Would You Still Remember Me?
Forty years have passed since the plane crash that killed three members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Click through for 20 tragedies that stunned fans and musicians alike, starting with the sudden deaths of these Southern rock superstars.
On October 20, 1977, a plane crash took the lives of frontman Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and backup singer Cassie Gaines just three days after the release of "Street Survivors"—with an album cover that showed the band engulfed in flames. At the peak of its success, Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded. But the Southern rockers returned 10 years later with Van Zant's younger brother Johnny as lead singer.
After repeatedly denying rumors that he had AIDS, Freddie Mercury released a statement acknowledging that he had the disease on November 23, 1991, just 24 hours before dying in his London home. The beloved Queen frontman was 45.
The 30-year-old singer-songwriter's career had just taken off when, on September 20, 1973, he and five others died in a plane crash in Louisiana. Afterward, DJs gave so much airtime to Croce's "Time in a Bottle"—written three years earlier, on the day he learned that his wife was pregnant—that the song was released as a single and became a No. 1 hit.
The circumstances surrounding Sam Cooke's 1964 death in a Los Angeles motel remain mysterious. All we know is that Bertha Franklin, the motel's manager, admitted to shooting the 33-year-old singer but claimed self-defense. The cops didn't buy her story—or that of a former prostitute who may have robbed the King of Soul in his room—but due to a lack evidence the case was closed.
It was supposed to be a joy ride. Randy Rhoads was touring with Ozzy Osbourne when the band's bus driver took the gifted 25-year-old guitarist and another passenger up in a single-engine plane. As the rest of the band slept, the pilot tried to buzz the tour bus as a prank, but he clipped the vehicle with his wing and crashed. All three onboard died.
The 27 Club
Between 1970 and 1971, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison died of drug overdoses in rapid succession, all at the age of 27. Theses '60s legends aren't the only names associated with what's now known as the 27 Club, but they are among its charter members.
On April 1, 1984, the eve of the Motown star's 45th birthday, Marvin Gaye's father shot his famous son three times in the chest during an argument at their Los Angeles home. Gaye's final words: "I got what I wanted.... I couldn't do it myself, so I made him do it."
After a few botched suicide attempts using drugs and alcohol, the Nirvana frontman finally killed himself with a shotgun in 1994. Cobain was found in his home on April 8, but it's believed that he died three days earlier. A note indicated that he hadn't "felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music … for too many years now." He was 27.
The Who Concert in Cincinnati
Eleven people were crushed to death as thousands of fans stormed the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati to get into a Who concert on December 3, 1979. Afraid that cancelling the show would spark more chaos, organizers didn't tell the band about the tragedy until the concert was over.
Mark David Chapman, a deranged fan, shot John Lennon four times in the back outside his New York apartment building on December 8, 1980, killing him almost instantly. Lennon, who was 40, had given Chapman his autograph earlier that evening. Yoko Ono scattered her husband's ashes in Central Park, where the Strawberry Fields memorial was dedicated in 1985.
The band seemed to have everything going for it. Badfinger was the first act signed by Apple Records, and Paul McCartney even wrote a song for them. But after their business manager ran off with all their money, lead singer Pete Ham hanged himself in his garage, three days before his 28th birthday.
Fighting a cancer that had spread throughout his body, Bob Marley was heading back to his home in Jamaica. He never made it. On a stopover in Miami, he was rushed to a hospital, where he died on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. Ten days later the reggae star received a state funeral, with Jamaica's prime minister delivering the final eulogy.
A partially eaten ham sandwich was found on a night table in her room, but she hadn't choked on it, as was long rumored. With her solo career flourishing, Cass Elliot died in her sleep on July 28, 1974, in a London apartment she'd borrowed from singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson. The cause of death was a heart attack. She was 32.
The Beach Boys co-founder (the only member of the band who actually surfed) was homeless in late 1983. On December 28, after a long day of drinking, Dennis Wilson jumped into the water at the California marina where he used to keep his yacht and drowned. This was 15 years after he'd survived sharing his house with the Manson Family.
Stevie Ray Vaughan
On August 27, 1990, after jamming with Eric Clapton at a resort in Wisconsin, the revered guitarist and Double Trouble founder boarded a Chicago-bound helicopter with three members of Clapton's entourage. Shortly after takeoff, the chopper crashed into a mountain, killing everyone onboard.
On February 1, 1979, Sid Vicious had something to celebrate. He'd been released on bail while facing charges in two incidents: stabbing his girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death at New York's Chelsea Hotel and assaulting Patti Smith's brother Todd. His mother discovered the 21-year old's body the following morning. He'd died from a heroin overdose.
Sonny Bono died on January 5, 1998, after slamming into a tree while skiing in Nevada. Although he was then a California congressman, Bono is still best remembered as half of Sonny & Cher, and his ex-wife Cher gave the eulogy at his funeral. The epitaph on his headstone reads: "AND THE BEAT GOES ON."
Duane Allman was killed on October 29, 1971, after his motorcycle collided with a truck in Macon, Georgia. He was 24. The accident occurred just three months after the Allman Brothers Band released its breakthrough live album "At Fillmore East."
The King was introduced to amphetamines when he was in the Army back in 1950s. By the late '70s his health and drug abuse had gotten so bad that he often couldn't get out of bed, let alone perform. Even so, it was a shock to learn that on August 16, 1977, Elvis was found dead on the bathroom floor at Graceland, his Memphis home. He was 42.
The Day the Music Died
On February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly, Richie Valenz and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson were all killed when Holly's chartered four-seat airplane crashed in an Iowa cornfield. Valenz was on the plane because he'd won a coin toss. Waylon Jennings had voluntarily given his seat to the Big Bopper. Before going for a bus, Jennings jokingly said to Holly, "I hope your ol' plane crashes." Years later the country legend admitted, "God almighty, for years I thought I caused it,"
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