Musicians live hectic lives and often find themselves in the air flying from this concert to that concert all year round. And while planes are considered overwhelmingly safer than cars, the consequences of an aviation accident are much deadlier than a road crash.
Sadly, a freakishly large number of musicians have lost their lives diving nose-deep into either an ocean, a mountain, a forest, or even some farmer’s grazing land. What’s creepier is that a lot of them had premonitions that something bad was about to go down.
Here’s a list of the many unfortunate days in which the music sadly died.
Ritchie Valens was a Mexican-American singer from Pacoima, California, mostly known for his incredibly catchy rendition of the song La Bamba that became a huge hit in 1958. Although his career was short-lived, this Chicano singer managed to make history by becoming rock music’s first Latino star.
In January 1959, Ritchie began traveling through the Midwest with several other musicians as part of the Winter Dance Party tour. Sadly, the fresh-faced singer had no idea that this would be the last trip of his life. A month after the tour started, his plane crashed into a cornfield. There were two other singers with him on that fateful ride – The Big Bopper and Buddy Holly.
We’ll get into them first and then explain how the plane crash happened.
Jiles Perry Richardson Jr., also known as The Big Bopper, was an American musician with a larger-than-life personality and a deep, bold voice. Born in 1930 in Sabine Pass, Texas, Richardson began his career as a radio show host who referred to himself as The Big Bopper after seeing some college students dance The Bop.
He became a well-known singer in 1958 after his hit song Chantilly Lace spent 22 weeks (!) in the national top 40 hits. Now in the public’s eye, The Big Bopper felt he was ready to tear up some stages, and in 1959, he joined the Winter Dance Party tour for a ride that would sadly be the last of his life. He was 28 at the time of the crash.
Charles Hardin Holley was a young pioneer of rock and roll music in the 1950s. Born in 1936, in Lubbock, Texas, Buddy grew up playing his guitar and singing with his siblings as a way of escaping the worries of the Great Depression. The enthusiastic singer got his first taste of stardom when he was just 19 after playing the opening act in one of Elvis Presley’s concerts.
Holly and his band, the Crickets, released their breakthrough song That’ll be the Day in 1957. It became the number one hit on numerous Billboard charts that year and even ranked 39 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Buddy was 22 when he joined the tragic Winter Dance Party Tour.
On the 11th night of the Winter Dance Party tour, Buddy Holly had enough of his run-down bus and chartered a plane for him and his bandmates, Tommy Allsup and Waylon Jennings. As fate would have it, the members on the flight changed, and Allsup and Jennings’ lives were saved.
Ritchie Valens replaced Allsup after a friendly coin toss won him a seat. And Jennings gave The Big Bopper his place after hearing that he was too ill to ride the bus. When Buddy heard his bandmates were replaced, he laughed and said, “I hope your ole’ bus freezes up again,” to which Jennings jokingly replied, “I hope your ole’ plane crashes.”
Tragically, the ole’ plane did. Just a few minutes after take-off, pilot Roger Peterson struggled against terrible wintry conditions and plunged in full speed into a cornfield just outside of Mason City. The tip of the right-wing hit the ground first and sent the aircraft cartwheeling across the field for 540 feet before it finally came to a stop.
The singers’ bodies were found scattered around the plane, and Peterson remained entangled in the wreckage. It was a sad, sad moment, and one that was referred to in Don McLean’s song, American Pie, as “the day the music died.”
Heavy metal guitarist Randy Rhoads tore up stages in the ’70s (and a little bit of the ’80s) with artists like Ozzy Osbourne and Quiet Riot. His impossibly fast guitar playing can be heard in tracks like Crazy Train and Blizzard of Ozz.
Born in 1956 to a family of musicians, Randy picked up his first guitar before the age of 10 and formed his first band when he was only 16. He grew up to become a pivotal figure in metal music and became a role model for aspiring guitarists. Tragically, his genius was cut short.
It was March 18, 1982, and Rhoads was headed with Ozzy Osbourne and the rest of the band to the Rock Super Bowl XIV festival in Orlando, Florida. They parked their tour bus on the way there to fix some malfunctioning air unit and decided to spend the night at plane owner Jerry Calhoun’s home.
