Why Do So Many Musicians Die Young? Let’s Ask Science!

The Conversation.com published a story over the weekend that comes with some interesting charts.

Life Expectancy of Pop Musicians


Life Expectancy of Pop Musicians 1


Hmm.  Fascinating. What can we learn from this–if anything?

Why do so many pop musicians die young?

Few studies have systematically examined the popular musician population to ascertain the extent of the problems codified in the media comments above.

Existing studies are limited in scope. Adrian Barnett, for example, tested the “27 club hypothesis”. Tucker, Faulkner and Horvath only included a narrow sample of the population, that is, musicians who died between 1959 and 1967. A John Moores University study only looked at artists with top rating albums.

At the other end of the scale, the study reported by Howard Sounes in his book 27 is over-inclusive as it covers not only performing musicians but also songwriters, record producers, managers and promoters.

I’ve undertaken the first population study of performing pop musicians (n=12,665) from all popular genres who died between 1950 and June 2014 of whom 90.6% (11,478 musicians) were male.

Data on age, circumstances and manner of death were accessed from over 200 sources, including The Dead Rock Stars’ Club; Nick Tavelski’s (2010) Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Rock Obituaries, Pop star mortality; R.I.P. Encyclopaedia Metallicum; Voices from the Dark Side for Dead Metal Musicians; Wikipedia’s List of Dead Hip Hop Artists and Hip Hop obituaries.

This is good. Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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