back to article Why oh why do rock stars die young?

Liverpool John Moores University has evidently opened its own department of the bleedin' obvious by revealing that rock and pop stars often die prematurely because of their penchant for a fast-track lifestyle fuelled by drugs and booze, The Daily Telegraph reports. The uni's study of 1,050 US and European artists discovered …


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  1. Gordon


    Of course it could simply be that these kids are suddenly handed huge amounts of money (which can buy practically ANYTHING), and removed from the civilising influence of their familys to go touring.

    Plus it's generally in keeping with the creative personality type to experiment!

  2. Andy

    Someone actually got paid to do this.

    Also - why on earth did the BPI feel the need to respond? Was their spokesman just bored or something?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just Say No

    "Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example."

    Presumably the best example that Keith Richards, Mark E Smith, Shaun Ryder and Shane McGowan could set is to immediately die. As long as they continue to live people will believe that a diet of cigarettes, alcohol, pork chops, fast living, more alcohol, different types of alcohol, snorting your father's ashes etc is perfectly acceptable.

    I dare you to do a Google image search for "Shaun Ryder", and select "large" images. Almost the first shot you get is a huge close-up picture of his teeth (he has had some dental work done). It is the most horrible picture I have seen. It is the most horrible thing I can comprehend. If it was any more horrible, it would paradoxically not be horrible at all, because it would overwhelm my ability to experience horror.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What about the ones that didn't die yet?

    This seems to be the same garbage argument I saw a few years ago, albeit then without the veneer of respectability, obtained by association with a university (of sorts).

    It says the European rock stars die at an average of 35 years old. Of course they don't. The figure of 35 is obtained by averaging the ages of all the stars who died young, and probably only includes those who died while still famous. It omits the very many stars who haven't died yet (most 70s rock stars are only 50-65 now and even the 60s ones aren't too ancient) and probably omits those who have died aged 40- or 50-something, but had faded into obscurity by then.

    I rather suspect that rock stars do, on average, die younger than people in many other walks of life, and it would be a good idea if today's young stars cut down on the excess, but this "study" doesn't prove it. Junk "science", used for political purposes, yet again.

  5. Matthew Anderson


    Jimi Hendrix anyone?

    How can you forget Jimi!!!??????

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Shoddy Research..

    Even Wikipedia knows that Tupac Shakur was a rap star, not a rock star.

  7. Rich Silver badge

    Drugs and booze kiils off rock stars early

    No shit ?!

  8. Gav


    The Rolling Stones' ages have nothing to do with it, as presumably. they are not dead yet, and so would not form part of the figures.

    You also need to keep in mind that one quarter of them is a member of the undead, and will never die.

  9. Gordon Ross Silver badge

    The IT Angle is... ?

    Er, and what's the IT angle here ? I thought this was El Reg, not "Hello !"

    Young people who come into a lot of fame and money when young die early. Hmmm. I can see that applying to lots of people in the IT industry.

  10. Cameron Colley

    Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages?

    Why should stars do this?

    Surely the job of a "rock star" is to produce good music? Anything else should be irrelevant.

  11. Les Matthew

    Re: Shoddy Research..

    "Rock Star" crack comes in rocks. Get it?

  12. Dave Murray

    Rock Stars != Boring Professors

    "professor Mark Bellis, commented: "Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour among their emulators and fans. Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example.""

    Piss off back to your ivory tower Mark. We don't want our rock stars to become as boring as university professors. Rock stars are supposed to be like Lemmy who still drinks JD in a pint glass.

  13. Hein Kruger


    "Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour among their emulators and fans. Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example."

    Utter bollocks!

    Surely it wouldn't be rock'n'roll without the all the sex, drugs, alcohol and "health-damaging" behaviour?

  14. Simon Reed

    But, isn't that what they're for?

    I thought the purpose of being a rock 'n' roll star was to be perpetually out of your head and having to beat groupies off with a stick? I reckon it's their job to live the dream for the rest of us. If dying before they get old is the price, isn't that what comes of burning your candle at both ends with a blow torch?