Bus driver Andrew Aycock decided to play some tricks in the air with the aircrafts stationed nearby and took Rhoads and seamstress Rachel Youngblood along for the ride. They jokingly tried to “buzz” and shake the tour bus on the ground below, but the plane’s wing clipped the top of the bus and spiraled out of control. It crashed into the garage of a nearby mansion and burst into flames.
Patsy Cline had one of the most influential voices of the 20th century. Born in 1932, she began her journey as a little girl in Winchester, Virginia, who taught herself piano and sang to her heart’s content. She dropped out of school when she was 16 to help provide for her family. But her part-time jobs didn’t stop her from pursuing her real dream.
She signed up to various singing contests and landed a spot on the Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts show in 1957. The audience was charmed by this 24-year-old star with a voice wise beyond her years. Patsy went on to releasing great hits like Walking After Midnight, Crazy, and I Fall to Pieces. Her career came to a halt only six years after it begun, in 1963.
It was March 5th, 1963, and Patsy had just finished performing at a benefit in Kansas City. She was heading home to Nashville when she boarded the PA-24 aircraft along with pilot Randy Hughes and musicians Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas. On their way there, the crew made a stop at Dyersburg airport, where pilot Randy asked for a weather briefing.
Randy was recommended to stay the night because the weather wasn’t optimal, and the airfield manager even offered him and the crew some free rooms. But the pilot declined, and they took off at 6 p.m. Terrible decision because the stormy weather overpowered the aircraft and sent them crashing into the woods west of Camden. Patsy was only 30 at the time of her death.
Stevie Ray, one of the greatest guitarists of all times, was a Blues icon. He was inspired by his older brother to take up guitar when he was just 7 years old and dropped out of high school to make a career out of it. His big break came after David Bowie saw him perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1982 and invited him over to record in his studio.
Stevie electrified the audience all through the ’80s with his mind-blowing riffs and raspy voice. He played the guitar behind his back, plucked the strings with his teeth, and fully embraced the cliché of sex, drugs, and rock & roll. But a freakish helicopter accident was about to put an end to it all.
On the 27th of August 1990, Stevie had just wrapped up his opening act for Eric Clapton at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre. He boarded the helicopter and headed towards Chicago along with three of Clapton’s band members. The air was dense with fog, but the crew went ahead with the flight.
Shortly after takeoff, the helicopter violently crashed into a nearby ski hill, killing the four musicians and pilot, Jeff Brown. Freakishly enough, a few days before Vaughan’s death, the guitarist mentioned he had dreamed about his funeral and saw everyone mourning him. He pretty much envisioned it…
Eric Clapton later said that: “The death of Stevie Ray taught me that life is very fragile, and that if you are given another twenty-four hours, it’s a blessing.”
American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd formed in the mid-’60s after lead singer Ronnie Van Zant, drummer Bob Burns and guitarist Gary Rossington all met on a baseball field. They jammed it out after the game, liked what they heard, and decided to form a band with a fourth member, guitarist Allen Collins.
For a few years, they called themselves My Backyard but eventually switched it to Lynyrd Skynyrd (inspired by their P.E. teacher Leonard Skinner). Their breakthrough came in 1973 with the release of their debut album that sold over one million copies and featured one of their greatest ballads, Free Bird. For four years, Lynyrd Skynyrd rocked the stages and released some iconic songs, but, in 1977, everything changed.
On October 20, the band wrapped up their performance in Greenville, South Carolina, and boarded a plane bound for Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Everything was fine at first. Van Zant was resting, the other members were playing cards, and nothing really seemed out of line. But the pilot was keeping a grave secret from everyone.
The aircraft was running out of fuel, and they were headed towards an inevitable disaster. They crashed in a dense, wooded area in Gillsburg, Mississippi, killing Van Zant (who was not wearing a seatbelt) and two other vocalists, Steve and Cassie Gaines. Even though the rest of the members survived, they couldn’t go on and disbanded shortly after the crash.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton was “the princess of R&B” in the ’90s with hit songs like Try Again and Back and Forth. Her career began when she was 15 and already in the studio recording with producer and rapper R. Kelly. She released her debut album in 1994 and, with that – became a star.
