On Musicians and Death

Obviously this past week the world lost a really talented singer.  I feel like the death of people like this always bring up some weird feelings.  The past few really big name singers who have died recently haven’t exactly been a huge surprise.  Michael Jackson was the first really big name person to go.  Yes it was a huge shock to the entire world; however, I can’t say I felt it was the most shocking news I’ve ever heard.  He really had looked ghostly and skeletal for years.  I was slightly more shocked that he was still alive than dead.  The next big shock in the music world was Amy Winehouse.  This is someone who openly sung of their trouble with rehab, and she also never tried to hide her excessive drug use and life of indulgence with drugs.  How does one even begin to act surprised when you hear that she died.  Obviously it’s a tragedy, but most of her life was a tragedy.  As they say live fast die young.  Then this weekend Whitney Houston dies.  I’m really a little surprised by the outpouring of people who are completely blown away by this news.  In this case we really don’t know yet what killed her; however, if Facebook is any indication, it would appear a lot of people have already made up their mind on why she died.  Perhaps they are right, and perhaps they are wrong.  Only time will tell.  Either way, it definitely is a tragedy.  And yet, I find myself once again feeling not really surprised.  I have no idea what Whitney has done with the past ten years of her life.  Maybe she completely cleaned up her act, and maybe she was still struggling with drug problems, but why do we act as if the world is unfair.  We know what risks we take in life when we mess with certain things.

I find myself far more upset by those who seem cheated by life.  I’m reaching a little far back for some of these references, but I find a few other losses far more upsetting.  Jeff Buckely released one album in his lifetime.  That album has been highly acclaimed and extremely successful throughout the years after it was released.  Buckley, however, was never able to make a second album.  While touring and recording a second album, he took a random swim in Wolf River.  While swimming, a boat passed by and he was caught up in the wake and accidentally drowned.  Toxicology later revealed that he had no alcohol or drugs in his system.  It was an obvious tragedy.

Cliff Burton was a bass player for Metallica back from 1982 – 1986.  Metallica was on tour and not particularly enjoying the sleeping arrangements on their bus.  Burton managed to beat Kirk Hammett in a game of luck for choice of beds.  Burton of course chose the best bed for the night.  Later that night the bus crashed and Burton was thrown through the window of the bus.  The bus then managed to flip onto Burton as it tipped over.  To make matters worse, they attempted to lift the bus off him with a crane, but the crane slipped allowing the bus to fall back onto Burton.  This sounds like a huge tragedy to me.

Finally, Dimebag Darrell was the popular guitar player for the band Pantera and Damageplan.  On December 8, 2004 he took the stage with Damageplan to do what all musicians do: perform.  In the middle of his set a fan managed to get on stage and approach Dimebag.  If you aren’t really all that familiar with how metal shows go, this really isn’t all that surprising.  The surprise was when the crazed fan took out a gun and shot Dimebag three times in the head.  The gunman continued to fire at the rest of the band, security, and the crowd.  He managed to kill four more and wound seven as well.  Dimebag went on stage that night to perform for the masses and one of those people killed him.  It was a huge tragedy, especially in the metal community.

I’m not exactly trying to trivialize the deaths of Jackson, Winehouse, or Houston, but I can’t help but feel they had a hand in their own demise.  You mourn the loss of every life no matter how big or small, but I find myself not feeling quite as bad for someone who was a major factor in their own death.  Buckley, Burton, and Dimebag may not have lived the cleanest of lives either, but they didn’t do anything to contribute to their actual death.  I guess you really can’t compare one to the other, but these reasons help me understand why I feel so bad for one artist’s death and not so upset about another’s.  Perhaps as the details are discovered of what happened to Houston in her final moments I will begin to feel some more of the emotions many others are experiencing, but for now, I guess I’ll find myself a little more confused than sad.



  1. Good call. Now, in remembrance of Whitney Houston, I will pull out some live Jeff Buckley, and lament his passing. I heard he was singing Whole Lotta Love as he jumped in the river. I would have liked to hear that.

    • I have read that he was singing Whole Lotta Love as he jumped in. I would have liked to hear that, but I would have liked to have been there to warn him of the whole drowning thing.

      • Good call. If my lifeguard credentials weren’t already expired, after that negligent oversight by me, they should be revoked!

  2. Dimebag! I was in Columbus, OH when that happened and had been to that venue a couple of times.

    • I would like to say if I was there at that time I would have been at that show, but I didn’t really like Damageplan so I probably wouldn’t have been there. If I was there I would have been screaming for any Pantera song

  3. Nice shout out to Jeff Buckley…I need to go listen to that record now…sooooooo good…

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