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Top 10 Musicians Who Died At Their Peak

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Aaron Cameron
These artists had huge futures that were tragically cut short. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Musicians Who Died At Their Peak.     For this list, we'll be looking at popular artists from across decades and musical genres who died too soon, but whose legends continue to live on.
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Top 10 Musicians Who Died At Their Peak

These artists had huge futures that were tragically cut short. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Musicians Who Died At Their Peak.
 
 
For this list, we'll be looking at popular artists from across decades and musical genres who died too soon, but whose legends continue to live on.
 
 

#10: Bob Marley (36)

The unofficial Jamaican ambassador to the world, Bob Marley had a long, fruitful career despite his early death. Entering the limelight in the mid '60s with the Wailers, Marley's position in the group would grow until he split off and fronted a second group of the same name. His star continued to rise as a solo artist, in part due to a new mainstream interest in reggae through Eric Clapton's cover of Marley's “I Shot the Sheriff”, as well as Bob's wise, authentic songwriting. Marley's final single while alive, “Redemption Song”, written while he was facing certain death from melanoma, is considered by many to be among his finest.
 

#9: XXXTentacion (20)

Jahseh Onfroy – better known as XXXTentacion – was set to be one of the next big things in hip-hop. Murdered in an apparent robbery, the 20-year-old's short life was one marked by crime, violence, acts of charity, and prolific bouts of creativity. Taking influence from guitar-heavy genres like nu-metal and emo, XXXTentacion had a fresh, unique sound that resulted in seven singles debuting within the Billboard Hot 100, and a sophomore album that debuted at #1. Following his death, he became the owner of the first posthumous #1 single since Biggie Smalls, and would also have a posthumous collab with the late Lil Peep.

 

#8: Avicii (28)

Tim “Avicii” Bergling started producing music at only 16 years old. Eventually finding fame with the single “Levels” and his 2013 album “True”, Avicii quickly became an in-demand remixer, festival headliner and collaboration partner, working with the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Madonna, Coldplay, and David Guetta. He’d also receive nominations for multiple awards, including two Grammy nods. But his success was slowed by alcohol abuse and a range of physical and mental health concerns, forcing him to retire from touring in 2016, and culminating in his suicide two years later. In addition to two studio albums and four EPs, Avicii left behind more than 200 compositions in various states of completion.

 

#7: Selena (23)

A certified Latin superstar, Selena was set to make a similar breakthrough in the English-speaking world. Her album “Entre a Mi Mundo” spent eight straight months on top of Billboard’s Mexican albums chart, and at 23 she’d gained enough recognition to finally follow through on her desire to record an album in English. The album, “Dreaming of You”, debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 in July of 1995, but ultimately became a posthumous release when Selena was shot and killed by her former friend and fan club president Yolanda Saldívar, who had been fired due to embezzlement.
 

#6: Aaliyah (22)

Aaliyah's career path was something out of a made-for-TV movie. Appearing on Star Search at the age of 10, she'd go on to perform with Gladys Knight before sign a recording contract at 12. Under the mentorship of R. Kelly, she released “Age Ain't Nothing but a Number” at 15, and would release two more albums before her tragic death at 22. Following the production of the video for her single “Rock the Boat”, Aaliyah and her entourage were killed in a plane crash, heartbreakingly cutting short what could have been a remarkable career. In death, however, she would collect multiple awards and have continued chart success with posthumous releases.
 

#5: Janis Joplin (27)

A member of the infamous 27 Club, Janis Joplin didn't live to see her career hit its highest point. Exploding on to the scene via 1967's Monterey Pop Festival while fronting Big Brother and the Holding Company, Joplin soon outgrew – and parted ways with – her band, and eventually put together the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Appearing at Woodstock, and joining the almost mythical Festival Express tour in Canada, Joplin was set to release her masterpiece when she died of a heroin overdose in a Hollywood hotel room. The album, “Pearl”, would be released in January of 1971, spending nine weeks on top of the Billboard chart.
 

#4: Jimi Hendrix (27)

Discharged from the army after a year's worth of subpar service, Hendrix would work his way through the Chitlin’ Circuit, eventually backing artists like Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. Moving to England to work with Chas Chandler in 1966, Hendrix would release three studio albums and completely revolutionize the concept of electric guitar playing in a remarkably short period of time. In the midst of a creative retooling that saw Jimi build a recording studio, form Band of Gypsys, and experiment with a sound similar to jazz fusion, the guitarist died of asphyxia caused by drug use – robbing the music world of one of its greatest talents.
 

#3: Tupac Shakur & The Notorious B.I.G. (25 & 24)

The later stages of the careers of Tupac and Biggie were wrapped in bitter rivalry. Once friends and mutual admirers, the two emcees were dragged into the infamous East Coast/West Coast feud, and would face the same end: death by drive-by shooting. Tupac's final album while alive, “All Eyez on Me”, was a huge seller with two #1 singles, and he’d later have five posthumous albums – four of which have gone platinum. Biggie, meanwhile, would break into the music world through his classic 1994 debut “Ready to Die”, work with both Michael Jackson and Shaquille O'Neal, and in death would become the first artist to have two posthumous #1 hits – “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems”.

 

#2: Kurt Cobain (27)

Like Jimi Hendrix before him, Kurt Cobain fronted a three-piece rock combo that, for a time, revolutionized popular music. Eventually settling on Dave Grohl as a drummer in 1990, indie darlings Nirvana broke into the mainstream with 1991's “Nevermind” and kept the momentum going with 1993's “In Utero”. But, with health troubles, heroin addiction, a troubled mental state, and the pressures of fame and the industry weighing him down, Cobain committed suicide in 1994 – a death still wrapped in an air of mystery. His death would inadvertently gift the world the Foo Fighters, but also deny it a brilliant and unique songwriter and performer.
 
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honourable mentions.
Mac Miller (26)
 
Hank Williams (29)
 
Randy Rhoads (25)
 

#1: Amy Winehouse (27)

A distinct and retro-influenced talent, Amy Winehouse made a remarkable impression in her short life. Winning praise from legends like her one-time duet partner Tony Bennett, Winehouse was unquestionably and legitimately talented, although her alcohol dependency would also earn her jeers from the paying public. But in top form, Winehouse was simply untouchable. Her largely self-penned final album “Back to Black” helped net her five Grammys, topped the charts in Britain and many other European countries, hit #2 on Billboard, and boasted five U.K. Top 40 hits. Following her tragic death, her first posthumous compilation album, “Lioness: Hidden Treasures”, hit #1 in Britain and #5 stateside.
 
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