    A music journalist told a story on Radio 2 a couple of years ago about a conversation with Francis Rossi of Status Quo. (I probably have some details wrong but it's the point that matters.)

    He had asked Rossi whether he was upset about not being invited to perform at Live 8, given the Quo had opened Live Aid.

    "Live Aid?" says Rossi. "No, we weren't there."

    "Yes you were" says the journalist.

    After some debate the journalist digs out a video of the event and put it on.

    After a few moments Rossi says: "Oh yeah. I remember being at the party afterwards and Mick Jagger and I were dancing on a table but fell off because we were so drunk. But I don't remember performing."

    So there we have one of the greatest living legends in rock history who opened the biggest gig in the world ever ... and he was so off his face at the time that he cannot remember even being there.

    As the journalist said ...

    ... now THAT'S Rock 'n' Roll!

  15. Steve Evans

    Good greif...

    Doesn't have to be a rock star, take almost anyone, give them a huge wedge of cash and fame and then sit back and watch what happens...

    1) Fast cars... Splat

    2) Drugs & Alcohol... Insert huge list here

    Then of course, if you manage to survive the drugs and fast cars, you will of course have collected a throng of groupies*, who, being the famous person that you are, you'll bonk left right and centre... And invariably you'll catch something, and given the amount of bonking you've done, it'll probably be a really nasty fatal one.

    The fact that Cliff Richard avoids all the above, and it still alive at 762 really proves it all. QED, where's my degree?

    * Personally I believe the collective noun for groupies should be a thong.

  16. Simon Westerby

    @Gav: Undead = Dead

    Well, most (if not all) undead will have been dead at some point and therefore should already count !!

    Queue argumement about undead

  17. Olly Molyneux

    @Simon Reed

    lol Status Quo are about as rock 'n' roll as tea and scones. I actually wish they'd followed the trend, so wonderfully highlighted by this crappy research, a little more closely.

  18. Dom

    The Stones?

    That's not the Rolling Stones you see on stage, it's the Stepford Stones.

  19. Phil

    How about some research?

    It would be (slightly) more interesting to know if the later generations are less likely to die young than those who hit their fame in the pre-1975 period. It might also be (slightly) more useful to discover if there's any common factor between the ones who did all the sex, drugs and R'n'R, but didn't die. Obviously not getting shot is a big help, but that still doesn't explain Keef.

    But, I suppose that would require some academic level of enquiry, rather than a primary school project.

  20. Daniel

    @ Olly

    It seems you think the to be a rock star you must do drugs and drink large amounts.

    Its a preconception that all rock stars must do these things in order to be classed as such.

    And about the "experimenting" idea being just to the creative side, there are more people out there with no creative bone in thier body and still do drugs and drink.

    Its more likely bordom and social enviroment (I see him doing it, i must do it). However i have never smoked a cigarette in my life (I have never felt the urge too either, even though a lot of people in my life time have smoked around me).

    So just because Status Quo/Dire Straights give out that aura of good boys, doesnt mean they are not rock stars.

  21. Chewy

    F*ck that I want my rock stars dead

    (c) Bill Hicks

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amy who?

    "How can you forget Jimi!!!??????"

    Indeed. Or Bon Scott. And what the hell is Kurt Cobain there for???? I believe he shot himself in the face? I hesitate to say "nothing whatsoever", but you know, it was suicide, nothing to do with drugs n' alcohol! If you were hooked up to Courtney Love what would you do?

    Amy Whinehouse? Never heard of her. Oh, except from all the hype around her taking drugs. And why hasn't that twat from the Libertines died yet?

  23. A. Merkin

    Share the Health

    Yet another arguement for a more equitable distribution of royaltees.

    Let the small artists keep more of the money they make for the majors, instead of redistributing it all to the "superstars".

  24. James Anderson

    Something fishy here--

    List of dead USian rock and rollers you can real off in five seconds,

    Jimi, Janice , Kurt, Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Gerry Garcia and all the Grateful Deads keybord players plus pigpen ..........

    List of really old british rock stars famous for R+R abusive lifestyle:-

    Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Elton John, David Bowie, Lemmy, Bruce Dickensen etc.

