in ,

41 Musicians Who Were Murdered: Their Tragic Stories

musicians who were murdered mark blitzstein in 1938 sitting by a piano
Image is in the Public Domain.

In this world we live in, its not all sunshine and rainbows and not everyone in the world is good. And sometimes, those evil people decide that it’s time for someone else’s life to end, not matter who they are to their families or to the world.

There are so many legendary musicians in the world, known for all sorts of genres, from country to rock, and all sorts of instruments, from guitars to drums and even vocals. Sadly, fans robbed early and unexpectedly of hearing any more of their music when the evil people of the world decided that it was their time to die.

Here is a list of 41 musicians who were murdered.

1. John Lennon

john lennon statue at madam tussands
Prague, Czech republic, July 22, 2017: John Lenon in Grevin museum of the wax figures in Prague. Image from Shutterstock.

It was the biggest shock of 1980 when word spread that the Beatles’ John Lennon was tragically murdered. In the events leading up to his death, the “Imagine” singer was headed to a recording session when a fan, Mark David Chapman, approached him for an autograph outside Lennon’s apartment at The Dakota. The interaction seemed innocent enough until later that evening when he and his wife, Yoko Ono, returned home. 

Chapman was waiting, shooting Lennon from close range four times, twice in the back and twice in the shoulder. Lennon was later pronounced dead at Roosevelt Hospital on December 8, 1980. 

Ono later said in a statement, “John loved and prayed for the human race. Please do the same for him.”

Related: What Was John Lennon’s Net Worth?

2. Alessandro Stradella

a painting of alessandro strandella
Portrait of Alessandro Stradella , Italian composer and singer, Painting by Gaetano D’Agostino. Image is in the Public Domain.

Murder was not just something we’ve been dealing with in our day and age. Baroque period composer Alessandro Stradella is proof of that. On February 25, 1682, he was stabbed to death at the Piazza Banchi. While the killer has never been identified, it is known that a nobleman of the Lomellini family hired the assassin.

A statement from the murderers says, “Stradella was murdered at Genoa by three brothers of the name Lomellini, whose sister he had seduced.” 

3. Jean-Marie Leclair

a painting of jean marie leclair
Image is in the Public Domain.

Stradella was not the only Baroque period murder. French violinist and composer Jean-Marie Leclair was murdered on October 22, 1764, from multiple stab wounds. While his murder has never been solved, his estranged second wife is believed to be behind the murder for financial gain. His nephew, Guillaume-Francois Vial, has also been a person of interest, but the reason why is unknown. 

4. Pinetop Smith

someone placing a candle by a grave
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Clarence, aka Pinetop, Smith, an early 1900s blues pianist famed for his hit tune “Pine Top’s Boogie Woogie,” was murdered on March 15, 1929. He was only 24. 

He was killed by a gunshot wound during a fight in a Chicago dance hall, although it’s unclear whether he was the intended target. “I saw Pinetop spit blood” was the headline of one of many articles about the incident. 

Related: 25 Singers Who Were Murdered

5. John Williamson

songs about death a pot with in loving memory on it with flowers in it
Image by Sandy Millar on Unsplash.

John Williamson was the king of the blues harmonica and the pioneer of the blues harp with songs such as “Good Morning, School Girl,” “Early in the Morning,” and “Stop Breaking Down,” just a few popular songs in his repertoire. 

Sadly, his life and career were cut short when the “Sugar Mama” singer was killed on June 1, 1948, during an armed robbery on the south side of Chicago. Reportedly, his heartbreaking last words were, “Lord have mercy.” 

6. Jam Master Jay

jam master jay's grave
Image from Shutterstock.

Musician and disc jockey Jam Master Jay is one of the musicians who were murdered in the last century on this list. Known for his time as DJ for Run-DMC, he was killed on October 30, 2002, in his recording studio in Jamaica, Queens. 

Sadly, the case was cold for several years, with many suspicions but no arrests being made until 2020. Karl Jordan Jr.’s trial is set to begin in November of this year. 

