The great gig in the sky

The Journal explores eight of the most mysterious deaths in music history

Brian Jones
Brian Jones
Clockwise from left: Jeff Buckley, Richey Edwards, Jim Morrison, Dean Reed, Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Tupac Shakur.
Clockwise from left: Jeff Buckley, Richey Edwards, Jim Morrison, Dean Reed, Nancy Spungen and Sid Vicious, Tupac Shakur.

Halloween Special

Jeff Buckley

Unlike some other people on this list, Jeff Buckley is quite definitely dead—what’s more mysterious is
why. The idiosyncratic crooner was recording a follow-up to 1994’s critically-acclaimed Grace in 1997 when he drowned during a swim in the Wolf River Marina. An autopsy confirmed that there were no illegal drugs in Buckley’s system and the Buckley estate insists that alcohol was not involved either.

The estate has also insisted that Buckley’s death was not a suicide. However, according to the biography Dream Brother, Buckley apparently confided in several people that he had bipolar disorder the night before his death, and he went for his evening swim wearing heavyboots. Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk, an unfinished version of the album Buckley had been working on, was released in 1998.

Richey Edwards

Manic Street Preachers lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared in February 1995 and is presumed dead, though his body has not been found and he is legally still considered a missing person.

Leading up to his disappearance, Edwards withdrew small amounts of cash daily from his bank account, totalling £2,800 by the day he vanished. Edwards had a well-publicized history of depression, alcohol abuse, disordered eating and self-harm, including famously carving the words “4 REAL” into his forearm with a razor blade. There have been several reported Edwards sightings since his disappearance, but none have been confirmed.

Edwards’s family chose not to declare him legally dead in 2002, and the Manics claim to be saving Edwards 25 per cent of the revenue from the songs’ performing rights should he reappear.

Brian Jones

The Rolling Stones founder drowned in his swimming pool on July 3, 1969. Although questions surround the events that led to his death, the coroner’s report declared that Jones suffered from “death by misadventure.”

His girlfriend at the time, Anna Wohlin, still believes that Jones was murdered by the musician’s renovator, as she details in her book The Murder of Brian Jones.

At the time of his death, myriad substance abuse problems, legal issues, and discrepancies over the musical direction of the Rolling Stones led to Jones becoming estranged from his bandmates and he was eventually asked to leave the group.

Jones has retained a steady following since his death, including the band The Brian Jonestown Massacre, whose logo is a picture of the former Rolling Stone.

Jim Morrison

The lizard king died in a bathtub in Paris on July 3, 1971.

Although many believe The Doors lead singer died from a drug overdose, speculation persists because an autopsy was never performed.

Before his death, Morrison often joked about faking his own death, which has fueled the fire for conspiracy theorists ever since.

While some claim that he succumbed to tuberculosis, others contend that Morrison didn’t die in Paris at all, and that his body was transported to Paris to fool fans.

Having been disowned by his military family, Morrison was buried in Père Lachaise in Paris, alongside Chopin, Oscar Wilde and Edith Piaf. Today his gravestone is perpetually vandalized by fans who flock to visit the site from around the world.

Dean Reed

Dean Reed, a former teen idol from Colorado, drowned near his home in East Germany on June 13, 1986.

Although he never gained much notoriety in the U.S., Reed became popular in Latin America before permanently settling in East Germany. He worked as an actor, director and musician behind the iron curtain for a number of years, and despite his left-wing politics, he often referenced his love of America in his music. He later became known as “The Red Elvis.”

After an interview on 60 Minutes in which he defended the construction of the Berlin Wall, he received hate mail from fans who called him traitor and belittled his talent. Reed was found dead six weeks later. Although fans in East Germany claim that his death was a suicide, his family (who live in the U.S.) believes that Reed was murdered.

Nancy Spungen & Sid Vicious

Groupie Nancy Spungen met Sex Pistols bass player Sid Vicious in 1977. They shared a heroin addiction and a rocky relationship, both of which contributed to the band’s disintegration.

After the Pistols’s break-up, Vicious and Spungen moved into the Hotel Chelsea. On October 12, 1978, Spungen was found dead on the bathroom floor of a stab wound to the abdomen, which was later traced to a knife owned by Vicious. Vicious was charged with murder. Though some of Vicious’s comments after her death have been taken as a confession, the exact circumstances of Spungen’s death have never been determined, and Sex Pistols lead singer Johnny Rotten has maintained Vicious’s innocence.

There are several theories about who else may have killed Spungen, including two drug dealers that allegedly visited the hotel room during the night. While out on bail in February 1979, Vicious died of a heroin overdose that may or may not have been a suicide.

Tupac Shakur

The world’s best-selling hip-hop artist died in 1996, six days after a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.

Ten years later, police have yet to formally charge anyone with the murder or identify any suspects
to the public. However, there are more than a few conspiracy theorists who maintain that Shakur faked his own death and is alive and in hiding.

Theorists cite everything from the bizarre Seven Day Theory to lyrics on 1998’s “God Bless The Dead,” indicating he may have outlived Notorious B.I.G. (who was killed six months after Shakur). All we know is that ’Pac sure had a lot of unreleased tapes—he has now released as many albums while dead as alive—and whetherhe’s really dropping rhymes from beyond the grave or from a modest beach home in the Caribbean is anybody’s guess.

—Sources: Wikipedia and

Wave your pumpkin in the air like you just don’t care

Halloween music isn’t all about scaring your neighbours. Sometimes it’s about street cred—and it’s hard out here for a pimp werewolf.

Now that “Thriller” is less scary than the real Michael Jackson and special-effects-filled slasher flicks make actual monster-related violence less shocking, the only way for creatures of the night to scare their hip, urban victims is with some sick rhymes—like the ones Halifax improv duo Picnicface and a few of their friends drop on “Monster Rap.”

“Monster Rap” reveals the true fate of Ma$e, the impact of Tupac’s death on the gangster vampire community, and explores some anatomical issues for Frankenstein’s monster that may never have occurred to you before. You can watch the video online at

Queen’s graduate Steve McKay also explores Halloween gore—the gore of a broken heart—in his new song “Carving the Pumpkin.” McKay will open for Elliott Brood at The Grad Club on November 9, but you can hear “Carving the Pumpkin” now at

Meghan Harrison

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