7.7k voters

The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40

Updated February 21, 2020 70.7k votes 7.7k voters 221.6k 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.


  • Duane Allman26

    Duane Allman

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsDuane Allman: An Anthology, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, Ton-Ton Macoute!, Duane & Greg Allman, Duane Allman: An Anthology

    Died at 24 (1946-1971)
    Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session...  more
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    #55 of 225 The Best Blues Artists of All Time#22 of 639 The Greatest Lead Guitarists Of All Time

  • Robert Johnson27

    Robert Johnson

    Rock music, Blues

    AlbumsFrom Four Till Late, Hellhound on My Trail, Sweet Home Chicago, Kind Hearted Woman Blues

    Died at 27 (1911-1938)
    Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer, songwriter...  more
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    Robert Johnson Is An Early Member Of The 27 Club, And His Death May Be Due To A Deal With The Devil#6 of 29 Members of The 27 Club

  • Karen Carpenter28

    Karen Carpenter

    Pop music, Soft rock

    AlbumsOffering, Close to You, Made in America, Voice of the Heart, Carpenters

    Died at 32 (1950-1983)
    Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer who...  more
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    #192 of 271 The Sexiest Musical Artists of All Time#175 of 583 The Greatest Entertainers of All Time

  • Lil Peep29

    Lil Peep

    Emo rap, alternative R&B
    Gustav Åhr, known by his stage name Lil Peep, is an American rapper and singer. He was cited...  more
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    #72 of 191 The Best New School Rappers#8 of 65 The Best Rappers Who Started On SoundCloud

  • Jeff Buckley30

    Jeff Buckley

    Rock music, Folk music

    AlbumsGrace, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, Songs to No One 1991-1992, Live at Sin-é, So Real: Songs from Jeff Buckley

    Died at 30 (1966-1997)
    Jeffrey Scott Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), raised as Scott Moorhead, was an...  more
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    #1157 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#197 of 383 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '90s

  • Keith Moon31

    Keith Moon

    Skiffle, Pop music

    AlbumsTwo Sides of the Moon

    Keith John Moon (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) was an English drummer for the rock band...  more
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    #10 of 12 12 Stories About Rock Stars That Sound Made Up, But Aren't#22 of 57 The Most Musically Gifted Children of Musicians

  • Layne Staley32

    Layne Staley

    Doom metal, Glam metal
    Died at 34 (1967-2002)
    Layne Thomas Staley (born Layne Rutherford Staley, August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an...  more
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    #71 of 185 The (Male) Singer You Most Wish You Could Sound Like#27 of 50 The Best Singing Drummers

  • Cliff Burton33

    Cliff Burton

    Thrash metal, Progressive metal
    Died at 24 (1962-1986)
    Clifford Lee Burton (February 10, 1962 – September 27, 1986) was an American musician and...  more
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    #5 of 186 The All-Time Best Rock Bassists#295 of 403 Famous Role Models We'd Like to Meet In Person

  • Cass Elliot34

    Cass Elliot

    Pop music, Folk rock

    AlbumsDream a Little Dream, The Road Is No Place for a Lady, Cass Elliot, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, Bubblegum

    Died at 32 (1941-1974)
    Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen; September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama...  more
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    #5 of 17 The Most Infamous Rock and Roll Urban Legends#38 of 158 The Best Female Rock Singers

  • George Gershwin35

    George Gershwin

    Opera, Musical theatre

    AlbumsGeorge Gerswhin plays RHAPSODY IN BLUE and his other favorite compositions

    Died at 38 (1898-1937)
    George Gershwin (; born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz, September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an...  more
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    #71 of 164 The Greatest Jazz Pianists of All Time#55 of 143 The Greatest Pianists of All Time

  • Dimebag Darrell36

    Dimebag Darrell

    Glam metal, Thrash metal
    Died at 38 (1966-2004)
    Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), best known by his stage name...  more
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    #77 of 542 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time#1122 of 1,728 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

  • Minnie Riperton37

    Minnie Riperton

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsAdventures in Paradise, Come to My Garden, Her Chess Years (feat. The Gems & Rotary Connection), Stay in Love, Minnie

    "Lovin' You"
     Died at 31 (1947-1979)
    Minnie Julia Riperton-Rudolph (November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979), was an American...  more
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    #34 of 104 The Best One-Hit Wonders of the 1970s#38 of 172 The Female Singer You Most Wish You Could Sound Like

  • Franz Schubert38

    Franz Schubert

    Opera, Romantic music

    AlbumsClassical Anthology, Eternal Classics, Symphonien 8 "Unfinished" / 9 "The Great", Winterreise (feat. baritone: Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, piano: Gerald Moore)

