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22 Singers Who Died Too Soon

singers who died too soon aaliyah on the red carpet in white pants and a white top
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It’s always sad when a person passes away too soon. Unfortunately, the music industry is no stranger to this tragedy, losing talent in nearly every category, from rap to country, way before their time. 

If you want to learn more about some of the top talents that have died too soon, keep reading. We’ll dive into some of the best artists who died tragically at the height of their careers, forever leaving their legacy in song.

1. 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 is a tragic part to our list of singers who died too soon, passing away in a plane crash on October 12th, 1997, in Monterey Bay, California. The plane was an experimental two-seater, and Denver was the only one inside when he ran out of fuel and plummeted into the water.

Denver was 53 when he died. Though he’d had a history of alcohol issues, there was none in his system at the time of the crash.

Related: 30 Best 70s Songs

2. Jim Morrison

jim morrison book with his image on the front
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As the lead singer of The Doors, music icon Jim Morrison was on a path to musical success from a young age. Unfortunately, Morrison passed away unexpectedly in Paris, France, at 27.

Speculation surrounds his death – some say it was heart failure, others a heroin overdose, but honestly, it’s a mystery we will likely never solve.

Related: 21 Best 60s Songs

3. Marvin Gaye

marvin gaye record albums spread across the floor
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The talented Marvin Gaye was a singer and songwriter who shaped Motown as we know it, landing a title as the “Prince of Soul.” Gaye was tragically shot and killed on April 1, 1984, after a spat with his dad at a family gathering.

After Gaye’s death, it was proven that his father had a severe brain tumor which is what caused his violent and unexpected behavior. 

4. Whitney Houston

how did whitney houston die clive davis and whitney houston
LOS ANGELES – FEB 10: Clive Davis, Whitney Houston arrives at the Clive Davis Annual Pre-Grammy Party at Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 10, 2007 in Beverly Hills, CA. Image from Shutterstock.

Whitney Houston was a powerhouse of a voice – who could ever forget those incredible notes she hit in “I Will Always Love You”? In her short time in the spotlight, Houston became one of the best-selling artists of all time. 

Houston suddenly passed away on February 11, 2012, after a drug-related accidental drowning in her bathtub. 

Related: Whitney Houston’s Net Worth

5. Aaliyah

aaliyah on the red carpet in white pants and a white top
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Aaliyah helped give a name to what we now know as the contemporary hip-hop and R&B scene, landing the nickname the “Queen of Urban Pop.” The singer and actress was only 22 when she died on August 25, 2001, in a plane crash over the Bahamas.

It was revealed that the plane was wildly overloaded, which led to its crash on the runway.

6. Tupac Shakur

tupac shakurs figure at madam tussands in las vegas
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Tupac Shakur is one of the most influential and successful rappers of all time, selling more than 75 million albums with his detailed lyrics and hypnotic tone. Tragically, on September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He died six days later at the age of 25. 

Related: 20 Rappers Who Got Shot

7. Karen Carpenter

Nixon with karen and richard carpenter
Nixon meeting with Karen and Richard Carpenter in 1972. Image is in the Public Domain.

Karen Carpenter is next on our list of singers who died too soon, a distinctive talent who could drum and sing in a three-octave contralto range. Unfortunately, Carpenter suffered from anorexia and died from anorexia-related heart complications at 32 on February 4, 1983.

Related: 29 Best Drummers

8. Chester Bennington

how did chester bennington die famous people who committed suicide chester bennington in a white tank leaning down on stage as he sings into a mic
Image from Shutterstock.

It shocked the world when Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of Linkin Park, was reported dead at just 41 years old. The singer took his life at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California, on July 20, 2017.

Related: 23 Famous People Who Committed Suicide

9. Kurt Cobain

how did kurt cobain die large image of kurt cobain on the cover of a record album
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Kurt Cobain was widely famous as the co-founder and primary songwriter of the band Nirvana. He became nearly as well-known in death, passing away suddenly at the age of 27 from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head on April 8, 1994. 

Related: 18 Best Nirvana Songs

10. Bob Marley

Image of a Bob marley record with its case
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Jamaican singer and musician Bob Marley is well-known for his iconic tone and laid-back music style. He was one of the pioneers of reggae and fused ska and rocksteady into his art. 

Marley passed away from a rare case of acral lentiginous melanoma on May 11, 1981, at 36.

