The Weirdest And Strangest Deaths In Rock History
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It’s hardly surprising when rock stars meet their end through unconventional means. The lethal partnership of drugs and alcohol has claimed its fair share of musical luminaries, alongside the ominous specter of plane crashes.
Choking on one’s vomit has achieved an oddly fashionable status, immortalized in the iconic scene from This Is Spinal Tap. However, the world of rock has witnessed a spectrum of demises beyond the mainstream.
Ever heard of the rocker dispatched by a hay bale? Or the one whose final note was silenced by a mere cherry? From cerebral twists like brain aneurysms to the carnivorous clutches of death by ham, these tales unravel the most bizarre exits in the tapestry of rock ‘n’ roll history.
Rock stars exiting the stage of life is a narrative familiar to fans, with drugs and alcohol often stealing the limelight. However, beneath the surface of these common tales lie more peculiar and unexpected journeys into the afterlife.
Keith Relf: Electrocuted While Playing Guitar
Keith Relf, famed as the lead singer of the Yardbirds, met a peculiar demise on May 14, 1976. Unlike the stereotypical rock tragedy, Relf’s life was cut short not by excess but by a bizarre electrocution mishap. Playing an improperly grounded electric guitar in his basement studio, the veteran musician was tragically and unexpectedly electrocuted.
Sandy Denny: Falling Down Stairs
Possessing a hauntingly pure singing voice, Sandy Denny’s fate took an unusual turn on April 21, 1978. Weeks after falling down stairs and hitting her head on concrete, the Fairport Convention folk singer succumbed to mid-brain trauma. A life of substance abuse, coupled with personal struggles, came to an end in a way far removed from the typical rock ‘n’ roll narrative.
Steve Peregrin Took: Choked on a Cocktail Cherry
The tale of Steve Peregrin Took, former partner of Marc Bolan in Tyrannosaurus Rex, adds a whimsical touch to the rock ‘n’ roll annals. Fired from the duo in 1969 due to creative differences and drug use, Took met an unexpected demise on Oct. 27, 1980. While he and his girlfriend had ingested morphine and hallucinogens the night before, authorities attributed his death to asphyxiation from choking on a cocktail cherry, not the typical substances linked to rock star fatalities.
Mike Edwards: Killed by a Hay Bale
Mike Edwards, once a cellist for the Electric Light Orchestra, embarked on a unique journey in life that culminated in an even more peculiar death. After leaving ELO in 1975 and embracing a simple life in communes, Edwards met his end on Sept. 3, 2010. A 1,300-pound hay bale rolled down a hillside, colliding with his van near his home in Devon, England, marking the conclusion of a life filled with unconventional choices.
Les Harvey: Electrocuted During a Concert
Les Harvey, guitarist for Stone the Crows, faced an electrifying demise on May 3, 1972. As the blues-rock band was tuning up for a show in Swansea, Wales, Harvey was electrocuted onstage due to a poorly grounded microphone. At the age of 27, the guitarist’s promising journey in the world of rock came to an abrupt and tragic end.
Brian Jones: Death by Misadventure
A founding member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones contributed significantly to the band’s early success. However, his path diverged from that of his bandmates, leading to his firing in June of 1969. On July 3, 1969, Jones was discovered dead in his swimming pool. While officially ruled as “death by misadventure,” suspicions and theories of foul play have lingered, creating a mysterious epilogue to Jones’ tumultuous life.
Wells Kelly: Death by Partying
Wells Kelly, known as the drummer in the pop-rock group Orleans, embraced a lively existence that concluded surprisingly on Oct. 28, 1984. While on tour with Meat Loaf, Kelly collapsed and died on the front step of a London apartment after a night of partying. Asphyxiation became the unexpected cause of death for a musician known for his rhythm on hits like “Dance With Me” and “Still the One.”
Randy California: Caught in the Riptide
Randy California, the influential guitarist of Spirit, met his end in a tragic aquatic episode on Jan. 2, 1997. Attempting to rescue his 12-year-old son caught in a riptide in Molokai, Hawaii, California managed to push his son to safety but couldn’t save himself. The guitarist’s influential playing style and career achievements became a poignant part of rock history, despite the unconventional nature of his final moments.
Cass Elliot: Choked on a Ham Sandwich?
“Mama” Cass Elliot, famed for her role in The Mamas and the Papas, left an indelible mark on the music scene. Her death on July 29, 1974, is often misattributed to choking on a ham sandwich. However, the reality is that her demise was caused by a heart attack resulting from fatty myocardial degeneration due to obesity. The infamous ham sandwich, while a curious detail, played no part in her unexpected departure.
Johnny Thunders: Found in Pretzel State
New York Dolls guitarist Johnny Thunders departed on April 23, 1991, surrounded by rumors but officially attributed to drug-related causes. Discovered in an unnaturally twisted position at the St. Peter House in New Orleans, Thunders’ demise remains shrouded in mystery, adding another unconventional chapter to the annals of rock history.
Michael Hutchence: Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation?
Michael Hutchence, the charismatic frontman of INXS, left a void in the music world on Nov. 22, 1997. Initially ruled a suicide, Hutchence’s death under the influence of drugs and alcohol raised questions. Two years later, his daughter’s mother, Paula Yates, suggested during a ’60 Minutes’ interview that auto-eroticism might have been the cause. The uncertainty surrounding Hutchence’s demise continues to fuel debates among family members and fans.
Sid Vicious: Overdosed by Mom?
Sid Vicious, bassist for the Sex Pistols, faced a tragic end before standing trial for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Released on bail in 1979, Vicious celebrated at his New York apartment, where his mother delivered heroin. The rocker, clean while behind bars, succumbed to an overdose on Feb. 2, 1979. His mother’s admission of administering the fatal dose, though later questioned, added a controversial layer to Vicious’ already tumultuous story.
Dennis Wilson: Drunk Diving
Drunk driving claims many lives each year, but Dennis Wilson’s tale introduces an unusual twist. The Beach Boys drummer, known for a fast and volatile life, drowned on Dec. 28, 1983, after drinking all day. Attempting to recover items he had thrown overboard from his yacht, Wilson’s life ended in a tragic episode of “drunk diving.” At 39, the musician’s turbulent journey found an unexpected conclusion.