28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young

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Lamb, Bill. "28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142. Lamb, Bill. (2016, August 22). 28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142 Lamb, Bill. "28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142 (accessed September 21, 2017).
01
of 28

Buddy Holly (1936-1959)

Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly. Photo by RB / Redferns

Buddy Holly emerged from Lubbock, Texas in the mid 1950s to become a seminal figure in the development of rock and roll. After graduating from high school in 1955, he decided to pursue a career in music, and, with influence from Elvis Presley, he shifted from country and western to rock and roll. With his group the Crickets he scored top 10 hits with "That'll Be the Day," "Peggy Sue," and "Oh Boy." John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, and Bob Dylan were all influenced by seeing Buddy Holly live performances. Buddy Holly was an inaugural inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In the early morning hours of February 3, 1959, Buddy Holly was killed in a plane crash that also took the lives of rising stars Richie Valens, and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson. Only 22, the loss was a tragic one that has been immortalized by Don McLean in his song "American Pie" as, "the day the music died."

Watch Buddy Holly perform "Peggy Sue" 

02
of 28

Sam Cooke (1931-1964)

Sam Cooke
Sam Cooke. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Sam Cooke was one of the early 1960s top R&B singer-songwriters, and his music played an instrumental role in the Civil Rights Movement of the era. He was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, the heart of Delta Blues country, but his family moved to Chicago when he was only 2 years old. He began his recording career as lead vocalist for the gospel group The Soul Stirrers. After 1956 he shifted to primarily secular music and his 1957 single "You Send Me" went all the way to #1. Sam Cooke returned to the top 10 in the early 1960s with "Chain Gang," "Twistin' the Night Away," and "Another Saturday Night." 

Sam Cooke died on December 11, 1964 the victim of a gunshot wound at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California. The shooting was determined by authorities to be a justifiable homicide, but the circumstances of Sam Cooke's death have been questioned ever since. The song "A Change Is Gonna Come," written and recorded by Sam Cooke, was released less than two weeks after his death and became a Civil Rights Movement anthem.

Watch Sam Cooke sing "Twistin' the Night Away"

03
of 28

Otis Redding (1941-1967)

Otis Redding
Otis Redding. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Otis Redding was born and raised in Georgia, the son of a gospel singer. Accompanying another singer to the Stax label's studio in Memphis in 1962, he was given the opportunity to sing and the studio musicians were impressed resulting in the release of his first single "These Arms of Mine" in October. Otis Redding had a series of top 10 R&B hits in the early and mid 1960s including "I've Been Loving You Too Long," "Try a Little Tenderness," and "Respect." However, he failed to make a major pop breakthrough. After a triumphant performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Otis Redding returned to the Stax Studios in December and recorded "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay." 

On the night of December 9, 1967, after taking off in rain and fog, he died in a plane crash four miles from its destination in the state of Wisconsin. "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" was released in January 1968 and became a #1 pop smash. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. 

Watch Otis Redding sing "Try a Little Tenderness" 

04
of 28

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin. Photo by Estate of Keith Morris / Redferns

Janis Joplin grew up in Port Arthur, Texas and as a teenager became a fan of such classic blues singers as Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Big Mama Thornton. In the early 1960s she left Texas and found a home on the west coast in California. After concerns about a developing drug habit, she returned home in 1965 and cleaned up her lifestyle. She was recruited in 1966 to join the San Francisco based psychedelic rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company as lead vocalist. The band's self-titled debut album was released after appearing at 1967's Monterey Pop Festival. It was a minor hit but their 1968 album Cheap Thrills became a #1 smash. Janis Joplin then broke from the group and led her own bands. 

In the late summer and fall of 1970 Janis Joplin headed into the studio to record what became the album Pearl. On October 4, 1970, when she failed to show up at a recording session, she was found dead of a heroin overdose on the floor by the side of her hotel room bed. Her recording of "Me and Bobby McGee" was released in January 1971 and became Janis Joplin's only #1 hit single. 