She sold 74,000 copies in the first week and ranked number 24 on the Billboard 200 chart! People couldn’t get enough of this talented, sweet singer with dimples to die for. But after three albums and six short years, Aaliyah’s career tragically came to an end.
On the 25th of August 2001, 22-year-old Aaliyah flew to the Bahamas to shoot a video for her new song Rock the Boat. She took beautiful underwater shots, danced on the shimmering white sand, and cruised above the turquoise water. After the crew wrapped things up, Aaliyah boarded a light aircraft and headed back to Florida.
The plane was smaller than the one Aaliyah arrived at the island on, and pilot Luis Morales warned them that their equipment might be too heavy for it. But everyone shrugged it off, and about 200 feet from the plane’s runway, they crashed. The plane burst into flames and killed Aaliyah and four other passengers immediately.
Otis Ray Redding Jr. blew up in the ’60s with his inspirational gospel music and soulful voice. Born on September 9, 1941, in Dawson, Georgia, Otis grew up singing in the Vineville Baptist Church Choir and took guitar, piano, and drum lessons. The music prodigy was bound for greatness.
He was discovered in 1958 by blues guitarist Johnny Jenkins who sat in the audience of a talent show he performed in. Jenkins became his mentor and helped him make his way into the spotlight. Otis’s career was brief but full of rewarding moments. He toured all over the country and was on his way to perform with The Bar-Kays in Madison, Wisconsin, when tragedy hit.
R&B funk group The Bar-Kays formed in 1966 and played as session musicians for various artists, including Otis Redding. The band had six young members – Jimmie King, Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, Carl Cunningham, James Alexander, and Ben Cauley.
They issued their first funky single, Soul Finger, in 1967, and it charted both the Billboard R&B list and the Hot 100. They were all tremendous musicians, and the world suffered a great loss of talent when their plane took a deep dive into cold water.
On December 10, 1967, Otis and the Bar-Kays boarded the Beechcraft H18 airplane and headed to the Factory nightclub in Madison. Before they took off, singer James Brown urged Redding not to fly. The aircraft was precarious and the sky was dangerously foggy .But the crew didn’t want to delay any of the shows, so they decided to take off anyway.
They were just four miles from their destination when they crashed into Lake Monona. The accident’s only survivor, Ben Cauley, mentioned that everything happened so fast. One second, he was safely asleep on the plane, and the other, he was in the frigid water surrounded by dead bodies. Otis was just 26 when he died.
Pop pioneer Ricky Nelson launched his music career in the late ’50s when he released hits like Be-Bop Baby, and I’m Walkin’. Born in New Jersey in 1940, he grew up playing the clarinet and looked up to singers like Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley.
Nelson’s good looks made him an instant teen model, and his jazzy voice impressed the listeners. But by the end of the ’60s, his music career was as good as dead. A little more than a decade later, in 1985, Nelson began a “Comeback Tour.” But as fate would have it, his comeback was very short.
On December 31, 1985, Nelson flew to Dallas, Texas, for a concert. His plane had some well-known mechanical issues to it, but no one seemed to give it much thought. And on New Year’s Eve, Ricky Nelson, his partner Helen Blair, and several other crew members took off.
At around 5 p.m., less than two miles before the landing strip, Nelson’s plane crashed in a cow pasture outside of De-Kalb city. Apparently, the plane caught fire mid-flight due to a faulty in-cabin heater, forcing them to violently land in grazing terrain. Nelson was 45 at the time of his death.
Folk singer Jim Croce made a name for himself in the early ’70s with upbeat hits like Bad, Bad Leroy Brown and soothing sounds like Time in a Bottle. It took a while for his career to pick up speed, but when it finally did, the crowd couldn’t get enough. He began touring the world as his wife, Ingrid, remained at home to raise their only son, A.J.
Jim’s concerts around Europe were exciting at first, but he became homesick very quick. He wrote a letter to Ingrid saying that when his Life and Times tour ends, he wanted to take a break and settle down. Sadly, that never happened.
On September 20, 1973, Croce and his five band members boarded an aircraft that never really made it off the flight strip. As the plane was gaining speed, the pilot accidentally hit a pecan tree at the end of the runway, causing the plane to spin around a few times before it finally crashed.