    Died at 31 (1797-1828)
    Franz Peter Schubert (German: [ˈfʁant͡s ˈpeːtɐ ˈʃuːbɐt]; 31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828)...  more
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    #110 of 159 The Best Pianists in the World#146 of 152 The Greatest Classical Pianists of All Time

  • Avicii39


    House, Techno

    AlbumsBom, Collide, Avicii et al: Swedish House Collection - Taken from Superstar, Avicii Presents Strictly Miami, True

    Tim Bergling (8 September 1989 – 20 April 2018) known professionally as Avicii, was a Swedish...  more
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  • Brian Jones40

    Brian Jones

    Blues-rock, Pop music

    AlbumsBrian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka

    Died at 27 (1942-1969)
    Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969) was an English musician, best known...  more
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    #14 of 136 Famous Accordionists#3 of 13 Rockers Who Were Fired From Hard-Partying Bands For Partying Too Damn Hard

  • Aaliyah41


    Hip hop music, Pop music

    AlbumsAge Ain't Nothing but a Number, One in a Million, Aaliyah

    Died at 22 (1979-2001)
    Aaliyah Dana Haughton (; January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, actress,...  more
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    The Best Songs Feat. Aaliyah#1083 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

  • Andy Gibb42

    Andy Gibb

    Disco, Pop music

    AlbumsFlowing Rivers, After Dark, Shadow Dancing, Andy Gibb's Greatest Hits, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Andy Gibb

    Died at 30 (1958-1988)
    Andrew Roy Gibb (5 March 1958 – 10 March 1988) was an English singer, songwriter, performer,...  more
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    #661 of 1,019 The Worst Bands & Musicians of All Time#68 of 103 The Greatest English Pop Singers

  • Bobby Darin43

    Bobby Darin

    Rock music, Swing music

    AlbumsBeyond the Sea: The Very Best of Bobby Darin, You're the Reason I'm Living / I Wanna Be Around, Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Doolitle / Born Walden Robert Cassotto, Great Gentlemen of Song: Spotlight On..., Oh! Look at Me Now

    Died at 37 (1936-1973)
    Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American...  more
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    #471 of 739 The Best Singers of All Time#59 of 193 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely

  • The Big Bopper44

    The Big Bopper

    Rock music, Rockabilly

    AlbumsChantilly Lace, Hellooo Baby! The Best of the Big Bopper, 1954-1959, Purple People Eater Meets Witch Doctor / Chantilly Lace, Chantilly Lace Starring the Big Bopper

    Died at 28 (1930-1959)
    Jiles Perry "J. P." Richardson Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959), known as The Big...  more
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    #142 of 355 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame#416 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

  • Sid Vicious45

    Sid Vicious

    Rock music, Punk rock

    AlbumsThe Vicious White Kids feat. Sid Vicious, Live at the Electric Ballroom, Too Fast to Live..., Sid Dead Live, Sid Sings

    Died at 21 (1957-1979)
    Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie, 10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979) was an English bassist...  more
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    #822 of 3,510 The Best Movie Characters Of All Time#83 of 389 The Best Punk Bands Of All Time

  • Gram Parsons46

    Gram Parsons

    Rock music, Country rock

    AlbumsGP, Grievous Angel, The Gilded Palace of Sin, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Safe at Home

    Died at 26 (1946-1973)
    Ingram Cecil Connor III (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973), known professionally as Gram...  more
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    #275 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time#190 of 525 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song?

  • Ritchie Valens47

    Ritchie Valens

    Chicano rock, Rock music

    AlbumsThe Complete Ritchie Valens, The Very Best Of Richie Valens, Greatest Hits, The Very Best of Ritchie Valens, La Bamba

    Died at 17 (1941-1959)
    Richard Steven Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Ritchie...  more
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    #93 of 196 The Greatest Male Pop Singers of All Time#135 of 265 Rank the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame Inductees

  • Ian Curtis48

    Ian Curtis

    New Wave, Gothic rock
    Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English singer-songwriter and musician....  more
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    #308 of 603 The Best Rock Vocalists#166 of 298 The Best Frontmen in Rock

  • Dennis Wilson49

    Dennis Wilson

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsPacific Ocean Blue, Pacific Ocean Blue (Legacy Edition) (disc 1), Dreamer

    Died at 39 (1944-1983)
    Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer,...  more
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  • Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy50

    Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

    Opera, Romantic music

    AlbumsClassical Anthology, The Complete Symphonies, Great Violin Concertos, Great Romantic Symphonies, Bernstein Century: Violin Concerto / Symphony no. 4 "Italian" / "The Hebrides" Overture

    Died at 38 (1809-1847)
    Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), born and widely...  more
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    #39 of 368 The Best Classical Composers#150 of 155 The Greatest Pianists Ever