    List of oldish dead british rock stars:-

    John Lennon, Fredie Mercury etc.

    List of died really young British rock stars:-

    Sid Vicious ....... & err Maddi Prior maybe.

    These findings contradict common sense. But then again

    "Rock Star", "Died Young" are both very subjective terms so

    it wouldnt be too hard to juggle the parameters to come up with whatever answer you wanted.

  25. Ian

    @Gordon Ross

    The IT angle is that, if you work in IT, your salary almost garantees a lifestyle that will keep you living to see the far side of 100.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overlooking the Bleeding Obvious

    So let me get this straight....

    What this study scienfically and conclusively officially points out is that musicians and celebritards who earn lots of money abuse drugs and alcohol and live outragious imoral lifestyles leading to trouble with the law and/or an early untimely death.

    So what you are saying is that the success of these celebrities leads to the influx of vast sums of money that is then channelled towards funding the supply of drugs and alcohol, fueling outragious and often antisocial and criminal behaviour that often leads to the death or demise of the celebrity in question which in turn jepordises (sometimes down right terminally ceases - however not in the case of Tupak, Elvis and John Lennon) future works and supporting a cartel of record companies who sue their own customers.

    Let me think about this for a moment

    Results from other scientifically and conclusively official research also tells us that buying counterfit DVDs and CDs, file sharing on P2P and downloading movies illegally leads to deprivation of those involved, the jepordising of future works and the funding of criminal gangs and terrorist organisations

    Dont see the difference really only that counterfit DVDs and CDs are cheeper than the real thing and file sharing is free.

    I suppose if they had less money they would live longer

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The IT Angle....

    Pointless banal study inadvertantly prooves that bittorent and P2P promote a healthy, moral and substance abuse free lifestyle for rock gods the world over leading to a longer carear for those that are genuinely talented.


  28. Chewy

    Kurt Cobain

    I think his death was more likely to be attributed to him being bi polar, but that isn't very rock n roll is it?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now we have the proof...

    Quick, get shit loads of drugs, as much alcohol as you can carry and round up all the hookers in town.

    I know where Cliff Richards and the Beddingfields live.

    Lets go round there and get them wasted, high and laid before they try and release any more crap records.

  30. Mark Crack

    Maddy's not dead

    James A - Assuming you meant maddy Prior you gave me on hell of a shock! Just checked she's alive and still gigging.

    As for the mighty Quo - perfect proof that once yiou have enough cash you can live the rock'n'roll lifestyle long after you've stopped being rock'n'roll

  31. Keith Turner

    Artistes, eh?!

    It is not unknown for those who would always be slightly off to one side of society to embrace the arts in one form or another.

    Maybe the survey should be extended to other branches.

    But, a few have slipped through the net. Folks like George Melly and Willie Nelson have either lived a fair bit or are still going. Plant and Page both resemble dried fruit these days

    ( Lowell George and Keith Moon need to go on the list of burn-outs or die, too)

  32. Keith Williams

    The IT angle is that, if you work in IT,

    your salary almost garantees a lifestyle that will keep you WORKING to see the far side of 100.

  33. JimC

    Not Maddy Prior

    Presumably you mean Sandy Denny...

  34. Mike Holden

    Maddy Prior ...

    ... will be as surprised as the rest of us to find out she is dead (and died young at that), given that she is currently on tour, aged at least 50 (neither wikipedia or her official web site give her year of birth, but I'm guessing around 1950 since she was working as a musician in the late sixties, presumably as a late teenager or early twenties)!

    Maybe you meant Sandy Denny, who died in 1978 aged 31?

  35. Thomas Jerome

    White Line Fever

    Steve Howe, like the majority of his Yes bandmates, pursued a healthy-living vegetarian diet for most of his career, and is roughly ten years older than Mark E Smith. However (no pun intended) they both now look like Gollum, which one would expect MES to given his near continual diet of lager, bar snacks and amphetamines.

    Dave Murray also correctly points out that Lemmy isnt dead yet.

  36. Andy Enderby

    has anyone else.....