Watch Janis Joplin sing "Ball and Chain" 

05
of 28

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Michael Ochs Archives/ Getty Images

Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida, but with his father's US Navy service, his family moved often. As a high school student he was a voracious reader and found Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Rimbaud, and Jack Kerouac to be influential among many others. In the summer of 1965 after graduating from UCLA film school, he co-founded the rock group The Doors. The group signed with Elektra Records in 1967 and their single "Light My Fire" was a #1 pop hit that summer. Over the next four years the group scored more hits including "Hello I Love You," "Touch Me," and "Love Her Madly" becoming one of America's top rock groups. 

Following the 1971 recording of the album L.A. Woman, Jim Morrison took a leave of absence from the group and moved to Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson. She found him dead in the couple's Paris apartment bathtub on July 3, 1971. No autopsy was performed because the French medical examiner claimed no evidence of foul play. Jim Morrison was buried in the Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.

Watch The Doors perform "Touch Me" 

06
of 28

Jim Croce (1943-1973)

Jim Croce
Jim Croce. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Singer-songwriter Jim Croce was born to an Italian family on the south side of Philadelphia in 1943. He released his first album Facets in 1966 after graduating from college. The album was financed by a $500 wedding gift from his parents. Through the late 1960s and into the early 1970s he performed live with his wife Ingrid Jacobson. He scored his first hits in 1972 after signing to ABC Records. In less than two years he had three major pop hits "You Don't Mess Around With Jim," "Operator (That's Not the Way It Feels)," and the #1 smash "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

As he was planning to leave the music business and concentrate on writing short stories and movie scripts, Jim Croce died in a small plane crash September 20, 1973 in Louisiana. It was one day before the release of his next single "I've Got a Name." Two more major hit singles were released after his death including the #1 hit "Time In a Bottle" and "I'll Have To Say I Love You In a Song."

Watch Jim Croce sing "Operator" 

07
of 28

Bobby Darin (1936-1973)

Bobby Darin
Bobby Darin. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Bobby Darin began his career as a songwriter in 1955 working with high school classmate Don Kirshner. He soon met Connie Francis and wrote songs for her as well as sharing a brief romantic relationship. With guidance from Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, he recorded his first big hit "Splish Splash" in 1958. Bobby Darin soon became a teen idol and in 1959 released his definitive hit "Mack the Knife." It was a #1 hit and won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. He continued to have sporadic hits throughout the 1960s while also appearing as a well received actor in movies. 

By the early 1970s Bobby Darin suffered from ill health undergoing heart surgery in 1971 to implant two artificial valves. In 1973 after a dental visit, he suffered a systemic infection that impacted the heart valves. On December 20, 1973 he died after surgery failed to successfully repair the heart. Bobby Darin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

Watch Bobby Darin sing "Mack the Knife" 

08
of 28

"Mama" Cass Elliott (1941-1974)

Cass Elliott
Cass Elliott. Photo by Hulton Archive

"Mama" Cass Elliott was born Ellen Naomi Cohen in Baltimore. She adopted the name Cass in high school. She began acting on stage in high school and left before graduation to head to New York City touring in The Music Man and losing out to Barbra Streisand for the lead in the 1962 production I Can Get It For You Wholesale. In 1963 she returned to the Washington, DC area to attend American University and began pursuing a singing career. Following stints in the groups The Big 3 and The Mugwumps, Cass Elliott was invited to join the New Journeymen who became The Mamas and the Papas. The group released seven top 10 pop hits beginning with 1965's "California Dreamin'" before breaking up in 1968. After the breakup, she set out on her a solo career and became a popular TV guest on talk shows and variety shows.

On July 28, 1974, after performing two weeks of sold out solo shows at the London Palladium, Cass Elliott telephoned her friend and former member of the Mamas and the Papas Michelle Phillips before going to bed. She died that night in her sleep due to a heart attack.

Watch Mama Cass sing "Dream a Little Dream Of Me" 

09
of 28

Marc Bolan (1947-1977)

Marc Bolan
Marc Bolan. Photo by Estate of Keith Morris / Redferns

Marc Bolan was born Mark Feld in a borough of East London, England.  He signed his first recording contract in August 1965 at age 17. His debut single for Decca Records was "The Wizard." Commercial success did not follow, but he was undaunted and in 1968 released his first album as part of the psychedelic folk duo Tyrannosaurus Rex. It climbed to #15 in the charts. The pair continued to have minor success, but it was not until he shortened the name to T. Rex and shifted to glam rock in the early 1970s that Marc Bolan found major pop success. T. Rex released a phenomenal series of 10 top 5 pop singles in the UK and broke into the US top 10 with "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" in 1971. 

