Famous Musicians Who Were Murdered

Source: Brianmcmillen / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Eddie Jefferson
> Death: Shot in 1979
> Genre: Jazz
> Instrument: Vocals

A jazz singer who developed a unique genre known as vocalese, setting lyrics to jazz solos, Jefferson was the victim of a drive-by shooting as he left a jazz club in Detroit with a member of his band. Police charged an unemployed factory worker, who had once been fired as a dancer by Jefferson, with the murder, but he was acquitted.

Source: Harry Benson / Getty Images

John Lennon
> Death: Shot in 1980
> Genre: Rock, pop
> Instrument: Vocals, guitar, keyboards

World-famous as co-founder of The Beatles, a prolific solo artist, an anti-war activist, and the author or co-author of some of the most enduring songs of the 20th century, Lennon was murdered outside The Dakota, the venerable Manhattan apartment building where he lived with his wife, Yoko Ono. His slayer was a deranged fan, Mark David Chapman, for whom he had autographed a copy of his album “Double Fantasy” earlier in the evening of his murder.

Source: Courtesy of Amazon

Felix Pappalardi, Jr.
> Death: Shot in 1983
> Genre: Rock
> Instrument: Bass, vocals

For years a prominent New York studio musician, Pappalardi is known for his work as an arranger for Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” album (he co-wrote “Strange Brew”) and as bassist and singer for Mountain — whose hit “Mississippi Queen” became a classic rock standard. His wife, songwriter Gail Collins, shot him in their apartment with a derringer he had given her as a gift, after he confessed to having an affair.

Source: Angela Deane-Drummond / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Marvin Gaye
> Death: Shot in 1984
> Genre: Motown, pop
> Instrument: Vocals

One of the most beloved and prolific Motown artists (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “What’s Going On,” “Let’s Get It On,” etc.) Gaye was shot to death by his father, Marvin Gay [sic] Sr. at the family home in Los Angeles on the night before his 45th birthday. Intervening in an argument between his Gaye is said to have physically attacked his father, who responded by shooting Gaye in the heart. Gaye’s brother Frankie later claimed that, with his dying breath, Gaye had confessed that he’d wanted to kill himself but couldn’t do it so goaded his father into pulling the trigger.

Source: exquisitur / Flickr

Jaco Pastorius
> Death: Beaten to death in 1987
> Genre: Jazz, fusion, pop
> Instrument: Bass

A virtuosic electric bassist, known for his game-changing work with the fusion jazz group Weather Report and with Joni Mitchell, Pastorius developed the habit of starting bar fights, and apparently enjoyed being beaten up. One night in Florida, he tried to force his way into a club, reportedly kicking in the front door. The bouncer (some sources say the manager), a martial arts expert, stopped him, in the process injuring him badly and sending him into a coma from which he never emerged.

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