When a rock star dies unexpectedly, the question of how they died can loom as large as the
memory of how they lived.
Some allegations belong to a constellation of baseless rock star conspiracy theories.
Other times, there are legitimate questions about the deaths of rock stars.
A music school dropout who often outclassed major musicians, Felix Pappalardi could play
virtually any instrument.
Pappalardi produced multiple albums for Eric Clapton's group Cream and wrote much of the
group's hit single "Strange Brew."
Afterward, he became the bassist and backbone of the band Mountain.
As the New York Daily News detailed, Mountain front man Leslie West credited Pappalardi
with teaching him many music dos and don'ts.
After Mountain's popularity peaked with "Mississippi Queen," Pappalardi departed the band to save
his hearing, but he kept busy with narcotics and extramarital affairs.
Pappalardi had an open marriage with lyricist Gail Collins, who wrote the strangest lines
of "Strange Brew."
She tolerated his tomcatting until 1982, when Pappalardi fell in love with would-be singer
In April 1983, Pappalardi returned home after a night with with Merians and wound up with
a bullet in his neck.
Collins shot him with a handgun he gave her as a gift.
She then called her attorney, who advised her to call 911.
Collins told police the incident was
"... an accident during a 6 a.m. firearms training session."
Detectives discovered pieces of the couple's marriage certificate in the trash and understandably
Collins spent two years in prison for negligent homicide.
Brian Jones named the Rolling Stones after Muddy Waters' "Rolling Stone Blues."
He also assembled the band.
But in 1969, Jones was fired from the band and died a few weeks afterward.
A coroner concluded that Jones drowned in his swimming pool during a drug-fueled "misadventure."
The BBC reported the musician spent his final night alive with girlfriend Anna Wohlin, friend
Janet Lawson, and builder Frank Thorogood.
Lawson recalled that Jones and Thorogood went on an ill-advised "midnight swim" after consuming
pills and alcohol.
But when she spoke to a private investigator decades later, she sang a different tune.
And drugs hardly turned up during Jones' autopsy.
As Rolling Stone recounted, Lawson's updated account noted that Jones and Thorogood had
horsed around in the pool around the time Jones died.
In 2005, Anna Wohlin made similar assertions, telling the Independent she thought Thorogood
inadvertently slayed Jones during "some sort of horseplay."
She added that Thorogood made no effort to aid Jones.
A 1994 book also accused Thorogood, claiming he confessed on his deathbed to Rolling Stones
driver Tom Keylock.
In 2009, a former Stones road manager accused Keylock of slaying Jones and silencing witnesses
It's likely we'll never know the truth.
Temptations lead singer Dennis Edwards took the helm in 1968 and steered the group into
its funk-rock phase.
According to his obituary, he proved instrumental in producing several memorable songs, including
the hugely popular "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" and "Cloud Nine," which earned the group its
Edwards died a legend in 2018 at age 74.
His wife Brenda said he succumbed to meningitis.
However, court records suggested something sinister.
Shortly before Edwards passed away, the Health Care Consortium of Illinois filed an emergency
protection order on his behalf.
The Detroit News reported that the consortium accused Brenda of attempting to smother Edwards
by pressing his face against a bed.
Brenda denied harming her husband, and a coroner corroborated her meningitis claim.
But the timing of Edwards' demise suited her legally.
Brenda was set to defend herself against the abuse allegations in court the week Edwards
With no one left to protect, the case was dismissed.
Formed in 1984, Norwegian band Mayhem birthed black metal.
Members sported stage names including Necro Butcher, unironically hailed Satan, and chucked
animal heads at audience members.
That's the tame stuff.
Bassist Count Grishnackh and guitarist Snorre Ruch would serve prison time for church burnings
and slaying bandmate Euronymous.
Grishnackh, whose real name is Varg Vikernes, insisted it was self-defense.
He and Euronymous, real name Øystein Aarseth, had a falling-out over finances and politics.
Euronymous supposedly threatened Grishnackh.
According to Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult, Euronymous habitually threatened people
and even bragged that he attempted to poison someone.
He also prided himself on photographing a dedeased bandmate and apparently mailing pieces
of the deceased's skull to other black metal musicians.
Most people dismissed Euronymous' threats as grim games, but Grishnackh wasn't playing.
In 1993, he arrived at Euronymous' door with a knife.
Snorre Ruch, who drove Grishnackh to the crime scene, said the slaying was premeditated.
Grishnackh said he just wanted to beat Euronymous up, but was attacked.
"He had plans for me.
He, uh, I was aggressive.
And so, he panicked."
He ended up chasing and attacking Euronymous, who was found with 23 wounds.
Some were from Vikernes' knife, others were from allegedly falling on glass.
The Oscar-nominated "Miss Misery," from Good Will Hunting, earned singer-songwriter Elliott
Smith the moniker Mr. Misery.
The gentle-voiced singer wrote about what he knew: addiction and dejection.
As The Guardian noted, despite performing during the 1998 Academy Awards ceremony and
seeing substantial record sales afterward, Smith sought solace in alcohol and hard drugs.
He fretted when his friends tried to help him.
He frequently threatened to take his own life during disagreements, and in 2003 he might
Smith allegedly had a heated argument with girlfriend Jennifer Chiba.
According to Chiba, she locked herself in the bathroom, heard a scream, and reemerged
to find Smith with a knife through his heart.
He supposedly wrote a note.
