Music

The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40 

Ranker Music
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Updated August 14, 2018 17.6k votes 2.2k voters 164.1k views 51 items

List Rules Rock musicians and singers who died before they turned forty years old

On this list you can find all of the hottest, most talented rock stars - from any decade or genre - who didn’t make it to their 40th birthdays. Some died younger than others, and some were more famous than the rest, but all of them were taken far too soon. Most, though, left legacies, even if incomplete, that will live on forever.

Although many people think of drug overdoses when considering rock stars who died young, there is one other cause of death that has taken many rock stars - transportation accidents. After all, rock stars are on the road constantly when touring. The unlucky ones simply don’t beat the odds of being in a crash. To make matters worse, sometimes these accidents cause the death of multiple rock stars.

Perhaps the most famous example of several rock stars dying in an accident is “The Day the Music Died,” February 3, 1959. On this date, a plane crash tragically claimed the lives of The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens, three highly influential early rock musicians who were all under the age of 40. Their influence reached to everyone from Elvis Costello to the Rolling Stones. Who can say how much they may have contributed to music had they lived?

Fortunately, the music doesn’t stop when great musicians pass away, even when they do so far too soon. The greatest rock stars who died early left behind their albums and other recordings so that they may live on in the memories of music lovers and fans. Dying too soon may be a hazard of the rock and roll lifestyle, but being forgotten doesn’t have to be, and all the greats are right here, on this list of the greatest rock stars who died before 40.

list ordered by
1
Jimi Hendrix is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Experimental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland

Labels: MCA Records, Vee-Jay Records, Polydor Records, Reprise Records, Barclay Records, + more

Died at 27 (1942-1970)

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2
Jim Morrison is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Acid rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The Doors, Strange Days, Waiting for the Sun, The Soft Parade, Morrison Hotel, + more

Labels: Elektra Records, Columbia

Died at 27 (1943-1971)

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#26 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #376 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Timelisted on Members of The 27 Club

3
Janis Joplin is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, Pearl

Labels: Columbia

Died at 27 (1943-1970)

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#61 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive The Tortured, Painful Life of Janis Joplin, The Baddest Woman In Rock Historylisted on Members of The 27 Club

4
Kurt Cobain is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Grunge, Alternative rock & Punk rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Bleach, Nevermind, In Utero

Labels: Geffen Records, DGC Records, Sub Pop

Died at 27 (1967-1994)

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5
Buddy Holly is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Lubbock sound, Rock music & Rockabilly; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: The "Chirping" Crickets, Buddy Holly, That'll Be the Day

Labels: Decca Records, Brunswick Records, Coral Records

Died at 22 (1936-1959)

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6
Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
novidian added Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Instrumental rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Couldn't Stand the Weather, In Step, Texas Flood, The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, The Sky Is Crying, + more

Labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Epic Records, A&M Records, Legacy Recordings

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7
John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Folk rock & Heavy metal; Nationality: England

Albums: Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin III, Led Zeppelin IV, In Through the Out Door, + more

Labels: Atlantic Records, Swan Song Records

Died at 32 (1948-1980)

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#8 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely #2 of 574 The Best Drummers Of All Time

8
Bon Scott is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Blues-rock, Rock music & Heavy metal; Nationality: Scotland

Albums: High Voltage, T.N.T., Let There Be Rock, Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap, Powerage, + more

Died at 33 (1946-1980)

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#33 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #150 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #12 of 398 The Best Frontmen in Rock

9
Keith Moon is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Skiffle, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: England

Albums: Two Sides of the Moon, My Generation, Quadrophenia, A Quick One, Who Are You, + more

Died at 32 (1946-1978)

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#13 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely #516 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time #14 of 204 The Druggiest Rock Stars of All Time

10
Ronnie Van Zant is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
DaveWeaver added Genre: Rock music and Southern rock; Nationality: United States of America

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#54 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #473 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #18 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely

11
Bob Marley is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Reggae; Nationality: Jamaica

Albums: Sun Is Shining, One Love, Rainbow Country, Lively Up Yourself, Forever Gold, + more

Bob Marley and The Wailers. Cancer. Died at 36.
 

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12
Ritchie Valens is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Chicano rock, Rock music & Rock and roll; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Ritchie Valens, Ritchie

Labels: Del-Fi Records

Died at 17 (1941-1959)

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#169 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #407 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

13
Layne Staley is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Doom metal, Glam metal & Blues-rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Facelift, Dirt, Alice in Chains

Labels: Columbia

Died at 34 (1967-2002)

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#210 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #318 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time

14
Randy Rhoads is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Glam metal, Heavy metal & Neo-classical metal; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Quiet Riot, Quiet Riot II, The Randy Rhoads Years, Blizzard of Ozz, Diary of a Madman

Labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Epic Records

Died at 25 (1956-1982)

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#295 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #1 of 229 The Best Metal Guitarists and Guitar Teams

15
Jim Croce is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
MichaelAinsworth added Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Folk music; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Simply the Best: Time in a Bottle: His Greatest Hits, Jim Croce Smash Hits, Singer Songwriter, Bombs Over Puerto Rico, Life and Times, + more

Labels: ABC Records, Atlantic Records, EMI, Capitol Records

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#22 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely #42 of 285 Musicians Who Belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame The Best Jim Croce Albums of All Time

16
Brian Jones is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
ReiFordham added Genre: Blues-rock, Pop music & Rock music; Nationality: United Kingdom

Albums: Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka

Labels: Decca Records, London Records, ATCO Records, Rolling Stones Records

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17
Duane Allman is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
stephenj53 added 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

Labels: Capricorn Records, Mercury

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#436 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #16 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #709 of 1,471 The Greatest Minds of All Time

18
Amy Winehouse is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
BrianTomasio added Genre: Doo-wop, Pop music & Neo soul; Nationality: England

Albums: Back to Black, Frank, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, Rehab, Remixes Promo 2, + more

Labels: Island Records, Universal Republic Records, Universal Music Group, Republic Records

Died at age 27
Born 14 September 1983Southgate, London, EnglandDied 23 July 2011 (aged 27)Camden, London, England

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19
Dimebag Darrell is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Glam metal, Thrash metal & Groove metal; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Power Metal, New Found Power, Cowboys from Hell, Vulgar Display of Power

Labels: Big Vin Records, ATCO Records, Elektra Records

Died at 38 (1966-2004)

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#43 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #4 of 229 The Best Metal Guitarists and Guitar Teams #32 of 199 Rock Stars Whose Deaths Were The Most Untimely

20
Andy Gibb is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Disco and Pop music; Nationality: Australia

Albums: Flowing Rivers, Shadow Dancing, After Dark

Labels: RSO Records, Polydor Records

Died at 30 (1958-1988)

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21
Dennis Wilson is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Pop music, Rock music & Psychedelic pop; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Pacific Ocean Blue

Labels: Sony Music Entertainment, Caribou Records, Brother Records, Reprise Records, Capitol Records

Died at 39 (1944-1983)

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22
Cliff Burton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
tjh611 added Genre: Thrash metal, Progressive metal & Power metal; Nationality: United States of America

Labels: Megaforce Records, Elektra Records

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23
Michael Hutchence is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: New Wave, Rock music & Alternative rock; Nationality: Australia

Albums: Michael Hutchence, Elegantly Wasted, X, Full Moon, Kick, + more

Labels: Atlantic Records, ATCO Records, Warner Music Group, V2 Records, Epic Records, + more

Died at 37 (1960-1997)

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24
Jeff Buckley is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Rock music, Folk music & Folk rock; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Grace

Labels: Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Columbia

Died at 30 (1966-1997)

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#211 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #188 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #398 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

25
The Big Bopper is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40
Genre: Rock music, Rockabilly & Rock and roll; Nationality: United States of America

Albums: Singin' and Swingin'

Labels: Mercury

Died at 28 (1930-1959)

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