Death – the only thing one can absolutely be sure of. Sooner or later, but one day. Someday. For some, it comes around uninvited. In this Melodyful article, read about singers and musicians who unfortunately lost their lives in an untimely manner, but lent the world enough to remember them by.
They say that you only live twice – once when you are born, and once when you are staring death in the face. You know what lives on forever and always? Music. And beautiful people who make music. The loss of a musician is unimaginable and unparalleled. To come to terms with a loss so irreparable and morbid is a tearful journey. A journey to fill the void created by the loss, to accept the fact, that the music that touched your heart and set your soul free will never be recreated, ever again.
Accidents that result in untimely deaths and loss of dear ones are worse than anything else that you could ever imagine. No matter how strong-hearted a person is, that tiny flicker of fear of the unknown is always there at the back of the mind. However, it was not this fear that drove these musicians to give their best. For they did not know that their time in the world of mortals was limited. It was their love and passion for music which drove them to create music that went on to change the world. Their music changed the world, because it changed the people, and made it a better place to be in.
These few lines sum up the glory and immortality of some of the most famous singers and musicians there ever were. Their ill-timed and unfortunate loss is ever-mourned.
❝ Some are bound to die young
By dying young, a person stays young
in people’s memory.
If he burns brightly before he dies,
his brightness shines for all time. ❞
Famous Singers and Musicians Who Died in Plane Crashes
✈ Buddy Holly (September 7, 1936 – February 3, 1959)
Charles Hardin Holly, professionally known as ‘Buddy Holly’, was the pioneer of ‘rock and roll’. Holly was described as ‘the single most influential creative force in early rock and roll’ by music critic Bruce Eder. World-famous musicians like Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Eric Clapton, Don McLean, and Elvis Costello have taken inspiration from Holly’s works and pieces of music. He was one of the first few artists to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
✈ Aaliyah (January 16, 1979 – August 25, 2001)
Aaliyah Dana Haughton adopted the mononym ‘Aaliyah’ and performed under this name during her short-lived music career. Not just a singer, she was also a dancer, actress, and model. She started her music career when she was just twelve years old. She was trained and led by R. Kelly, her mentor and guide, who was also the lead songwriter and producer of Aaliyah’s debut music album, ‘Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number’, which sold more than three million copies in USA, and went on to be categorized double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Her contribution to the soundtrack (Try Again) of her debut movie, Romeo Must Die, ranked number one on the Billboard Hot 100 solely on airplay. Aaliyah created history by becoming the first ever artist to achieve this feat. She earned a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B vocalist for the same song.
Aaliyah was filming a music video for the single ‘Rock the Boat’ in the Bahamas with other members of the recording company. On August 25, 2001, she, along with the other members, boarded a flight at the Marsh Harbor Airport in Abaco Islands, which was headed for Florida. The aircraft in question was declared overweight, and was said to carry one extra passenger. Unable to carry the extra weight, the plane crashed within minutes of takeoff, killing Aaliyah and the eight other passengers instantly. Many of Aaliyah’s posthumous releases gained commercial success even after her death. She was greatly attributed for redefining the music genres of R&B and hip hop, and went on to be described as ‘Princess of R&B’, and ‘Queen of Urban Pop’.
✈ Ritchie Valens (May 13, 1941 – February 3, 1959)
Richard Steven Valenzuela was only seventeen when he lost his life in a tragic plane crash. He was known as the pioneer of the rock and roll style of music, and a ‘forefather of the Chicano rock movement’.
In his eight-month old music and recording career, Valens delivered hits like La Bamba. The track was originally a Mexican folk song, which was recreated into one that had a rock rhythm to it. It was an instant hit, and rose up the music charts of 1958. Valens was a left-handed musician, but his keen interest drove him to master the art of playing the guitar, an instrument meant to be played with the right hand.
✈ J. P. Richardson (October 24, 1930 – February 3, 1959)
More famously known as ‘The Big Bopper’, Jiles Perry ‘JP’ Richardson, Jr., was a famous American songwriter, singer, as well as a disc jockey. Richardson, a rock and roll star, is best known for his all-time hit Chantilly Lace, in which Richardson is portrayed having an animated flirting conversation with his girlfriend over the phone. Another of his hits is The Big Bopper’s Wedding, which shows Richardson developing cold feet at his own wedding.
Holly, Valens, and Richardson were performing in the Winter Dance Party (three-week tour) that opened on January 23, 1959. On February 2, 1959, after performing in Iowa, the three singers boarded a charter plane to fly to the next stop of the tour. As soon as the plane took off, it got caught in a snowstorm, and the pilot, Roger Peterson, was not trained to fly by instruments only. He lost control, and the plane crashed just five miles northwest of the airport, leaving the world bereft of three great rock and roll musicians of all time.
✈ Ronnie Van Zant (January 15, 1948 – October 20, 1977)
Ronald Wayne ‘Ronnie’ Van Zant dribbled in many aspirations (that of becoming a boxer, professional baseball player, and a stock car racer) before finally discovering the musician in him. He was one of the founding members of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd. Ronnie formed the band along with schoolmates Allen Collins (guitar), Gary Rossington (guitar), Larry Junstrom (bass), and Bob Burns (drums), with Ronnie himself as the lead vocalist and lead lyricist.