It seemed like a straightforward case, but the autopsy uncovered signs of a struggle.
Smith had two stab wounds in his chest, plus cuts that indicated he was defending himself.
He also lacked the hesitation wounds typically left in attempts.
Chiba appeared on MTV News to express indignation and proclaim her innocence.
She later sued Smith's estate for over $1 million per the Hollywood Reporter.
The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison sang with entrancing intensity and howled like a musical
He lit everything up with "Light My Fire" and showed off-the-cuff creativity when performing
But when 27-year-old Morrison met his end in 1971, the world was kept in the dark.
Morrison died in Paris on July 3.
Rolling Stone noted that Doors manager Bill Siddons didn't inform American news outlets
until July 9, two days after the legend was buried.
Journalists had heard days earlier that Morrison died, but when they tried to confirm what
occurred, they were told the singer simply needed to rest.
According to Morrison's death certificate, he had a heart attack.
But nobody conducted an autopsy.
Morrison's wife, Pam, claimed he coughed up blood before apparently passing away while
bathing, though she didn't witness his death.
The singer supposedly seemed healthy beforehand.
Band photographer Bobby Klein told The Guardian that the Doors' producer told him Morrison
mistook heroin for coke and fatally inhaled it.
Musician Marianne Faithfull blamed her ex-boyfriend, a heroin dealer, telling the Telegraph her
former beau sold Morrison powerful heroin, inducing an accidental overdose.
The Sex Pistols were together for a short time, but they'll long be remembered for bad-boy
bassist Sid Vicious and his groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen.
Although not a musician, Nancy was a rock star in her own right, according to NY Magazine.
She was a prominent presence in the nascent punk scene and an acted as an able ambassador
of punk rock.
Sid, meanwhile, famously simulated shooting his audience after a rock rendition of Frank
Sinatra's "My Way" in a mockumentary.
But in October 1978, things took a truly sinister turn when Nancy was fatally stabbed in the
New York hotel room they shared.
Sid originally copped to offing Nancy, telling the cops,
"I did it because I'm a dirty dog."
The Independent reports that Sid later claimed he was unconscious.
Sid overdosed on heroin before his case could be resolved in court.
Some people pointed the finger at drug dealers who frequented Sid and Nancy's room.
Someone seemingly stole $1,500 from the pair, so maybe it was money-motivated.
The plot further thickened when Sex Pistols photographer Peter Gravelle alleged that Sid's
mom delivered the lethal heroin dose to her son to save him from prison.
In 1966, Iron Butterfly took flight with "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida."
Philip Taylor Kramer took over as the band's bassist and lead singer from 1971 until the
band disbanded in 1975.
The Washington Post reported that he recorded two albums that floundered.
He attained greater success in the tech world, though.
Described by Variety as "a science whiz kid" who built a laser capable of downing balloons
at age 12, Kramer became a computer company executive.
Soon after his company acquired pioneering video compression technology for CD-ROMs,
In 1995, Kramer traveled to LAX airport to pick up a business associate.
Instead, he dialed 911 to announce he was ending his life and that, quote, "O.J. Simpson
Then, radio silence.
Kramer's disappearance was featured on Unsolved Mysteries.
His mother thought he'd been abducted, and because of his tech ties, a congressman suggested
his case had national security implications.
The Washington Post pointed out that Kramer's business had gone belly-up around the time
he vanished and argued that his confusing 911 call showed he had cracked under pressure.
Either way, the story doesn't have a happy ending: according the LA Times, in 1999 hikers
discovered Kramer's bones inside his van in a canyon.
Bobby Fuller's musical muse was Buddy Holly, whose buddy Sonny Curtis wrote "I Fought the
First performed by Holly's band the Crickets in 1960, the song gained nationwide acclaim
when Fuller covered it in 1966.
Six months after signing with record producer Bob Keane, Fuller died.
He was 23.
The details are as traumatic as they are tragic.
The singer's mother discovered him in her car.
He had a tube extending from his hand to a can of gasoline.
Investigators instantly ruled it self inflicted, declining to even collect fingerprints or
evaluate other possibilities.
The Houston Press reported that Fuller was soaked with gasoline, bruised and bloodied,
and had been decomposing for substantially longer than the car was parked.
All these clues indicated an involuntary death, which some have attributed to mobsters.
Unable or unwilling to pursue criminal leads, law enforcement reclassified the tragedy as
The evidence doesn't gel well with that theory, either.
As Fuller's brother wondered, "Who would pour gas on himself in a hot car?"
Manic Street Preachers guitarist and lyricist Richey Edwards suffered from depression and
regularly resorted to self-harm.
Sadness saturated his work, most notably the album The Holy Bible.
At the time, his bandmates interpreted his lyrics as a "journalistic" exploration of,
"... the cruelty of humanity filtered through Richey's amazing intellect."
In retrospect, it sounded like a cry for help.
In February 1995, Edwards went missing from a London hotel.
After three weeks of searching, authorities located his car near a bridge where people
often end their lives, per the Independent.
It was assumed he had taken his own life, and in 2008, he was officially presumed.
Why the long delay?
Well, many people, including members of his family, believe he staged his disappearance.
In the days before his disappearance, he reportedly withdrew significant sums of money from his
He had also publicly stated that he had never and would never contemplate it, and several
people have reported sightings of Edwards at various locations around the world after
Still, nobody knows for sure, and it's likely we never will.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call or chat online with
the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).