The commercial success of T. Rex faded in the mid 1970s. However, in 1977 Marc Bolan put together a new lineup, released the album Dandy In the Underworld, and set off on tour with seminal punk band The Damned. On September 16, 1977, two weeks before his 30th birthday, Marc Bolan died in a car accident in southwest London.

Watch T. Rex perform "Bang a Gong (Get It On)"

10
of 28

Elvis Presley (1935-1977)

Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Elvis Presley is arguably the most influential solo recording artist in the history of pop music. He first topped the US pop singles chart in 1956 and was instrumental in rock and roll becoming the mainstream of pop music. Estimates of his worldwide record sales are around one billion. While not experiencing the success of his heyday, Elvis Presley continued to hit the pop top 40 with new songs throughout the 1970s until the time of his death.

Elvis Presley's health declined in the 1970s due to the impact of years of drug abuse and a variety of physical ailments. He was found dead on August 16, 1977. Although the specific cause of death remains unclear, it seems obvious that drug intoxication was involved. Following worldwide outpouring of grief, Elvis Presley continues to be one of the most celebrated recording artists of all time. 

Watch Elvis Presley sing "Suspicious Minds"

11
of 28

Donny Hathaway (1945-1979)

Donny Hathaway
Donny Hathaway. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Soul singer Donny Hathaway was born in Chicago but raised in St. Louis. He began singing in the church choir at age three. He was a close friend and classmate of Roberta Flack at Howard University. Donny Hathaway first began working in the music industry as a songwriter, studio musician, and producer. His first single as an artist "The Ghetto, Part 1" was released  in 1970 and edged on to the Billboard Hot 100. In 1972 he became a pop star when the album Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway yielded the top 5 charting single "Where Is the Love" by the pair. 

During the mid 1970s Donny Hathaway suffered from depression and schizophrenia. His recording career suffered. However, in 1978 he recorded again with Roberta Flack and they released the #2 smash hit single "The Closer I Get To You." In early 1979 work was underway for a new album when Donny Hathaway was found dead January 13, 1979 on the sidewalk after having jumped from a 15th floor window of New York's Essex House hotel.

Watch Donny Hathaway sing "Put Your Hand In the Hand"

12
of 28

John Lennon (1940-1980)

John Lennon
John Lennon. Photo by Chris Walter / WireImage

Along with Paul McCartney, John Lennon was part of the most successful pop songwriting team of all time. As part of the Beatles, he was also one of the most influential pop musicians. The Beatles still hold the record for the most #1 pop hit singles by any recording act with 20. They broke up in 1970 concluding their career as an active group with the #1 hits "Let It Be" and "The Long and Winding Road." Following the breakup of the group John Lennon embarked on a successful solo career and then left the business in 1975 to raise his child Sean in New York with his wife Yoko Ono.

In the fall of 1980 John Lennon returned to recording and released the single "(Just Like) Starting Over" in October. The song had reached the top 10 on the US pop charts when he was shot dead on the night of December 8, 1980 heading home to his New York City apartment. The song topped the pop charts in the worldwide outpouring of grief and the duet album with Yoko Double Fantasy also topped the charts. 

Watch John Lennon sing "Instant Karma" 

13
of 28

Harry Chapin (1942-1981)

Harry Chapin
Harry Chapin. Photo by Keith Bernstein / Redferns

Singer-songwriter Harry Chapin grew up in New York City. He originally intended to be a filmmaker and directed the Academy Award nominated documentary Legendary Champions in 1968. However, in 1971 he decided to focus on a music career and began playing in New York City nightclubs. His debut album as a solo artist was 1972's Heads and Tales. It climbed into national charts due to the success of the pop hit single "Taxi." He struggled to find follow up success until 1974 when the song "Cats In the Cradle," based on a poem by his wife Sandra, hit #1 on the pop charts. Again his commercial success faded, but he scored one more pop hit with 1980's "Sequel," a follow up to the story in the song "Taxi" from eight years earlier.

In the summer of 1981 Harry Chapin was at work on songs for his next album. On the afternoon of July 16, 1981, he died of cardiac arrest that occurred either before or as the result of a traffic accident. In 1987 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his work on social issues, particularly efforts to combat hunger.

