HomeArtists10 Famous Guitarists Who Died Young

10 Famous Guitarists Who Died Young

The life of the rich and influential is something only a tiny fraction of humans will know for much of their life. 

But the feeling of isolation, sadness, stress, pressure, even turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms to escape problems and escape in general is universal. 

Some of these deaths are accidental, and that doesn’t make it any less or more tragic. 

Here, we talk about ten deaths of legendary guitarists that left their footprint and legacy extending to today even though they left us earlier.


Nick Drake

One of the best self-taught guitarists posthumously known for his various acoustic-guitar-based songs, Nick Drake, did not garner much fame in his lifetime mainly due to his hesitation to be interviewed and perform live. 

Nick Drake signed into a record company at 20 years old while still studying English Literature at Cambridge. 

Cited as an inspiration to several future musicians like Kate Bush and The Cure’s Robert Smith, the band’s name is taken from a lyric from Nick Drake’s song Time Has Told Me. 

Rolling Stone also included Nick Drake’s discography to its 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. 

Nick Drake died on November 25, 1974, suffering from depression; his death is still being disputed to either an accidental overdose or a suicide. 


Hillel Slovak

Hillel Slovak

Credited as the founding guitarist of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hillel Slovak is a significant influence in the band’s earlier style up to today. 

Hillel Slovak was Israeli-American, moving to America in 1967, where he met his future bandmates at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. 

Hillel Slovak’s guitar style is heavily based on funk elements, so much improvisation and experimentation were with sultry features were ingrained on his time back on the band. 

When Hillel Slovak died due to a drug overdose at the young age of 26 on June 25, 1988, the band likened the process of finding Slovak’s replacement “like finding a mom and dad.”


Clifford Lee Burton

One of the most excellent bassists ever produced by the 90s, Clifford Lee Burton, was a bassist for the number one heavy metal band Metallica

He was listed on the Rolling Stone’s reader poll for the best bassist of all time going at 9th. 

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame posthumously inducted Burton together with the rest of Metallica in 2009. 

Burton died in a bus crash that ended his life at 24 years old.  


Randy Rhoades

Randy Rhoades

Credited for inspiring the metal subgenre of neoclassical metal, Randy Rhoads was only 25 when he died an ill-timed death in a plane crash. 

Randy Rhoads played with Quiet Riot and reached the peak of his musical career when he played for Ozzy in an audition and subsequently being a part of the band Blizzard of Ozz. 

You could hear the best of Randy Rhoads in the track Crazy Train and My. Crowley, both were placed at 9th and 28th on Guitar World’s list of 100 Greatest Guitar Solos. 

The last conversation Ozzy had with Rhoads was where the guitarist was cautioning him about his heavy drinking. 

Randy Rhoads died instantly the next day, losing a great in the heavy metal guitarists’ seat. 


Duane Allman

Duane Allman

Rolling Stone named this legendary guitarist the number 2 greatest of all time; Duanne Allman’s skills are renowned and in-demand, serving as a session musician for Aretha Franklin, King Curtis, and more before and during his active band years. 

The de facto leader of the Allman Brothers Band he founded when he was 23 years old, Allman is recalled because of his slide guitar playing and original improvisational skills. 

Aside from being a gifted guitar player, Duane is also known for his drive and capability to influence his bandmates to give their best in making music, as his brother remembers. 

Duane Allman was in a motorcycle accident that ended his life; he was 24 years old at that time. 


Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley

 Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead was supposedly recorded in inspiration after seeing Jeff Buckley perform live at a concert. 

Jeff Buckley garnered most of his fame posthumously with Rolling Stone, including his debut album Grace in their list of 500 Greatest Album of all Time and greatest singers.

Jeff Buckley also entered the charts posthumously with his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah topping the charts in March of 2008. 

He died at the age of 30 on May 29, 1997, in a spontaneous swim at the Mississippi River in an accidental drowning. 


Brian Jones

Brian Jones

Credited as the founder of the rock band Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was a multi-instrumentalist who played various instruments for the band both in recording and concert. 

Jones and Rolling Stone guitarist Keith Richardson played the guitar where both played the rhythm and lead parts together, developing the sound to be uniquely and purely Rolling Stones’. 

Brian Jones’ alienation from the band started when Andrew Oldham entered the picture, with his managerial position and his blues band slowly turning into another direction. 

His girlfriend left him for his fellow bandmate Richardson, conflicts arose, and he soon increased drug use; he was fired from the band and was found dead only a month later. 

He died in July 1969 due to drowning; he was 27. 


Buddy Holly

Buddy Holly

The pioneering figure of 50s rock and roll ensemble, influencing The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and so much more, Buddy Holly was gone too soon. 

After opening Elvis’s show for him, with Elvis lending his guitar for Buddy Holly to use in 1955, he decided to pursue music full-time. 

He earned his break with the release of the album The “Chirping” Crickets and since then made another appearance in the Ed Sullivan Show followed by a World Tour to the UK and Australia. 

On February  3, 1959, Buddy Holly died in a plane crash en route to his next gig in Minnesota, together with the pilot and two of his bandmates Richie Valens and J.P Richardson. 

Holly was 22, Valens was 17, and Richardson was 24. 


Stevie Ray Vaughn

Stevie Ray Vaughn

He is known as one of the most influential musicians in Southern blues, one of the most prominent guitarists of all time. 

Stevie Ray Vaughan came into prominence when David Bowie discovered him playing at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and since then, collaborating on a song with Vaughan playing his guitar. 

He reached mainstream success with his debut album Texas Flood and has since been at the forefront of blues revival in the 1980s. 

Vaughan was grievously killed in a helicopter crash in Wisconsin on August 27, 1990; he was just 35.


Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix2

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame hailed Jimi Hendrix as one of the most outstanding artists in the integrated history of Rock and Roll.

He was first touring with Little Richards, then with Curtis Knight and the Squires before moving back to England to form his trio, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

He broke with America with his performance in the Monterey Pop Festival and gained a cult following with the counterculture of that time.

He’s also known for headlining the historic 1969 Woodstock before dying due to a drug overdose in London.

Jimi Hendrix was 27 years old at that time.

Also Read: 10 Best Guitar Players of All Time



These guitarists are well-loved around the world for their talent and guitar playing skills.

Moreover, they had colorful careers and lives, which even the years to come will never be forgotten.

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