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15 Biggest Tragedies in Classic Rock History

There have been occasions in rock history when we've lost legendary artists before their time. In each case, they had more to give when they passed.

The most significant tragedies in rock were recently discussed by a popular online forum, and here's what they uncovered.

1. Terry Kath

Image Credit: By unknown –, Public Domain, Wiki Commons.

A founder member of the band Chicago, Terry Kath, died in 1978 in bizarre circumstances when a game of Russian Roulette went wrong. The band carried on but, according to one forum member, Chicago has never sounded the same.

2. Jimi Hendrix

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The great Jimi Hendrix passed away in 1970 at just 27 – a common age for rock deaths. He'd already become established as one of the best guitarists in history, and there should have been so much more. As one poster put it, the world was robbed of Hendrix working with Miles Davis, and God knows who else.

3. John Lennon

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

The thread makes for sad reading throughout, and this is another needless death that took a great artist away from us. John Lennon's death in 1980 ended so many possibilities, and one individual felt that The Beatles would have certainly reunited. 

4. Buddy Holly

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Everyone remembers the death of Buddy Holly, but we shouldn't forget that Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper also lost their lives in that fateful plane crash of 1959. As one commenter simply states, it was the day that music died.

5. Syd Barrett

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Not all rock tragedies involve a death within the band. Syd Barrett defined Pink Floyd's early appeal and his decline was a sad one. He became a recluse, eventually passing in 2006, but he left a legacy. 

6. Randy Rhoads

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A former member of Quiet Riot, Rhoads was on guitar duties with Blizzard of Ozz when he died in a senseless plane crash, as the pilot attempted to buzz the band's tour bus. Rhoads was just 25 and, as a commenter points out, he was so talented, young, and had so much to give to the world of guitar.

7. Otis Redding

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Yet another plane crash claimed the life of Otis Redding in 1967. He left a great legacy, including his most famous song, “(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay.” One respondent informs us that the whistling at the end of the track is included in place of the unfinished lyrics. 

8. Lynyrd Skynyrd

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Iconic rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd lost three members in the notorious plane crash of 1977, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. A hiatus followed, but the group eventually continued, and they currently feature Ronnie's brother, Johnny Van Zant. It was a devastating loss, summed up by one contributor who states, it was easily the biggest, quickest blow to any single band.

9. Badfinger

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The original poster hinted at the story of Badfinger at the beginning of the discussion. Signed to the Beatles' Apple label, they seemed set for a big future, but issues with management and subsequent legal and financial problems led to the separate deaths of members Pete Ham and Tom Evans.

10. Karen Carpenter

Image Credit: A&M Records.

The voice behind The Carpenters' success, Karen Carpenter, succumbed to her long-term health problems in 1983 at 32. That voice was so beautiful that we quickly forget her other talents, but one poster reminds us that she was the greatest pop vocalist and drummer of her generation. 

11. Freddie Mercury

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While Freddie Mercury knew he was ill for some time, his legions of fans were shocked by his death in 1991. This discussion paid tribute to his willingness to continue for as long as he could, with one respondent stating that he put his heart into the last few songs he recorded with Queen. 

12. Joe Strummer

Image Credit: By John Coffey –, CC BY 2.0, Wiki Commons.

Lead singer of the Clash, Joe Strummer, met an untimely end when he suffered a heart attack in 2002. Once again, music fans were left to wonder “what if,” with one individual claiming that the world was denied a Clash reunion which 100% would have happened.

13. Dennis Wilson

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The story of the Beach Boys is another sad one at times, particularly the deaths of brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson. Dennis' accidental drowning in 1983 is mourned by a forum member who suggests that his solo work from the 1970s rivals that of his surviving brother. 

14. Harry Chapin

Image Credit: Wiki Commons.

The fact that Harry Chapin was on his way to a free benefit concert when he died in a car crash in 1981 was a testament to a man who had so much more to give. 

15. Spinal Tap's Drummers

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It's been a challenging read at times, but some forum members managed to bring a light-hearted view to the thread. Lest we forget, a series of Spinal Tap drummers died in bizarre circumstances, which included a gardening accident, while two managed to spontaneously combust while on stage. 

Source: (Reddit).

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15 Biggest Tragedies in Classic Rock History


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