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.
Albums: Duane Allman: An Anthology, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, Ton-Ton Macoute!, Duane & Greg Allman, Duane Allman: An AnthologyDied at 24 (1946-1971)Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session... more
Albums: From Four Till Late, Hellhound on My Trail, Sweet Home Chicago, Kind Hearted Woman BluesDied at 27 (1911-1938)Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer, songwriter... more
Albums: Offering, Close to You, Made in America, Voice of the Heart, CarpentersDied at 32 (1950-1983)Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer who... more
- 489357Gustav Åhr, known by his stage name Lil Peep, is an American rapper and singer. He was cited... more
Albums: Grace, Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, Songs to No One 1991-1992, Live at Sin-é, So Real: Songs from Jeff BuckleyDied at 30 (1966-1997)Jeffrey Scott Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), raised as Scott Moorhead, was an... more
Albums: Two Sides of the MoonKeith John Moon (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) was an English drummer for the rock band... more
- 477351Died at 34 (1967-2002)Layne Thomas Staley (born Layne Rutherford Staley, August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an... more
- 333309Died at 24 (1962-1986)Clifford Lee Burton (February 10, 1962 – September 27, 1986) was an American musician and... more
Albums: Dream a Little Dream, The Road Is No Place for a Lady, Cass Elliot, Dave Mason & Cass Elliot, BubblegumDied at 32 (1941-1974)Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen; September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama... more
Albums: George Gerswhin plays RHAPSODY IN BLUE and his other favorite compositionsDied at 38 (1898-1937)George Gershwin (; born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz, September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an... more
- 366346Died at 38 (1966-2004)Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), best known by his stage name... more
Albums: Adventures 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
Albums: Classical 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
Albums: Bom, Collide, Avicii et al: Swedish House Collection - Taken from Superstar, Avicii Presents Strictly Miami, TrueTim Bergling (8 September 1989 – 20 April 2018) known professionally as Avicii, was a Swedish... more
Albums: Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at JoujoukaDied at 27 (1942-1969)Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969) was an English musician, best known... more
Albums: Age Ain't Nothing but a Number, One in a Million, AaliyahDied at 22 (1979-2001)Aaliyah Dana Haughton (; January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, actress,... more
Albums: Flowing Rivers, After Dark, Shadow Dancing, Andy Gibb's Greatest Hits, 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection: The Best of Andy GibbDied at 30 (1958-1988)Andrew Roy Gibb (5 March 1958 – 10 March 1988) was an English singer, songwriter, performer,... more
Albums: Beyond 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 NowDied at 37 (1936-1973)Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American... more
Albums: Chantilly Lace, Hellooo Baby! The Best of the Big Bopper, 1954-1959, Purple People Eater Meets Witch Doctor / Chantilly Lace, Chantilly Lace Starring the Big BopperDied at 28 (1930-1959)Jiles Perry "J. P." Richardson Jr. (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959), known as The Big... more
Albums: The Vicious White Kids feat. Sid Vicious, Live at the Electric Ballroom, Too Fast to Live..., Sid Dead Live, Sid SingsDied at 21 (1957-1979)Sid Vicious (born John Simon Ritchie, 10 May 1957 – 2 February 1979) was an English bassist... more
Albums: GP, Grievous Angel, The Gilded Palace of Sin, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, Safe at HomeDied at 26 (1946-1973)Ingram Cecil Connor III (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973), known professionally as Gram... more
Albums: The Complete Ritchie Valens, The Very Best Of Richie Valens, Greatest Hits, The Very Best of Ritchie Valens, La BambaDied at 17 (1941-1959)Richard Steven Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Ritchie... more
- 158181Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English singer-songwriter and musician.... more
Albums: Pacific Ocean Blue, Pacific Ocean Blue (Legacy Edition) (disc 1), DreamerDied at 39 (1944-1983)Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer,... more
Albums: Classical Anthology, The Complete Symphonies, Great Violin Concertos, Great Romantic Symphonies, Bernstein Century: Violin Concerto / Symphony no. 4 "Italian" / "The Hebrides" OvertureDied at 38 (1809-1847)Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), born and widely... more