The recent passing of David Bowie and Glenn Frey got me wondering about the life expectancy of people who make their living making music. Sadly, in one study I read about, it was discovered that pop musicians tend to live up to 25 years less on average than the remainder of us. They also tend to die due to accidents, suicide and/or homicide.
I’m not big on studies. Just read my post regarding my thoughts on studies and you can see how I feel about them. So I’m putting anything about “studies” aside. Because these “studies” get into the psychological nature of “why” rock stars end up like they do (i.e., they were abused as children, witnessed abuse, etc.). Although that may be the case with some, it isn’t with all of them.
I’ve always had a theory that rock stars do not live very long lives and lately that theory seems to be correct. Of course there is the infamous “27 club”, of which not one member died sober. They seem to be an exception. If we take the average age of the four most recent rock/pop star deaths (Lemmy, Bowie, Frey and Natalie Cole—70, 69, 67 and 65 respectively at their time of death), you get 67 and three-quarters. Even if I threw in Scott Weilland, who passed away late last year from a drug overdose at age 48, it still would average out to about 64. Is this to say that quite possibly the average life span for most musicians is roughly the mid to late sixties? It’s beginning to look that way. Unfortunately for music lovers, a great majority of musicians fit into this age bracket. Of course they are part of the greatest population: Baby Boomers.
On the up side, there is the “70 club” which includes the likes of most of the Rolling Stones (including Richards and Jagger), Bob Dylan, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, Pete Townsend, Paul McCartney and Tina Turner. Of course you don’t really hear much new music from these artists, maybe a tour from the Stones here and there, but hey, they’re still kicking.
Let’s not forget the ones who died by no fault of their own (see homicide above as a cause of death). Then there are some rock stars that just make you shake your head because, hey, they should’ve been dead years ago (see accidents and suicide above as a cause of death). They are the ones the music muse is truly shining on.
So what makes one rock star die from cancer at 67 while his 66-year-old peers are releasing new albums and doing tours? Did the one that died live a more crazy life? Did he smoke more pot, drink more booze, screw more women? Did any of that come into play in their eventual death? Why are they mainly men? Did the women miss the boat or just didn’t party hard enough?
I guess it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is what the artist gives us while they are here. That’s the great thing about musicians. Even after they die their music lives forever.