Overdoses, Electrocutions, And Other Times Musicians Nearly Died On Stage

Some musicians have nine lives. There are stories of performers who've died while performing and legendary tales of rock stars who've supposedly died and come back to life. Others are seemingly un-killable, as the true stories about Keith Richards prove. Music history is filled with terrifying stories about artists who have been electrocuted, collapsed, or experienced other near-death scenarios while performing for fans.

Some of these musicians ultimately died after being transported offstage, while others barely made it out alive. Whether it's an overdose on tranquilizers or a brain aneurysm, musicians have had some truly unthinkable on-stage experiences over the years. 

  • Pop star Ariana Grande revealed that she almost died after the elevator she was riding onto the stage collapsed while on her Honeymoon Tour.

    "You know how they have those toaster things where people come up from the stage and you pop up? Something happened with mine and I was singing the beginning of ‘Love Me Harder’ and I was going up on the thing, and long story short, the thing I was standing on had this wooden plank and it snapped!" Grande said. 

    The singer added that her guitarist ultimately helped her climb to safety, and that the experience was "really scary." 

  • The Who's Keith Moon Took PCP And Couldn't Play
    Video: YouTube

    At a 1973 concert in San Francisco, California, drummer Keith Moon was so nervous about playing that he took what he thought were tranquilizers before the show. The tranquilizers ended up being PCP, and he ultimately passed out on stage.

    The show went on with the help of fan Scot Halpin, who stepped in when guitarist Pete Townshend asked if anyone could play drums. Moon, meanwhile, was rushed to the hospital to have his stomach pumped. As for Halpin, he was given a tour jacket (which was later stolen) and got to live out a rock and roll fantasy with one of the biggest bands in the world.

  • R.E.M. Drummer Bill Berry Suffered A Brain Aneurysm On Stage
    Photo: Scott Gries / Getty Images

    While supporting their album Monster in Switzerland in 1995, R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry collapsed during the song "Tongue" after suffering a brain aneurysm. 

    "He just felt so bad that night that we took him to the hospital," guitarist Peter Buck said. "It wasn’t until the next day they did tests and then immediately scheduled the operation for the day after."

    Singer Michael Stipe later told Rolling Stone in an interview that Berry's condition was extremely serious, despite ultimately recovering and finishing the tour.

    "There was a period when it was hit-and-miss – nine days when Bill could have died. He came through it intact," Stipe said. Berry retired from the band following their 1996 album New Adventures in HiFi

  • Tiny Tim Had A Heart Attack On Stage

    Tiny Tim Had A Heart Attack On Stage
    Photo: NBC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Quirky musician Tiny Tim's health began to decline October 1996 when he collapsed on stage at a ukulele festival in Massachusetts following a heart attack. 

    Two months later, Tiny Tim died on stage from a heart attack after fighting through rapidly failing health to perform.

    "He waved and blew kisses to the audience, something Tim always did at the end of every show. Sue took Tim’s arm and asked if he was all right. He just stood there and said, "No, I’m not." Those were the last words he ever spoke," it was reported following his death.  

  • Nick Lowe Was Electrocuted
    Photo: Juan Gonzalez Andres / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    Singer/songwriter Nick Lowe was performing with the band Brinsley Schwarz when an un-grounded microphone nearly cost him his life. The story goes that Lowe's bandmate attempted to kick the microphone stand away from him, but ended up kicking the singer instead. 

    That kick saved Lowe's life, and prevented an unimaginable tragedy from taking place in front of a crowd of fans. 

  • Col. Bruce Hampton Collapsed On Stage At His Birthday Party
    Photo: Roger Gupta / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    During the encore song of his 70th birthday celebration, legendary jam rock pioneer Col. Bruce Hampton collapsed on stage surrounded by a group of his famous friends and fellow rock stars. Hampton was rushed off stage and later died. 

    Former bandmate Jeff Mosier said he "could have never imagined a more joyful departure" for Hampton, who enjoyed a storied career alongside names like the Grateful Dead and inspired a new generation of jam bands that followed.