18 Legendary Musicians Who Died Tragically Young

Laura Anastasia | Mar 30, 2016 Celebrities

The music they made will live on forever, but these artists died much too soon. Fame and, in some cases, fortune couldn't help them cheat death. From hip-hop foes Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. to one-of-a-kind crooners Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin, these musicians all passed away tragically young. 

Some lost battles to drug or alcohol addiction. Others passed away from health complications. Some, such as Latin music star Selena, were killed by crazed fans. Click to see which of your favorite artists passed away too soon. 


Image via Mitchell Gerber/Corbis
  • Kurt Cobain


    Image via Andy King/Sygma/Corbis

    Cobain made grunge mainstream in the early 1990s with his band, Nirvana. Despite his mega success, Cobain allegedly struggled with heroin addiction. He committed suicide in 1994 at age 27, leaving behind wife Courtney Love and toddler daughter Frances Bean.

  • Amy Winehouse


    Image via Mattia Zoppellaro/Hell Gate Media/Corbis

    Winehouse became an overnight sensation in the United States with her hit single "Rehab," but the troubled Brit singer's success was mired by drug and alcohol abuse, plus trouble with the law. The Grammy winner died of accidental alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27.

  • Tupac Shakur

    Image via Mitchell Gerber/Corbis

    Shakur was a hip-hop legend, selling more than 75 million albums worldwide. His lyrics took shots at East Coast rappers, helping to fuel the feud between artists on the East and West coasts. Shakur was shot and killed in 1996 at age 25, allegedly due to that feud. His killer has not been caught.

  • Selena


    Image via Larry Busacca /Retna Ltd./Corbis

    The Grammy-winning Latin American singer was known as the "Queen of Tejano Music." Selena was fatally shot by the president of her fan club in 1995 at age 23. 

    More from The Stir: 19 Celebrities Who Died of Alcohol & Drug Overdoses (PHOTOS)

  • Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes


    Image via Gregory Pace/Corbis

    Lopes and her hit group TLC dominated pop and R&B in the '90s. Lopes was known for her eyebrow-raising antics. She died in a car accident while visiting Honduras in 2002 at age 30. 

  • Aaliyah


    Image via Christopher Kolk/Corbis

    Aaliyah became a full-fledged R&B sensation at age 15, releasing hit after hit and even going on to star in 2000's Romeo Must Die and 2001's Queen of the Damned. The singer died at age 22 in a plane crash, along with eight members of her film crew, on the way home from shooting a music video in 2001.

  • The Notorious B.I.G.


    Image via Felix Kaestle/epa/Corbis

    The Notorious B.I.G. went from doing hard time as a teen drug dealer to dominating the music industry as one of the best-selling hip-hop artists in the '90s. Biggie Smalls, as he was also known, was one of the East Coast rappers involved in the infamous feud between hip-hop artists on the East and West coasts. He was fatally shot in 1997 at age 24. His murderer has not been caught. 

  • Jimi Hendrix


    Image via Frank Mastropolo/Corbis

    Hendrix's awe-inspiring talent blew away fans and music legends alike in the '60s. The legendary electric guitarist died of drug-related complications in 1970 at age 27.

    More from The Stir: 17 Celebrities Who Tragically Died Young

  • Sam Cooke


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    Known as the "King of Soul," Cooke scored hit after hit in the '50s and '60s, including "Wonderful World" and "Twistin' the Night Away." The crooner was killed in 1964 at age 33, in what the coroner later deemed a "justifiable homicide." A hotel manager claimed she shot Cooke in self-defense after he tried to rape a woman and then turned on her. 

  • Buddy Holly


    Image via Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

    Holly hit the charts with "Peggy Sue" and "That'll Be The Day" in the '50s. The up-and-coming star died in a plane crash in 1959 at age 22. Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper also died in the tragedy. Don McLean memorialized Holly's death with the song "American Pie," describing his plane crash as "the day the music died."

  • Jim Morrison


    Image via Manfred Rehm/dpa/Corbis

    The rebellious rocker led the Doors to huge success in the late 1960s, with overwhelmingly popular hits including "Light My Fire" and "Hello, I Love You." Morrison's drug use, drinking, and troubled outbursts were well-known. He escaped to Paris in 1971 to write poetry, but died from heart failure there that same year, at age 27. 

  • Elliott Smith


    Image via Ted Soqui/Corbis

    Smith earned himself a loyal following with breakthrough album Either/Or and his work on 1997's Good Will Hunting soundtrack, for which he received an Oscar nomination for best song. Smith's lyrics touched on drug use and suicidal thoughts. He died of two stab wounds to the chest in 2003 at age 34. It was ruled "possible suicide versus homicide." 

    More from The Stir: In Memoriam: 23 Beloved Celebrities Who Passed Away in 2015

  • Janis Joplin


    Image via Sunset Boulevard/Corbis

    Joplin's raw vocals first got big recognition as part of the group Big Brother and the Holding Company before she went solo. The powerhouse singer struggled with heroin addiction and died of an accidental overdose in 1970 at age 27. 

  • Sid Vicious


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    Punk poster-boy Vicious replaced the original bass guitarist for the Sex Pistols in 1977, even though he reportedly couldn't play the instrument. The infamous British punk rock band broke up the next year. Vicious and girlfriend Nancy Spungen, who both struggled with drug addiction, holed up at a hotel. Spungen was stabbed to death there in 1978. Vicious was charged with second-degree murder. He had been using drugs at the time and said he couldn't remember what had happened. He died of an overdose a few months later in 1979, at age 21.  

  • Otis Redding

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    Redding's soulful voice earned him chart-topping success in the '60s, with songs including "These Arms of Mine." He and four members of his backup band died in a plane crash in 1967, four days after recording "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." The 26-year-old left behind a wife and four young children.

  • Karen Carpenter


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    Carpenter's soothing voice helped her sibling duo, the Carpenters, soar in the '70s. The singer suffered from anorexia, becoming painfully thin before succumbing to complications from the eating disorder in 1983 at age 32. Carpenter's death helped bring awareness to the dangers of eating disorders.

    More from The Stir: Leonardo DiCaprio Makes Shocking Drug Confession

  • Simone Battle


    Image via John Ricard/Corbis

    Battle first gained attention as a finalist on the US version of The X Factor in 2011. In 2014, fame was in her grasp -- her all-girl group G.R.L. was collaborating with Pitbull and had done several TV appearances. Battle committed suicide that September, at age 25. 

  • Hank Williams Sr.

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    One of country music's first big names, Williams Sr. churned out hit after hit, including "Your Cheatin' Heart," in the late '40s and early '50s. After struggling with morphine and alcohol abuse, he died of a heart attack in 1953 at age 29, leaving behind his young son, Hank Jr. 

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