5 Legendary Artists Who Drowned

It’s always sad when one of our favorite artists dies young. And it’s especially tragic when it happens in a moment that could have been avoided.

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We all know about the “27 Club” and the legends who died due to drugs like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, and more. (For those who don’t know, the 27 Club is several musicians who died at the age of 27) We also know about those artists who died in a plane crash like John Denver and Buddy Holly.

But sadly, there are several big-name musicians who lost their lives by drowning—truly, some of the greatest performers and songwriters of all time. Here, we will explore those events that led to their loss of life.

Below are six legendary musicians who drowned.

1. Jim Morrison

The handsome frontman for the influential ’60s rock band The Doors, Jim Morrison was known for his locks of hair, charming way, poetic lyrics, and songs like “Riders on the Storm” and “Light My Fire.” But the artist, who remains popular today even five years after his death, is part of the 27 Club and his cause of death remains disputed.

The official statement is that Morrison was found dead in a bathtub in Paris, France by his girlfriend Pamela Courson. Officials in the country claimed he died as a result of heart failure (perhaps induced by drugs). But they did not conduct an autopsy. Before the news of his passing got out around the globe, Morrison was buried in Paris’ Père Lachaise Cemetery.

But since Morrison died in a bathtub, like others here on this list, it’s fair to wonder if he, too, died as a result of water.

2. Whitney Houston

One of the best-selling musicians of all time, Whitney Houston is known today for her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” and singles like “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” But her death, which came when she was just 48 years old, remains tragic. Known as “The Voice,” Houston was reportedly not doing well days before her passing. She made her last public appearance on February 9, 2012. Two days later, she was found unresponsive in the Beverly Hilton, submerged in her bathtub. Paramedics arrived at 3:30 p.m. and found her unconscious. They performed CPR but she was pronounced dead at 3:55 p.m. Police said there were “no obvious signs of criminal intent.” On March 22, the L.A. Coroner’s Office attributed her death to drowning and the “effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use.” The office said she had used cocaine shortly before her death, which they determined, in the end, was accidental.

3. Jeff Buckley

Known for having one of the most beautiful singing voices in modern music history as well as a tender touch when it came to his guitar style, Jeff Buckley remains an important figure in popular music, thanks in large part to his 1994 album, Grace, which featured renditions of songs like “Lilac Wine” and “Hallelujah.” But sadly Buckley was taken from this world too soon.

On May 29, 1997, Buckley was in Memphis working on his music. That same night he went swimming fully clothed in Wolf River Harbor, off the Mississippi River. He was reportedly singing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” while doing so. His roadie Keith Foti was on shore. Foti moved a radio and guitar out of reach from waves after a passing tugboat and when he looked back up, Buckley was gone. He’d been swept away from shore and submerged underwater. His body remained undiscovered until June 4 when passengers on a riverboat saw it in some branches. The subsequent autopsy showed no signs of drugs or alcohol. The cause of death was ruled an accidental drowning.

Here, his mother Mary Guibert talked about the death of her son 25 years later.

4. Dolores O’Riordan

Known for seminal songs like “Zombie,” the Irish band the Cranberries was one of the biggest groups of the ’90s. Fronted by the diminutive but powerful singer Dolores O’Riordan, the group had seemingly unlimited potential. But a couple of decades after they made big waves, O’Riordan passed away suddenly. In January 2018, she flew from New York City to London where she checked into a Hilton Hotel. She called her mother there at 2 a.m. Later that morning she was found unresponsive in the bathroom, pronounced dead not long after at 9:16 a.m. She was just 46 years old.

Shortly after the news broke, a tabloid reported that fentanyl was found in the room, leading people to believe suicide or a deliberate overdose was the issue. But the true cause of death came out on September 6. It was determined that she died as a result of accidental drowning in the bathtub following sedation by alcohol intoxication. Alcohol bottles had been found in the room, along with some prescription drugs. It was a sad time for music fans.

5. Brian Jones

Known as the founder, rhythm/lead guitarist, and original leader of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones’ passing has caused many rumors over the years. Jones was discovered around midnight a day or two before July 4, 1969. He was motionless and at the bottom of his swimming pool at Catchword Farm. His girlfriend Anna Wohlin believed he was alive when taken from the pool. But Jones was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. He, too, was just 27 years old.

The coroner reported he died by drowning but later called it “death by misadventure,” noting his liver and heart were enlarged by past drug and alcohol abuse. Future 27 Club member Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him, and Jim Morrison published a poem to him. Jones was reportedly also buried 10 feet deep in the ground to prevent exhumation by trophy hunters. Of the ‘Stones, only Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman attended the funeral.

Asked if he felt guilty about Jones’ death, ‘Stones frontman Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone in 1995: “No, I don’t really. I do feel that I behaved in a very childish way, but we were very young, and in some ways, we picked on him. But, unfortunately, he made himself a target for it; he was very, very jealous, very difficult, very manipulative, and if you do that in this kind of a group of people you get back as good as you give, to be honest. I wasn’t understanding enough about his drug addiction. No one seemed to know much about drug addiction. Things like LSD were all new. No one knew the harm. People thought cocaine was good for you.”

Some members of the ‘Stones have claimed to have information that Jones was in fact murdered.  In 1993, it was reported that Jones was murdered by Frank Thorogood, a builder who did construction work on Jones’ property. He was the last person to see Jones alive. Thorogood reportedly confessed as much to the band’s driver, Tom Keylock, who later denied this. The cause of death case was later reopened but the official statement a year later was that “this has been thoroughly reviewed by Sussex Police’s Crime Policy and Review Branch, but there is no new evidence to suggest that the coroner’s original verdict of ‘death by misadventure’ was incorrect.”

Photo by David Gahr/Getty Images

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