The Sad History of Rock and Roll Suicides
The history of rock and roll has seen more than its fair share of tragic suicides through the years. Stories of careers cut short run rampant as friends, loved ones and fans are left to wonder amongst themselves what might have been. Whether the sad end comes about as a result of the pressures, temptations and excesses of the rock and roll lifestyle, or as a result of frequently hidden bouts with depression, the following list of some of rock and roll’s most tragic suicides reveal just how many wonderfully talented artists we lost far too soon.
Along with the likes of John Mayall, Cyril Davies, Long John Baldry and Alexis Korner, Graham was one of the key figures in the early-’60’s British blues boom. He founded the Graham Bond Organization, which initially featured later Cream band mates Ginger Baker on drums and Jack Bruce on bass with John McLaughlin on guitar. For all his influence, Bond himself never managed to achieve the level of recognition or fiscal reward that he desired. On May 8, 1974, more than a year after suffering a nervous breakdown, jumped in front of a train at the Finsbury Park Station in London.
Despite a string of hits in the late-60s and early-70s, the members of Badfinger never reaped the financial rewards due to their manager Stan Polley, who allegedly had mob ties. On April 25, 1975, Ham, who wrote or co-wrote most of their songs including ‘No Matter What’ and ‘Baby Blue,’ hung himself in the garage of his Surrey home.
One of the great figures of the ’60s counterculture movement, Ochs spent a large portion of the decade writing protest songs such as “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,’ ‘Crucifixion,’ and ‘Draft Dodger Rag.’ As Ochs’ career wore on his behavior became seemingly more erratic. He struggled with alcoholism and was eventually diagnosed as bipolar. On April 9, 1976, Ochs hung himself at his sister’s home in Far Rockaway, New York. In 2011, a documentary titled ‘There But For Fortune’ was released about his life.
Following Pete Ham’s death, Tom Evans spent the next few years immediately jumping between startup projects and full on retirement. In 1982, Evans rejoined Badfinger and embarked on an ill-fated tour of America, at the conclusion of which he was sued for $5 million dollars by the promoter for abandoning his contract. On Nov. 19, 1983, Evans was found hanging from a willow tree in his backyard.
Born Charles Weedon Westover, Del Shannon earned his regard as one of the progenitors of rock and roll in the early 60’s with hits like ‘Hats Off to Larry,’ ‘Keep Searchin’ (We’ll Follow the Sun)’ and his chart-topping single ‘Runaway.’ But Shannon’s star fell and his various comeback attempts never took. On Feb. 8, 1990, Shannon took his own life by shooting himself with a .22 caliber rifle. Nine years later he was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
One of the founders of the highly acclaimed Canadian group the Band, Richard Manuel is still considered one of the great piano players in all of rock. Throughout his career, Manuel battled with a variety of addictions, including alcohol and heroin. When the group reunited in 1983, Manuel entered treatment and achieved sobriety for the first time in years. But the death of the Band’s longtime manager Albert Grossman hit Manuel hard, and he reached back for the bottle. On March 4, 1986 after a show in Orlando, Manuel hung himself in his hotel room.
Known to many as the ‘Master of the Telecaster’ Danny Gatton earned a name for himself as one of the best guitar players on the planet for his lightning-fast mixture of rock, blues, rockabilly, country and jazz. But Gatton spent his whole life suffering from a persistent case of depression. Sadly, as the years wore on his condition worsened and on Oct. 4, 1994, he shot himself in the garage of his Maryland home.
As the lead singer for Boston, Brad Delp gave a voice to Tom Scholz’s songs. But by 2007, a financial battle with Scholz and a disturbing situation involving his fiancee’s sister reportedly sent Delp into a deep depression. On March 9, 2007, Delp lit two charcoal grills in his bedroom and sealed the door, killing himself as a result of carbon monoxide poising.
Welnick first found success in the ’80s playing with the Tubes through their hit ‘She’s a Beauty. Following the death of Grateful Dead keyboardist Brent Myland in 1990, Welnick was brought in and played with them for five years until Jerry Garcia‘s death. On June 2, 2006, ten years after his first attempt at suicide, Welnick killed himself by slashing his throat.
After working with Van Morrison, Edgar Winter and Boz Scaggs in the early-’70s, Ronnie Montrose formed a self-named band that included Sammy Hagar on vocals. That was followed by another group, Gamma, and a string of solo albums. On March 3, 2012, after a second bout with prostate cancer, Montrose shot himself.
Bob Welch replaced Peter Green in Fleetwood Mac in 1971. He left four years later for a solo career, which resulted in the 1977 hit, ‘Sentimental Lady.’ On June 7, 2012, after being told by doctors that he had little chance of making a full recovery from spinal surgery, Welch shot himself in the chest.
On May 18, 2017, Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell hanged himself in his Detroit hotel room after a concert. His widow, Vicky, speculated that his decision to take his own life was the result of having taken too many Ativan pills for anxiety. The toxicology report eventually found that he had four Ativans in his system, as well as other prescription drugs.