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History’s Top 10 Rock Star Flameouts: Nothing says rock and roll like indulgence to excess 

A list of rock stars that just couldn't handle the rock star life.

click to enlarge kurt.jpg
1. Bon Scott – The quintessential rock star, Scott was AC/DC’s original gravel voiced front man. While he may not be the greatest artist to cash in his chips prematurely, his flameout meets all the criteria to get top billing. Scott and his band were at the top of their game, just entering the prime of their career having just recorded and toured on the seminal Highway to Hell. He overdosed on alcohol, which is a feat in itself. And he did it in a parked car outside a nightclub. It just don’t get more rock star, folks.

2. Kurt Cobain – The most high-profile rock star death in the last 25 years. Cobain could have easily gotten top billing, save the fact that he committed suicide, which accrues less rock star points than an overdose. Cobain gets some consideration, however, for his well-documented heroin problem.

3. Keith Moon – Likely the inspiration for Spinal Tap's riff on exploding drummers, Moon was a famously destructive force of nature whose antics serve as the playbook for rock star excess. Moon overdosed on sedatives in 1978 to no one’s surprise.

4. Jimi Hendrix – Part of the plague of 1970, Hendrix was one of three (Joplin and Morrison) musicians who died just a year after Woodstock, casting a pall on an entire decade.

5. Amy Winehouse – Winehouse wore her struggles with addiction on her sleeve, but her public downward spiral was hard to watch. Her untimely death by overdose seemed inevitable, if utterly preventable.

6. Bradley Nowell – Most fans didn’t know of Nowell or his brand of smart SoCal punk until the founder and frontman of Sublime was already dead. Nowell’s heroin overdose death and the fact that it only fueled his popularity make him a clear cut Top 10.

7. Jim Morrison – The former UCLA film student redefined what it meant to be a front man, coaxing America to “Light his Fire” Morrison’s leading man looks, laconic stage demeanor, brooding temperament and black leather pants set the bar for generations of would-be rock stars to come. The fact that he OD’d in a Paris bathtub is the exclamation point on his rock star obit.

8. Elvis – It’s only fitting that the King lived up to his billing by overdosing in rock star style. He loses points for OD-ing well after the pinnacle of his career, but gets bonus marks for his indulgent eating habits and awesome belly hugging jumpsuits completewith rhinestone capes.

9. GG Allin – A walking scandal whose performance art was more masochism than music. We’re putting GG on the list not because of any serious artistic contributions, but for the sheer bat shit crazy insanity of his shtick that included self-mutilation and other public acts of revulsion. Allin maintained that he would commit suicide on stage but didn’t get around to it before dying of a heroin overdose.

10. Lester Bangs — O.K. So Lester wasn’t technically a rocker. He was a writer and a pioneering rock journalist for Creem and Rolling Stone, two magazines that helped shape the industry during the late 1960s and 1970s. Bangs soaked up the refracted glory of his subjects and served it up to a public that was hungry for rock star reporting. Bangs followed in the steps of his rock star peers living fast and dying young. He overdosed on Valium and Nyquil at the age of 33.


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