It’s that time again, the last Thursday of the month, the time that Jana and Erin bring you a playlist that usually has a theme with a twist. With the realization that we’ve been losing a lot of musical icons in recent times, we were inspired to bring you this post: favorite songs by (now) dead people.
*This is a long one. We make no apologies. We culled. We swear we did.
The plane crashes:
Buddy Holly (Peggy Sue) – It’s been called “Rock’s First Tragedy” and “The Day That Music Died” when a plane crashed in snowy Iowa February 1959. It carried Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and one of Jana’s faves, Buddy Holly.
Stevie Ray Vaughan (Pride & Joy) – A bronze statue overlooks Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas to honor the loss of this guitar virtuoso and Texas son, another plane crash casualty (this one happening in 1990).
Lynyrd Skynyrd (Free Bird) – In 1977, three members perished in a plane crash carrying band members of this Southern Rock band. Most everyone knows “Sweet Home Alabama” and possibly have heard someone from a crowd yell “Free Bird!”…but when I listen to the opening lyrics “If I leave here tomorrow, will you still remember me?”…well, damn, considering how the man singing those lyrics died, it gives me chills every time.
AC/DC – original lead singer, Bon Scott (T.N.T.) – I, Erin, have a personal story. My 8 year old stepson’s favorite band is AC/DC. He can identify a song when it comes on the radio within a few notes. My husband and I had our first conversation about the dangers of too much alcohol with this 8 year old kid by telling him the history and untimely death of Bon Scott. In honor of my stepkid, here’s his favorite AC/DC song.
Def Leppard – original lead guitarist and songwriter, Steve Clark (Armageddon It) – You could not be our age and not have some memory associated with a Def Leppard song. They were “that” big for a time period. In 1991, the height of their fame and popularity (#1 albums, sold out stadium tours), Steve Clark died of alcohol poisoning. The last album that he played fully on was their highest selling album of all time (25 million+), and Armageddon It is Jana’s favorite song (Jana’s edit: on this album. Not in general. Although it’s probably in my top 20). (He’s the one with the most bleached-blonde hair playing guitar.)
Warrant – lead singer, songwriter, Jani Lane (I Saw Red) – From Erin: this one hurt. I loved Warrant. I saw Warrant’s last performance together with Jani singing in 2008. It was a trainwreck due to Jani’s addiction. Some various documentary footage of Jani makes me almost cry. He is bloated and red-faced. His depression is palpable. He died alone in a hotel room from years of alcohol abuse. This is one of the all-time best power ballads. (Jani, I promise I won’t remember you just as “the Cherry Pie guy”.) Jana’s edit: Poison and Warrant was the first concert I was allowed to go to by myself. This one hurt me, too.
The drugs, oh, the drugs:
Janis Joplin (Piece of My Heart because we think we’ve already used Me & My Bobby McGee on a previous post) – One of the members of the infamous “27” club, musicians that died at the young age of 27. She could sing like she had balls and party as hard as the guys, but suffered because of it. Her cause of death was listed as heroin and alcohol.
The Doors – lead singer, songwriter, wearer of leather pants like no one’s business, Jim Morrison (although other members have passed too)…(Break on Through) – Another 27 club member; some aren’t fans of the psychedelic rock that The Doors produced. We are. Pretty sure we’d been crazy dancing groupies at the Whisky-a-go-go if we were in our late teens/early 20s in the late ’60s.
Blind Melon – lead vocals and songwriter, Shannon Hoon (No Rain) – This band didn’t have much time to reach a lot of success, but if you were alive pre-1995, listened to music, and/or watched MTV…you knew this song. Hoon, like several others on this list, died on his tour bus due to a drug overdose.
Sublime – lead vocals and guitar, Bradley Nowell (Santeria) – Ska punk? From us? Sure. We have eclectic tastes. Sadly, Bradley didn’t get to experience the height of his recognition (due to his heroin overdose in 1996) as most of Sublime’s biggest hits came posthumously.
Drowning Pool – lead singer, Dave Williams (Bodies) – Another tour bus tragedy. Officially, cause of death is due to an “undiagnosed heart condition”; unofficially, all that cocaine didn’t help that unhealthy heart keep pumping.
Alice in Chains – lead vocalist, Layne Staley and bassist, Mike Starr (Rooster) – Not one, but two deaths by drug overdose. So many songs to choose. Jana had to choose. Erin just couldn’t. They are all too good. Their songs, although labeled “grunge”, are timeless rock music.
Stone Temple Pilots (and Velvet Revolver) – lead vocals and songwriter, Scott Weiland (Sex Type Thing) – From Erin: Out of all the artists listed, this is the one that has taken my money again and again. I’ve seen him live more times that I can count with STP, VR, and solo. I own his book. His ex-wife’s too. I own many albums. STP “Core” still ranks as one of my all-time favorite albums ever. Scott’s addiction was often in the media and in his lyrics. It was no surprise that he was found dead on a tour bus after a recent relapse. Terribly sad, but no surprise.
Run DMC – dj, cut creator, mixer Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell (It’s Tricky) – From Erin: In the world of hip hop and untimely deaths, Biggie Smalls and Tupac are the most mentioned. Run DMC was the first rap album (cassette, although my brother did own the vinyl record) that I owned. The fact that a southern suburban white girl knew every word to many of their songs is testament to the musical influence they had. When he was murdered, I was sad. Still am.
Pantera/Damageplan – lead guitarist “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott – No song attached; we had one in last month’s post, but we still thought we’d share that time that Erin visited his grave outside Dallas, Texas. Shot dead by a Pantera “fan” at a concert with his new group Damageplan while his brother watched from the drum kit.
Mental illness, drugs, and violence:
INXS – lead singer and lyricist, Michael Hutchence (Never Tear Us Apart) – He was dreamy to look at and to listen to, but he was battling some heavy demons. They caught up with Michael in 1997. His death was ruled by an Australian coroner as a “suicide while depressed under the influence of drugs and alcohol”. His loss is still strongly felt in Australia. INXS Greatest Hits still regularly spends time in the top 10 of Australian sales charts.