All six passengers died on the spot. Reporter Dan McDonald arrived at the scene and couldn’t believe his eyes: “I’d never seen anything like that. It almost looked like a bomb had hit the plane. The debris field gave me an idea of how forceful the crash was.”
A Brazilian rock band from the ’90s, Mamonas Assassinas, were loud, satirical, and wild. The members were childhood friends, all in their 20s, just looking to make some good music and put a smile on people’s faces.
It was hard not to smile! The band’s performances were all over the place. They wore costumes, danced ridiculously, and made fun of themselves and everyone else. But a dreadful flight in 1996 wiped the smiles off everyone’s faces.
On March 2, 1996, the band was done with their concert in Brasilia, and they were ready to head home to Guarulhos to spend time with their families before their next tour in Portugal. Unfortunately, they never got to see their loved ones.
The plane crashed at 11 p.m. in the Serra da Cantareira range, and the cause was never determined. What’s creepy is that a night before the accident, band member Julio Rasec told his hairdresser that he had dreamed of a plane crash and was feeling a little worried.
Fruity pop band, Passion Fruit, had three European beauties in the forefront – Nathaly and Debby, who were both Dutch, and Maria, who was Spanish. Some of their bubblegum tracks also featured a rapper named MC Steve (Mario Zuber).
The girls released fun hits in the early ’00s, like The-Rigga-Ding-Dong-Song, Sun fun Baby, and Wonderland. But after two short years and only one album (Spanglish Love Affairs), the girls’ career was cut short. And so were their lives. Singer Melanie Thornton was also a passenger on that deadly flight.
Melanie was a pop singer from the ’90s and the lead vocalist in the Eurodance group La Bouche. Along with rapper Lane McCray, the duo created electro-dance hits, their most famous ones being Be My Lover and Sweet Dreams
Europe danced to their beats day and night, and their songs peaked high on all the pop charts. Towards the end of the decade, Melanie decided to fly solo and began working on her own groove. A few months before her death, she released her first (and only) album called, ironically… Ready to Fly.
On November 24, 2001, the Passion Fruit girls, Melanie, and 21 other passengers boarded Crossair Flight 3597 to fly from Berlin to Zurich, Switzerland. Only 2.5 miles before reaching their destination, the plane plummeted into the dark woods just outside the town of Bassersdorf.
Out of the pop trio, Debby was the only one to survive. She suffered multiple injuries, both physically and even more so, mentally. There were rumors she might embark on a solo career, but that never really happened. It was too hard without her Passion sisters.
Trombonist, composer, bandleader, and most importantly – entertainer. Glenn Miller charmed his audience in the ’40s with his free-spirited swing music. Some critics thought he was “forsaking real jazz,” but Glenn thought, hey, what is “real jazz” anyway?
In his brief four-year-career, Glenn reached heights that no other musician has succeeded to top. The trombonist released 69 top ten hits and 16 number-one records. Even the Beatles never reached that grandiosity (33 top 10s)! He played for troops in WWII to lift up their spirits but, after two years in the army, Glenn vanished into thin air.
On December 15, 1944, Glenn boarded a plane from Bedford, UK, heading to Paris. He was planning on moving to France for some time and needed to arrange a place to stay. But he never arrived at his destination.
The aircraft disappeared above the English Channel, and its remains were never found. Miller’s plane probably crashed into the ocean, but that didn’t stop conspiracists from cooking up different theories. Aliens, assassination, all sorts of wild things.
Folk singer John Denver had a great voice that suited his acoustic tone. He rose to stardom in the ’70s and became one of the most popular artists of the decade. The spectacled golden-haired singer released hits like Annie’s song and Rocky Mountain High.
He grew up in a military family and traveled a lot across the country. Which is probably what made him such a gentle and tolerant humanitarian. One of the most beloved entertainers of the era, Denver was also a pilot with over 2,700 hours of experience. His death was a struggle to fathom.
On October 11, 1997, Denver purchased a brand-new aircraft – an experimental model called the Rutan Long-EZ. The singer was excited to try it out, and a day later, on the 12th, he took off into the sky. Shortly after, he crashed into Monterey Bay. His last words to the control tower were “Do you have it now?” He was desperately looking for a signal as he tragically plunged to the ground.
