Monday, 10 November 2008

Dead Rock Stars

In the 21st century, when many people in the western world are living longer, the death of rock star John Entwhistle at 57 in 2002 was appallingly premature.
Entwistle, who played with The Who, was regarded as one of the finest bass players in the world and his death came just as the band was preparing to tour the US and record its first album in 20 years.
Many commentators remarked on the lyrics of My Generation, The Who’s most famous song, which contain the words: “I hope I die before I get old”.
While the lyrics of My Generation were probably intended more as a statement of rebellion against the establishment than a death wish, in Entwistle's case they proved tragically prophetic.
But then the rock industry has seen an alarming fatality rate among some of its best known figures at the height of their careers.
The Who’s original drummer, Keith Moon, known as Moon the Loon, was the very epitome of a rock star, trashing hotel rooms, smashing up his drum kit and indulging in a putrid cocktail of toxins.
In September 1978 after attending a party thrown by Paul McCartney, Moon returned to his Mayfair flat where he took a bellyfull of sleeping tablets and other pills. When he went to bed he didn’t wake up.
Moon was aged 31 when he died, but for many rock stars 27 seemed to be the opportune age to make a rock and roll exit.
Janis Joplin’s screaming soulful voice is one of the most powerful ever to be recorded, but like many involved in the music industry a spiralling drug habit led to her downfall and eventual death from a heroin overdose at 27.
Jimi Hendrix, who redefined what could be done with the electric guitar and is still regarded
as the best rock guitarist ever, choked to death aged 27 after taking a combination of sleeping tablets and alcohol.
Jim Morrison also died at 27, although there are those who would argue that he faked his own death and is living as a recluse in Mexico.
Morrison, who was the lead singer with The Doors, had a voracious appetite for mind-altering substances and was reported to be hooked on heroin when he died in Paris in 1971.
The lack of a proper autopsy and inability to track down the doctor who signed his death certificate all fuelled the rumours that Morrison was not really dead. Despite this his grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris, alongside Oscar Wilde and Chopin, attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Other rock stars who have met an early death include Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones who drowned in a swimming pool aged 27 and Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham, who choked to death aged 32 after an alcohol and heroin binge.
The Sex Pistols bass guitarist Sid Vicious was out on bail in New York after being charged with murdering his rock groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen when he died from a heroin overdose aged just 21.
Violence is another disturbing feature of many rock star deaths and the best known incident was when former Beatle John Lennon (40) was shot dead outside his Manhattan apartment by a psychopathic fan.
Soul singer Marvin Gaye was 44 when he was shot dead by his own father during a family dispute, while Sam Cooke was shot dead and then battered with a baseball bat, aged 33, in a Los Angeles brothel.
In 1938 one the most influential Mississippi blues men Robert Johnson (27) was reported to have been stabbed to death by a jealous husband.
More sinister reports suggest that Johnson had sold his soul to the devil (he wrote songs called Hellhound on my Trial and Me and the Devil Blues) and that his early death was a result of this pact.
A number of rock stars have died at their own hands, including Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain (27) who used a shotgun to kill himself and quoted the lyrics of Neil Young’s Hey Hey My My on his suicide note – “It's better to burn out than it is to rust/The king is gone but he's not forgotten.”
Ian Curtis, who fronted post-punk band Joy Division, which later evolved into New Order, hung himself in 1980 aged 23, while melancholic English folk singer Nick Drake was just 26 when he overdosed on anti-depressants in 1974.
Despite its high fatality rate many rock stars have survived the excesses of the business and actually gone on to become model citizens.
Sonny Bono, formerly of Sonny and Cher, died in a skiing accident in 1998, but at the time he was a US Republican Congressman.
Irishmen Bob Geldof and Bono are leading figures in the global rock establishment and now spend most of their days bending the ears of political and religious leaders throughout the world instead of trashing hotel rooms and getting wasted.
In Britain many of rock’s best known names have become leading members of the British establishment and several, including Paul McCartney, Elton John and Cliff Richard, have been knighted.
Even Mick Jagger, of the Rolling Stones, who was once the epitome of an anti-establishment rock-and-roller, has received a knighthood.
This is the same Mick Jagger who in the song Street Fighting Man wrote the lyrics:
“Hey! Said my name is called disturbance I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the king, I’ll rail at all his servants.”

1 comment:

Phil said...

If you haven't read it, I strongly recommend 'Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon'. Fantastic in-depth biography of his life in the fast lane.
I can, to a lesser degree, recommend No One Here Gets Out Alive: The Biography of Jim Morrison.
I can't remember where I read the quote but it goes something along the lines of "He [Morrison] didn't care who was sucking his cock, as long as someone was".
Out of Moon and Morrison, I certainly know who I'd rather spend an evening with.