When you hear a song on the radio, you hardly think about what an artist goes through to get there: the competition, the hard partying, the pressure to succeed. These six unsolved deaths bring the ugly underbelly of the music industry to the surface. We pair each artist with their
swan song hit.
Nancy Spungen (1958-1978) (Pictured Above)
“Did You No Wrong,” by The Sex Pistols
Sid and Nancy. The punk rock couple had a tumultuous relationship fueled by — you guessed it — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Nancy was found dead in the bathroom of the reportedly haunted Hotel Chelsea, of a stab wound to the belly. Though Sid Vicious of The Sex Pistols was accused and charged with murder (he died four months later of a heroin overdose), many claim another may have done the deed. Two drug dealers were at the apartment that same night and many items were missing from the room — including a large amount of money. The case was closed following Sid’s death.
Bobby Fuller (1942-1966)
“I Fought the Law,” by The Bobby Fuller Four
Singer Bobby Fuller’s life ended just as his career was gaining traction. Fuller was found dead in the driver’s seat of his car, doused with gasoline, bruising on his chest and shoulders, with a broken right index finger. LAPD ruled it as an accidental suicide. To this day many speculate there was foul play — brother and band mate Randy Fuller just penned a biography I Fought the Law: The Life and Strange Death of Bobby Fuller (1942-1966) — possibly involving the mob, Charles Manson, LSD, and/or an official cover up.
Peter Ivers (1946-1983)
“In Heaven (Lady in the Radiator song)”
Musician Peter Ivers was widely known as the host of the underground cable access show New Wave Theatre. He penned the song “In Heaven” for David Lynch’s Eraserhead. Ivers was found beaten to death in his bed, a loft in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, but a culprit was never named. A 2009 book In Heaven Everything Is Fine unearthed new research findings into the events surrounding his murder, and the LAPD has since reopened the case.
Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)
“If I Die Tonight”
The outspoken rapper had long been embroiled in an East Coast/West Coast hip-hop rivalry involving rapper Biggie Smalls and record label Bad Boy Records (helmed by P. Diddy). While in a vehicle with record producer Suge Knight, Tupac was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas and died six days later of his injuries. That same night he was involved in an altercation with the South Side Crips. Though many were implicated, no one was charged for the murder.
Biggie Smalls (1972-1997)
“Who Shot Ya?”
Tupac’s contemporary and rival met a similar fate. Christopher Wallace was gunned down in the passenger side of a Suburban while leaving a party in Los Angeles. Again, no one was charged, further fueling accusations of foul play, the involvement of Suge Knight, and criminal police activities. The rapper’s mother and widow filed a wrongful death suit against the city of Los Angeles, but it was later dismissed.
Elliott Smith (1969-2003)
Mr. Misery sang somber indie rock songs of depression and addiction. His hit song “Miss Misery” was featured in Good Will Hunting. Friends of Smith confirmed he talked about taking his life on a regular basis. But when he actually did die in 2003 of an apparent suicide, suspicions arose that he may have been murdered. His musician girlfriend Jennifer Chiba told police that she locked herself in the bathroom during a big fight. When she emerged, she found him with a knife to his chest, pulled the knife out, and called 9-1-1. The medical examiner’s reports raised eyebrows: There were what appeared to be small defensive wounds on his hands and right arm and a lack of hesitation wounds, preliminary attempts common to self-inflicted wounds. No charges were ever filed.
Photos (from top): Express / Getty Images; Paul Townsend / Flickr; Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records; Courtesy of Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation Facebook Page; Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; Alexis / Flickr