Popular Culture

7 Musicians Who Died Whilst on Stage


As we know, the rich and famous and especially rock stars often not only die young but also in fairly unusual ways. For musicians, what could be more spectacular than dying right in the middle of the stage while performing? However, if you think an on-stage death would be unique, think again. The following list proves it happen more than you might imagine.

Dimebag Darrell

Probably the most spectacular death of all was that of Darrell Lance Abbott, a.k.a. Dimebag Darrell or Diamond Darrell. He was best known as founding member and guitarist of heavy metal bands Pantera and Damageplan. In a dramatic turn of events, Abbott was murdered on stage on December 8, 2004, during a Damageplan performance at the Alrosa Villa in Columbus, Ohio. Gunman Nathan Gale killed Abbott instantly with five shots and continued shooting, killing three others and wounding seven. Though the motive is largely unclear, it is believed that Gale, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, was under the delusion that the band could read his mind and ‘steal’ his thoughts. Dimebag was only 38 years old when he died.

Here’s a video of the Alrosa Villa shooting:
Dimebag Darrell Shooting

Lee Morgan

Lee Morgan’s case proves how fatal love can really be. The popular hard bop trumpeter was shot by his common-law wife on February 19, 1972, after an argument between sets while performing at Slugs’, a jazz club in New York City’s East Village. Morgan was shot in the heart and died instantly. He was 33 years old.

Leslie Harvey

Leslie ‘Les’ Harvey is best known as guitarist of the 1970s blues band Stone the Crows, but he also played in other Scottish bands of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Harvey was killed in a dramatic accident during a sound check at The Swansea Ballroom on May 3, 1972, when he was electrocuted after touching an unearthed microphone with wet hands. He was only 26 years old when he died.

Country Dick Montana

Daniel McLain, or Country Dick Montana as he was known to music fans, was most renowned as lead singer and drummer of the country punk band The Beat Farmers. Country Dick died of a heart attack at a performance at the Long Horn Club in Whistler, British Columbia on November 8, 1995. The band was just three songs into the set and Montana was in the middle of performing ‘The Girl I Almost Married’ when the incident happened and he died, aged just 40 years old. Out of loyalty, the remaining members dissolved the band just three days later.

Mark Sandman

Singer and songwriter Mark Sandman was best known as the lead singer and slide bass player of indie rock band Morphine. During a concert near Rome on July 3, 1999, Sandman suddenly collapsed on stage. He had suffered a heart attacked and was soon pronounced dead, aged only 46. The remaining Morphine members disbanded almost immediately.

Judge Dread

Judge Dread was born Alexander Minto Hughes in Kent, England. He rose to fame as a reggae and ska musician who became the first white artist to have a reggae hit in Jamaica. Due to his outspoken (read: rude) lyrics, Judge Dread also holds the record for the most banned songs of all time. Unlike other artists mentioned in the list, he didn’t die mid-song but finished a concert at the Penny Theatre in Canterbury on March 13, 1998, before collapsing while walking off stage. A heart attack had claimed his life. He was only 42.

Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson

Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson was a ’60s and ’70s blues and funk guitarist. His personal style and talent inspired many others, among them Frank Zappa, and he was soon known as the ‘Godfather of Funk’. He used the flashy 1960s style long before Austin Powers turned it into a parody. If you think of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, think an urban soul singer gone pimp. Watson had it all – from gold teeth, bell bottoms and broad-brimmed hats to fly suits, designer sunglasses and bling – long before it became fashionable. This flamboyant singer is the oldest on our list: Watson died on stage aged 61, on May 17, 1996, halfway through the guitar solo of “Ain’t that a Bitch”, while touring in Yokohama, Japan. His last words as recorded by an eyewitness were “ain’t that a bitch” – though whether this was said in reference to the song or as witty last words, we’ll never know.

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