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The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40 

Ranker Music
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Updated February 21, 2020 65.7k votes 7.1k voters 203.6k 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.

 

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 Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Experimental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Band of Gypsys, Voodoo Child: The Jimi Hendrix Collection, Live at the Fillmore East, Live at Woodstock, + more

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

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Wild Stories From The Guitar-Shredding Life Of Jimi Hendrix #66 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalistslisted on Members of The 27 Club

2
Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Reggae; Nationality: Jamaica

Albums: The Wailing Wailers, Soul Rebels, Soul Revolution, The Best of the Wailers, Catch a Fire, + more

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

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18 Things Most People Don't Know About Bob Marley #72 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #27 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

3
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Grunge, Alternative rock & Punk rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: 1993-09-08: Rock Against Rape Benefit, Club Lingerie, Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA, + more

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

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4
Jim Morrison is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Acid rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Paris Jim, Dionysus

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

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#26 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #4 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rocklisted on Members of The 27 Club

5
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart ... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Genre: Opera, Ballet & Art song; Nationality: Holy Roman Empire

Albums: Symphony Edition, Classical Anthology, Eternal Classics, Concertos for Flute, Harp and Orchestra (Orchestra: Saint Paul's Philharmonic Orchestra; Flute: Ubaldo Rosso; Harp: Ursula Mazurek; Conductor: Silvano Frontalini), + more

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

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17 Bizarre, Mind-Blowing Facts and Stories About Mozart #7 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timelisted on 16 Famous Bodies From History Found In Inconspicuous Places

6
Janis Joplin is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Pearl, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Greatest Hits, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, The Essential Janis Joplin, + more

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

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The Tortured, Painful Life of Janis Joplin, The Baddest Woman In Rock History #14 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalistslisted on Members of The 27 Club

7
Buddy Holly is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Lubbock sound, Rock music & Rockabilly; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Buddy, 20 Golden Greats, What You Been A-Missin': What You've Been A-Missin', The Buddy Holly Story, That'll Be The Day, + more

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

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What Actually Happened The Day The Music Died? #83 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #28 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

8
Otis Redding is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Southern soul, Soul blues & Rock music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Pain in My Heart, King & Queen, Complete & Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul, The Soul Album, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads, + more

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

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The Best Otis Redding Albums of All Time #116 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #115 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rock

9
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Instrumental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Texas Flood, Couldn't Stand The Weather, Soul to Soul, In Step, In Step, + more

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

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The Best Stevie Ray Vaughan Songs of All Time #78 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #72 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

10
Tupac Shakur is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Hip hop music, Political hip hop & Gangsta rap; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: 2Pacalypse Now, Strictly 4 My Niggaz, Thug Life: Volume 1, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Me Against the World, + more

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

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11
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Doo-wop, Pop music & Neo soul; Nationality: England

Albums: Frank, Back to Black

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

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‘Amy’ Is A Deeply Upsetting Documentary That Forced Us To Re-Examine Her Tragedy #11 of 218 The Greatest New Female Vocalists of the Past 10 Yearslisted on Members of The 27 Club

12
Hank Williams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Genre: Outlaw country, Western music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Cold, Cold Heart, Beyond the Sunset, Three Hanks: Men With Broken Hearts, Hillbilly Hero, + more

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

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13
The Notorious B.I.G. is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Hip hop music, Hardcore hip hop & East Coast hip hop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ready to Die, Life After Death

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

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14
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Rock music, Swing music & Rockabilly; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Patsy Cline, Patsy Cline Showcase, Sentimentally Yours

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

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#14 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #71 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #50 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

15
John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
KcXfiles added Genre: Blues-rock, Folk rock & Heavy metal; Nationality: England

Albums: Rock and Roll Highway

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

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16
Sam Cooke is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Pop music, Rhythm and blues & Jazz; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Songs by Sam Cooke, Twistin' the Night Away, Encore, Swing Low, Cooke's Tour, + more

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

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Rising Soul Singer Sam Cooke Perished Under Mysterious Circumstances In 1964 And The Case Is Still Unsolved #51 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #98 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

17
Frédéric C... is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
looksharp added Genre: Romantic music, Art song & Classical music; Nationality: Poland

Albums: Complete Edition, Classical Anthology, Chopin: Complete Works, The Mazurkas, Spectacular Classics, + more

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

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#33 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #219 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #112 of 2,835 The Most Influential People of All Time

18
Ronnie Van Zant is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Rock music and Southern rock; Nationality: United States of America
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

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#96 of 311 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #58 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #22 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rock

19
XXXTentacion is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
bigkachow added

Albums: 17, revenge, ?

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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The Best XXXTentacion Songs, Ranked #1,474 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Timelisted on The Complete List of Rappers Who've Been in Prison

20
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Facets, Jim & Ingrid Croce, You Don't Mess Around with Jim, Life and Times, I Got a Name

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

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The Best Jim Croce Albums of All Time #214 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #192 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

21
Bon Scott is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
ryanjjjj8 added Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Heavy metal; Nationality: Scotland

Albums: The Early Years 1967-1972, With the Spektors and the Valentines, Round and Round: The Forgotten Years, Round and Round and Round, Seasons of Change Raven/RCA 1971-72 (disc 2)

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

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#34 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #13 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rock #574 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

22
Eazy-E is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Hip hop music, Old-school hip hop & Gangsta rap; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Eazy-Duz-It, Str8 off tha Streetz of Muthaphukkin Compton

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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#1,181 of 2,179 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #677 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #10 of 501 The Greatest Rappers Of All Time

23
Selena is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Mexican cumbia, Pop music & Latin American music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Selena, Ven Conmigo, Entre a Mi Mundo, Amor Prohibido, Dreaming of You

Died at 23 (1971-1995) Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995) was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, model, actress, and fashion designer. Called the Queen of Tejano music, her ...more

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#52 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #107 of 225 The Best Current Female Singers #266 of 1,043 The Best Singers of All Time

24
Karen Carpenter is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Pop music and Soft rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Offering, Close to You, Made in America, Voice of the Heart, Carpenters, + more

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

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#29 of 696 The Best Rock Vocalists #5 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #135 of 225 The Best Current Female Singers

25
Duane Allman is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Musicians Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Jazz fusion; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Duane Allman: An Anthology, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective, Ton-Ton Macoute!, Duane & Greg Allman, Duane Allman: An Anthology, + more

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

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