’Net Junkie

Shawn "Speedy" Lopes

Famous in music
and in death

On a blustery winter night in 1958, rock 'n' roll endured its first major tragedy when Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and 17-year-old Richie Valens were killed in an airplane crash following a concert in Clear Lake, Iowa. Since then, many of pop music's brightest stars have met their untimely end in similar fashion, including Otis Redding (1967), Jim Croce (1973), John Denver (1997), Patsy Cline (1963), Aaliyah (2001), Stevie Ray Vaughan (1990) and Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Randy Rhoads (1982).

Gordon Polatnick's Dead Musicians Directory at documents the deaths of hundreds of pop music icons, through AIDS (Liberace, Freddie Mercury of Queen, Ricky Wilson of the B-52's), electrocution (Keith Relf of the Yardbirds), auto accidents (Harry Chapin, Eddie Cochran, Falco, T. Rex's Marc Bolan) and vomit inhalation (Jimi Hendrix, AC/DC's Bon Scott, Tommy Dorsey, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham).

Some were shot (Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, Selena, Peter Tosh), others perished in fires (Ty Longley of Great White, Steve Marriott of the Small Faces and Humble Pie) or motorcycle accidents (Duane Allman was killed in October 1971).

Still more deaths remain unsolved. There's the case of Bobby Fuller, leader of the Bobby Fuller Four, whose body was found in a parked car in Los Angeles in 1966. The coroner's office determined the cause of death to be asphyxia through the forced inhalation of gasoline. To date, no suspects have been found, although there is reason to believe organized crime was involved.

"Death by misadventure" was the verdict when ex-Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones was found dead in the swimming pool of his English farmhouse in 1969. His girlfriend at the time, Anna Wohlin, believes he was murdered in a dispute over money by Frank Thorogood, a handyman who had done work on Jones' home.

There is perhaps no greater tragedy than that of a young talent who chooses to take his or her own life. Nirvana's Kurt Cobain (1994) and Darby Crash of seminal punk rock outfit the Germs (1980) come to mind.

Those with "inside or conflicting information" on any of these accounts may contact Polatnick at

’Net Junkie drops every Monday.
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