Some of the greatest lights the musical world has ever seen have been extinguished way too early. Though in some ways it might be nice to be so extremely talented that everything you ever needed to do to change the world could be accomplished before the age of 40 [or 30 sometimes!], in other ways, there’s a lot of great life events that would be missed. Here are the 5 most influential musicians who died too young.
1. Bob Marley
How did Bob Marley die? He had melanoma that had spread to his lungs and his brain. What made Marley influential was the fact that his music encompassed societal issues, religious components, and cultural components that could really touch a person’s soul. His passion for music and life was contagious, yet in some ways, it also seemed like Marley was chasing life as he was creating music too. His last words to his son were “Money can’t buy life.” That final thought is as profound as it is simple, which is how Marley’s music can be seen in many ways as well.
2. Kurt Cobain
How did Kurt Cobain die? Unfortunately it was by suicide. What I remember about Cobain is the story of how they were still driving around in a van, couch surfing between shows, even though their album had already gone platinum. People were craving his music and loving the grunge sound that his band produced and it just ended up being too much. My kids today here is music and ask when they can go to that band’s concert. That in itself is a good enough reason to have Cobain on this list.
3. Janis Joplin
How did Janis Joplin die? It was because of a drug overdose. Joplin had a stage presence that transcended her music. She might have had only one #1 hit in her brief four year career, but her music was able to touch people on an emotional level that is unequalled to this day. An original and unique voice, critics compared her often to Elvis Presley with her ability to engage with her fans. Many of today’s female artists consider Joplin a major influence, which is precisely why she deserves to be on this list.
4. Jimi Hendrix
How did Jimi Hendrix die? It was also because of a drug overdose. Hendrix died just 16 days earlier than Joplin and that period of time shocked the music industry. With Hendrix, you’ve got a man who understood that language of music better than anyone ever before or maybe ever since. There are many guitarists who are great and respected, but no one can ever compare to what Hendrix was able to do with that instrument. As one of the best musicians who has ever lived, his influence is felt in every guitar riff that is created in a song solo.
5. Frank Zappa
How did Frank Zappa die? It was from prostate cancer. So Zappa did have a career that spanned over 30 years and he lived into his 50’s, which really isn’t that bad when you compare it to other musicians who died too young, but considering the immense talent that Zappa had, who knows what he could have done with even just 5 or 10 extra years of life. An independent musician for most of his career, his influence is often seen in other indy artists who are striving to create their own brand of art, even if it doesn’t bring commercial success.