Nine Rock & Roll Suicides of the 1990s

Kurt Cobain

Although he wrote a song about it, David Bowie never committed rock & roll suicide. But many famous musicians did check out this decade, all by their own hand. It's a distressing signal to be seeing so many of them: before the '90s, rock's only noteworthy suicides were Joy Division's Ian Curtis (in 1980) and the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious (in 1979) – both of whom died in relative obscurity. What a gloomy decade this is turning out to be.

  1. Kurt Cobain, 1994. Easily the most significant suicide of the decade, if not in all of rock history. The Nirvana frontman ate his gun while at the height of success. His death was so startling that some still insist he was murdered.
  2. Michael Hutchence, 1997. The singer for the Australian band INXS, so popular in the 1980s, is now believed to have died accidentally of autoerotic asphyxiation. (If you don't know what that is, you'll have to look it up yourself.)
  3. Del Shannon, 1990. '60s singer best known for his classic hit song "Runaway". Shannon shot himself in the head just as he was being considered to replace the late Roy Orbison in the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys.
  4. Wendy O. Williams, 1998. The singer for the American punk band the Plasmatics – infamous in the '80s for outrageous onstage antics such as chainsawing their guitars and so on – had, in her later years, become a B-movie actress and an animal trainer. She blew her brains out last April.
  5. Doug Hopkins, 1993. Guitarist/songwriter for The Gin Blossoms. Hopkins penned their two biggest hits, "Hey Jealousy" and "Found Out About You". He was fired from the group because of his substance abuse, and soon after shot himself.
  6. Chris Acland, 1996. Drummer for the British "shoegazer" band Lush, which had a longstanding cult following. Acland hanged himself shortly after the end of the band's American tour, allegedly depressed after a failed romance.
  7. Rob Pilatus, 1998. The former Milli Vanilli star – who along with Fab Morvan suffered a humiliating fall from grace when it was discovered that they didn't sing their own songs – died of a drug overdose. Pilatus's death was ruled an accident, but there are doubts: a few months before his death, he did attempt suicide.
  8. Jason Thirsk, 1996. The bassist for '90s punk band Pennywise shot himself shortly after leaving the group.
  9. Eldon Hoke, a.k.a. "El Duce", 1997. Leader of punk band the Mentors, whose sexually violent lyrics gained the band notoriety in the mid-'80s as one of Tipper Gore's rationales for her PMRC campaign, which successfully put warning labels on record albums. The often homeless El Duce, whose final boast was that Courtney Love had asked him to kill Kurt Cobain, was run over by a train. Whether he purposely placed himself on the tracks is something we will never know.