Hear Other

Random Tragedies? Or Rock ‘n Roll Curses?

led zeppelin

Since its inception, rock and roll music drew the ire of parents of young teens, creating a moral panic for those who saw it as the core of rebellion. By the 1980s, a satanic panic had stirred a flurry of accusations of ritual abuse by rock and roll bands and over the years, several rock icons met with bad luck endings, many of which were blamed on hexes, spells, and curses.

Perhaps the most familiar is the “Twenty-Seven Club” curse. Singers and musicians of all genres have passed away at age 27 since the late 1930s. Sending shockwaves throughout the music culture, Jimi Hendrix, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died at age 27 within just a four-year span (1969-1971). Of course, many go on to live long lives but that does not stop people from believing there is such a thing as a curse.

Robert Johnson and The Crossroads Pact

Legend has it that blues musician Robert Johnson carried his guitar to a Mississippi crossroads at midnight where he met a man (the devil) who took the guitar and tuned it. After playing a couple of songs, he handed it back to Johnson. This “trick of the devil” supposedly gave the musician enviable musical skills. The curse arose after Johnson died in 1938 at age 27 from possible poisoning. However, in 2006, one medical practitioner suggested that photographs showing Johnson’s “unnaturally long fingers” and “one bad eye,” may indicate he had Marfan syndrome, which could have affected his guitar playing and contributed to his death due to aortic dissection.

Ironically, other artists who covered Johnson’s song “Crossroads” saw great sorrow. Cream split up shortly after covering the song and Eric Clapton struggled with alcohol and drug addiction and later witnessed his four-year-old son’s tragic death.

Lynyrd Skynrd and The Crossroads Curse

In 1976, Lynyrd Skynrd also covered “Crossroads.” Soon, things took a downward spiral. Guitarists Allen Collins and Gary Rossington nearly died in separate car crashes in 1976. However, Collins was involved in another accident in 1986 which left him paralyzed from the waist down. The worst fate came at the height of the band’s popularity in 1977 when their plane crashed in a heavily forested area in Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gains, and band manager Dean Kilpatrick all perished. Surviving original members, all of whom have since died, struggled with addiction and emotional trauma for years.

Led Zepplin’s Faustian Bargain 

Not long after Led Zepplin formed in 1968, a rumor surfaced that three of the four members (John Bonham, Jimmy Page, and Robert Plant) made a deal with the devil in exchange for fame. Though the British rockers did achieve stardom and there is no proof any such deal was made, those three bandmates did experience some suffering. Bonham died of asphyxiation in 1980 which resulted in disbanding Led Zepplin. Page struggled for a decade with controlled substance addiction. Plant was unable to walk for a period of time following his involvement in a serious car crash and later, his young son died from a mysterious stomach virus.

Harry Nilsson’s Jinxed Apartment

A distraught Harry Nilsson sold his fashionable Mayfair, London flat following the deaths of two friends he had lent the space to. In 1974, “Mama” Cass Elliot died in the apartment due to heart failure, and four years later, The Who drummer, Keith Moon, died there as well from an accidental overdose. Both were 32.

Waylon Jennings and the Buddy Holly Curse

In 1959, Buddy Holly and other musicians boarded a plane headed for their next concert. With few seats available, Waylon Jennings, Holly’s bassist, opted to take the bus so that an ailing J. P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson could have his seat. Reportedly, Holly joked, “I hope your ol’ bus freezes up!” Jennings jokingly replied, “I hope your ol’ plane crashes!” Sadly, the plane did crash, and Jennings carried guilt and grief for the remainder of his life.

Some fans believe the curse is real because those associated with Holly also met a bitter end. Holly’s wife Maria, who was pregnant when he died, suffered a miscarriage. One year after the crash, close friend and fellow artist Eddie Cochran died in an auto accident at age 21. The Buddy Holly Story screenwriter Robert Gittler committed suicide in 1978, two days before the theatrical release. Perhaps the most ironic incident of them all is the death of Keith Moon who died of an overdose after watching The Buddy Holly Story on September 7, 1978, which was also Holly’s birthday.

-Sharon Oliver

Photo: Led Zeppelin (Getty Images)

Other Posts You Might Like

1 comment on “Random Tragedies? Or Rock ‘n Roll Curses?

  1. Wow. Jaw-dropping, Sharon. Particularly “Nilsson’s Jinxed Apartment”. I’d heard about this one. Beyond our human comprehension.

    WAY beyond…

Leave a Reply (and please be kind!)