Among other hits, his greatest hit was Sweet Home Alabama. Van Zant often spoke about his death, and how he would not live to be thirty. Very uncannily, true to his word, he passed away in a plane crash when he was 29 years old. He once told his father, “Daddy, I’ll never be thirty years old”. To which his father replied. “Why are you talking this gunk?”, and Van Zant replied, “Daddy, that’s my limit.”
Van Zant was touring with his band across South Carolina, Greenville, Louisiana, Greenville, Baton Rouge in the winter of 1977. The plane on which they were flying between stops was said to have problems with its engines. On October 20, 1977, the plane crashed just outside Gillsburg, Mississippi, which instantly claimed the lives of Van Zant and his fellow band members Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines, and the pilot and co-pilot as well.
✈ Stevie Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990)
This multi-talented American was a musician, songwriter, singer, record producer, and also an expert at playing various musical instruments, like the guitar, drums, and bass. Stephen ‘Stevie’ Ray Vaughan, sometimes fondly referred to by his initials ‘SRV’, was one of the founding members of the band ‘Double Trouble’.
In his amazing music career of seven years, Vaughan and his band consistently rolled out beautiful albums that were categorized as gold. Their performance gigs and concerts were always sold out.
It was a terrible blow to the music industry when the helicopter carrying Texas’ greatest musicians crashed on August 27, 1990. After a performance with Double Trouble at Alpine Valley Music Theater in Wisconsin, SRV, along with his band members, boarded the helicopter to fly to Chicago, where the next performance was scheduled. As soon as the helicopter took flight, it steered to the left and crashed into a hill, killing all the passengers on the spot. Vaughan was just 35 years old when he died.
✈ Jim Croce (January 10, 1943 – September 20, 1973)
This famous musician’s first album was financed by his wedding gift of $500 from his in-laws. They got their daughter married to James Joseph Croce on a condition that their wedding gift be utilized to create an album, and secretly hoped that it would be a failure, which would lead Croce to continue with his education.
But Croce’s music album proved otherwise, and was a sold-out success. Croce, an American songwriter and singer, produced and released five music albums and eleven single tracks, out of which ‘Bad Bad Leroy Brown’ and ‘Time in a Bottle’ topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Jim Croce’s seven-year successful stint as a music composer and singer ended abruptly on a Thursday in 1973. While touring from Northwestern State University’s Prather Coliseum in Natchitoche, to Sherman, Texas, where he was slated to perform for the audience at Austin college, the plane carrying Jim Croce (30 at that time) and a few other performers crashed, killing all the passengers along with the pilot on the spot. The plane, according to reports, crashed after it banged into a pecan tree at the end of the runway from where it took off.
✈ Patsy Cline (September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963)
Known as the most influential, successful, and acclaimed female vocalists of the twentieth century, Virginia Patterson Hensley adopted the professional name ‘Patsy Cline’ to suit her musician image. Cline’s Country Music Hall of Fame plaque very aptly reads: ‘Her heritage of timeless recordings is testimony to her artistic capacity’.
She was an inspiration to many singers from varied genres. Her life and music have been tracked down beautifully in innumerable documentaries, books, stage plays, and movies. Some of her biggest hits include duets like ‘Walkin’ After Midnight’, ‘I Fall to Pieces’, ‘Crazy’, and ‘Sweet Dreams’.
Cline had talked of ‘an impending doom’ to her friends long before she died. She told them that she did not expect to live much longer. Only a week before her death, Cline Told Ray Walker, the bass singer of the band ‘The Jordanaires’, that she had two bad accidents before, the third one would either be a charm or kill her. Exactly a week later, on March 5, 1963, Cline, who was traveling on a flight from Tennessee to the Cornelia Fort Airpark, lost her life as the plane encountered rough weather, and crashed nose down approximately 90 miles from its destination.
✈ John Denver (December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997)
Henry John Deutschendorf, professionally known as ‘John Denver’, was a very popular American musician and humanitarian. His commercial success spanned the record and release of more than 300 songs, most of them describing his love for nature and music, and some describing his ordeals in relationships. His greatest hits like ‘Rocky Mountain High’, ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’, and ‘Sunshine on My Shoulders’ went on to become his signature songs.
Denver was a trained pilot with an experience of 2700 hours. He died in his personal aircraft while on one of his experiments. The singer was trying to perfect a series of touch-and-go landings near Monterey Peninsula Airport. The aircraft being flown by him crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California. He had a history of drunk-driving records to his name, and was legally not permitted to fly when the accident happened. Denver was the sole passenger on the aircraft when it crashed. He was 53 when he died.
Other famous musicians who lost their lives in plane crashes are:
♫ Ricky Nelson
♫ Otis Redding
♫ Randy Rhoads
♫ Jenni Rivera
♫ Glenn Miller
♫ Jim Reeves
♫ Dean Paul Martin
♫ Melanie Thornton
Death is but a part of life itself – indomitable and unstoppable. But its sad shadows were eclipsed by the brightness, warmth, and soul of the music that these musicians left behind. In the cycle of life and death, and the moments in between, the song has ended, but the melody lingers on …