "Lovin' You"
 Died at 31 (1947-1979)
Minnie Julia Riperton-Rudolph, known professionally as Minnie Riperton, was an American singer-songwriter best known for her 1975 single "Lovin' You". She was married to songwriter and ...more

50
60 62
Ol' Dirty Bastard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Ol' Dirty Bastard Hip hop music, Rap music, Hardcore hip hop Died at 35 (1968-2004) Russell Tyrone Jones, better known under his stage name Ol' Dirty Bastard, was an American rapper and occasional producer. He was one of the founding members of the Wu-Tang Clan, a rap group ...more