10 Most Heartbreaking Rock ‘n Roll Suicides
The Sad And Bitter End
People deal with despair and depression in different ways. Some eventually get past it while others find it more difficult to deal with and most likely see suicide as the only way out – away from the pain, pressure and even substance addiction.
Just this year, we saw not one but two tragic ends. And looking back, it’s heartbreaking to see that the following rockstars were gone way too soon.
10. Chester Bennington
On July 20, 2017, the world was met with the news of Chester Bennington’s death and apparent suicide by hanging. Around 9:00 AM, his housekeeper found his body in his home in Palos Verdes Estates, California. The day after, coroner confirmed that no drugs were found at the scene, only a half-full bottle of alcohol. He was set to embark on a 29-date North American tour with Linkin Park the following week.
“I have a hard time with life. Even when it’s good, I just am uncomfortable all the time. . . . The opening line, ‘I don’t like my mind right now’ – like, that is me 24 hours a day. And if I get stuck in here, like, I just find life really hard. It doesn’t have to be.” – Chester Bennington on their hit song “Heavy”
He was close friends with Chris Cornell who also committed suicide two months prior. Coincidentally, July 20 is Cornell’s birthday which is why some speculations erupted about the possible connection of their deaths.
9. Chris Cornell
An architect of the grunge movement, Chris Cornell is undoubtedly one of rock’s greatest vocalists. However, while he is an amazing performer (his live vocal performance never failed to send chills down our spine), he constantly battled with depression and addiction to alcohol and prescription drugs.
On May 18, 2017, his bodyguard found his body lying on the bathroom of his MGM Grand room in Detroit. This was after the Soundgarden show at the Fox Theatre a day prior.
“No one really knows what run-of-the-mill depression is. You’ll think somebody has run-of-the-mill depression, and then the next thing you know, they’re hanging from a rope. It’s hard to tell the difference.” – Chris Cornell
He had an exercise band around his neck and the official cause of death was suicide by hanging. Though drugs didn’t play a part, several substances were found in his system like the sedative Butalbital, anti-anxiety medication lorazepam, and the decongestant pseudoephedrine.
8. Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain was at the top of his game when an electrician discovered his body in the room of his house at 171 Lake Washington Boulevard East in Seattle, Washington on April 8, 1994. He had a shotgun across his chest with his suicide note in a flower pot. Just before his death, he checked out of a rehab facility.
“Please keep going Courtney for Francis. For her life will be so much happier without me. I love you. I love you.” – Kurt Cobain’s suicide note
According to his family members, Cobain had been battling depression even before he achieved global fame. Also, his stomach pains became so severe during their tour that he ended up depending on heroin to make it better and he was once heard saying, “This [heroin] is the only thing that’s saving me from blowing my head off right now.”
Years after his death, however, rumors began that he didn’t commit suicide and instead, it was homicide – an evil plan masterminded by no other than Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love.
7. Brad Delp
We remember him as the man with an exceptional range – a voice that could easily give anyone goosebumps. But on March 9, 2007, he committed suicide at his home in Atkinson, New Hampshire using carbon monoxide poisoning and the police found his body on his bathroom floor.
Aside from two charcoal grills, there was also note paper-clipped on his shirt “Mr. Brad Delp. ‘J’ai une âme solitaire’. I am a lonely soul.”
“I have had bouts of depression and thoughts of suicide since I was a teenager. She [fiancée Pamela Sullivan] was my ‘ray of sunshine,’ but sometimes even a ray of sunshine is no substitute for a good psychiatrist.” – Brad Delp’s note
According to some reports, Sullivan [whom Delp planned to marry that summer during a break in his tour with Boston] said that the legendary rocker “had been depressed for some time, feeling emotional (and) bad about himself.”
6. Keith Emerson
Keyboardist and founding member of prog rock supergroup Emerson, Lake & Palmer, he developed a a degenerative nerve condition in 1993. This limited his ability to play the keyboard and thus, he was forced to take a year off. In 2002 however, he was able to play again after a surgery. But his girlfriend shed light on how he was prior to his death.
“His right hand and arm had given him problems for years. He had an operation a few years ago to take out a bad muscle but the pain and nerve issues in his right hand were getting worse,” she said. “He had concerts coming up in Japan and even though they hired a back-up keyboard player to support him, Keith was worried. He read all the criticism online and was a sensitive soul. Last year he played concerts and people posted mean comments such as, ‘I wish he would stop playing.’ He was tormented with worry that he wouldn’t be good enough. He was planning to retire after Japan. He didn’t want to let down his fans. He was a perfectionist and the thought he wouldn’t play perfectly made him depressed, nervous and anxious.” – Mari Kawaguchi
With a shot to the head, he died on March 11, 2016. The medical examiner also found out that Emerson suffered from a cardiovascular disease.
