Five Classic Rock Musicians Who Died From Substance Abuse

Posted on April 8th, 2011

“Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll” was once the motto of a generation during a time of great social and economic change.  Back then, drugs were often viewed as mind-expanding and, in some cases, a right of passage.  Drug use is not seen that way today, due, in part, to the many prominent people who have lost their lives to the disease of addiction.  Drug abuse is one the most serious problems facing our nation and, while addiction treatment and addiction recovery have saved many individuals, there are still far too many who lose their lives to this disease.

The music industry has had its fair share of talents lost to drug addiction and drug overdoses. We’ve compiled a list of classic rock musicians whose deaths signaled to us all that drugs were not harmless but, in fact, far more dangerous than we could have ever imagined.

Jim Morrison –After graduating UCLA, this famous lead singer of The Doors met Ray Manzarek and later, with John Densmore and Robby Krieger, formed The Doors. The band took its name from “The Doors of Perception” written by Aldous Huxley. The band’s name is meant to be a reference to the unlocking of doors through psychedelic drug use. Morrison died in Paris, France on July 3, 1971 of what conflicting reports reported as being due to an overdose of heroin.

Jimi Hendrix – Born James Marshall, “Jimi” Hendrix is widely considered one of the most influential musicians of his era across a broad range of genres. Hendrix became famous for developing the technique of guitar amplifier feedback which, earlier, was considered undesirable. With performances at the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and the Isle of Wight Festival, Hendrix and his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, became more famous than ever. Hendrix died on September 18, 1970, reportedly due to an overdose of sleeping pills.

Janis Joplin – Singer, songwriter and musical arranger, Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas.  She rose to prominence in the late 1960’s as lead singer of Big Brother and the Holding Company and, later, as a solo artist. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Joplin number 46 on its 2004 list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and number 28 on its 2008 list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. On October 4, 1970, after she failed to show at a scheduled recording session, Joplin was discovered on the floor of her hotel room, dead from an apparent heroin overdose. She was 27 at the time of her death.

John Entwistle – This bass guitarist for the popular rock band, The Who, was born in Chiswick, England in 1944. He is best known for his “full treble, full volume” bass playing style. His unique playing style would go on to influence many other rock bass players for years to come. In 1990, as a member of The Who, Entwistle was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. On June 27, 2002, one day before The Who’s first show of its 2002 U.S. tour, Entwistle was discovered dead in his hotel room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nev. Coroners determined that the cause of death was cardiac arrest induced by cocaine.

John Bonham – Born in Redditch, Worcestershire, England on May 31, 1948, John Henry Bonham is often cited as the greatest rock and roll drummer of all time. As the drummer for famous rock band Led Zeppelin, his distinct drumming technique is very noticeable on every track. His style infused speed, power, and precision in a way that other drummers have praised for decades. Incidentally, Bonham was a self-taught drummer who never took formal drum lessons. In September of 1980, Led Zeppelin was gearing up for a U.S. tour. It would be their first tour since 1977. After a day of rehearsals, the group saw Bonham alive for the last time. He died in his sleep from asphyxiation due to inhalation of his own vomit. A coroner determined that Bonham had consumed 40 shots of vodka within the span of 24 hours. He was 32 at the time of death.

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