Tragically, each year there are many deaths in the music industry. Often these will be musicians that have battled with drug and alcohol problems, but there have also been freak accidents, illnesses and unpreventable deaths which have shaken the music world to its core. Sometimes this will mark the end of the band who are unable to go on without the member who passed, but this is not always the case. Some bands have decided that the show must go on, and that the band member who passed would have wanted the band to continue and succeed without them.
10. Drowning Pool
Texas metal outfit Drowning Pool originally formed as an instrumental trio, but in 1999 they would recruit vocalist Dave Williams to the band. With Williams, the band would find success and their 2001 album, Sinner, was certified platinum in six weeks. They soon found themselves playing alongside Ozzy Osbourne on the Ozzfest tour. Tragically, whilst on tour in 2002, Williams would be found dead on the tour bus whilst they were in Manassas, Virginia. An autopsy revealed that Williams had died from heart failure due to an undiagnosed heart disease (cardiomhyopathy). A year later, the band decided to carry on and recruited Jason ‘Gong’ Jones. Jones would leave the band in 2005, and they have since gone on to have Ryan McCombs on vocals before their current front-man, Jasen Moreno. Although Drowning Pool has survived the death of Williams, many believe Sinner to be the band’s finest work.
Some younger Goliath readers will best know INXS from the 2004 CBS television show, Rock Star: INXS. This was a reality show where aspiring rock stars auditioned to become the front-man of the band (which first formed in 1977), and this saw J.D. Fortune land the gig (although he would step away in 2011). The band had been without a permanent front-man for a long time, with their original front-man, Michael Hutchence, tragically being found dead in his hotel room in 1997. Hutchence was the main focal point of the band and helped them to become an enormous success, seeing them release 10 albums and sell 30 million records over 17 years. In between Hutchence’s unfortunate death and Rock Star: INXS, the band made appearances with a few guest singers, including Jimmy Barnes, Terence Trent D’Arby and Jon Stevens (who would both tour and record with the band).
8. The B-52’s
New wave act The B-52’s first formed in 1976, but the “Love Shack” lineup that most associate the group with is not their original lineup. The band originally formed with current guitarist Keith Strickland on drums, and Ricky Wilson on guitar (brother of vocalist Cindy Wilson). They would achieve some success in the early years, particularly with their 1978 debut single “Rock Lobster” (co-written by Wilson). They recorded five albums with this lineup, but Wilson was suffering with AIDS/HIV related health complications during the recording of the fifth album. He had kept this as a secret as he did not want anyone to worry about him, but he would sadly pass away in 1985 at age 32. Although initially too depressed to continue, the band would reform with Strickland taking over guitar duties, and they would find commercial success with 1989’s Cosmic Thing (which contained “Love Shack”).
Whilst Queen without Freddie Mercury is not Queen, the band managed to carry on following his sad passing in 1991 and have had stars such as Elton John, Annie Lennox and Luciano Pavarotti provide vocals. The irreplaceable Freddie Mercury is widely considered to be one of the greatest front-men of all time, and it is thanks to him that Queen became one of the biggest stadium rock bands in history. After 21 historic years with the band, Mercury passed away in 1991 of bronchopneumonia (a complication of AIDS). 1992 saw the largest rock star benefit concert of all-time, with numerous acts performing Queen songs with the remaining members. In 1995, Queen released the last album featuring Mercury, Made in Heaven. After Elton John urged them to continue, May and Taylor continued to perform, sharing vocals with various guest singers. Thanks to this, Mercury’s incredible legacy lives on.
