Five Famous Rock Stars Killed by Alcohol

When we think of rocks stars dying young – people like Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, Phil Lynott or Janis Joplin – it’s usually because of hardcore drug use and it’s a long, long list of those who departed. But many rock stars have died way too young because of their addiction to alcohol and drinking. Here are five famous rockers who died from the bottle

John Bonham

Led Zeppelin’s drummer and resident fun guy, John Bonham died on Sept. 25, 1980 at the age of 32. Bonham was well-known for his drinking prowess, and ultimately, it cost him his life. With the band gathered at guitarist Jimmy Page’s house for US tour rehearsals, Bonzo began binging early in the day on Sept. 24. He was still going into the evening until he finally passed out. He was put to bed by his and Page’s assistant, but never woke up. The bands manager tried to wake him in the morning, but found no pulse. Bonham ended up choking on his own vomit and his death was ruled accidental. Reports showed he’d consumed the equivalent of 40 ounces of vodka in 12 hours. Bonham’s death marked the end of Led Zeppelin.

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Bon Scott

Just as AC/DC was reaching the top of the hard rock mountain in 1980, the band found itself without a singer after Bon Scott choked to death on his vomit on Feb. 19, 1980. The band was working on the Back in Black album in London. On the night of Feb. 18, he and Alistair Kinnear were drinking in a pub called the Music Machine. The story goes Scott passed out in Kinnear’s car on the way home, so Kinnear left the singer in the vehicle. Scott threw up in his sleep and choked to death. The coroner deemed he died because of acute alcohol poisoning. He was 33 years old. Brian Johnson replaced him in AC/DC on April 1 and Back in Black was released in July, 1980.

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Steve Clark

Steve Clark was Def Leppard’s guitarist and one of their main songwriters. He was a longtime alcoholic who had been trying to sober up when he died on Jan. 8, 1991 at the age of 30. At the time, he was on an official leave of absence from the band so he could get cleaned up. However, he would never play with Def Leppard again. Clark died in his Chelsea home after a night at the local pub. He died in his sleep and an autopsy confirmed the cause of death was compression of the brain stem – which caused respiratory failure – due to excessive alcohol mixed with anti-depressants and pain killers.

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Jeff Hanneman

Like Steve Clark, Jeff Hanneman is another guitarist who died too young. The Slayer co-founder was 49 when he lost his life due to alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, on May 2, 2013. But it was a spider bite which ultimately led to Hanneman’s demise. A couple of years before he died, he developed necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease) in his arm. It was treated with antibiotics, but Hanneman simply couldn’t play guitar the way he wanted to anymore. That led to him drinking more and more, going into a tailspin (he’d also been drinking heavily since his father died in 2008). Hanneman died in hospital.

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Jani Lane

Many will remember Lane as the lead singer for 1980s metal band Warrant. August 11, 2011 from acute alcohol poisoning. The man who wrote “Cherry Pie” was found dead alone at a Comfort Inn in Woodlands, Calif., surrounded by bottles of booze and containers of prescription pills. He embraced alcohol and the rock lifestyle even long after the short-lived fame of his band, but did make attempts to sober up. He even went on the VH1 reality show Celebrity Fit Club 2. But he was never able to put down his demons. Lane was 47 years old.

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Check out more of Cam Maxwell’s Rock ‘N Roll Insight.

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