Music
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The Greatest Rock Stars Who Died Before 40

Updated August 14, 2018 13.5k votes 2.3k voters 165.3k views51 items

List RulesRock 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.

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  • 1
    Jimi Hendrix
    584
    195

    Jimi Hendrix

    Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Experimental rock, Psychedelia, Heavy metal

    Died at 27 (1942-1970)

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  • 2
    Janis Joplin
    517
    173

    Janis Joplin

    Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cheap Thrills

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Folk music, Acid rock, Soul music

    Died at 27 (1943-1970)

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  • 3
    Jim Morrison
    564
    205

    Jim Morrison

    The Doors, Strange Days

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Acid rock, Rock and roll, Psychedelic rock

    Died at 27 (1943-1971)
  • 4
    Stevie Ray Vaughan
    389
    123

    Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Couldn't Stand the Weather, In Step

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Instrumental rock, Electric blues, Jazz fusion

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  • 5
    Buddy Holly
    401
    131

    Buddy Holly

    The "Chirping" Crickets, Buddy Holly

    Genres (Music)Lubbock sound, Rock music, Rockabilly, Pop rock, Rock and roll

    Died at 22 (1936-1959)

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  • 6
    John Bonham
    338
    123

    John Bonham

    Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin II

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Folk rock, Heavy metal, Hard rock

    Died at 32 (1948-1980)
  • 7
    Bob Marley
    280
    75

    Bob Marley

    Sun Is Shining, One Love

    Genres (Music)Reggae

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

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  • 8
    Kurt Cobain
    565
    288

    Kurt Cobain

    Bleach, Nevermind

    Genres (Music)Grunge, Alternative rock, Punk rock

    Died at 27 (1967-1994)

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  • 9
    Ronnie Van Zant

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  • 10
    Ritchie Valens
    258
    118

    Ritchie Valens

    Ritchie Valens, Ritchie

    Genres (Music)Chicano rock, Rock music, Rock and roll

    Died at 17 (1941-1959)
  • 11
    Bon Scott
    279
    115

    Bon Scott

    High Voltage, T.N.T.

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Heavy metal, Rock and roll, Progressive rock

    Died at 33 (1946-1980)
  • 12
    Keith Moon
    255
    126

    Keith Moon

    Two Sides of the Moon, My Generation

    Genres (Music)Skiffle, Pop music, Rock music, Protopunk, Heavy metal

    Died at 32 (1946-1978)
  • 13
    Layne Staley
    283
    138

    Layne Staley

    Facelift, Dirt

    Genres (Music)Doom metal, Glam metal, Blues-rock, Grunge, Heavy metal

    Died at 34 (1967-2002)
  • 14
    Randy Rhoads
    229
    121

    Randy Rhoads

    Quiet Riot, Quiet Riot II

    Genres (Music)Glam metal, Heavy metal, Neo-classical metal, Hard rock

    Died at 25 (1956-1982)
  • 15
    Jim Croce
    197
    89

    Jim Croce

    Simply the Best: Time in a Bottle: His Greatest Hits, Jim Croce Smash Hits

    Genres (Music)Pop music, Rock music, Folk music, Folk rock, Soft rock

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  • 16
    Duane Allman
    177
    95

    Duane Allman

    Duane Allman: An Anthology, Skydog: The Duane Allman Retrospective

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Rock music, Jazz fusion, Jazz, Soul music

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  • 17
    Cliff Burton
  • 18
    Amy Winehouse
    265
    180

    Amy Winehouse

    Back to Black, Frank

    Genres (Music)Doo-wop, Pop music, Neo soul, Ska, Rock music

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

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  • 19
    Brian Jones
    170
    123

    Brian Jones

    Brian Jones Presents the Pipes of Pan at Joujouka

    Genres (Music)Blues-rock, Pop music, Rock music, World music, Rhythm and blues

  • 20
    Dimebag Darrell
    199
    121

    Dimebag Darrell

    Power Metal, New Found Power

    Genres (Music)Glam metal, Thrash metal, Groove metal, Heavy metal, Southern rock

    Died at 38 (1966-2004)

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  • 21
    Cass Elliot
    94
    53

    Cass Elliot

    Bubblegum, Lemonade

    Genres (Music)Pop music, Folk rock

  • 22
    Andy Gibb
    182
    136

    Andy Gibb

    Flowing Rivers, Shadow Dancing

    Genres (Music)Disco, Pop music

    Died at 30 (1958-1988)

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  • 23
    Dennis Wilson
    136
    108

    Dennis Wilson

    Pacific Ocean Blue

    Genres (Music)Pop music, Rock music, Psychedelic pop, Baroque pop, Psychedelic rock

    Died at 39 (1944-1983)
  • 24
    Michael Hutchence
    147
    95

    Michael Hutchence

    Michael Hutchence, Elegantly Wasted

    Genres (Music)New Wave, Rock music, Alternative rock

    Died at 37 (1960-1997)
  • 25
    The Big Bopper
    119
    110

    The Big Bopper

    Singin' and Swingin'

    Genres (Music)Rock music, Rockabilly, Rock and roll, Country

    Died at 28 (1930-1959)

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