Entertainment

The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40  

Ranker Music
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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
Jimi Hendrix is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Horse in a Bookcase added Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock
Died at 27 (1942-1970) James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter. His mainstream career lasted ...more
2
Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Reggae
Died at 36 (1945-1981) Robert Nesta Marley, (6 February 1945 – 11 May 1981) was a Jamaican singer and songwriter. Considered one of the pioneers of reggae, his musical career was marked by blending elements of reggae, ...more
3
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Grunge, Alternative rock, Punk rock
Died at 27 (1967-1994) Kurt Donald Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana. He is remembered as ...more
4
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Opera, Ballet, Art song
Died at 35 (1756-1791) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27 January 1756 – 5 December 1791), baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era. Born in ...more
5
Jim Morrison is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Blues-rock, Rock music, Acid rock
Died at 27 (1943-1971) James Douglas Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) was an American singer, songwriter and poet, who served as the lead vocalist of the rock band the Doors. Due to his poetic lyrics, ...more
6
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Blues-rock, Rock music, Instrumental rock
Died at 35 (1954-1990) Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, and one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in ...more
7
Janis Joplin is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music
Died at 27 (1943-1970) Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) was an American rock, soul, and blues singer-songwriter, and one of the most successful and widely known rock stars of her era. After ...more
8
Buddy Holly is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Lubbock sound, Rock music, Rockabilly
Died at 22 (1936-1959) Charles Hardin Holley (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959), known professionally as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter who was a central and pioneering figure of ...more
9
Otis Redding is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Southern soul, Soul blues, Rock music
Died at 26 (1941-1967) Otis Ray Redding Jr. (September 9, 1941 – December 10, 1967) was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the ...more
10
John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
KcXfiles added Blues-rock, Folk rock, Heavy metal
1948-1980. 32 years old. Led Zeppelin drummer. John Henry Bonham (31 May 1948 – 25 September 1980) was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer for the British rock band Led Zeppelin. Esteemed for his speed, power, fast ...more
11
Keith Moon is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
steveresin added Skiffle, Pop music, Rock music
Keith John Moon (23 August 1946 – 7 September 1978) was an English drummer for the rock band the Who. He was noted for his unique style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. His ...more
12
Hank Williams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Outlaw country, Western music, Folk music
Died at 29 (1923-1953) Hiram King "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential American ...more
13
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Hip hop music, Political hip hop, Gangsta rap
Died at 25 (1971-1996) Tupac Amaru Shakur ( TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known by his stage names 2Pac and Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. He is ...more
14
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Rock music, Swing music, Rockabilly
Died at 30 (1932-1963) Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley; September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) was an American singer. She is considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century and was one ...more
15
Bon Scott is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Blues-rock, Rock music, Heavy metal
Died at 33 (1946-1980) Ronald Belford "Bon" Scott (9 July 1946 – 19 February 1980) was an Australian singer, songwriter and instrumentalist, best known for being the lead vocalist and lyricist of the ...more
16
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Doo-wop, Pop music, Neo soul
Died at 27 (1983-2011) Amy Jade Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, ...more
17
Ronnie Van Zant is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
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 the lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. ...more
18
Randy Rhoads is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Glam metal, Heavy metal, Neo-classical metal
Died at 25 (1956-1982) Randall William Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982) was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads ...more
19
Karen Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Pop music, Soft rock
Died at 32 (1950-1983) Karen Anne Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) was an American singer and drummer who was part of the duo the Carpenters alongside her brother Richard. She was praised for her contralto ...more
20
Frédéric Chopin is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Romantic music, Art song, Classical music
Died at 39 (1849-1810) Frédéric François Chopin (, also UK: , US: , French: [ʃɔpɛ̃], Polish: [ˈʂɔpɛn]; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic ...more
21
Sam Cooke is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Pop music, Rhythm and blues, Jazz
Died at 33 (1931-1964) Samuel Cook (January 22, 1931 – December 11, 1964), known professionally as Sam Cooke, was an American singer, songwriter, civil-rights activist and entrepreneur. Influential as both a singer ...more
22
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Pop music, Rock music, Folk music
Died at 30 (1943-1973) James Joseph Croce (; January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973) was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and numerous singles. He ...more
23
Franz Schubert is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
mwahahahaha added Opera, Romantic music, Lied
Died at 31 (1797-1828) Franz Peter Schubert (German: [ˈfʁant͡s ˈpeːtɐ ˈʃuːbɐt]; 31 January 1797 – 19 November 1828) was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras. Despite his short lifetime, ...more
24
Duane Allman is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Blues-rock, Rock music, Jazz fusion
Died at 24 (1946-1971) Howard Duane Allman (November 20, 1946 – October 29, 1971) was an American guitarist, session musician, and founder and leader of the Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band was formed in ...more
25
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop, East Coast hip hop
Died at 24 (1972-1997) Christopher George Latore Wallace (May 21, 1972 – March 9, 1997), known professionally as The Notorious B.I.G., Biggie Smalls, or Biggie, was an American rapper. He is widely considered to be ...more