    ....noticed the differential in life expectancy between european and stateside celebs. Perhaps the originators are angling for funding for more detailed research that shows the link between superior strength european booze and substances ?

    I'll get my coat.

  37. Luther Blissett

    Why oh why don't academics die young?

    I think you'll find academics are taking more out of your pocket than rock'n'roll stars - could it be the real purpose of the "research" to disguise that fact? You'll also find the average academic knows just enough statistics to drive around SPSS's menus, or whatever their favoured sausage machine is, and no more. Grants => sausage machine => research (multiple layers of quotes omitted for clarity).

    You want Real research? Try Xerox Palo Alto. Try any IBM lab. Try, well, I'm sure you can think of almost anywhere. Von Neumann architecture? Pretty simple concept. Took a whole lot more getting to a Core2Quad from there though.

    It's funny how since we have had Real research being done mostly inside huge commercial outfits, academic research has got to look more and more like a simulation of research. Just as real science disappears, so we have the rise of the Boffins to compensate. Fair do, or what?

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other news

    The sky is blue and the sea is wet and salty.

    I think I'll have a masters degree for that.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sacrifice is going on tonight

    And who could forget poor, poor Gene Frenkle - ace cowbell percussionist with the Blue Oyster Cult. It was so sad, when he died. I cried and cried. And then I fried (an egg).

    "List of really old british rock stars famous for R+R abusive lifestyle:- etc Bruce Dickinson"

    As far as I remember Iron Maiden were notoriously square for a mid-80s metal band, being into beer and cigarettes and not much else. At the very least, the Bruce Dickinson of today would have to be sober nowadays if he expects to keep his airline hobby (but then again, several drunken pilots have been in the news recently).

    Wesley Willis, there's another one who died relatively young, although he was very ill and overweight. Rock over heaven, rock on Valhalla - Wheat-Ohs, breakfast of champions!

    The Register needs more stories about old rock stars and less about boring old VMWare and computer nonsense. That's just for nerds.

  40. Paul

    "The Record Industry Needs To See This?"

    HELLO! Who do you think BUYS the drugs for the rock stars? In one book on punk rock stars and their drug usage, a certain idol whose name rhymes with Grebby Farry complained to one of her friends to take something that record co. execs kept sending to her home to the extent she and her immediate circle of friends could not consume it by themselves--kilos of cocaine! Now you know why the artist gets so few royalty dollars.

  41. Daniel Winstone

    Paid for not in cash

    but in kilos of pre-cut cocaine.

    Not only do they perform on stage, but they hand packets around afterwards now eh?

    Maybe if all the drugs were legallised overnight, you'd see Amy Whinehouse branded meth/cocaine/pot and whatever else.

    If individuals can't say no - they are easily led and that's probably why they're on crap percentages and paying management plus agent fees.

    Where does it all end? Don't you remember that group with the song waterfall or something like that, who were #1 in the US charts and certainly big in Europe as well, but they were declared bankrupt at the same time.

  42. BitTwister

    @Gordon Ross

    > Er, and what's the IT angle here ? I thought this was El Reg, not "Hello !"

    Quiet day at the office, or did you just fancy a random pop at something? Look at the top of the page where, even to my battered ol' bespectacled eyes it clearly says:

    "The Register » Odds and Sods » Entertainment »"

    Odds and Sods. You know; general stuff like silly stories, amusing articles and even more serious stuff.

    Do you see how that works now, Gordon?

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no one cares

    if any random fuck academic pops his nike's a little early or if he did a lot of drugs either (god knows most of them drink like rock stars) so possibly we have an experimenter perceived difference I also would like to comment that many people are still alive who were rock stars and who are not anymore and I have no idea whether they were counted either or if that is even possible. Amy Winehouse has one interesting pop single doesn't really count yet.

  44. Marvin the Martian

    @ What about the ones that didn't die yet?

    That's what Survival Analysis is for. This issue has been studied long enough, you note there's more missing data points --> your subjects die earlier.

    @ Luther Blissett: get a clue. Just go.

  45. AllGonePeteTong

    Why oh why do rock stars die young?

    Because they do drugs. Lots of 'em. God Love 'em.

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