Rock Stars Who Died Under Suspicious Circumstances


When a rock star dies unexpectedly, the question
of how they died can loom as large as the memory of how they lived. Some allegations belong to a constellation
of baseless rock star conspiracy theories. Other times, there are legitimate questions
about the deaths of rock stars. A music school dropout who often outclassed
major musicians, Felix Pappalardi could play virtually any instrument. Pappalardi produced multiple albums for Eric
Clapton’s group Cream and wrote much of the group’s hit single “Strange Brew.” Afterward, he became the bassist and backbone
of the band Mountain. As the New York Daily News detailed, Mountain
front man Leslie West credited Pappalardi with teaching him many music dos and don’ts. After Mountain’s popularity peaked with “Mississippi
Queen,” Pappalardi departed the band to save his hearing, but he kept busy with narcotics
and extramarital affairs. Pappalardi had an open marriage with lyricist
Gail Collins, who wrote the strangest lines of “Strange Brew.” She tolerated his tomcatting until 1982, when
Pappalardi fell in love with would-be singer Valerie Merians. In April 1983, Pappalardi returned home after
a night with with Merians and wound up with a bullet in his neck. Collins shot him with a handgun he gave her
as a gift. She then called her attorney, who advised
her to call 911. Collins told police the incident was “… an accident during a 6 a.m. firearms
training session.” Detectives discovered pieces of the couple’s
marriage certificate in the trash and understandably weren’t convinced. Collins spent two years in prison for negligent
homicide. Brian Jones named the Rolling Stones after
Muddy Waters’ “Rolling Stone Blues.” He also assembled the band. But in 1969, Jones was fired from the band
and died a few weeks afterward. A coroner concluded that Jones drowned in
his swimming pool during a drug-fueled “misadventure.” The BBC reported the musician spent his final
night alive with girlfriend Anna Wohlin, friend Janet Lawson, and builder Frank Thorogood. Lawson recalled that Jones and Thorogood went
on an ill-advised “midnight swim” after consuming pills and alcohol. But when she spoke to a private investigator
decades later, she sang a different tune. And drugs hardly turned up during Jones’ autopsy. As Rolling Stone recounted, Lawson’s updated
account noted that Jones and Thorogood had horsed around in the pool around the time
Jones died. In 2005, Anna Wohlin made similar assertions,
telling the Independent she thought Thorogood inadvertently slayed Jones during “some sort
of horseplay.” She added that Thorogood made no effort to
aid Jones. A 1994 book also accused Thorogood, claiming
he confessed on his deathbed to Rolling Stones driver Tom Keylock. In 2009, a former Stones road manager accused
Keylock of slaying Jones and silencing witnesses with threats. It’s likely we’ll never know the truth. Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards took
the helm in 1968 and steered the group into its funk-rock phase. According to his obituary, he proved instrumental
in producing several memorable songs, including the hugely popular “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”
and “Cloud Nine,” which earned the group its first Grammy. Edwards died a legend in 2018 at age 74. His wife Brenda said he succumbed to meningitis. However, court records suggested something
sinister. Shortly before Edwards passed away, the Health
Care Consortium of Illinois filed an emergency protection order on his behalf. The Detroit News reported that the consortium
accused Brenda of attempting to smother Edwards by pressing his face against a bed. Brenda denied harming her husband, and a coroner
corroborated her meningitis claim. But the timing of Edwards’ demise suited her
legally. Brenda was set to defend herself against the
abuse allegations in court the week Edwards died. With no one left to protect, the case was
dismissed. Formed in 1984, Norwegian band Mayhem birthed
black metal. Members sported stage names including Necro
Butcher, unironically hailed Satan, and chucked animal heads at audience members. That’s the tame stuff. Bassist Count Grishnackh and guitarist Snorre
Ruch would serve prison time for church burnings and slaying bandmate Euronymous. Grishnackh, whose real name is Varg Vikernes,
insisted it was self-defense. He and Euronymous, real name Øystein Aarseth,
had a falling-out over finances and politics. Euronymous supposedly threatened Grishnackh. According to Black Metal: Evolution of the
Cult, Euronymous habitually threatened people and even bragged that he attempted to poison
someone. He also prided himself on photographing a
dedeased bandmate and apparently mailing pieces of the deceased’s skull to other black metal
musicians. Most people dismissed Euronymous’ threats
as grim games, but Grishnackh wasn’t playing. In 1993, he arrived at Euronymous’ door with
a knife. Snorre Ruch, who drove Grishnackh to the crime
scene, said the slaying was premeditated. Grishnackh said he just wanted to beat Euronymous
up, but was attacked. “He had plans for me. He, uh, I was aggressive. And so, he panicked.” He ended up chasing and attacking Euronymous,
who was found with 23 wounds. Some were from Vikernes’ knife, others were
from allegedly falling on glass. The Oscar-nominated “Miss Misery,” from Good
Will Hunting, earned singer-songwriter Elliott Smith the moniker Mr. Misery. The gentle-voiced singer wrote about what
he knew: addiction and dejection. As The Guardian noted, despite performing
during the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony and seeing substantial record sales afterward,
Smith sought solace in alcohol and hard drugs. He fretted when his friends tried to help
him. He frequently threatened to take his own life
during disagreements, and in 2003 he might have. Smith allegedly had a heated argument with
girlfriend Jennifer Chiba. According to Chiba, she locked herself in
the bathroom, heard a scream, and reemerged to find Smith with a knife through his heart. He supposedly wrote a note. It seemed like a straightforward case, but
the autopsy uncovered signs of a struggle. Smith had two stab wounds in his chest, plus
cuts that indicated he was defending himself. He also lacked the hesitation wounds typically
