“He Died Before He Got Old.” That was the headline in the Village Voice announcing the drug-related demise, at the age of 32, of Keith Moon, the original drummer with The Who. The headline, of course, was a reference to the line sung by Roger Daltrey in the group’s 1965 rock classic “My Generation” — “I hope I die before I get old.”
Throughout the years, many musicians — rock and otherwise — have died too early. A depressingly large number of them, including such giants as Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix, and Janis Joplin, succumbed to drugs.
Many more were killed in car or plane crashes, or were taken down by cancer, heart attack, or other health-related issues. Some committed suicide. (On a happier note, here are 35 rock stars who are now 75 or older.)
Some musicians, however, have met their ends for a reason neither medical, accidental, nor self-imposed: They were murdered.
Some of music’s biggest stars have been shot to death — Sam Cooke, Selena, John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye among them. Numerous rap and hip-hop luminaries have died this way, too, including legends like Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (better known as The Notorious B.I.G.) and, more recently, Nipsey Hussle and Pop Smoke. A 2015 study out of Australia, in fact, computed that slightly more than half the rap and hip-hop artists who had died up to that point were homicide victims.
Violence knows no stylistic boundaries, though. When 24/7 Tempo compiled a list of musical figures who had been murdered, the roster included classical, jazz, reggae, Latin, heavy metal, R&B, country, folk, and more. The perpetrators included jealous lovers, obsessed fans, even family members. Any violent death is a tragedy, but these robbed the world of good music as well as vibrant lives.
To assemble its list of musicians who met violent ends, 24/7 Tempo consulted “Musicians Killed by Guns: 1950-Present,” published by Digital Music News in 2016, an extensive catalogue of some 79 musician shootings, as well as shorter lists on sites including Ranker, JazzBlog, Fandom, and People, and verified details, wherever possible, though contemporary obituaries in local and national publications. A final selection of which musicians to include was made based partly on their fame or musical importance but also with a view towards representing as many musical genres as possible. Only musicians who were shot, stabbed, or otherwise slain by another person were included; those who died died by suicide or in accidents were not included.