Related: 14 Best Rappers

7. Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell

an accoustic guitar on a hardwood floor
(No licensable images available) Image by De An Sun on Unsplash

Famed blues guitarist Francis “Scrapper” Blackwell, best known for his duo partnership with pianist Leroy Carr in the 1920s and 30s, became qualified for our list of musicians who were murdered on October 7, 1962. 

Like Williamson, his murder seemed to be a wrong place, wrong time sort of a scenario, as he was shot and killed in a mugging in an ally in Indianapolis. 

8. Sam Cooke

sam cooke in the recording studio in 1961
Image is in the Public Domain.

At the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles on December 11, 1964, the “King of Soul,” Sam Cooke, met his end, but it turns out there was more to it than met the eye. While many on the list of musicians who were murdered seemed to come from a pre-meditated source, the shooting of the “Bring It On Home to Me” singer turned out to be self-defense on the part of Bertha Franklin, a motel manager. 

Reportedly, Cooke had forced his way into Franklin’s office in a rage as he searched for a girl he had “picked up” earlier in the evening, Elisa Boyer. Boyer had run away from the “Chain Gang” singer, fearing he would rape her. An investigation confirmed both women’s stories, and his death was ruled a justifiable homicide. 

Related: 21 Best 60s Songs

9. Darrell Banks

a microphone on stage with cool lighting singer
(No licensable photo available) Image by Bruno Cervera on Unsplash.

Soul singer and musician Darrell Banks, the guru behind the 1966 hit “Open the Door to Your Heart,” was murdered by an off-duty officer on February 24, 1970, at just 32 years old. 

According to reports by the Michigan Chronicle at the time, the patrolman, identified as Aaron Bullock, shot Banks after an alleged assault of the former’s “date,” Marjorie Bozeman. Bozeman later said in statements that she and Banks had been close friends, but she had been trying to end the relationship. 

10. Marc Blitzstein

mark blitzstein in 1938 sitting by a piano
Image is in the Public Domain.

Composer and lyricist Marcus Blitzstein was killed on January 22, 1964. Best known for the shutting down of his 1937 pro-union musical The Cradle Will Rock, Blitzstein’s murder came after he picked up three sailors in Martinique, an island in the West Indies. 

11. Lee Morgan

lee morgan performing in 1959
Image is in the Public Domain

Jazz trumpeter and composer Lee Morgan became yet another one of the musicians who were murdered on February 19, 1972. 

Known for his hit crossover song, “The Sidewinder,” Morgan was shot by his common-law wife, Helen Moore, at a New York City jazz club, Slugs’ Saloon, following an altercation between the couple. While his injury was not initially fatal, Morgan bled to death because of the delay in medical arrival due to a snowstorm. 

12. Curtis Ousley

curtis ousley playing saxophone in 1971
Image is in the Public Domain.

Curtis Ousley, aka King Curtis, was one of the most popular rhythm and blues saxophonists of the 1950s and 60s, with solos on such hit songs as “Respect” by Aretha Franklin and “Yakety Yak” by The Coasters, as well as his own songs, “Memphis Soul Stew” and “Soul Twist.” 

His tragic death came in the early morning hours of August 13, 1971, following an altercation the night before between him and Juan Montanez, a loiterer outside Ousley’s house. The fight led to Montanez stabbing Ousley. 

Related: 17 Best Aretha Franklin Songs: The Queen of Soul’s Greatest

13. Robert Ramirez

a silhouette of a band
(No licensable photos available) Image from Shutterstock.

Robert Ramirez, former drummer of the Edgar Winter Band, sadly met his demise on July 24, 1972, when he was beaten to death following an altercation at a local nightclub. At the time of his death, he was a touring member of LaCroix. 

According to reports, while the immediate tension was defused during the initial altercation, a member of the band recalled, “I shouted, ‘Come on, Bobby, let’s go,’ but he went around the corner and down the block. When I got to the corner, I saw him halfway down the street when someone came running out of the alley and attacked.” 

