9 Singers Who Died At The Peak Of Their Careers

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Experiencing the death of celebrities is an interesting phenomena, especially in the world of music. These are the individuals who bring joy to listeners, share sadness, help people release some tension and even accompany a myriad of workout regimens in headphones. Where would the world be without music. It is the universal language. It is easy to understand why fans take it so hard when their favorites are taken from this world, especially when they’re standing atop their career peak. Here are nine singers who died while at the pinnacle of their career success.

9. Selena

Selena was the biggest Pop/Tejano crossover the music industry had ever seen. She was beloved by fans in Mexico, her native Texas and gained a following throughout the United States in Hispanic communities. Her rise to fame was made famous by the biopic, Selena, starring Jennifer Lopez, and the story of Selena’s death was made famous by every tabloid and magazine on newsstands. Selena was only 23 when she was murdered by Yolanda Saldivar, the president of her fan club, and former manager of Selena’s boutique stores. Saldivar was found to be embezzling funds, and Selena attempted to remain friends with the woman while demanding financial records. Eventually Saldivar snapped, and shot Selena as the songstress attempted to flee a hotel room. Selena escaped, but lost tremendous amounts of blood while seeking aid. She died later during surgery.

Source: www.biography.com

8. Shannon Hoon

Shannon Hoon possessed the unique voice, and offered the exceptionally distinct sound to the 1990s platinum selling band, Blind Melon. There was not another voice like Shannon’s in the industry. The ladies loved him, the fellas wanted to be him. Everyone is familiar with the Blind Melon feel-good jam, “No Rain,” but the stuff the band was doing when Shannon died at the age of 28. As one might guess, Shannon died of a drug overdose. Cocaine was labeled as the cause, but he had a concoction in his system. The tragedy lie in his dismissing a personal drug counselor from the Blind Melon tour only days before Shannon’s death. The band released its album in progress, Nico, named for Shannon’s daughter, and offered all proceeds to her well-being. In 2006, the band got back together, a shell of what it was, or what it could have been.

Source: www.fanpop.com

7. Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley was a late bloomer in the music industry. He dabbled in various bands in Los Angeles, before moving to New York as a singer-songwriter. His first and only complete studio album was released in 1994, when Jeff was 27. It was such a departure from musical trends, he caught the ears of the biggest names in the business. Jeff elected to leave New York to record his second album in Memphis. While waiting on his band to join him in the city to work on new material, Jeff was out with a friend, Keith Foti, and decided to take a swim in the Wolf River Harbor. Keith stayed on the shore strumming a guitar, while Jeff waded deeper in his street clothes singing Led Zeppelin. Moments later, Jeff was silent and missing. Sadly, his death offered the peak to his career, though his legend continues to grow.

Source: Billboard

6. Amy Winehouse

Sated with respect: Amy Winehouse was a ticking time bomb. She was full of explosive talent, and full of inner demons that called for the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Amy is a member of the infamous Club 27, or The 27 Club depending on how you prefer to phrase it. Amy Winehouse died at 27 due to alcohol poisoning, after spending several days locked away with booze, watching TV, listening to music and engaging in strange, incoherent social media activity. Amy was at the height of her popularity when her addiction finally took its toll. She climbed the ladder of popular success to become an international, household name. The documentary on Amy’s life, appropriately entitled, Amy, was released in 2015, and it offers excellent perspective on the life, love and tragic death of this incredibly talented vocalist.

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5. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was also 27 years old, and at the pinnacle of her popularity when she overdosed at the old Landmark Motor Inn motel room in the Hollywood Hills on October 4, 1970. Janis was prone to depression, and would often find herself down without attention she deemed appropriate. On the occasion of her death, she was supposed to be spending time with friends on Friday, October 2nd, but they weren’t able to visit her. She was alleged to have been pretty down about the missed connection, so she engaged in a little self medication, which included alcohol and heroin. She was found dead on Sunday, October 4, when she failed to show up at a weekend recording session. The death of Janis shocked the music world. She was considered by many to possess the power and draw of Elvis Presley, able to work her audience into a frenzy.

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4. Otis Redding

Otis! The King of Soul has enjoyed popularity since his death at age 26 in 1967. Otis Redding was killed in a small plane crash, attempting to travel from one venue to another in the Midwest. Brass tacks, the plane shouldn’t have been flown in the inclement weather, but everyone presumed it would be safe, considering a short puddle jump from Ohio to Wisconsin. The plane crashed in Lake Monona, and only Ben Cauley, the trumpeter for the Bar-Kays was the sole survivor. Regarding the popularity of Otis, he recorded his most popular hit just three days before his death, “Sittin’ On The Dock of The Bay.” It was released posthumously. Considering its lyrical content, it provides eerie irony. As musical lore would have it, James Brown alleged to have told Otis not to fly on that night.


3. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was just starting to receive the love he deserved when he died of a mixture of alcohol and barbiturates in September of 1970. It seemed Jimi felt more at home across the pond in England, than he did in his native United States. He found his earliest success there, and appreciated the vibe of European culture. His death came shortly–relatively speaking–after his iconic performance at Woodstock in 1969, and during his exploratory period of leaving behind his band, The Experience. It would have been a treat to alter reality, and see into a different future that featured Jimi Hendrix becoming an older man, dialing back the drug use and doing weird things like composing film scores. There was no arguing his talent, and it’s agreed upon: he was merely scratching the surface at the time of his death.


2. Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain was one of those guys who didn’t seem to stand a chance. You learn what these guys go through during childhood, and it’s amazing they made it to adulthood. Kurt was struggling with sobriety at the time of his death. There is no doubting the fact that drug use greatly influenced his death, though he seemed somewhat lucid when he chose to commit suicide. Like so many icons, Kurt was 27 when he died, and Nirvana was preparing to release their MTV Unplugged album, which was released posthumously in November of 1994, and in an ironic twist, became a popular Christmas present that year. Kurt was at the height of his popularity in 1994, but due to renewed interest in the grunge era, and films featuring his life, his legacy has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity.

Photo by Ian Dickson / Rex Features

1. Aaliyah

Aaliyah Haughton was only 22 years old when she boarded a plane destined for the United States from the Bahamas only to travel a few hundred feet beyond the runway. It’s tough to say if Aaliyah was at the “peak of her career” when she passed. In so many ways, it seemed like she was just getting started, even with the tremendous success she had already enjoyed. At the time of her death, she had enjoyed work in two movies, and was slated to appear in the two sequels for The Matrix. Taking into consideration her short timeline, it’s a serious bummer knowing that Aaliyah’s voice wouldn’t have truly matured for another 10 years. All three of Aaliyah’s studio albums went multiple times platinum, and produced several Billboard hit singles. She was a wondrous combination of talent, aesthetic beauty and sweetness.

©Warner Brothers/courtesy Everett Collection

James Sheldon