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.


  • Jimi Hendrix1

    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
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  • Bob Marley2

    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
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  • Kurt Cobain3

    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
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  • Jim Morrison4

    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
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  • Buddy Holly5

    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
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  • Janis Joplin6

    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
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  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart7

    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
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  • Tupac Shakur8

    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
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  • Otis Redding9

    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
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  • Stevie Ray Vaughan10

    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
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  • The Notorious B.I.G.11

    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
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  • Amy Winehouse12

    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
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  • Hank Williams13

    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
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  • John Bonham14

    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
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  • Ronnie Van Zant15

    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
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  • Patsy Cline16

    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
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  • Eazy-E17


    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
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  • Bon Scott18

    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
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  • Selena19


    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
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  • Sam Cooke20

    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
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  • Frédéric Chopin21

    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
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  • Mac Miller22

    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
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  • XXXTentacion23


    Rock Hip Hop Emo


    Jahseh Onfroy was a musican artist who began their c

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  • Jim Croce24

    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
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  • Randy Rhoads25

    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
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