37 Years Ago: Keith Moon of the Who Dies
On Sept. 7, 1978, the world lost one of its most unique children when Keith Moon left us far too soon. Much more than simply the drummer for the Who, Moon defined the term “one of a kind,” not only in his ability and style behind the drum kit, but in his utter irreverence and over-the-top way of life.
Moon was born on Aug. 23, 1946. By the time he was in his teens, was already turning heads as a drummer. His joining the Who was nothing short of perfect. He added a much needed component to their equation, acting as the comic foil to the often very serious Pete Townshend. Moon’s drumming style gave the music the chaotic edge it needed to stand out from the Who’s contemporaries.
Unlike the subtle, yet effective, approach of contemporaries like Charlie Watts or the rock solid Ringo Starr, Moon took an entirely different sensibility to the drum kit, inspiring countless future musicians along the way. Add in bassist extraordinaire John Entwistle, and the Who had themselves a rhythm section with the range of an orchestra.
Moon’s short, sweet life came to and end after a night of partying — and to be fair, a lifetime of testing his own limits. Ironically, his death was caused from an overdose of pills that were intended to combat his alcoholism. The medication was primarily a sedative, only a handful of which would have caused death. Police reports indicate that he took nearly a third of his 100-pill prescription. “It was a silly mistake,” said Pete Townshend in the 2007 documentary Amazing Journey. “He just always took pills in handfuls, it was just a habit that he had.” Heminevrin, the prescribed drug in question, disabled his esophagus, which prevented him from vomiting, thus suffocating him. While Moon was no stranger to chemical intake, he never hit on hard drugs, prefering alcohol and pills to be his demon.
“He was never going to grow old gracefully,” said manager Bill Curbishley, “I don’t think he was destined to make old bones. I suppose he was designed in such a way to be remembered as he was.”
Sadly, the band had just begun a new chapter in their career with the release of the Who Are You album just weeks prior to Moon’s death. At the time, fans cryptically noted that on the cover, Moon is sitting on a chair that has the words “Not To Be Taken Away” stenciled on it.
A madman behind, and away from the drum kit, he didn’t earn the nickname ‘Moon the Loon’ for nothing. The tales of his crazed behavior is the stuff of legend, but 32 was far too young for him to have checked out.
See the Who and Other Rockers in the Top 100 Albums of the ’70s
This Day in Rock History: September 7
Subscribe to Ultimate Classic Rock on