left in attempts. Chiba appeared on MTV News to express indignation
and proclaim her innocence. She later sued Smith’s estate for over $1
million per the Hollywood Reporter. She lost. The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison sang with
entrancing intensity and howled like a musical Ginsberg. He lit everything up with “Light My Fire”
and showed off-the-cuff creativity when performing “The End.” But when 27-year-old Morrison met his end
in 1971, the world was kept in the dark. Morrison died in Paris on July 3. Rolling Stone noted that Doors manager Bill
Siddons didn’t inform American news outlets until July 9, two days after the legend was
buried. Journalists had heard days earlier that Morrison
died, but when they tried to confirm what occurred, they were told the singer simply
needed to rest. According to Morrison’s death certificate,
he had a heart attack. But nobody conducted an autopsy. Morrison’s wife, Pam, claimed he coughed up
blood before apparently passing away while bathing, though she didn’t witness his death. The singer supposedly seemed healthy beforehand. Band photographer Bobby Klein told The Guardian
that the Doors’ producer told him Morrison mistook heroin for coke and fatally inhaled
it. Musician Marianne Faithfull blamed her ex-boyfriend,
a heroin dealer, telling the Telegraph her former beau sold Morrison powerful heroin,
inducing an accidental overdose. The Sex Pistols were together for a short
time, but they’ll long be remembered for bad-boy bassist Sid Vicious and his groupie girlfriend
Nancy Spungen. Although not a musician, Nancy was a rock
star in her own right, according to NY Magazine. She was a prominent presence in the nascent
punk scene and an acted as an able ambassador of punk rock. Sid, meanwhile, famously simulated shooting
his audience after a rock rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” in a mockumentary. But in October 1978, things took a truly sinister
turn when Nancy was fatally stabbed in the New York hotel room they shared. Sid originally copped to offing Nancy, telling
the cops, “I did it because I’m a dirty dog.” The Independent reports that Sid later claimed
he was unconscious. Sid overdosed on heroin before his case could
be resolved in court. Some people pointed the finger at drug dealers
who frequented Sid and Nancy’s room. Someone seemingly stole $1,500 from the pair,
so maybe it was money-motivated. The plot further thickened when Sex Pistols
photographer Peter Gravelle alleged that Sid’s mom delivered the lethal heroin dose to her
son to save him from prison. In 1966, Iron Butterfly took flight with “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” Philip Taylor Kramer took over as the band’s
bassist and lead singer from 1971 until the band disbanded in 1975. The Washington Post reported that he recorded
two albums that floundered. He attained greater success in the tech world,
though. Described by Variety as “a science whiz kid”
who built a laser capable of downing balloons at age 12, Kramer became a computer company
executive. Soon after his company acquired pioneering
video compression technology for CD-ROMs, he vanished. In 1995, Kramer traveled to LAX airport to
pick up a business associate. Instead, he dialed 911 to announce he was
ending his life and that, quote, “O.J. Simpson is innocent.” Then, radio silence. Kramer’s disappearance was featured on Unsolved
Mysteries. His mother thought he’d been abducted, and
because of his tech ties, a congressman suggested his case had national security implications. The Washington Post pointed out that Kramer’s
business had gone belly-up around the time he vanished and argued that his confusing
911 call showed he had cracked under pressure. Either way, the story doesn’t have a happy
ending: according the LA Times, in 1999 hikers discovered Kramer’s bones inside his van in
a canyon. Bobby Fuller’s musical muse was Buddy Holly,
whose buddy Sonny Curtis wrote “I Fought the Law.” First performed by Holly’s band the Crickets
in 1960, the song gained nationwide acclaim when Fuller covered it in 1966. Six months after signing with record producer
Bob Keane, Fuller died. He was 23. The details are as traumatic as they are tragic. The singer’s mother discovered him in her
car. He had a tube extending from his hand to a
can of gasoline. Investigators instantly ruled it self inflicted,
declining to even collect fingerprints or evaluate other possibilities. The Houston Press reported that Fuller was
soaked with gasoline, bruised and bloodied, and had been decomposing for substantially
longer than the car was parked. All these clues indicated an involuntary death,
which some have attributed to mobsters. Unable or unwilling to pursue criminal leads,
law enforcement reclassified the tragedy as an accident. The evidence doesn’t gel well with that theory,
either. As Fuller’s brother wondered, “Who would pour
gas on himself in a hot car?” Manic Street Preachers guitarist and lyricist
Richey Edwards suffered from depression and regularly resorted to self-harm. Sadness saturated his work, most notably the
album The Holy Bible. At the time, his bandmates interpreted his
lyrics as a “journalistic” exploration of, “… the cruelty of humanity filtered through
Richey’s amazing intellect.” In retrospect, it sounded like a cry for help. In February 1995, Edwards went missing from
a London hotel. After three weeks of searching, authorities
located his car near a bridge where people often end their lives, per the Independent. It was assumed he had taken his own life,
and in 2008, he was officially presumed. Why the long delay? Well, many people, including members of his
family, believe he staged his disappearance. In the days before his disappearance, he reportedly
withdrew significant sums of money from his bank account. He had also publicly stated that he had never
and would never contemplate it, and several people have reported sightings of Edwards
at various locations around the world after his disappearance. Still, nobody knows for sure, and it’s likely
we never will. If you or anyone you know is having suicidal
thoughts, please call or chat online with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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