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers
Legendary rock act the Red Hot Chili Peppers have a long and interesting history, dating back to their formation in 1983. Many associate RHCP with phenomenal guitarist John Frusciante, who was a key factor in their rise to fame. But it was Frusciante’s idol, Hillel Slovak, who was the original guitarist in the band. Slovak was integral in establishing their sound, and appeared on their first three albums. He and front-man Anthony Kiedis would develop a heroin addiction in this time, and after struggling to get clean, Slovak was found dead in his apartment in 1998 after overdosing. This led Jack Irons to leave the band, but Kiedis and Flea decided to carry on and they recruited Frusciante (who already knew all the parts) and Chad Smith. They became one of the most successful acts of the ’90s, but were not without their difficulties, with Frusciante having his own drug battles.
5. Alice in Chains
Alice in Chains were pioneers in the metal genre throughout the early ’90s, largely thanks to the distinctive voice of Layne Staley. Throughout this period, Staley struggled with a heroin addiction which caused the band to go on hiatus. During an MTV Unplugged session in 1996 (their first appearance in three years), Staley was visibly suffering and overdosed soon after (but would survive). The band was inactive from this point, with Staley becoming reclusive. He would later die in his apartment of an overdose, but was not found for two weeks. Alice in Chains was no more, but they would begin doing reunion tours in 2005 with a number of special guests. This included William DuVall, who was made the official lead singer of the band in 2008. They released a new album in 2009, but tragedy would strike again in 2011 when bassist Mike Starr was found dead.
4. The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones are one of the biggest acts of all time, and they have an utterly fascinating history. Most of the focus surrounds Keith Richards and Mick Jaggar, as well as Charlie Watts and Ronnie Wood. In addition to these four, the Stones have had several other members over the years. Guitarist Bryan Jones was the original key figure in the band and he can be heard all over their earlier records, but a serious drug problem and a diminishing role in the band saw him step away in 1969. Less than a month later, Jones was found dead in his swimming pool in East Sussex. Scheduled to play a show two days later, the Stones played the show as a tribute to Jones which saw Jaggar read a poem and release thousands of butterflies in his memory. Mick Taylor replaced Jones until 1975, with Ronnie Wood joining after.
Metallica are one of the “big four” thrash metal bands, and one of the most influential acts of all time. Bassist Cliff Burton would be a key figure in their rise to fame, with his fantastic playing heard on their first three records: Kill ‘Em All, Ride the Lightning and their most famous record, Master of Puppets. Sadly, this would be the last record that Burton appeared on after a tragic incident on tour in 1986. During the night, the driver lost control of the bus which saw it overturn several times and pin Burton underneath. Burton would die from the horrific accident, and the band’s future was in doubt. With his family’s blessing and the band deciding he would want them to carry on, they recruited Jason Newstead. They continued their rise to fame, but Burton’s presence on the first three records played a big role in their success.
AC/DC are a pioneering heavy metal act and have inspired countless acts over the years. Bon Scott was the lead singer and co-songwriter for the Australian act, and he is widely considered to be one of the greatest front-men of all time. With Scott fronting the band, they found commercial success with High Voltage and 1979’s Highway to Hell. Just months after recording Highway to Hell, Scott passed away after a night of drinking in London due to acute alcohol poisoning. AC/DC were originally going to disband, but Scott’s parents persuaded them to continue and find a new vocalist. This would be Brian Johnson, and a year later they released Back in Black, dedicated to Bon Scott and what would become their bestseller. They would go on to become one of the biggest bands in the world, and Scott’s impact can still be felt today.
1. Lynyrd Skynyrd
Southern rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd first formed in 1966, and 11 years on they were hugely successful and had five highly regarded albums. This includes their signature songs, “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama,” which remain important rock anthems. Just after the release of their fifth record, Street Survivors, the band were on a plane travelling to Baton Rouge, but tragically they would run out of fuel and crash, killing six people on board. This included lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gains and backup singer Cassie Gains, plus the assistant road manager, pilot and co-pilot. Everyone else on board survived, but suffered serious injuries. The remaining members decided not to carry on after the horrifying tragedy, but 10 years later they would reunite with five members from the band, plus Ronnie’s younger brother, Johnny, as lead singer. This re-formed band continues to tour and record to this day.