11. Freddie Mercury

how did freddie mercury die? the wax statue of freddie mercury in the Netherelands
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Freddie Mercury was quite the character, dazzling audiences as the energetic lead singer of the worldwide phenomenon Queen. His flamboyant personality and range of four octaves led him to be known as one of the best rock singers of all time.

Tragically, Mercury died at 45 years old from HIV/AIDS. 

Related: 21 Best Gay Singers of All Time

12. Amy Winehouse

amy winehouse on the red carpet in a black dress
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Amy Winehouse is another on our list of singers who died too soon, leaving this earth at 27 after an experience with alcohol poisoning. The powerhouse was ranked as one of the greatest women in music before her death and stunned the world with tragically prophetic songs like “Rehab.”

Related: What is the 27 Club?

13. Selena 

who killed selena? image of selenas wax figure from madam tussands
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Selena Quintanilla-Perez was the “Queen of Tejano Music,” recognized for her additions to both the music and fashion world. Her life was cut short on March 31, 1995, when she was shot and killed by a former fan club manager. She was only 23 and is one of the most famous singers who died too soon, and many of her fans still mourn her today.

14. Mac Miller

mac miller on stage holding a microphone and performing
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Mac Miller was an up-and-coming rapper at the height of his career when he passed away at 26 from an overdose of cocaine, fentanyl, and alcohol. The rapper and record producer started his career in 2007 when he was only 15.

Related: How Did Mac Miller Die?

15. Jimi Hendrix

artists you didn't know were native american famous musicians who are color blind jimi hendrix playing guitar on stage jimi hendrix songs
SAN FRANCISCO, USA – OCT 5, 2015: Jimi Hendrix at the Madame Tussauds museum in SF. It was open on June 26, 2014. Image from Shutterstock.

American guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix only had a career that lasted four years, but in that time, he managed to secure his legacy as one of the best electric guitarists on the planet. Hendrix was only 27 when he died of a barbiturate overdose on September 18, 1970.

Related: 15 Best Jimi Hendrix Songs

16. Hank Williams

a hank williams postage stamp from 1993
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Also on our list of singers who died too soon is country singer Hank Williams. The singer and songwriter is one of the most influential of the 20th century, known for his cowboy look and iconic voice.

Tragically, Williams was only 29 when he died of a heart attack due to a suspected combination of alcohol, morphine, and chloral hydrate.

17. John Lennon

The Beatles in Treslong in 1964
Image is in the Public Domain.

John Lennon was a singer, songwriter, musician, artist, activist, and more, with work spanning from his time with the Beatles to moments as a film creator and beyond. Lennon was assassinated on December 8th, 1980, after Mark David Chapman shot the singer in the archway of his New York home, the Dakota.

Related: 15 Singers Who Were Adopted

18. Notorious B.I.G.

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

The Notorious B.I.G. is next on our list of singers who died too soon. The influential rapper was only 24 when he died from wounds inflicted in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. Though his life was cut short, he is still considered one of the greatest rappers ever. 

Related: 14 Greatest Rappers

19. Janis Joplin

janis joplins figure in the madam tussands wax museum
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Janis Joplin is one of the most well-known rockers of her time, dazzling with her stage presence and numbers like “Piece of My Heart.” Joplin died at 27 after a heroin overdose, though some still speculate over the cause of her passing.

20. Elvis Presley

elvis presley singing on stage in 1973
Elvis Presley in 1973. Image is in the Public Domain.

The “King of Rock and Roll” was only 42 when he died of a suspected heart attack at his home in Graceland on August 16, 1977. By the time Elvis Presley passed, the legend had garnered millions of fans and became more than a music figure – he became an icon of the culture. 

Related: The Life and Music of Elvis Presley

21. Avicii

aviciis cross in a graveyard in delft, Netherlands
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Avicii was only 28 years old and just beginning to take over the EDM scene when he died in April 2018. Famous for his song “Wake Me Up,” the DJ experienced several mental and physical health issues, one of which led to his suicide in 2018. 

22. 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.

Last on our list of singers who died too soon is legend Buddy Holly. The 50s pioneer of rock and roll is unmistakable, gracing the rock world with songs like “True Love Ways” and “Everyday.”

Holly died at 22 in a plane crash with 17-year-old musical genius Ritchie Valens after the plane took off in a snowstorm. 

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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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