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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 29, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 30
Ten music legends gone too soon
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Ten music legends gone too soon

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The shocking (though not entirely surprising) death of Amy Winehouse brought the music world to a standstill this week. But it's familiar territory for an industry that has seen its share of young, genius-in-the-making performers end their journeys much too soon. These are 10 artists who achieved legendary status in their brief careers. RIP, everyone.

AMY WINEHOUSE (1983-2011)
The beehived smoky soul-jazz singer never quite resurfaced after her proper debut, Back to Black, became a transatlantic top seller. Winehouse won five Grammy Awards in 2008, including Record of the Year (Rehab) and Best New Artist, and teetered on the verge of megastardom before reverting to old habits. While her death is categorically unexplained, the British singer's long battle with drug addiction proved to be unconquerable.

KURT COBAIN (1967-1994)
Of course, Kurt Cobain would make this list. The grunge icon was a pivotal figure in acquiring mainstream attention for indie rock music, back when record labels might have looked elsewhere for major breakthroughs. He was a poet more than a songwriter, a vocalist whose pain and frustration were evident on songs like Lithium and I Hate Myself and Want to Die, and an artist who never quite saw nor valued his own importance.

LISA LEFT EYE LOPES (1971-2002)
There was certainly a lot of drama in the life of Lisa Left Eye Lopes, one third of the R&B trio TLC. But none of it factored into her death, a rollover car accident in Honduras while on a charity mission. The group's singles, which also appeared on the pop charts, included Ain't Too Proud to Beg, No Scrubs, What About Your Friends, Waterfalls, and Unpretty, performed by the Glee cast last season. Lopes was a strong AIDS awareness supporter, who regularly sported condoms as eyepatches.

ANDY GIBB (1958-1988)
One of my boyhood crushes was on Andy Gibb, the independently successful younger sibling of the Gibb brothers  or The Bee Gees, as they were famously known. He scored multiple chart-topping disco hits such as I Just Want to Be Your Everything, Shadow Dancing, and (Love Is) Thicker Than Water, aside from co-hosting Solid Gold and appearing in the Broadway production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Though he died of other complications, Gibb's cocaine use often hindered his progress.

KAREN CARPENTER (1950-1983)
You have no idea how many times my sisters played The Carpenters records in our house. Id later appreciate the exposure to a catalog full of lush ballads and airy pop songs laced with Karen Carpenters soft, smooth vocals; Close to You, Weve Only Just Begun, Yesterday Once More, Top of the World, and Please Mr. Postman among them. A lifelong bout with anorexia, Carpenter was just 32 years old when she passed away. Damn, I wish she were still around.

ELLIOTT SMITH (1969-2003)
A truly sad departure was that of folk-pop artist Elliott Smith. Five years after an Academy Award nomination for penning Miss Misery, featured in Gus Van Sant's film Good Will Hunting, and following a highly critical album, 1998's XO, the troubled singer-songwriter apparently committed suicide, although homicide was never ruled out. To this day, I still listen repeatedly to Waltz #2.

SELENA (1971-1995)
The Mexican-American community was devastated when Latin pop star Selena was senselessly murdered by her former fan club president two weeks before turning 24. The Texas native's career ballooned on the success of #1 singles Amor Prohibido, Bidi Bidi Bom Bom, No Me Queda Mas, Fotos y Recuerdos, and the posthumous ballad Dreaming of You. Jennifer Lopez played Selena in the self-titled film, a good starting point for those unfamiliar with her work and life.

LAYNE STALEY (1967-2002)
The Seattle rock scene suffered another blow when Alice in Chains frontman Layne Staley was found dead in his U-District condominium, reportedly with a needle in his arm. His gritty singing  better described as a growl  was infectious, especially on the tracks Man in the Box, Angry Chair, Rooster, and Would? The group continues to record and tour, though Staleys shoes are forever unfilled.

AALIYAH (1979-2001)
She wasn't Beyoncé, but she could've been. Aaliyah was just 22 years old when she and several members of her entourage died in a plane crash in the Bahamas, shortly after filming the music video for Rock the Boat. Following back-to-back double-platinum albums  1994's Age Ain't Nothing But a Number and 1996's One in a Million  plus a starring role in the martial arts blockbuster Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah was well on her way to a dominant career.

JEFF BUCKLEY (1966-1997)
Americana singer-guitarist Jeff Buckley was onto something big, and his 1994 effort Grace proved it. Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, and David Bowie all praised his skill and publicly admitted to being fans. While working on a new album in Memphis, Buckley accidentally drowned in a nearby river. Among his cherished recordings is his stirring cover of Leonard Cohens Hallelujah.

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