Rock 'n' roll makes ordinary men and women immortal. Almost.
They're regular people who were born unfamous and will someday die, just like us. But because they're awesome at playing the guitar or howling into a mike (you know, rocking), they become the center of attention for millions of idolatrous fanatics, hysterically screaming at the mere sight of their hero.
Accordingly, rock 'n' rollers often go out with a bang. And while death is always tragic, it's a lot better for your rocker cred to have died in a plane crash than to go out like Elvis, flopped over on the toilet with a giant turd trapped in your colon.
After the jump, Crossfade lists rock 'n' roll's top five plane crashes, most tragic losses, and remarkable escapes.
5. Bill Graham: October 25, 1991
The first entry in our countdown and we're already deviating from the format: Bill Graham -- legendary San Francisco concert promoter, founder of the renowned Fillmore West rock club (and spinoff venues), record label CEO, and much more -- died in a helicopter crash. But his incredibly prolific career as an organizer and curator (including collaborations with Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Elvis Costello, The Fugs, Allen Ginsberg, Rod Stewart and, of course, The Grateful Dead) makes it impossible to leave him off our list. Graham was the man running around frantically checking his clipboard, while everybody else -- the band, the crew and engineers, the thousands in the audience -- were tripping balls at Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. R.I.P. Bill Graham!
4. DJ AM and Travis Parker: September 27, 2008
Death stalked Adam Goldstein (AKA producer and television star DJ AM) like he was a Kennedy. And sadly, AM passed away only a year after surviving a crash with Blink-182 (and Transplants!) drummer Travis Barker, during which both sustained horrific third-degree burns all over their bodies. R.I.P. DJ AM!
3. Randy Rhoads: March 19, 1982
Lennon and McCartney, Jagger and Richards, Page and Plant ... While very often at each other's throats, the success of these dynamic rock 'n' roll duos was their ability to perfectly balance one another out. After falling in and out with Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi, it seemed like metal vocalist Ozzy Osbourne may never love again. That is, until Quiet Riot axe slinger Randy Rhoads showed up to help the Ozzman stay relevant through the '80s.
Rhoads's crash came after the pilot (whose autopsy revealed cocaine in his sytem; Rhoads's only showed nicotine) botched an attempt to scare spectators by flying low to the ground. R.I.P. Randy Rhoads!
2. Lynyrd Skynyrd: October 20, 1977
The Lynrd Skynrd plane crash was an absolutely epic disaster. The aircraft went down in a murky swamp, right behind a 20-foot creek. It took rescuers three hours to retrieve the survivors everyone from the site of the crash. Six people died, including Skynrd members Ronnie Van Zant, and Cassie and Steve Gaines. But incredibly, 20 survived. And legend has it, when those 20 survivors approached some nearby farmers for help, the disheveled and seriously injured rockers looked so insane that their would-be saviors began shooting at them, wounding drummer Artimus Pyle in the shoulder. R.I.P. Ronnie Van Zant, and Cassie and Steve Gaines!
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Miami New Times's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Miami's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
1. The Big Bopper, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens: February 3, 1953
Three of early rock 'n' roll's finest (and their pilot) died when a small, four-passenger plane crashed during a snowstorm in the winter of 1953. And thanks to Don Mclean's immortal "American Pie" with its cryptic ruminations, phantasmagoric imagery, poetic lyricism, and cosmological implications, we willl remember the weight of this triple loss for all time. R.I.P. Bud, Rich, and Bop!