14. David “Stringbean” Akeman

image of graves in a graveyard
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

In the late 60s and early 70s (and beyond), Hee Haw was the golden television show to watch, and David “Stringbean” Akeman was one of the show’s biggest stars. Sadly, due to his distrust of banks to handle his money after many failures during the Great Depression, his tendency to keep a large amount of cash on him proved to be his end. 

On November 10, 1973, as the banjo player returned from a night of performing at the Grand Ole Opry, the burglars were waiting, and the Opry member was shot dead alongside his wife. At the time of the murder, Akeman and his wife were reportedly carrying $5,700 between them. Their neighbor, fellow musician Louis “Grandpa” Jones, discovered their bodies.

Related: 50 Best Country Songs

15. Albert Jackson Jr.

a guitarist playing with their head down
(No licenseable photo available) Image from Shutterstock.

Drummer Albert Jackson Jr., best known for being a founding member of Booker T. & the M.G.’s, was murdered on October 1, 1975. His is a familiar story to that of Akeman on our list of musicians who were murdered, as he, too, met his end upon coming home to find intruders waiting for him. 

When he came home, the intruders reportedly told him to get down on his knees before they fatally shot him in the back five times.   

16. Eddie Jefferson

a fountain pen sitting on a piece of paper lyrics writing music
(No licenseable images available). Image by Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Jazz vocalist and lyricist Eddie Jefferson, known for his song “Moody’s Mood for Love,” was murdered on May 9, 1979. Tragically, the 60-year-old was leaving a keyboard lounge in Detroit, Michigan, when he was shot.

Investigations began after a Lincoln Continental was seen speeding away from the scene. The driver was later stopped by police and found to be that of a disgruntled dancer who Jefferson had previously fired from a gig. While the dancer was charged, no conviction was made. 

17. Felix Pappalardi Jr.

Felix Pappalardi Jr. playing the melltron in 1974
Image is in the Public Domain

Bassist and vocalist Felix Pappalardi Jr., best known for the “Mississippi Queen” band, Mountain, was shot and killed on April 17, 1983, by his wife, Gail Collins Pappalardi. 

The shooting sadly happened with a derringer that Pappalardi had given his wife as a gift just a few months earlier. We’re guessing that wasn’t his intended way for her to use it. 

18. Walter Scott

a band onstage performing on a smoky stage
(No licensable photos available) Image from Shutterstock

Walter Scott, frontman of Bob Kuban and The In-Men, was 40 years old when he was murdered on December 27, 1983, the day he disappeared. More than three years later, in April 1987, his body was found in a cistern, floating face-down, during which it was discovered that he had been hog-tied and shot in the chest.

Scott’s second wife JoAnn was later prosecuted for the murder and was sentenced to five years in prison, although she only served 18 months before she struck up a plea bargain. Additionally, her lover and later husband, James H. Williams Sr., was found guilty of capital murder for Scott’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison.

The case has become so infamous that it was documented on multiple media outlets, including Forensic Files on Court TV and Autopsy 3: Voices From the Grave on HBO.

19. Marvin Gaye

marvin gaye record albums spread across the floor
Image from Shutterstock.

The murder came after the “Ain’t That Peculiar” singer got into a physical altercation with Marvin Gay Sr., who eventually pulled a gun on his son, shooting him twice. Even if it had just been one shot, it would have still been fatal as it entered through Gaye’s chest, piercing his heart. The final gut-wrenching detail? Gaye died a day shy of his 45th birthday.

Related: What We Know About The Death of Marvin Gaye

20. Lenny Breau

owen clarck and lenny breau in 1958
Image is in the Public Domain

Lenny Breau was a pioneer of the guitar thanks to his fingerstyle technique with the jazz guitar. Sadly, he could not continue influencing the craft because of his murder on August 12, 1984. 

That day, Breau’s body had been found floating in a pool near his Los Angeles apartment complex. Upon investigation, it was determined that he had been strangled to death. Although his wife was a prime suspect, she was never charged with the murder. 

