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Top 10 Tragedies in British Music

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Andrea Buccino
The world of Music may be glamorous, but isn’t always safe. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Music Tragedies. For this list, we take a look at some of the most tragic events that happened to British artists or during concerts in Britain. Special thanks to our user WordToTheWes for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Top 10 British Music Tragedies


The world of Music may be glamorous, but isn’t always safe. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Music Tragedies.

For this list, we take a look at some of the most tragic events that happened to British artists or during concerts in Britain.

#10: Radiohead Stage Collapse

Sure, the British band captained by Thom Yorke might be politically and thematically controversial by times, but no one expects danger at any of their gigs. And when danger and tragedy struck, it had nothing to do with music: in June 2012, with preparations underway for Radiohead’s last concert of their American tour at Toronto’s Downsview Park, the stage on which the band should have played that night collapsed, killing a technician and injuring another three people. The stage designer and event organisers were charged, but the case was dropped after a mistrial.

#9: The Death of Amy Winehouse

Shooting to fame in her twenties, Amy Winehouse was one of the most interesting songwriters and musicians of her generation. She quickly became a music and style icon in Britain and abroad, but fame has its pitfalls, and she struggled with substance abuse, as well as alcoholism and depression for much of her career. Once she was even hospitalised after overdosing on a cocktail of hard drugs, including heroin. She survived, recovered and quit drugs, but her drinking problem remained and she died of alcohol poisoning at only 27, joining a fairly infamous club in the process.

#8: The Death of John Bonham

Led Zeppelin’s drummer was among the greatest and most influential of all time, and his loss is still felt today. Although – as strange as it was for a rock star of his vintage – he didn't take hard drugs, Bonham had developed a strong addiction to alcohol. On the day of his death in September 1980, he had the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka coaxing through his system, while being on a medication for depression and anxiety. Death came in the form of choking on vomit – a decidedly unglamorous death – and Zeppelin disbanded soon after.

#7: The Suicide of Ian Curtis

The lyricist and frontman of the extremely influential post-punk act Joy Division was another in a long list of artists who struggled with depression and mental health issues. In addition to being prone to epileptic seizures on stage, he often drew on his own experience for the dark, personal themes of his songs, until the darkness caught up with him. Only 23, Curtis hanged himself in his house in Macclesfield, not long before Joy Division were to embark on their first American tour in what should have been their breakthrough to international fame.

#6: The Who Concert Disaster

Less than a year after the untimely death of drummer Keith Moon, which had already devastated the band, the Who were to experience ulterior tragedy. In Cincinnati, Ohio, on 3 December 1979, when concert-goers who had been waiting outside the arena for hours heard a sound-check and mistook it for the beginning of the gig. This begin the troubles, but was it was held at bay until a few doors were finally opened, resulting in a bottled necked stampede, 11 deaths, and 26 injuries. The Who, for their part, were not told until after the show.

#5: The Death of Freddie Mercury

The frontman of Queen, one of the foremost singers of his age and one of the greatest voices in Rock, Freddie Mercury died aged 45 of complications from AIDS after a long, private battle with the disease. The flamboyant entertainer was one of the many victims of the immunodeficiency virus in a time when it still carried great stigma. Even though the tabloid press had been speculating on his health for a long time, Mercury avoided admitting to being HIV-positive until a statement given the day before his death.

#4: The Viola Beach Car Crash

Viola Beach were an up and coming indie rock band formed in Warrington in 2013. After self-financing their first single, they began to appear on BBC Radio playlists, and in February 2016 the release of their first album was getting ever closer. Sadly, their promising career was cut short by a heartbreaking accident. In Sweden for their first international gig, the band and their manager were driving back to their hotel at the airport when the car lost control on a raising lift bridge, plunging them to their deaths.

#3: The Assassination of John Lennon

John Lennon's murder on 8 December 1980 is one of the most well-known and discussed tragedies in the history of popular music. The co-founder of the Beatles was shot multiple times outside his home in Manhattan by an unhinged Christian fanatic – originally a fan – who couldn't forgive Lennon his crack about the Beatles being more popular than Jesus, his stance on religion in general, nor what he considered to be Lennon's hypocrisy. The death – beyond senseless – left fans and Lennon's friends and family devastated, while casting a dark cloud over the Beatle legacy.

#2: Altamont

Considered the darkest day of rock and roll, the Altamont Speedway Free Festival of 1969 should have been a "Woodstock West", but was a sloppily put-together affair that ended in tragedy. The festival included bands and artists of the calibre of Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, and the Rolling Stones. But bad vibes set off early, and they culminated when a member of the Hell's Angels, who were providing "security" in exchange for $500 and free beer, fatally stabbed a young man who was rushing at the stage with a gun.

#1: The Manchester Arena Bombing

The bombing at the Manchester Arena following an Ariana Grande concert on 22 May 2017 was the deadliest terrorist attack on UK soil since the 2005 London bombings. 23 people lost their lives and 139 were injured in the explosion and ensuing chaos. Many of the victims were children and teenagers. Still a fresh wound for the city and the country as a whole, both its immediate and long-term aftermath saw Manchester and the rest of the UK come together in a truly inspirational way.
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