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20 Rock Stars Who Died Before Age 40  

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List of rock stars who died before age 40. On this list, you can find all of the most amazing rock stars who had the misfortune to die before turning 40 years old. Some of the names are associated with early death – Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix – while others are more surprising, such as Tim Buckley. Well-known or not, their deaths were tragedies, and they each merit a spot on this list of rock stars who died before reaching the age of 40.

A few of the rock stars who died before turning 40 were founders of some of the most influential bands of the last 100 years. Who, for example, can dispute the impact of Nirvana on the music scene? Kurt Cobain, the band’s founder, died at the young age of 27, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Other rock stars who were band originators on this list include Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones and Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon.

Many rock stars who died young didn’t get to see the full extent of their influence, mainly because they died before music could catch up to their greatness. Buddy Holly, who died at the age of 22, is the prime example. It’s true that he was successful in his lifetime, but would he have believed the reach and influence of his music had he lived? Everyone from Bob Dylan to the Beatles has cited him as an influence, making him one of the greatest rock stars to have died young.

This list has all of the rock star tragedies, the stars who died before reaching 40 – before they could give all of their music to the world. While some passed away younger than others, most fans agree that these rock stars who died before 40 are still sorely missed.

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Buddy Holly is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list 20 Rock Stars Who Died Before Age 40
Photo: Brunswick Records/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
Buddy Holly, although his career was cut short, is a pioneer of rock and roll, inspiring everyone from Bob Dylan to the Rolling Stones. He was killed on February 3, 1959 in the same plane crash that claimed Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper.

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

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

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John Bonham is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list 20 Rock Stars Who Died Before Age 40
Photo: Metaweb (FB)/CC-BY-SA-2.0
John Bonham was the drummer for the English rock band Led Zeppelin, and he is commonly regarded as one of the best drummers of all time. He died in 1980 after a heavy bout of drinking that led to him aspirating his vomit in his sleep.

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

Albums: Rock and Roll Highway

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Shannon Hoon is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list 20 Rock Stars Who Died Before Age 40
Photo:  Gregp22/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
Shannon Hoon was an original member of the alternative rock band Blind Melon. He died after overdosing on cocaine in 1995.

Genres (Music): Rock music, Folk music, Grunge, Folk rock, Neo-psychedelia, + more

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Ritchie Valens is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list 20 Rock Stars Who Died Before Age 40
Photo:  Bettmann / Contributor/Bettmann
Ritchie Valens was a singer and guitar player who is widely credited as a pioneer of rock and roll. He was killed in the plane crash that also took Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper on February 3, 1959.

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

Albums: The Complete Ritchie Valens, The Very Best Of Richie Valens, Greatest Hits, The Very Best of Ritchie Valens, La Bamba, + more

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