Related: 21 Best Jazz Songs

21. John “Jacko”Pastorius, III

jaco pastorious in Bologna in 1986. Jaco was Playing with Biréli Lagrène & Thomas Borocz
Image is in the Public Domain

Jazz bassist John “Jaco” Pastorius III was only 35 years old when he was murdered in 1987. A member of the Weather Report jazz fusion group, Pastorius’ death came about because of a confrontation at a nightclub 10 days earlier on September 11, 1987. 

Luc Haven, the club employee who was also an expert in martial arts, reportedly beat Pastorius violently, leaving him with multiple fractures in his face and injuries to his left arm and right eye. The musician later fell into a coma before a brain hemorrhage eventually led to brain death. He was taken off life support on September 21, 1987. 

22. Amar Singh Chamkila

a male singer silhouette on stage singing
(No licensable photos available) Image from Shutterstock.

Amar Singh Chamkila, known for his involvement in Punjabi music, is yet another one of the musicians who were murdered where they were not the only victims on the fatal day. 

On March 8, 1988, Chamkila and his wife were killed alongside two band members in what has remained an unsolved assassination. Allegedly, Sikh militants are believed to be behind the killings. 

23. Michael David Fuller

a guitar player sitting in front of a crowd and playing guitar
(No licensable photos available) Image from Shutterstock.

Country music singer and musician Michael David Fuller, better known as Blaze Foley, was murdered on February 1, 1989. He was shot and killed by Carey January, the son of Concho January, Foley’s friend. 

The shooting occurred after Foley confronted the young January and accused him of stealing the veteran pension and welfare checks that belonged to his father. Sadly, Carey January was eventually acquitted of first-degree murder charges, pleading self-defense. While Concho January tried to testify against his son, he was deemed unreliable because of his drinking problem.

Related: 15 Best Male Country Singers 

24. Cornell Gunter

flowers in a graveyard
(No licenseable photo available) Image from Shutterstock.

Cornell Gunter was only 53 when he became eligible for the musicians who were murdered list. The rhythm and blues artist was shot in his car on February 26, 1990, in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

25. David Rowbotham

a rose on a grave
(No licenseable photo available) Image from Shutterstock.

English rock musician David Robotham, known for playing with multiple bands in Manchester in the 1970s and 1980s, was killed on November 8, 1991. 

His body was found by his then-girlfriend at the time as he lay in a pool of his own blood in the living room of his Burnage flat. While a plasterer’s hammer has been determined to be the murder weapon, no one has yet to be convicted for the murder. 

26. Mia Zapata

a gravestone in a graveyard
(No licenseable photo available) Image from Shutterstock.

Mia Zapata, lead singer of The Gits, a Seattle punk band, was only 27 when she was murdered while making her way home on July 7, 1993. Her body was later discovered in the Central District of Seattle, and coroners’ reports stated that she had been beaten, raped, and strangled to death. 

It took tens of years for an arrest to be made in the Zapata murder case. Still, police finally apprehended Jesus Mezquia, a Florida fisherman, based on the DNA evidence found. He was later convicted in 2004 and ordered to serve 37 years in prison. 

27. Donald Myrick

a guitarist in a band on stage performing
Image from Shutterstock.

Saxophonist Donald Myrick, best known for his collaborations with Phil Collins and Earth, Wind & Fire, was murdered on July 30, 1993, by Santa Monica police. The incident occurred because of a search warrant officers had for a narcotics investigation. Myrick was shot when Officer Gary Barbaro believed he was carrying a weapon, although it turned out to be a butane lighter. A single bullet was fired into Myrick’s chest, and he died shortly after. 

Related: Phil Collins’ Net Worth

28. Rhett Forrester

a male singer on stage performing
(No licensable photo available) Image from Shutterstock

Riot lead singer and musician Rhett Forrester’s status as one of many musicians who were murdered was solidified on January 22, 1994. The 37-year-old was shot and killed after refusing to give in to a carjacking attempt. 

The incident occurred at the intersection of Lovejoy Street and Merritts Avenue in Northwest Atlanta. 

29. Selena Quinatanilla-Perez

who killed selena? image of selenas wax figure from madam tussands
Image from Shutterstock.