5. Elliott Smith
Aside from a distinctive vocal style, Elliott Smith was a multi-instrumentalist. He suffered from depression his entire life. And he also had problems with alcohol and drug addiction. He used to openly talk about killing himself which is why his suicide didn’t come as a surprise to some (his lyrics were more introspective and had a melancholy message) – but it was still heartbreaking all the same.
On October 21, 2003, his partner Jennifer Chiba found him with two stab wounds to his chest after he heard him scream. Prior to that, they were arguing at his Lemoyne Street home in Echo Park, California.
“the location and direction of the stab wounds are consistent with self-infliction, several aspects of the circumstances [as they were known at the time] are atypical of suicide and raise the possibility of homicide.” – Coroner’s report
There were conspiracy theories that developed later on with some claiming that it wasn’t suicide, it was murder.
4. Sid Vicious
This is perhaps one of the most disturbing cases of suicide in rock ‘n roll. He was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen after she bled to death following a single stab wound in her abdomen. 10 days later, Sid Vicious tried to kill himself using a smashed light bulb to slit his wrist. While hospitalized, he again attempted suicide by jumping out of the window but was pulled back by a hospital personnel.
After he attacked Patti Smith’s brother, Todd, he was sent for an enforced detox.
“I’m sorry, God, for the day I brought Sid into the band. The best aspect of his character, which was his humor, just vanished the day he joined the Pistols. Poor Sid — once you start on that heroin trail of self-pity, it’s gone.” – Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten
To celebrate making bail, his mother and some friends organized a party. Sid was clean but apparently found heroin during the gathering. He overdosed at midnight on February 2, 1979 but according to his mother Anne Beverley, he intentionally killed himself because he and Nancy had a suicide pact. She even claimed that she found a note in Sid’s jacket pocket which read, “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye.”
3. Michael Hutchence
INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence’s private affairs were no secret because the press was all over his relationships with models and other celebrities. During the final leg of the band’s 20th anniversary tour, Hutchence was found dead in his room by a maid at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Sydney. It was on the morning of November 22, 1997.
He left a voicemail for his business manager Martha Troup saying, “I’ve f–king had enough.”
“I’m not complaining about the life I’ve got. I’m a dad, I sing, I travel, I get into most of the clubs for free. I have freedom and freedom gives you a certain amount of power. I can lose all of this whenever I want to.” – Michael Hutchence
He had a snake skin belt around his neck (it was tied to a knot to the door-closing mechanism) and the coroner ruled his death as suicide.
2. Pete Ham
In 1975, Pete Ham had a lot on his plate. Badfinger’s business manager Stan Polley disappeared bringing their funds with him which basically left the group penniless. With so many issues and problems, he fell into a depression and hanged himself in his garage on April 24, 1975 – just three days before his 28th birthday. He became a member of the infamous 27 Club.
One of the last words he said was, “I know a way out.”
“Harrison gave the instrument to Pete Ham, guitarist, songwriter and vocalist of Badfinger, who used it throughout his career. Ham played the guitar on the Badfinger hits ‘No Matter What,’ ‘Day after Day’ and ‘Baby Blue.’ This guitar was allegedly used on Beatles sessions for the single ‘Paperback Writer/Rain,’ and can be seen on their promo films. Also, the guitar can be seen on footage shot during a Beatles recording session of ‘Hey Bulldog,’ and a promo film of ‘Lady Madonna’ was made from some of that footage.” – Badfinger biographer Dan Matovina on George Harrison giving his SG to Ham as gift
There was also allegedly a note near his body that read, “Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.”
1. Tom Evans
Another tragedy that struck the group, Tom Evans tried to move on after Pete Ham’s suicide and he became part of other bands before rejoining Badfinger. In 1982, he tried to embark on a tour with Mike Gibbins and Bob Jackson. It didn’t end well because they were stranded in the US due to lack of funds and they didn’t even have tour dates. When he got back to Britain, he was sued for $5 million because he abandoned his contract.
On November 19, 1983, he got into a heated argument with guitarist Joey Molland because of the royalties for their iconic song “Without You.” After which, he hung himself from a willow tree in the garden.
“I’m very introvert. I hate walking into strange rooms or crowded offices… I get paranoid because I worry about who’s looking at me. It makes me seize up. I forget what to say. But put me on a stage, and I’m completely the opposite. It’s me who’s got the advantage, me who knows what comes next.” – Tom Evans
The sad fact remains that while Badfinger was popular, they were never rich and never reaped the financial rewards of their hard work.