Related Videos

Top 10 Female Artists Who Died Too Soon

VO: Emily Brayton
Script written by Q.V. Hough. Gone but not forgotten, these women changed lives with their music. In this video, MsMojo counts down our picks for the Top 10 Female Artists Who Died Too Soon. For this list, we’re looking at influential female artists that passed away before the age of 50, who potentially had years of success and releases ahead of them. Special thanks to dream_sensation for submitting this idea on our interactive suggestion tool at

You must register to a corporate account to download this video. Please login

Script written by Q.V. Hough.

Top 10 Female Artists Who Died Too Soon

Gone but not forgotten, these women changed lives with their music. Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Female Artists Who Died Too Soon.

For this list, we’re looking at influential female artists that passed away before the age of 50, who potentially had years of success and releases ahead of them.

#10: Billie Holiday
(April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959)

Undoubtedly one of the most admired and influential vocalists of the 20th century, Billie Holiday's life was cut short due to alcohol and drug abuse. But during her 44 years, Holiday became one of the preeminent figures of jazz. Growing up in Philadelphia, Holiday would go on to sign a deal in 1935 with John Hammond, the same man who would “discover” Bob Dylan a quarter century later. However, back in the 30s, the music industry worked by a different set of rules, andfemale singers like Holiday didn’t have it easy, despite her vocal ability and perseverance. By 1959, Billie’s troubles became too much to handle and she had died due to complications brought on by cirrhosis of the liver.

#9: Cass Elliot
(September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974)

Best known as “Mama Cass”, and as a member of pop-folk group “The Mamas & The Papas”, Ellen Cohen, or Cass Elliot, embarked on a solo career by the early '70s- ultimately releasing five studio albums. By this time, her drug use was known among her fellow musicians, but while the early 70s claimed the lives of so many musicians like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, Mama Cass seemed to be progressing forward. Unfortunately, a 1974 heart attack killed the singer in her London flat. In a bitter twist of fate, four years later Keith Moon of The Who would also die in the exact same apartment.

#8: Whitney Houston
(August 9, 1963 – February 11, 2012)

In 1992, Houston was already an icon when she starred in the groundbreaking film “The Bodyguard”. The narrative itself was progressive, and the anthemic soundtrack made Whitney Houston an undeniable superstar. But controversy always surrounded her, especially when she married the badboy of R&B, Bobby Brown. Even so, Whitney continued to shine, starring in both “Waiting to Exhale” and “The Preacher’s Wife” before releasing her much-anticipated 1998 studio album. Unfortunately, Whitney’s behavior could be erratic at times. By 2012, during the ramp up for that year's Grammy ceremony, which she was scheduled to take part in, Houston was found drowned in her Beverly Hills hotel room, silencing one of the world's finest voices permanently.

#7: Patsy Cline
(September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963)

In a time when Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan innovated their respective genres, Patsy Cline's country fans loved her hypnotic voice. Cline released her first of three studio albums in 1957, but it was her 1961 comeback album that included some of the pop music’s most recognizable songs like “Crazy” and “I Fall to Pieces.” Patsy’s sophomore album was released in November 1961, just months after she and her brother were nearly killed in a Nashville car accident. Sadly, the 30-year-old singer would pass away less than 18 months later in a plane crash 90 miles away.

#6: Karen Carpenter
(March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983)

As one half of The Carpenters, this Los Angeles native was both a respected singer and drummer. Through her evocative vocals, though, Karen Carpenter brilliantly complemented the musical and creative aesthetic of brother Richard. By 1970, The Carpenters were named Best New Artist at the Grammy Awards. But while their success continued throughout the decade, a troubling narrative unfolded behind the scenes. Karen suffered from anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder not fully understood by the medical community of the time. Just shy of her 33rd birthday, the multi-talented musician succumbed to heart failure brought on by her condition, a death that sparked a conversation about body image and a wider understanding of eating disorders.

#5: Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
(May 27, 1971 – April 25, 2002)

As one third of the R&B group TLC, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes was admired for both her style and lyrical flow. But due to friction with fellow members Chili and T-Boz, the artist parted ways in 1999 after their #1 album FanMail. A 2001 solo album was cancelled by her label, but Left Eye’s guest vocals with contemporary artists like Spice Girl Mel C and 'N sync proved that she was still in demand. In early 2002, Lisa was involved in a car accident that killed a local 10-year old boy. Just two weeks later, another car accident led to her own death at just 30 years of age.

#4: Selena
(April 16, 1971 – March 31, 1995)

Known as the “Queen of Tejano Music,” this beloved performer first emerged as the lead singer of Selena y Los Dinos. The group released six studio albums, and by 1986, Selena won Female Vocalist of the Year at Tejano Music Awards – the first of nine consecutive honors. As her solo career commenced with a self-titled 1989 album, Selena became a beloved superstar. In 1995, however, things took a tragic turn when fan club president and financial manager Yolanda Saldivar began embezzling money. At a Texas motel that same year, Selena confronted the woman, only to be shot in the back and killed at the age of 23.

#3: Amy Winehouse
(14 September 1983 – 23 July, 2011)

In 2003, this powerhouse vocalist released her debut album Frank at only 20 years old. But while the jazz-influenced album would become a massive success, the acclaim was nothing compared to that of Amy Winehouse’s follow-up in 2006, Back in Black. Not only did the album lead to five Grammy Awards – including Best New Artist – but it also established Amy as one of the most admired vocalists of her time. Even so, this was to be her last studio release as the following years were filled with scandals and alcohol abuse. On the afternoon of July 23, 2011, Amy’s blood-alcohol content reached 0.416, the toxicity of which ultimately caused her death at the age of 27.

#2: Aaliyah
(January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001)

In 1994, this Detroit singer released her debut album under the mentorship of R. Kelly. And a few years later, Aaliyah delivered a true classic with “One In a Million.” She soon crossed over into Hollywood, starring alongside DMX in the 2000 film “Romeo Must Die”. However, in August of 2001, Aaliyah traveled to the Bahamas for a video shoot, and the circumstances of her returning flight proved to be fatal. Not only was the plane she was on 700 pounds overstocked, but the pilot was unapproved to fly the plane and was later found to have recently used both alcohol and cocaine. All nine passengers were killed, including the emerging superstar Aaliyah, who was only 22 years old.

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

• Eva Cassidy
(February 2, 1963 – November 2, 1996)

• Minnie Riperton
(November 8, 1947 – July 12, 1979)

• Tammi Terrell
(April 29, 1945 – March 16, 1970)

• Florence Ballard
(June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976)

#1: Janis Joplin
(January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)

In a world full of rock legends, one particular female vocalist stood out in the late 60s and early 70s. As the singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin first emerged in the bay area scene but despite her versatility both in and out of the studio, the music often took a backseat to the more recreational activities of the day. Just three months before the release of her iconic Pearl album, which includes many of her best known songs, Janis Joplin was found dead of a heroine overdose in a Hollywood hotel. She was 27 years old and on the cusp of what could have been a momentous career.

So, do you agree with our selections? And which untimely death affected you the most? For more music-related Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to MsMojo.

Sign in to access this feature

Related Blogs