But the thing is that Denver wasn’t legally allowed to fly at the time of the accident. He was arrested several times before for drunk driving, so initially, people believed that his recklessness was the reason he crashed. But an autopsy confirmed that there were no drugs in his system, and the final verdict was “Low fuel, a hard-to-reach handle to switch gas tanks and modifications to his homemade airplane.”
Californian Dolores Janney “Jenni” Rivera was born in 1969 to two Mexican parents whom she would make very proud. Her powerful voice and passionate presentation have made her one of the greatest pioneers in regional Mexican music.
It took a long time for the world to recognize this incredible artist. She began recording in 1992 and was turned down and ignored several times. But finally, in the early ’00s, people began to notice. She won album of the year, artist of the year, Star award, Banda album of the year… the list goes on. Tragically, her life was cut off short.
It was December 9, 2012, and Jenni had just wrapped up her performance at Monterrey Arena. Her next appearance was scheduled to be in Toluca, Mexico, on the show The Voice. But she never made it to the judge’s seat.
15 minutes after takeoff, the aircraft nose-dived into a mountainside. Jenni, her four staff members, and the two pilots all died on the spot. Investigators tried to make sense of the tragedy, but to this day, no one really knows what caused the terrible plummet.
Country singer Troy Lee Gentry formed the musical duo, Montgomery Gentry, along with his long-time friend Eddie Montgomery. His wide smile and genuine love for music was contagious, and he is considered by his friends to be a generous man who lived life to the fullest.
Troy and Eddie recorded six studio albums in their fruitful career together and released numerous. No. 1 hits like, If You Ever Stop Loving Me, Lucky Man, and Roll with Me. In 2017, the country duo finished recording their new album and were excited to show the world what they had created. But Eddie never imagined that his friend wouldn’t live to see its release.
On September 8, 2017, Gentry boarded a “spur of the moment ride” on a helicopter with pilot James Evan Robinson. It was an innocent offer by James, and Gentry was glad to soar in the air for a bit. But shortly after takeoff, James announced over the airport frequency that he was struggling to control the engines.
The helicopter hovered for 10 minutes before it crashed in a field near the airport. Eddie Montgomery’s world was shattered when he found out what happened to his friend. To this day, the country singer lives on in Eddie and all their fans’ hearts.
Also known as “Gentleman Jim,” James Travis Reeves grew up in a small rural community in Galloway, Texas. He became a popular country music singer whose hits were listed high on the charts all through the ’50s and ’60s.
His delicate Nashville sound was sophisticated and smooth. And hits like I Love You Because and Welcome to my World were true gentleman songs. In the ’60s, Jim was finally gaining international recognition, but everything was put to an end after a violent thunderstorm took his life.
On July 31, 1964, Reeves boarded Beechcraft Debonair aircraft as the pilot, along with his manager Dean Manuel. The two were on their way to Brentwood, Tennessee, when they were thrust in midair by violent gusts of wind.
Reeves suffered complete spatial disorientation and struggled to make sense of his whereabouts. They crashed into a forest northeast of Brentwood, and their bodies were found entangled in the wreckage.
In 1934, in Choctaw County, Mississippi, three brothers and one son formed the gospel group, The Blackwood Brothers. The original members were Doyle, James, Roy, and Roy’s 13-year-old son, R.W. Blackwood. But by the 1950s, the group was comprised of different people, and Bill Lyles was one of them.
They gained popularity as the years went by, and with their success came a hefty amount of money. The group enjoyed the luxuries of being famous and bought their own private plane to fly between shows. But sadly, their new purchase would prove to be deadlier than they would have ever imagined.
On June 30, 1954, the group was getting ready to perform in Clanton, Alabama. 45 minutes before the start of the show, R.W. Blackwood, Bill Lyles, and their friend, Johnny Ogburn, decided to take the plane for a quick trip before sunset.
Spectators from below cheered as they watched the plane soar high in the orange sky. But they quickly realized that things weren’t quite right. Blackwood tried to land but had accumulated too much speed, so he maneuvered the aircraft back into the air to try again. But by that time, he had lost all control, and after a disturbingly steep climb into the sky, he plunged right into the ground.