Of all the musicians who were murdered, Selena Quintanilla’s story seems to be the most extensive and shocking. The Queen of Tejano Music was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar via a fatal gunshot wound to the right shoulder, severing her subclavian artery, on March 31, 1995. 

The altercation came after months of controversy as many became suspicious of Saldivar and tried to warn Quintanilla to be wary. Eventually, after it was discovered that Saldivar had embezzled money off the singer’s name, the two women had a confrontation that led to Saldivar pulling a gun on the “Como la Flor” singer. 

As a trail of blood followed her, Quintanilla was able to make hotel staff aware of where the shooting happened, and Saldivar was eventually taken into custody. 

Related: The Unfortunate True Story of Selena Quintanilla’s Death

30. Randy Walker

a male singer on a smoky stage holding a microphone
(No licensable photo available) Image from Shutterstock

Rapper and musician Randy Walker, better known as Stretch, was murdered on November 30, 1995. As the events are known, Walker was dropping his brother at home when a black car pulled up alongside his minivan and fired several rounds. The shooting caused Walker to crash his car around 12:30 a.m. It was there that he was later found with four bullets in his back. 

31. The Notorious B.I.G.

notorious big record next to its cover on a white background
Image from shutterstock.

The tragic end for The Notorious B.I.G. is not dissimilar to many other deaths on our musicians who were murdered list. While stopped at a red light after leaving a party at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, he was shot by a pistol from a black Chevy Impala that had pulled up alongside his car.

Unfortunately, he was struck with four bullets. The autopsy later revealed that the final shot proved to be the one that sealed his fate as it entered his right hip before hitting his colon, liver, heart, and left lung before settling.

Related: How Did Notorious B.I.G. Die?

32. Fat Pack

a male rapper performing on stage
(No licensable photo available) Image from Shutterstock

Fat Pack was only 27 when he was fatally shot by an unknown gunman on February 3, 1998, in Houston, Texas. The incident occurred outside the apartment of a promoter where Fat Pack had gone to collect an appearance fee. The death remains unsolved to this day. 

Eight years later, his brother, Big Hawk, also a musician and rapper, met the same fate when an unknown assailant murdered him on May 1, 2006. 

33. Jaki Byard

piano keys
(No licensable photos available) Image by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

Jazz multi-instrumentalist Jaki Byard, best known for his skills on the piano and his eclectic style of playing ragtime, stride, free jazz, and everything in between, was killed on February 11, 1999. 

Found shot to death in his home in New York City, his death was ruled a homicide although there “were no signs of robbery, forced entry or a struggle.” Additionally, no murder weapon was found, and the case is still unsolved. 

34. Roger Troutman

a musician playing guitar on stage
(No licenseable photo available) Image from Shutterstock.

Roger Troutman, a singer and multi-instrumentalist known for being the founder of the band Zapp and spearheader of the funk movement, was 47 when he was murdered on April 25, 1999. 

That morning, he was found in his recording studio in Dayton critically wounded by gunshot wounds to the torso. While doctors attempted to save him, Troutman eventually died in surgery. It is believed that Troutman was shot by his brother Larry, who was also found fatally shot from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head soon after. 

35. Carlton Barrett

bob marley and the wailers record
Image from Shutterstock.

Carlton “Carly” Barrett, best known for being Bob Marley & The Wailers’ long-time drummer, was murdered in Kingston, Jamaica, on April 17, 1987, at the age of 36. 

Barrett was outside his home when a gunman opened fire, killing him. Four and a half years later, Barrett’s widow, Albertine, was jailed, having been convicted of conspiracy to commit murder. Glenroy Carter, her love and a taxi driver, as well as mason Junior “Bang” Neil,” were also sentenced as the actual shooter. 

Related: 25 Performers We Wish We Could See One More Time

36. Peter Tosh

a peter tosh album depicting the singer
Image from Shutterstock.

Speaking of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh is another associated musician of his who was murdered. Tosh’s death came on September 11, 1987, when he was killed following hours of torture by three gang members who were trying to extort money from him. 

The resulting gunshots hit Tosh twice in the head, killing him almost instantly. 

