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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.

 

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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 was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most ...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 "Bob" Marley OM was a Jamaican reggae singer-songwriter, musician, and guitarist who achieved international fame and acclaim. Starting out in 1963 with the group the ...more
3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Opera, Ballet, Art song
Died at 35 (1756-1791) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his ...more
4
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Grunge, Alternative rock, Punk rock
Died at 27 (1967-1994) Kurt Donald Cobain was an American musician who was best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana. Cobain formed Nirvana with Krist Novoselic 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 "Jim" Morrison was an American singer, poet and songwriter best remembered as the lead vocalist of the Doors. Due to his songwriting, baritone voice, wild personality and ...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, known as Stevie Ray Vaughan, was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer. In spite of a short-lived mainstream career spanning seven years, he is ...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 was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to fame in the late 1960s as the lead singer of the acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company, and later as a solo ...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, known as Buddy Holly, was an American musician and singer-songwriter, often considered one of the main figures of the rock and roll genre in the mid-1950s. Born in ...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. was an American singer-songwriter, record producer, arranger and talent scout. He is considered one of the greatest singers in the history of American popular music and a ...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 was an English musician and songwriter, best known as the drummer of Led Zeppelin. Bonham was esteemed for his speed, power, fast bass-drumming, distinctive sound, and ...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 was an English drummer who played with the English rock band the Who. He was noted for his unique style and his eccentric, often self-destructive behaviour. In 2011, Moon was ...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, Sr. was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential singers and songwriters of the 20th Century, ...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, also known by his stage names 2Pac and briefly as Makaveli, was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. Shakur has sold over 75 million records worldwide, making him one ...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) Virginia Patterson Hensley, known professionally as Patsy Cline, was an American singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music. She ...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 was a Scottish-born Australian rock musician, best known for being the lead singer and lyricist of Australian hard rock band AC/DC from 1974 until 1980. He ...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 was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, rhythm and blues, jazz and reggae. Winehouse's 2003 ...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 "Ronnie" Van Zant was an American lead vocalist, primary lyricist, and a founding member of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. He was the older brother of current lead ...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 "Randy" Rhoads was an American heavy metal guitarist who played with Ozzy Osbourne. A devoted student of classical guitar, Rhoads combined his classical music ...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 was an American singer and drummer. She and her brother, Richard, formed the 1970s duo Carpenters. Although her skills as a drummer earned admiration from drumming ...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) Fryderyk Chopin is a film score composer.
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 "Sam" Cooke was an American recording artist and singer-songwriter, generally considered among the greatest of all time. Influential as both a singer and composer, he is ...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 "Jim" Croce was an American singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and 11 singles. His singles "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and ...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 was an Austrian composer. Schubert 's life ended at 31 but was extremely prolific during his lifetime. His output consists of over six hundred secular vocal works, seven ...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 was an American guitarist, session musician, co-founder and leader of the The Allman Brothers Band. The Allman Brothers Band was formed in 1969 and based in the Southeastern ...more
25
Robert Johnson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Rock music, Blues, Country blues
Died at 27 (1911-1938) Robert Leroy Johnson was an American singer-songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has ...more