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The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40  

Ranker Music
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63.1k votes 6.7k voters 180.7k views 152 items

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.

 

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26
Robert Johnson is listed (or ranked) 26 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Rock music, Blues, Country blues
Died at 27 (1911-1938) Robert Leroy Johnson (May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938) was an American blues singer, songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar ...more

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#367 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalistsfeaturing Robert Johnson Is An Early Member Of The 27 Club, And His Death May Be Due To A Deal With The Devillisted on People On Stamps: List Of People On US Postage

27
Selena is listed (or ranked) 27 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Mexican cumbia, Pop music, Latin American music
Died at 23 (1971-1995) Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (Spanish: [seˈlena kintaˈniʝa ˈpeɾes]; April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer. ...more

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28
George Gershwin is listed (or ranked) 28 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Opera, Musical theatre, Film score
Died at 38 (1898-1937) George Gershwin (; born Jacob Bruskin Gershowitz, September 26, 1898 – July 11, 1937) was an American composer and pianist whose compositions spanned both popular and classical genres. Among his ...more

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#1,379 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #31 of 374 The Best Classical Composerslisted on People On Stamps: List Of People On US Postage

29
Cliff Burton is listed (or ranked) 29 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Thrash metal, Progressive metal, Power metal
Died at 24 (1962-1986) Clifford Lee Burton (February 10, 1962 – September 27, 1986) was an American musician and songwriter, best known as the bass guitarist for the American band Metallica from December 1982 until ...more

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#357 of 931 People We Wish Were Still Alive #12 of 193 The All-Time Best Rock Bassists #119 of 206 The Druggiest Rock Stars of All Time

30
Layne Staley is listed (or ranked) 30 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
sebbzor added Doom metal, Glam metal, Blues-rock
Died at 34 (1967-2002) Layne Thomas Staley (born Layne Rutherford Staley, August 22, 1967 – April 5, 2002) was an American musician best known as the original lead singer and co-songwriter of the rock band Alice in ...more

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#210 of 455 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #38 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalists #317 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time

31
XXXTentacion is listed (or ranked) 31 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
bigkachow added Rock Hip Hop Emo

Jahseh Onfroy was a musican artist who began their c

Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy, better known by his stage name XXXTentacion, was an American rapper, singer and songwriter. Born and raised in Plantation, Florida, Onfroy spent most of his childhood in ...more

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32
Eazy-E is listed (or ranked) 32 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Hip hop music, Old-school hip hop, Gangsta rap
Died at 31 (1963-1995) Eric Lynn Wright (September 7, 1964 – March 26, 1995), known professionally as Eazy-E, was an American rapper, record producer, and entrepreneur. Dubbed the "Godfather of Gangsta Rap", ...more

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#1,391 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #14 of 508 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time #613 of 931 People We Wish Were Still Alive

33
Mac Miller is listed (or ranked) 33 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
jjjjjiaoen added Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop, Pop music
Malcolm James McCormick (January 19, 1992 – September 7, 2018), known professionally as Mac Miller, was an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born in Pittsburgh, ...more

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34
Jeff Buckley is listed (or ranked) 34 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Rock music, Folk music, Folk rock
Died at 30 (1966-1997) Jeffrey Scott Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997), raised as Scott Moorhead, was an American singer, songwriter and guitarist. After a decade as a session guitarist in Los Angeles, ...more

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#104 of 455 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #130 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalists #638 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

35
Dimebag Darrell is listed (or ranked) 35 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Glam metal, Thrash metal, Groove metal
Died at 38 (1966-2004) Darrell Lance Abbott (August 20, 1966 – December 8, 2004), best known by his stage name Dimebag Darrell, was an American musician and songwriter. He was the guitarist of the heavy metal bands ...more

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#566 of 2,219 The Best Rock Bands of All Time #8 of 231 The Best Metal Guitarists and Guitar Teams #43 of 655 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

36
Avicii is listed (or ranked) 36 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
House, Techno, Electro House
Tim Bergling (8 September 1989 – 20 April 2018) known professionally as Avicii, was a Swedish DJ, electronic musician, and songwriter. He rose to prominence in 2011 with his single ...more

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37
Brian Jones is listed (or ranked) 37 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Blues-rock, Pop music, Rock music
Died at 27 (1942-1969) Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969) was an English musician, best known as the founder and the original leader of the Rolling Stones. Initially a slide guitarist, Jones ...more

