Six More Mysterious Musical Deaths We'd Like to See Reopened

Original Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool 40 years ago. It was declared "death by misadventure," a cause of death that probably didn't come as a shock to those who had been aware of Jones' steady descent into drug addiction over the preceding years, as well as his recent departute/dismissal from the Stones.

This week, however, police in Sussex announced they will be reexamining the case based on as-yet undisclosed new evidence. Though it's certainly odd to reopen a case 40 years after the fact, the circumstances surrounding Jones' death have always been considered suspicious. That murder wasn't seriously pursued at the time is testament either to the authorities' unwillingness to delve too deeply into the demise of a troublemaking rock-and-roller or to Winnie the Pooh's influence on the British government (Jones' house used to be owned by A.A. Milne).

So we at Rocks Off welcome the news. And since we're on the subject, here are a few more mysterious musical deaths that bear a closer look.

Bobby Fuller (1942-1966)

Life Story in 10 Words Or Less: Baytown native scores with song about perils of aggavated robbery.

Official Cause of Death: "Accidental asphyxiation," in spite of considerable evidence that Fuller was beaten and doused with gasoline.

What May Have Actually Happened: Record-label execs with mob connections wanted to cash in on Fuller's considerable life-insurance policy by having him whacked. That, or the ghost of Buddy Holly exacted unholy vengenace to keep Fuller from continuing to record Crickets songs.

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

Life Story in 10 Words Or Less: Sweater-clad grunge pioneer mopes, shoots up, marries poorly.

Official Cause of Death: Suicide by overdose and "contact perforating shotgun wound to the head."

What May Have Actually Happened: Several people have tried to unearth a conspiracy to murder Cobain. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield, in his documentary Kurt and Courtney, interviews Eldon Hoke, spokesperson for a band called the Mentors, who claimed Cobain's wife Courtney Love offered him $50,000 to kill Cobain. Hoke was conveniently hit by a train shortly after this assertion. The movement persists, because it's inconceivable that a heroin addict with bipolar disorder would ever take his own life, apparently.

Notorious B.I.G. (1972-1997)/ Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)

Life Story in 10 Words Or Less: The most famous casualties of the Bi-Coastal Rap Wars.

Official Cause of Death: Homicide by drive-by shooting, in both cases.

What May Have Actually Happened: That Biggie and Tupac were murdered is not in dispute. What no one can seem to agree on is who's resposible for the killings. Biggie and the Bad Boy crew were implicated in Tupac's death from the get-go, while everyone from Suge Knight to the Crips have beed tied to Biggie's murder. For some strange reason, law-enforcement agencies don't seem too compelled to solve either case.

Elliott Smith (1969-2003)

Life Story in 10 Words Or Less: "I heard that Good Will Hunting song guy killed himself."

Official Cause of Death: Intially ruled a suicide (by stabbing himself in the chest...twice), the autopsy left open the possibility Smith was murdered.

What May Have Actually Happened: Smith's girlfriend Jennifer Chiba reported finding Smith with a knife sticking out of his chest. I'm not saying stabbing yourself to death is unheard of, but one would assume a former drug addict and successful musician would have access to much less painful ways of offing himself. Or maybe he was the 7th ronin.

Richey James Edwards (1967-1995?)

Life Story in 20 Words Or Less: Manic Street Preacher becomes Missing (possibly Suicidal) Person.

Official Cause of Death: None. Edwards went missing in 1995 and was declared "presumed dead" in 2008.

What May Have Actually Happened: The MSP guitarist was schedule to fly to the United States the day he disappeared, with no clues to his whereabouts until his car was discovered abandoned near the Severn Bridge in Gloucestershire. Hopes that he had taken a low-key job as toll attendant dwindled over the ensuing years.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar