Michael Jackson's death has been everything you might expect from the self-proclaimed "King Of Pop." It's big. It's universal. It's everywhere. It doesn't go away. It makes a lasting impact on people who were moved in life by the music. Fans know how the story ends, so to speak. Sure, there will be no shortage of posthumous material and Jackson may become more popular in death than he was in his final decade on the planet when years of bad publicity and an inevitable fall from the top took their toll. After all, when you're on the top, you have nowhere to go but down. Don't I know it! (Well, I've read this happens.)
Like regular people, musicians die all the time. Ranking deaths isn't really one of my preferred activities. Just about all deaths bum me out. But some are more death-like than others. They resonate deeper because they represent something somehow. Sometimes it's a young performer people were just getting to know. Sometimes it's someone we were hoping would make a comeback. And sometimes it's somebody we just felt something personal for.
There are only a few here beyond argument. The rest could be booted out for someone you prefer. But we got to start somewhere.
10) Joey Ramone: The three main Ramones all died within a few years of each other making it feel like a greater conspiracy. Plenty of punk rockers checked out early, but Joey was hardly a live-fast, die-young type. He had a love for the music and a dedication towards doing it the Ramones way. He went beyond music and became an icon for geeks and misfits everywhere. Gabba Gabba Hey, indeed.
Warren Zevon: Warren Zevon learned he had terminal lung cancer and he turned it into his last career move, recording and documenting his final album with songs that reflected his last days. His version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" might not be the definitive version, but it's one being sung by someone who knows of what he sings. Eerie.
8) Keith Moon--John Bonham: Two legendary drummers who lived as big and noisy as their sound. The Who soldiered on and were never the same. Led Zeppelin packed it in. While their deaths didn't rattle the national scene, their passings did feel as if there was a conspiracy against drummers who liked to drink. Not that this sobered many people up. But it made drummers think between drum rolls.
Jeff Buckley: Judging by the cult following he keeps to this day, Jeff Buckley was surely a major shock to the system when he died releasing one studio album and barely reaching 30. Not even drugs and alcohol but a weird drowning in a river. At first, it sounded like a bizarre publicity stunt. But when the realization hit that it was for real, it made you wonder about the randomness of it all. It makes you nervous that you might park the car in the wrong place. Or stand in the wrong line.
6) Tupac--Biggie Smalls: Gangsta Rap depended on "keeping it real" but this was ridiculous. Real men killed in the line of duty? Fans surely would've accepted a little less authenticity if they could've kept both rappers alive. Method acting is one thing. This is another.
Marvin Gaye: This one was too weird. Marvin Gaye was killed by his own father with a handgun Junior bought him just a few months prior. Gaye was only 44.
4) Jimi Hendrix: One of the biggest wastes. If any one musician had more music in him at the time of his death it would be Jimi Hendrix. Unlike so many other "rock" musicians, Hendrix could easily assimilate into any genre and surely would've kept making challenging music for at least a little while longer. Eventually he would've repeated himself and made some questionable moves, but at 27 he was too young for death or mediocrity.
Bob Marley: Sure, Bob Marley is now a legend whose music can be heard sifting through dormitory walls and places where a sweet sense of perfume comes drifting through the air. He's a weird phenomenon, more famous in death and more mainstream than he actually was at the time. Everyone's heard of him. Everyone's been at a party where his music gets played. Yet he still maintains an "outlaw" and underground status.
2) Elvis Presley: It's truly eerie to see the similarities between Michael Jackson and Elvis. Both died with personal Xanadus that couldn't shield them from their inner emptiness. Both turned to pharmaceuticals to quell their inner demons and allow them to drift into the relief found in sleep. Both have fans who operate beyond basic fandom and both lost their basic freedoms at the cost of the fame they thought they wanted.
John Lennon: The main reason John Lennon tops this list and not Elvis is simply because Lennon played no hand in his own death. Elvis might have had another comeback in him. We'll never know for sure. But Lennon was on his way to re-finding at least some portion of his incredible talent. He didn't die isolated. He died walking to his apartment after a night at the recording studio. A deranged fan did the unthinkable and history is forever rewritten with poorer results.