Top 10 Musicians Who Died Too Soon
Top 10 Musicians Who Died Too Soon

Top 10 Musicians Who Died Too Soon

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Matthew Thomas. Their music was taken from us far earlier than we expected. For this list, we've chosen musicians who died abruptly and that were either on the verge of reaching their full potential or in the prime of their careers. Welcome to, and today we're counting down our picks for the top 10 musicians who died too soon. Special thanks to our users Drew Pennington, BDenum100, missylissy200, David Parkinson, Marcus Rivera, billthecat2011, Nichelle Phoenix Perez, BDenum100, Kadeem Gomez, ImNevermore, Arvids Vilcaks, John B, ethanlid, lovealwaysanjae, jmbum and hardcorelegend101 for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

Script written by Matthew Thomas.

Top 10 Musicians Who Died Too Soon

Their music was taken from us far earlier than we expected. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 musicians who died too soon.

For this list, we’ve chosen musicians who died abruptly and that were either on the verge of reaching their full potential or in the prime of their careers.

#10: TIE: Tupac Shakur / The Notorious B.I.G.
1971 - 1996 / 1972 - 1997

In what is one of the rare cases of a WatchMojo tie, here’s a duo that started out as friends, but ended their lives as foes. And that’s why Pac and Biggie will forever be linked in life and death. Two artists gunned down in the prime of their lives, both men spent their artistic careers struggling to express both the poverty of their early years and the decadence of their adult years. The impact they could have made if their lives hadn’t been taken so early is daunting to consider.

#9: Jeff Buckley
1966 - 1997

Despite critics heaping praise upon him thanks to his 1994 debut record, this singer-songwriter’s music is remembered even more fondly after his life tragically ended due to an accidental drowning. With his incredible voice and guitar-playing skills, Jeff Buckley’s stamp on music can be felt to this day. Grace, the only full-length album he released during his lifetime, is so timeless that it re-entered the Australian charts a full thirteen years after it came out. It’s since gone double platinum and prompted the release of multiple posthumous recordings. An artist who would stand out in any crowd, Jeff’s short career has stood the test of time.

#8: Ian Curtis
1956 - 1980

The lead singer and lyricist of seminal post-punk act Joy Division, Ian Curtis’ life was a short, tortured one that was ended by his own hand. He spent his life writing music, rich with imagery of isolation, depression and loneliness – and left the world in the same fashion. After his suicide, the music he recorded influenced millions of young people who thought they were the only ones who felt alone. But thanks to Curtis and Joy Division, they knew they were not.

#7: Kurt Cobain
1967 - 1994

A reluctant megastar who buckled under the pressure of fame and took his own life because of it, Kurt Cobain’s arrival on the U.S. Billboard charts indelibly altered music as we know it today. Possessing a voice that was mired in anger and isolation, there was no singer who was better positioned to be the voice of his generation than Cobain. During his short career, Kurt managed to write music that spoke to millions of disillusioned youths, when they needed it most. Thus, Nirvana’s music and impact remains widespread and influential to this day.

#6: Michael Jackson
1958 - 2009

A trailblazer throughout his long career, the King of Pop’s death from a drug overdose took the world by surprise. Despite several years of relative seclusion, excitement for an announced comeback tour was palpable. While the world was deprived of the opportunity to see a master of his craft one more time, the library of music Michael Jackson left behind will remain a testament to his massive talent and work ethic.

#5: Jim Morrison
1943 - 1971

Incapable of compromise, Jim Morrison was an artist in the truest sense of the word. A poet and filmmaker, it was music where his efforts would gain the widest acceptance. Taking his poetry and pairing it with the efforts of his band mates, every aspect of The Doors had Morrison’s fingerprints all over it. Though the circumstances surrounding his death are still disputed, it could be said that it was the artistic drive that ultimately was his undoing, but also his legacy’s salvation.

#4: John Lennon
1940 - 1980

One of the biggest stars on the planet for more than half of his life, John Lennon used that platform to attempt to change the world for the better. One thing is for certain; Lennon was able to make a huge difference in the world of music and the hearts of millions of fans, whether it was as a member of The Beatles or as a solo artist. The victim of a senseless murder, John’s legacy is one of peace and love.

#3: Buddy Holly
1936 - 1959

Buddy Holly was arguably the biggest star of a trio of artists who all died when the plane they were travelling in crashed, instantly killing them all in 1959. Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper and Holly’s deaths were such a big blow to the music industry that the incident has come to be known as ‘The Day the Music Died.’ Despite a relatively short career before his passing, no early rock star had a larger influence on modern music.

#2: Freddie Mercury
1946 - 1991

Thanks to his four-octave range and masterful stage presence, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury emerged as one of the most talented and versatile vocalists, with the culmination of his talents being showcased at their show-stealing set at Live-Aid in 1985. Mercury continued to compose music and release albums after being diagnosed with AIDS, but he kept his condition private until the day before he died, at the age of 45, in 1991. Given his songwriting abilities, singing prowess and Queen's successful fusion of musical genres, Mercury would have easily continued to perform well into the future were he not taken away from us so soon.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

- Amy Winehouse
1983 – 2011
- Otis Redding
1941 – 1967
- Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes
1971 - 2002
- Karen Carpenter
1950 - 1983
- Whitney Houston
1963 – 2012
- Randy Rhoads
1956 – 1982

#1: Jimi Hendrix
1942 - 1970

A guitarist with such unique talent that he’s become the measuring stick that all others are compared to, Jimi was a force to be reckoned with. Leader of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and an underrated vocalist, Jimi was capable of taking any song and making it his, as evidenced by his incredible cover of “The Star Spangled Banner” and Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.” If he hadn’t been taken from us when he was - by what's commonly believed to be from drug-related reasons - there is no telling how much larger his impact could have been.

Do you agree with our list? Who’s your favorite musician who died too soon? For more music Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to
Janis Joplin should have been on that list. I'd rather have seen her make the list than Michael Jackson. Not taking away from his talents but he was 50!
Stevie Ray Vaughan, should be in the honorable mentions
John Denver should been an honorable mention
1 Buddy Holly
Why is Elvis not on the list?
+ 13 comment(s)