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12 Musicians Who Died in Plane Crashes

musicians who died in plane crashed
Image by Leslie Cross on Unsplash.

It’s weird to think, but there are many musicians who died in plane crashes over the years. Maybe it’s because they travel more than the average individual, or maybe it’s because they tend to travel in smaller planes, but either way, it’s a tragic loss every time it happens.

We’ve made a list of all the 12 musicians who died in plane crashes. Read on to learn all about them and their unfortunately tragic ends.

1. Jim Croce

how did jim croce die? jim croce outside putting his fit on something
Image is in the Public Domain.

Jim Croce is one of many musicians who died in plane crashes that met his untimely end right when he was beginning to get famous. The plane he was in took off, immediately crashing into a pecan tree and killing all 6 passengers and the pilot in 1973.

After the investigation, the pilot was found to be at fault, as he was suspected to be fatigued. He had been called to leave earlier than planned as Croce was anxious to get home.

Then he was unable to find a cab and had to walk and run the 3 miles to the airport. At one point, he got lost and had to cut through a cornfield.

When he arrived at the airport, he was disheveled and visibly tired.

2. Buddy Holly

how did buddy holly die
How Did Buddy Holly Die? Buddy Holly publicity picture for Brunswick Records. Image is in the Public Domain.

Buddy Holly met his tragic end in a plane crash along with fellow musician Ritchie Valens and radio host Big Bopper in 1959. The trio took off from Clear Lake, Iowa, headed for Minnesota for a show.

Unfortunately, the pilot lost control after takeoff due to the poor weather conditions, and all on board perished.

This event will forever be engrained in history thanks to the song “American Pie,” which references this plane crash as “The day that music died.”

Related: How Did Buddy Holly Die? The Life and Death of a Music Legend

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd band on stage performing
Image from Shutterstock.

Lynyrd Skynyrd was already a legendary rock band when they boarded a chartered plane in 1977.

Sadly, due to malfunctioning fuel gauges, the pilots didn’t realize the plane was out of fuel until it was too late to reach an airport. They tried to execute an emergency landing and failed.

Ronnie Van Zant, the lead singer and guitarist Steve Gaines, died on impact. As did the band’s backup singer and Gaines’ sister, Cassie Gaines, and the road manager.

The pilots also died, but the rest of the individuals on board survived but with serious injuries. The band disbanded for 10 years following the tragedy.

Related: 15 Best Songs About Freedom

4. Patsy Cline

patsy cline stamp
UNITED STATES – CIRCA 1993: A stamp printed by United states, shows Patsy Cline, circa 1993. Image from Shutterstock.

A legend in country circles, Patsy Cline, met her end in a plane crash in 1963, just 4 years after the tragic loss of Buddy Holly.

This crash was also due to weather, which caused the pilot to lose control just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.

Related: The 50 Best Country Songs

5. Jim Reeves

publicity photo of jim reeves in 1963
Image is in the Public Domain.

Not long after the tragic loss of Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves became the next of the famous musicians who died in plane crashes when he crashed a plane he was piloting.

Like the aforementioned crashes, weather was involved, and Reeves became disoriented, crashing the plane in Arkansas.

6. Otis Redding

otis redding on a postage stamp
Image from Shutterstock.

Otis Redding joined the list of musicians who died in plane crashes in 1967 when a plane he was in crashed into Lake Moana.

While there was bad weather at the time, many believed that the plane also experienced engine issues before it fell from the sky. Weirdly enough, one of the passengers, 20-year-old Ben Cauley, survived the crash.

7. John Denver

john denver shaking nancy reagans hand
12-4-1988 Kennedy Center Honors reception, President Reagan and Nancy Reagan greeting John Denver in the receiving line in blue room. Image is in the Public Domain.

John Denver was an experienced pilot when he crashed the plane he had built himself in 1997. Prior to the incident, his pilot’s license had actually been revoked due to him flying a plane drunk.

Sadly, this didn’t stop the singer, and on October 12, 1997, he was flying his plane illegally when he pressed the wrong button and ended up losing control of the plane and crashing. Many suspect to this day that the artist committed suicide.

Related: How Did John Denver Die: Freak Accident or Suicide?

8. Stevie Ray Vaughan

a statue of stevie ray vaughan in austin texas
Image from Shutterstock.

Stevie Ray Vaughan sadly makes our list of musicians who died in plane crashes after he died in a helicopter accident in 1990.

The guitar player was on his way to Chicago when the helicopter he was in crashed into a ski mountain. The crash was due to pilot error.

Related: The 16 Greatest Guitar Players of All Time

9. Aaliyah

singers who died too soon aaliyah on the red carpet in white pants and a white top
Image from Shutterstock.

Aaliyah, the singer and former wife of R.Kelly was killed in a plane crash in 2001 when she was just 22 years old.

She was on the way to the Bahamas with friends when the plane they were in crashed after takeoff due to being overloaded.

It was also discovered that the pilot had drugs in his system and was partly to blame for the crash.

10. Glenn Miller

glenn miller orchestra record in a record store
Image from Shutterstock.

Perhaps most mysterious of all is the death of Glenn Miller, the popular band leader.

Around the end of WWII, he was flying to arrange a concert when his plane disappeared, and he was never seen again. It is suspected that his plane suffered mechanical difficulties or that it had been shot down accidentally. Either way, none of the passengers or pilot were ever seen again.

11. Randy Rhoads

a band performing on stage in sihlouettes
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Randy Rhoads was the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne when he, along with the band’s driver and seamstress, decided to take a plane for a joy ride in 1982. The plane they took was owned by country singer Jerry Calhoun.

They attempted to buzz (also known as fly very close to) Ozzy Osbourne’s tour bus when they accidentally hit the bus and crashed into Jerry Calhoun’s house. All three on board died.

12. Ricky Nelson

ricky nelson performing on television in 1970
Image is in the Public Domain.

The last on our list of musicians who died in plane crashes is singer Ricky Nelson, the son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, who died in a plane crash in 1985.

Apparently, the plane he was riding in (which was built in 1944) experienced an onboard fire that caused the plane to attempt an emergency landing. It crashed instead, killing all on board except the pilot and co-pilot.

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Written by Hope Davis

Long-time music lover Hope became a full-time writer in 2020 after being laid off from her regular job due to COVID-19. She now spends her time traveling the world to see her favorite bands while writing about them!


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