Behind the Death of Keith Moon

When fans today think of the rowdy rock musicians of the earlier part of the 20th century, one of the people that comes to mind is Keith Moon. In fact, there are rumors that Moon inspired the famous muppet drummer, Animal. That’s how torrential Moon was.

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But in Moon’s case, where there is triumph there is also tragedy. Sadly, Moon only lived to be 32 years old thanks to his rocky relationship with drugs and alcohol. But how did Moon pass away, what were the events that led to it?

[RELATED: 15 of the Best Quotes from The Who’s Keith Moon]


Just months before he died, Moon moved into an apartment in London where Cass Elliott of the Mamas and the Papas had both lived and died, passing away at 32 years old. Artist Harry Nilsson, who owned the place, was even worried about renting the apartment to Moon, believing it was cursed. The Who’s Pete Townshend, though, encouraged Moon, saying, according to the memoir Who Am I: A Memoir, lightning wouldn’t strike twice.


At the time, Moon expressed a desire to get sober from the alcohol addiction that had been plaguing him, causing his health to decline and him to gain weight. He took the medication Heminevrin to help, though that in and of itself was dangerous and addictive. When mixed with alcohol, it could also be fatal. The pills were prescribed by a doctor who didn’t have knowledge of Moon’s wild man history and said Moon should take one when craving alcohol but no more than three per day. The doctor prescribed him a bottle of 100 pills.

Paul and Linda McCartney

On September 6, 1978, Moon and Swedish model Annette Walter-Lax, who, according to the 1988 book Dear Boy: The Life of Keith Moon, said she loved Moon when he was sober but couldn’t handle him being drunk, were guests of Paul and Linda McCartney at a film screening for The Buddy Holly Story.

After the foursome had dinner, Moon and Walter-Lax went to their apartment where Moon watched another movie, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and asked his girlfriend to cook him dinner. She declined and then Moon uttered his last words, “If you don’t like it, you can fuck off!” Moon took some pills and went to bed. The next morning, Walter-Lax found him dead.

The Pills

In the end, police found 32 pills in his system, six of which were enough to kill Moon.

Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images

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