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All Those Dead Rock Stars

Nov. 12, 2012
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My first thought on lifting the 800-plus pages of The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars (Chicago Review Press): I didn’t know there are that many dead rock stars. Of course, rock’n’roll is old enough by some measurements to collect Social Security, but English author Jeremy Simmonds includes pop-jazz singer Nat “King” Cole, folk populist Woody Guthrie, blues master John Lee Hooker, smooth jazz’s Grover Washington and country’s Conway Twitty—along with scores of reggae, R&B and hip-hop performers.

Organized as a day-by-day, year-by-year chronicle of death, Simmonds’ encyclopedia treats 1965 as rock’s Year Zero, but begins with a Before Chapter whose luminaries include everyone from Robert Johnson to Patsy Cline and Billie Holiday. His wide net scooped up many snarky tales and old rumors. It’s no surprise that vehicular accidents and drugs claimed many of his subjects, but there are also some peculiar stories, including the strange deaths of Brian Jones and Bobby Fuller, no less than the demise of Ritchie Blackmore’s drummer Gary Driscoll, murdered in a bad drug deal (or was it a ritual sacrifice?).


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