Watch Harry Chapin sing "Cats In the Cradle"

14
of 28

Karen Carpenter (1950-1983)

Karen Carpenter
Karen Carpenter. Photo by Harry Langdon / Hulton Archive

With her older brother Richard, Karen Carpenter formed The Carpenters, one of the most successful duos in pop history. They first hit the charts with a cover of the Beatles' "Ticket To Ride," and in 1970 went to #1 with "(They Long To Be) Close To You." It was the first of 12 top 10 pop hits between 1970 and 1975. The duo's commercial success faded somewhat in the latter part of the decade, but they remained one of the most successful adult contemporary recording acts.

Beginning in January 1979 Richard Carpenter took time off to seek drug addiction treatment. Meanwhile Karen Carpenter recorded a solo album with producer Phil Ramone, but it was rejected by record label executives. The pair recorded the album Made In America and released it in June 1981. It included the single "Touch Me When We're Dancing" which took them back to the pop top 20 for the first time in five years. In the fall of 1982 Karen Carpenter underwent treatment for a long-term bout with anorexia nervosa and gained 30 pounds in eight weeks. She returned home in November claiming that she was cured. On February 3, 1983 she visited the home of her parents and was found dead the next morning having died from heart failure associated with the effects of anorexia nervosa.  

Watch The Carpenters perform "Rainy Days and Mondays"

15
of 28

Marvin Gaye (1939-1984)

Marvin Gaye
Marvin Gaye. Photo by David Redfern / Redferns

Marvin Gaye was one of the key architects of soul music in the 1960s and the 1970s. He was born and grew up in Washington, DC. Marvin Gaye began singing in church at age four. He was a part of a number of doo-wop vocal groups in high school. He then helped form the group The Marquees who evolved into Harvey and the New Moonglows. In 1960, the group broke up and Marvin Gaye met Motown founder Berry Gordy. He was soon signed to the label. He first recorded as a jazz performer but soon found some success writing songs for other Motown artists. In the late 1960s he was successful as both a solo recording artist and in duets most notably with Tammi Terrell. With greater artistic freedom in the early 1970s, Marvin Gaye's albums What's Going On and Let's Get It On became R&B landmarks.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Marvin Gaye suffered from drug addiction and fled into tax exile in Europe in fear of prosecution for failure to pay back taxes. After negotiating a release from his contract with Motown, he released the single "Sexual Healing" in late 1982.  It became one of the biggest hits of his career. On April 1, 1984 in the wake of family conflicts over insurance documents, Marvin Gaye's father shot him dead later arguing he feared physical harm from his son.

Watch Marvin Gaye sing "Heard It Through the Grapevine" 

16
of 28

Rick Nelson (1940-1985)

Rick Nelson
Rick Nelson. Photo by Chris Walter / WireImage

Rick Nelson first became known by the name Ricky as a co-star of his family's hit TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. At age 16, wanting to impress a female friend, he recorded his first songs. He lip-synched to his recording of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" on the TV show and it became a top 5 hit in 1957. By the end of 1959 he had reached the pop top 10 with 12 different singles. As he turned 21 in 1961, Rick Nelson dropped the "y" on his professional name and had another wave of hits including the #1 smash "Travelin' Man." In the late 1960s Rick Nelson helped pioneer California country rock, but he failed to have major hits himself. He returned to the pop top 10 one final time when recording his single "Garden Party" after disgust from his experiences appearing at an oldies concert.

Rick Nelson continued to perform into the 1980s and on the evening of December 31, 1985 he died in a plane crash along with members of his band. Rick Nelson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

Watch Rick Nelson sing "Garden Party" 

17
of 28

Andy Gibb (1958-1988)

Andy Gibb
Andy Gibb. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Andy Gibb grew up as the younger brother of the three Gibb brothers who made up the Bee Gees. He was born in England but grew up in Australia. He formed his first musical group Melody Fayre in 1974 at age 16. In 1976, Robert Stigwood, the Bee Gees' manager, signed Andy Gibb to his label RSO Records. His first single for RSO "I Just Want To Be Your Everything" was written by brother Barry and it became a #1 pop smash in the US. It was followed by two more #1 hits "(Love Is) Thicker Than Water" and "Shadow Dancing" while the Bee Gees were dominating charts with their music from Saturday Night Fever. Andy Gibb's commercial success faded by the early 1980s and he spent time in drug treatment in the mid part of the decade.

