The Hidden Stories Behind These 1970 Tragedies
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When it comes to glitz and beauty, few things compare to rock ‘n’ roll, yet with that comes inevitable sorrow. The “live fast and die young” aesthetic of rock music has captivated listeners ever since the first musicians blew away the competition and then passed away at the height of their powers. Sadly, the sequel of that has all too often resulted in the untimely loss of several talented musicians whom we never expect to leave us all too hastily. Check out the hidden and mysterious stories behind some of the legends who left us in the 70s.
The Yardbirds were one of the most innovative and influential British bands of the 1960s, having sprung from London’s Blues and R&B scene. Meanwhile, tragedy struck the group when Keith Relf, the band’s vocalist, was downstairs in his basement playing an electric guitar, he accidentally stepped on a gas pipe that was lying on the floor. Relf received a fatal electric shock because his instrument wasn’t properly grounded.
Nobody needs to explain who Elvis Presley was; everyone knows he reigned supreme in the realms of rock ‘n’ roll and popular music. Presley’s prescription medication usage likely contributed to his death from heart failure on August 16, 1977, when he was 42 years old. Yet, Dr. George Nichopoulos, Presley’s physician, supplied him with all those medicines lawfully. As a result, Nichopoulos found himself in some serious trouble.
Jim Morrison, the lead singer for The Doors, reportedly had difficult final years. On July 3, 1971, he drowned in the bathtub of his Paris flat, as discovered by his girlfriend, Pamela Courson, but the circumstances surrounding the singer’s passing are far murkier. Courson discovered Morrison in the bathtub at about six o’clock in the morning, unconscious. She contacted 911. Morrison’s body stayed in the flat for three days after they encased it in dry ice. During that time, a doctor came and signed a death certificate citing heart failure as the reason for death, but no one knows who the doctor was because his signature was illegible. Courson said she couldn’t recall his name, and an autopsy was never done. A flimsy coffin was supplied, Morrison was buried with a paltry number of witnesses, and that was all. Morrison’s bandmate, Ray Manzarek himself believes that there’s a possibility that Morrison faked his death.
Duane Allman and Berry Oakley
The Allman Brothers Band’s roster and trajectory were drastically changed by two separate tragedies that occurred nearly precisely a year apart. Duane Allman was killed in October 1971 when he swerved to avoid hitting a stray pickup vehicle and his motorbike flipped many times. Although the rest of the band were able to put aside their grief long enough to record their breakthrough album in the studio in 1972 with Eat a Peach, Oakley was never able to get over the death of his close buddy. A few streets away from the scene of Allman’s incident, in November 1972, Oakley’s motorbike collided with a bus, causing Oakley to suffer a fatal head injury at the age of 24.
It’s just as shocking as it is mysterious how Jimi Hendrix died. The legendary guitarist, only 27 years old when he passed away, died from an overdose and aspirated vomit while sleeping. His girlfriend Monika Dannemann discovered Hendrix comatose in their hotel room on September 18, 1970, after he had taken an enormous dosage of sleeping medicine.
Chicago stood out from the rest of the ‘70s rock scene with their broad, horn-driven sound and ability to play both heavy, funky rock and soft, emotional ballads. Toto’s Steve Lukather, Jimi Hendrix, and Joe Walsh were all big fans of guitarist Terry Kath, who may have gone lost in the shuffle amidst all the horns but surely wasn’t for want of quality. Kath, an avid gun owner, was visiting the house of band employee Don Johnson, who saw something odd and got suspicious. After showing Johnson that the magazine was depleted, Kath pulled the trigger, firing the one bullet that was still in the chamber. The bullet to Kath’s head proved fatal.
Keith Moon, drummer for The Who, was infamously insane, a joker, a drinker, and a drug addict who was prone to such reckless antics. By 1978, however, he had stabilized, reduced his alcohol use, and was making plans to marry his then-girlfriend, Annette Walter-Lax. The potent sedative Heminevrin that was helping him give up drinking was also becoming addictive, and on September 7, 1978, that addiction proved fatal, with 26 pills still undigested in his stomach.
The creative skills of guitarist and vocalist Pete Ham and bassist Tom Evans, as well as their relationship with the Beatles, made Badfinger a strong contender for the title of the greatest band of all time. Nevertheless, by the middle of the decade, the band’s financial status had become problematic due to the terrible mismanagement of business manager Stan Polley and an inappropriate move by Apple Records. Ham committed suicide in his garage in 1975, while he was expecting his first child and had financial difficulties. His greatest buddy and musical counterpart, Tom Evans, met the same untimely death in 1983.
During the height of the glam rock scene in Britain, the band T. Rex, fronted by the charismatic and smoldering Marc Bolan, made a lot of noise in the said genre. Bolan’s girlfriend, the singer Gloria Jones, was driving when she lost control and went off the road, killing both herself and Bolan, who was a passenger. Due to the subsequent collision, Bolan lost his life. For a long time, many assumed that Bolan had been killed when his automobile collided with a sycamore tree.
In the 1970s, Lynyrd Skynyrd came to nearly define Southern rock, but tragedy struck as they were reaching the pinnacle of their success. Due to the increased demands of their traveling schedule, the band opted to hire a private jet. The jet was leaving Greenville, South Carolina for a performance in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when it ran out of fuel and crashed in a dense area of the woods in Mississippi. Sadly, only 20 of the 26 people on board made it out alive; the pilots, a tour manager, Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and his sister, backing vocalist Cassie Gaines, all perished.