When a musical artist passes, we all too often see the words ‘taken too soon’ attached their name.
Unfortunately, addiction is a common thread among artists that are ‘taken too soon’. I know it’s not always the case, but we’re often left wondering what might have been. I think that’s a natural feeling. We see people in a shining light, full of life, creating things that for the most part, we mere mortals can’t. They’re revered for that little slice of magic they inject into our lives as musicians, creating soundtracks for our lives. We fall in love with them as artists, as creators, as people, we don’t even know personally. A fantasy perhaps. A religion for some. Here are just a few artists who were taken too soon.
Michael Hutchence (37)
20 years on the 22nd of November, it’s fair to say that Australia and the world was shocked to learn of Michael’s death. We’ve all seen the docos, the mini-series, and stories written on paper. He was by all accounts, a rock star in the true definition of the word. Sex, drugs and rock n roll. But he, and INXS gave us so much in what is really a short period of time, achieving more in 20 years than most achieve in a lifetime. I say 20 years because let’s face it, without Michael it was never going to be the same.
Scotty Weiland (48)
I found Stone Temple Pilots through their song "Plush", from their debut album Core, and quickly bought that and followed their career. The world was completely taken with grunge, and this band, not out of Seattle, but out of San Diego California, put their own slant on the scene. A huge part of their charm was, of course, Scott’s voice, presence, swagger and lyrics. He was an unbelievable frontman for STP, and I would try to replicate his voice as best I could when singing along. But he had that pained wailing, and intonations that were so unique. In their quieter moments, like "Creep", he proved his versatility and drew you effortlessly into his world. Raw emotion oozed.
Jim Morrison (27)
This is a no-brainer. The Doors produced a highly influential body of work with Morrison in just the six years before his death. Sure the band went on, officially until 1973, but they, like so many other bands, were never the same with their main man up front. In his early days, he lived on canned beans and LSD, wrote songs that would later become Doors classics. Morrison was known to be belligerent, like when they were booked to play the Ed Sullivan show and were asked to change the lyrics to "Light My Fire" from ‘babe we couldn’t get much higher’ to ‘babe we couldn’t get much better’. He refused. Today that’s no big deal, but in 1967, that sort of reference to drugs was taboo on the telly. We often forget in history how young these people were. At 27, would you expect him to be any other way?
Kurt Cobain (27)
Another in the fabled ’27 Club’. Another so many of us remember only too well. Kurt and Nirvana bust the damn walls and made the world sit up and take notice of grunge, or more fittingly, alternative music. A brilliant songwriter, he was able to meld a heavy sound with pop sensibilities, and I know I’m not alone in wondering what could have been. A tortured soul, no doubt, and clearly unable to deal when fame was thrust upon him, and it’s a tragedy. Music lovers lost a poet of a generation, he wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last. Maybe we didn’t give his lyrics enough credence? Listen.
Jimi Hendrix (27)
What else can be said about Hendrix that hasn’t already? Influencing nearly every rock guitarist you would ever care to ask, his influence and legend is unparalleled and without peer. Jimi did things that had never been done, a rogue pioneer. He explored a musical landscape on the electric guitar that no one had even approached, his use of the wah-wah, feedback, and distortion forever changed the sound of rock n roll. He was a genius, garnering incredible results from doing things that shouldn’t be done to a guitar. He died in 1970 at age 27 from asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates. He left us with an incredible legacy and performances that are still cited to this day. Woodstock, Monterey Pop Festival, and Stockholm 1969 to name a few.
Freddie Mercury (45)
Like Hendrix, there’s not a lot more than can be said about someone as iconic as Freddie Mercury. The best front man that has ever graced a stage. Period. As for his voice, The Who lead singer Roger Daltrey said Mercury was “the best virtuoso rock 'n' roll singer of all time. He could sing anything in any style. He could change his style from line to line and, God, that's an art. And he was brilliant at it.” Freddie was certainly known for his incredible vocal range, but also for his stage presence, a penchant for garish outfits, his live ‘call and response’ interaction with fans, and certainly not least of all, his songwriting. What Freddie may have created if not for his death in 1991 is anyone’s guess, but I bet he’s still be performing to this day.
Adam Yauch (47)
We know Adam as MCA, founder, and performer with The Beastie Boys. But he was much more than that. He was a director, a Buddhist, a feminist, an activist, and to many, a hero. What started as a punk rock band quickly turned into hip-hop when the band released Licenced to Ill when he was just 22 years old. Not content with just writing and performing, Yauch would also direct the majority of Beastie Boys film clips, the style in which has been copied and emulated many times over, in homage. He created something new. He was a pioneer. He showed that you can use your position in a positive way, as Eminem said, "Adam Yauch brought a lot of positivity into the world and I think it's obvious to anyone how big of an influence the Beastie Boys were on me and so many others.” He got his shit together and got powerful. But, cancer is a bitch and doesn’t discriminate, and I’m sorry he’s gone.
As I said at the start, this is just a few of the overwhelming many artists that were taken too soon. We could be here for a while, Janis Joplin, John Bonham, Keith Moon, Brian Jones, Dimebag Darrell, Cliff Burton, John Lennon, what is it about musicians going too soon? Maybe it’s just life and we are more highly tuned to these deaths because of the impact that they have on us personally? Whatever the case, we should definitely celebrate these artists who have made our lives better in some way.
Chuck Mosely (57)
Following his initial departure from Faith No More, Mosley briefly fronted Bad Brains and launched a series of solo projects, including the funk metal band Cement. FNM issued a statement in which the bandmembers described Mosley as "a reckless and caterwauling force of energy who delivered with conviction and helped set us on a track of uniqueness and originality that would not have developed the way it had had he not been a part."