In the summer of 1987 Andy Gibb returned to the recording studio and began plans to record a comeback album. In early March he entered the hospital complaining of chest pains and died on March 10, 1988 of a heart infection exacerbated by cocaine use. 

Watch Andy Gibb sing "I Just Want To Be Your Everything"

18
of 28

Freddie Mercury (1946-1991)

Freddie Mercury
Freddie Mercury. Photo by Suzie Gibbons / Redferns

Queen lead vocalist Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara on the African island of Zanzibar the son of ethnic Parsis. He spent much of his early life in India until his family fled Zanzibar for England when he was 17. In England he joined a series of bands until meeting Brian May and Roger Taylor and putting together the band Queen in 1970. The group did not release their debut album until 1973. It failed to find commercial success, but following a 1974 Top of the Pops appearance, the group reached the top 10 of the UK pop singles chart with "Seven Seas of Rhye." That was followed by a major breakthrough on both sides of the Atlantic with "Killer Queen." Queen would go on become one of the most successful and revered rock bands of the 1970s and 1980s with such landmark hits as "Bohemian Rhapsody," "We Are the Champions," and "Another One Bites the Dust."

In the late 1980s Freddie Mercury pursued solo work with two albums. His cover of The Platters' "The Great Pretender" was a top 5 hit in the UK in 1987. In the spring of 1987 Freddie Mercury was diagnose with AIDS, but he kept it a secret from the public. On November 22, 1991 he released an official statement that he had been diagnosed with AIDS. He died just over 24 hours later on November 24, 1991. 

Watch Queen perform "We Are the Champions" 

19
of 28

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

Kurt Cobain
Kurt Cobain. Photo by Kevin Mazur / WireImage

Kurt Cobain was born to a musical family in Aberdeen, Washington. He began playing the piano at age four. His parents divorced when he was seven leaving a profound impact. Both parents later remarried with his mother suffering domestic abuse. At age 14 Kurt Cobain received a used guitar from his uncle as a birthday gift. While a high school student he met Krist Novoselic. Eventually the pair began playing music together beginning what became the group Nirvana. They recorded their first album Bleach in 1989 with Chad Channing as drummer. By the time of their major label debut Nevermind, Dave Grohl was Nirvana's drummer. The group became major stars with "Smells Like Teen Spirit" landing in the pop top 10 and the album Nevermind topping the charts.

Throughout much of his life Kurt Cobain suffered from chronic bronchitis and stomach pain. By 1990 he had developed an addiction to heroin. He entered rehab in 1992 but soon began using heroin again. Despite attempts by his wife to intervene in his battle with drugs, Kurt Cobain was found dead on April 5, 1994 the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Watch Nirvana perform "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 

20
of 28

Dan Hartman (1950-1994)

Dan Hartman
Dan Hartman. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Singer-songwriter and producer Dan Hartman was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He joined his first band The Legends at age 13. They released a number of recordings but without commercial success. He found his first fame playing bass in the Edgar Winter Group writing and singing on their hit single "Free Ride" in 1972. Dan Hartman embarked on a solo career in 1976. He soon became a key disco artist with the #1 dance hit "Instant Replay." It was followed by another #1 disco smash "Vertigo / Relight My Fire" in 1980. Dan Hartman's only solo top 10 pop hit came in 1984 with "I Can Dream About You" from the soundtrack to the film Streets Of Fire. 

Dan Hartman kept his HIV positive diagnosis a personal secret. On March 22, 1994 he died from an AIDS-related brain tumor.

Watch Dan Hartman sing "I Can Dream About You" 

21
of 28

Michael Hutchence (1960-1997)

Michael Hutchence
Michael Hutchence. Photo by Ebet Roberts / Redferns

Michael Hutchence was born in Sydney, Australia and grew up in both Brisbane, Hong Kong, and Sydney. In high school he met the Farriss brothers with whom he would eventually form INXS. Early on the group supported fellow Australians Midnight Oil in concert. The INXS album Shabooh Shoobah was released internationally and included their breakthrough hit single "The One Thing." They did not return to the pop top 40 in the US until 1985 with the top 5 hit "What You Need." It was followed by a series of six consecutive top 10 pop hits beginning in 1987 wiht the #1 smash "Need You Tonight." 