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38
Lil Peep is listed (or ranked) 38 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Eunoiax added Emo rap, alternative R&B, cloud rap
Gustav Åhr, known by his stage name Lil Peep, is an American rapper and singer. He was cited as one of the primary artists responsible for the post-emo revival with his style of hip hop ...more

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#67 of 144 The Best Young Rappers and New School Rappers #1,956 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #270 of 508 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time

39
Dennis Wilson is listed (or ranked) 39 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Pop music, Rock music, Psychedelic pop
Died at 39 (1944-1983) Dennis Carl Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) was an American musician, singer, and songwriter who co-founded the Beach Boys. He is best remembered as their drummer and as the middle ...more

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#377 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time #579 of 931 People We Wish Were Still Alive #73 of 206 The Druggiest Rock Stars of All Time

40
Gram Parsons is listed (or ranked) 40 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Rock music, Country rock, Country
Died at 26 (1946-1973) Ingram Cecil Connor III (November 5, 1946 – September 19, 1973), known professionally as Gram Parsons, was an American singer, songwriter, guitarist and pianist. Parsons is best known for his ...more

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41
Phil Lynott is listed (or ranked) 41 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Blues-rock, Pop music, Rock music
Died at 36 (1949-1986) Philip Parris Lynott (, LY-nət; 20 August 1949 – 4 January 1986) was an Irish musician and songwriter. His most commercially successful group was Thin Lizzy, of which he was a founding member, ...more

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42
Andy Gibb is listed (or ranked) 42 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Disco, Pop music
Died at 30 (1958-1988) Andrew Roy Gibb (5 March 1958 – 10 March 1988) was an English singer, songwriter, performer, and teen idol. He was the younger brother of the Bee Gees: Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb. Gibb came ...more

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43
Marc Bolan is listed (or ranked) 43 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Psychedelic folk, Protopunk, Pop rock
Died at 29 (1947-1977) Marc Bolan ( BOH-lən; born Mark Feld; 30 September 1947 – 16 September 1977) was an English singer-songwriter, musician, guitarist, and poet. He was best known as the lead singer of the glam ...more

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#170 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalists #345 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time #152 of 190 The Greatest Male Pop Singers of All Time

44
Aaliyah is listed (or ranked) 44 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Hip hop music, Pop music, Neo soul
Died at 22 (1979-2001) Aaliyah Dana Haughton (; January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001) was an American singer, actress, and model. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Detroit, Michigan, she first gained recognition ...more

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45
Cass Elliot is listed (or ranked) 45 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Pop music, Folk rock
Died at 32 (1941-1974) Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen; September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), also known as Mama Cass, was an American singer and actress, best known as a member of the Mamas & the Papas. After ...more

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#123 of 711 The Best Rock Vocalists #173 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time #513 of 2,219 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

46
Ritchie Valens is listed (or ranked) 46 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Chicano rock, Rock music, Rock and roll
Died at 17 (1941-1959) Richard Steven Valenzuela (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Ritchie Valens, was an American singer, songwriter, and guitarist. A rock and roll pioneer and a forefather ...more

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47
Bobby Darin is listed (or ranked) 47 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Rock music, Swing music, Folk music
Died at 37 (1936-1973) Bobby Darin (born Walden Robert Cassotto; May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor in film and television. He performed jazz, pop, ...more

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#417 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #185 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time #73 of 190 The Greatest Male Pop Singers of All Time

48
Felix Mendelssohn-Bartho... is listed (or ranked) 48 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Opera, Romantic music, Incidental music
Died at 38 (1809-1847) Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (3 February 1809 – 4 November 1847), born and widely known as Felix Mendelssohn, was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early ...more

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#451 of 2,186 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #22 of 374 The Best Classical Composers #1,071 of 2,831 The Most Influential People of All Time

49
Minnie Riperton is listed (or ranked) 49 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
TroyLowe added Pop music, Rock music, Rhythm and blues
"Lovin' You"
 Died at 31 (1947-1979)
Minnie Julia Riperton-Rudolph (November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979), was an American singer-songwriter best known for her 1975 single "Lovin' You" and her five-octave coloratura soprano ...more

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#354 of 1,066 The Best Singers of All Time #109 of 986 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #134 of 159 The Best Female Rock Singers

50
Ol' Dirty Bastard is listed (or ranked) 50 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Hip hop music, Rap music, Hardcore hip hop
Died at 35 (1968-2004) Russell Tyrone Jones (November 15, 1968 – November 13, 2004), better known by his stage name Ol' Dirty Bastard (often abbreviated as O.D.B.), was an American rapper and producer. He was one of ...more

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