Related: The Ultimate Guide To Learning About How Bob Marley Died

37. Dimebag Darrell

an image of a grave
(No licensable image available) Image from Shutterstock.

Guitarist Dimebag Darrell had one of the most public killings on the musicians who were murdered list. On December 8, 2004, he was shot and killed by a deranged fan who stormed the stage of Columbus, Ohio’s Alrosa Villa nightclub, where Darrell was performing with his band, Damageplan. The ensuing struggle led to the death of three others, as well as the shooter, Nathan Gale, and three injuries.

Thousands of fans attended the public memorial, which also included multiple celebrities, most notably Eddie Van Halen, whom Darrell had a few weeks earlier and asked for a replica of Van Halen’s 1979 Charvel “Bumblebee” guitar. That day, the “Runnin’ with the Devil” musician fulfilled that request and then some. “Dime was an original, and only an original deserves the original,” as he donated his original guitar. 

Related: How Did Eddie Van Halen Die?

38. Bryan Harvey

silhoutte of a guitar player performing on stage
Image from Shutterstock.

Bryan Harvey, frontman of House of Freaks, didn’t get much of a chance to ring in the New Year in 2006, as he became unwillingly eligible for our musicians who were murdered list on January 1, 2006. 

Harvey, along with his wife, Kathryn, Steven Culp’s maternal half-sister, and two young girls, were just four of the seven victims of the 2006 Richmond spree murders that took place over the course of seven days. 

39. DeShaun Holton

a rapper on stage performing
(No licensable photos available) Image from Shutterstock.

DeShaun Holton, better known as rapper and musician Proof, was like so many others on our list of musicians who were murdered when he was shot and killed on April 11, 2006. Unlike others that took place in robberies or a drive-by, the shooting in Holton’s case came about because of a dispute about a billiards game. 

Proof was shot three times by Mario Etheridge after the former shot Keith Bender during the confrontation, although reports have been conflicted over the years. Alcohol was also noted to have been involved. 

40. Christina Grimmie

christina grimmie in a black jumpsuti arriving at an event
Image from Shutterstock.

When she appeared on the sixth season of the hit NBC show The Voice, it was clear that Christina Grimmie had quite the career ahead of her. That is until she was sadly murdered on June 10, 2016, when she was only 22 years old.

Her death was a tragic murder-suicide type of situation when she was approached by Kevin James Loibl, believed to be a fan, who shot her three times at point-blank range in the head and chest. After getting into an altercation with Grimmie’s brother, the 27-year-old Loibl shot himself.

41. Lamont Coleman

a mural depicting rapper Big L
Image from Shutterstock.

Rapper and musician Lamont Coleman, aka Big L, met his tragic end on February 15, 1999. The “Put It On” performer was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Harlem, New York, leading to him being hit nine times across his face and chest. 

After Coleman’s childhood friend, Gerard Woodley, was arrested three months later in relation to the shooting, a spokesperson of the NYPD stated, “It’s a good possibility it was retaliation for something Big L’s brother did, or Woodley believed he had done.” Due to lack of evidence, Woodley was later released, and another arrest has yet to be made in the crime. In 2016, Woodley was given his own entry on the musicians who were murdered list when he was fatally shot in the head. 

You May Also Like:


Written by Katie Peterson

Katie Peterson received her bachelor's degree in English from the University of Saint Mary in Leavenworth in 2015. She has worked in journalism since 2015, beginning as production assistant and eventual head staff writer of the Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Currently, she is a multimedia journalist with the Diocese of Nashville's Office of Media and Evangelization where she writes, does photography, and edits for several types of content, including the Tennessee Register, Catholic Awakenings, and She has also worked as a freelance journalist with the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas's newspaper, The Leaven, since 2016.
In her spare time, Peterson enjoys reading, spending time with her pup, Sadie Lynn, singing and songwriting.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *





celebrities who were murdered christina grimmie in a black jumpsuti arriving at an event

29 Celebrities Who Were Murdered: Their Tragic Ends

musicians who were murdered

Bloodline Opens up Their Home in Anticipation of Album Celebration