The commercial success of INXS faded in the 1990s. They set out on a world tour in 1997 to support the album Elegantly Wasted. He was found dead in Sydney's Ritz-Carlton hotel on the morning of November 22, 1997 a victim of suicide under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

Watch INXS perform "Never Tear Us Apart" 

22
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Falco (1957-1998)

Falco
Falco. Photo by Peter Noble / Redferns

Johann Holzel, better known as Falco, was born in Vienna, Austria. He began playing music at a very early age and received a baby grand piano as a gift at age four. He entered the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977 at age 20, but he soon left to pursue his own musical career. Falco's first hit "Der Komissar" appeared in 1982 on the album Einzelhaft. It broke into the Billboard Hot 100 and the group After the Fire had a top 10 pop hit with an English translation of the song. With inspiration from the Academy Award winning film Amadeus, Falco recorded his best known hit "Rock Me Amadeus" in 1986. It became a worldwide sensation peaking at #1 in the US and UK. His follow up "Vienna Calling" was another top 20 hit. 

In the 1990s Falco made a successful return to the German pop charts but did not translate that to success in the US. On February 6, 1998 he died in an automobile collision with a bus in the Dominican Republic. At the time he was planning another comeback.

Watch Falco sing "Rock Me Amadeus" 

23
of 28

Aaliyah (1979-2001)

Aaliyah
Aaliyah. Photo by Barry King / WireImage

Aaliyah Haughton was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Detroit. She appeared on national TV at the age of 10 on the series Star Search. At age 12 she was signed to a recording career with Blackground Records. R&B singer-songwriter R. Kelly became her mentor. Her debut album Age Ain't Nothing But a Number was a hit and included the top 10 singles "Back & Forth" and "At Your Best (You Are Love)." Amid rumors of an illegal underage marriage to R. Kelly, she broke off ties and signed to Atlantic Records. Her second album One In a Million included the hit "If Your Girl Only Knew." In 2000 she had her biggest hit "Try Again," a #1 smash from the soundtrack to the film Romeo Must Die

Aaliyah's third studio album, a self-titled effort, was released in July 2001. It debuted at #2 on the album chart. On August 25, 2001, after filming a music video for the song "Rock the Boat," Aaliyah died in a plane crash leaving the Bahamas en route for Florida. Her music experienced significant posthumous success.

Watch Aaliyah sing "Try Again" 

24
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Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes (1971-2002)

Lisa
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Photo by Evan Agostini / Hulton Archive

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes was born and raised in Philadelphia. At age 17, after hearing about an open casting call for a new girl group, she moved to Atlanta for auditions. The group became the female trio TLC. Their debut album Oooooohhh...On the TLC Tip was released in 1992. It included three top 10 pop hits and the trio became pop stars. Their 1995 follow up CrazySexyCool was even bigger with the E1 smash hits "Creep" and "Waterfalls." Following a third hit album FanMail in 1999, Lisa Lopes issued a challenge to her fellow group members to all record solo albums and released them as a 3 disc set, but they declined to participate.

With the beginning of the new century, Lisa Lopes began exploring a solo career. Her debut solo album Supernova was released in August 1991 in the UK, but plans for a US release were cancelled. Lisa Lopes died on April 25, 2002 in Honduras when she failed when she swerved her vehicle to avoid collision with another and was thrown from the vehicle.

Watch TLC perform "No Scrubs" 

25
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Stephen Gately (1976-2009)

Stephen Gately
Stephen Gately. Photo by Tim Roney / Hulton Archive

Singer-songwriter Stephen Gately grew up in Dublin, Ireland. As a teenager he appeared in a number of school musical productions. In 1993 he joined the Irish boy band Boyzone and along with Ronan Keating became one of the group's lead vocalists. The group released a record-setting 16 consecutive top 5 hit singles on the UK pop charts. Despite their massive success in the UK, they did not find success on the other side of the Atlantic. In 2000 Stephen Gately released a solo album after Boyzone's initial breakup. It included the major hit single "New Beginning."

In 2008 Stephen Gately joined in the reunion of Boyzone. Their single "Love You Anyway" was a top 5 hit and the compilation album Back Again...No Matter What was also a major hit. On October 10, 2009 Stephen Gately died at his home on the island of Majorca in Spain from complications of an undiagnosed heart condition.

Watch Stephen Gately sing "Bright Eyes" 

26
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Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson. Photo by Frank Edwards / Getty Images

Michael Jackson first hit the pop charts at age 11 as lead vocalist with his brothers in the group the Jackson 5. They ran off a series of four #1 pop hits in 1970. He hit the pop charts both as part of the group and a solo artist early in the decade. In the late 1970s Michael Jackson reworked his image as an adult pop artist and became an even bigger success solo. His trio of albums Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous were massive worldwide hits. They included such groundbreaking pop hits as "Billie Jean," "Beat It," "Bad," and "Black Or White."

By the release of his 2001 solo album, Michael Jackson's commercial success had faded somewhat. In 2003 he was arrested and charged with child molestation but ultimately was acquitted. In March 2009 Michael Jackson held a press conference and announced a series of comeback concerts titled This Is It. He began rehearsals for the shows but died on June 25, 2009. In the outpouring of grief he became the bestselling recording artist of 2009.

Watch Michael Jackson sing "Smooth Criminal" 

Top 20 Michael Jackson Songs

27
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Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse. Photo by Hulton Archive

Singer Amy Winehouse grew up in north London, England. Many of her family members were musicians. She bought her own guitar at age 14 and began writing music a year later. In 2000 she became the featured vocalist with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. In 2002 she signed to Simon Fuller's 19 Management and released her debut album Frank in 2003. She received Brit Award nominations as Best British Female Solo Artist and Best British Urban Act. The album was shortlisted for the Mercury Prize. For her second solo album Back To Black released in 2006 Amy Winehouse shifted away from jazz influences to classic girl group sounds. The single "Rehab" became her US breakthrough and hit the top 10 on pop charts in both the US and UK. She won five Grammy Awards for Back To Black including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. 

Amy Winehouse had a long history of substance abuse and erratic public behavior. Her final recording was the song "Body and Soul" with Tony Bennett for his album Duets II. She was discovered by her bodyguard dead on the afternoon of July 23, 2011. Alcohol poisoning was determined to be the cause of death.

Watch Amy Winehouse sing "Rehab"

Top 10 Amy Winehouse Songs

28
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Whitney Houston (1963-2012)

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston. Photo by Mick Hutson / Redferns

Whitney Houston was born in Newark, New Jersey the daughter of gospel and R&B singer Cissy Houston. She was a cousin of Dionne Warwick and her godmother was Darlene Love. She began performing as a gospel choir soloist at age 11. As a teenager she toured occasionally with her mother and performed as a backup singer at age 14 on a single by disco artists the Michael Zager Band. In the early 1980s Whitney Houston turned to fashion modeling, but she also continued to explore music. After he saw her perform live, legendary music executive Clive Davis signed her to a recording contract with his label Arista Records. Whitney Houston's self-titled debut album was released in 1985 and became one of the bestselling debuts of all time generating three #1 hit singles. Ultimately she ran off a string of seven consecutive #1 hit singles including the first four from her second solo album. Her 1990 album I'm Your Baby Tonight included two more #1 hit singles and then her biggest hit "I Will Always Love You" from the film soundtrack to The Bodyguard became her biggest hit.

Following her marriage to Bobby Brown in 1992, Whitney Houston's struggles with substance abuse gradually became public. The pair divorced in 2006, but the problems continued. Whitney Houston released a comeback album in 2009, and it entered the charts at #1. On February 11, 2012 Whitney Houston was found dead in a suite at the Beverly Hills Hilton Hotel the day of Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy Award party in the hotel. Her death was later determined to be related to drug use.

Watch Whitney Houston sing "All the Man That I Need"

Top 10 Whitney Houston Songs

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Lamb, Bill. "28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young." ThoughtCo, Aug. 22, 2016, thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142. Lamb, Bill. (2016, August 22). 28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142 Lamb, Bill. "28 Pop Artists Who Died Too Young." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/pop-artists-who-died-too-young-3248142 (accessed September 21, 2017).