Infographic: Musicians Killed by Guns
Guns. They’re the tragic link between John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Kurt Cobain, Tupac and Biggie. Indeed firearms cut short the lives of these superstars of music—and many other artists—guaranteeing they would never get the chance to rise to their full potential.
The endless cycle of gun violence in American society got me thinking about how our typically peaceful sanctuary of music has been shattered by guns. I ended up on Wikipedia, two pages in particular: “List of Deaths in Rock & Roll” and “List of Deceased Hip-Hop Artists”. These two lists date back to 1956 and 1987, respectively, covering just about every way to die possible. Focusing on guns — suicides included — I found that over 100 rock stars, rappers and other musicians have lost their lives due to firearms.
Looking to create a visual representation of these tragedies, I narrowed the list down to 79 artists. Many of the deceased rappers listed were obscure, unsigned artists that sadly didn’t even have a Wikipedia page to their name, much less a picture of themselves on the internet. These artists, including multiple names from the Bloods & Crips Bangin’ On Wax album and the bubbling Chicago drill rap scene, were not included on the graphic. I wish we could have done better by them.
I debated heavily whether to include gun suicides on this chart, since taking one’s life is one’s own decision. However after seeing my high school buddy’s name appear on the wiki—Tommy Marth, who played with The Killers—it struck a bit of a personal chord. Therefore, I felt that suicides should not be overlooked. These artists are people’s friends, fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, and for whatever the reason, access to a gun led to their untimely death.
After pulling all of this data and assembling it into this chart, I found some interesting facts. The most glaringly obvious is how massively the number of musician gun deaths has increased over each decade. In the entire decade of the 1950s, there’s just one gun death, ruled as an accident. In the 1960s, there’s two. It gets downright alarming by the time we hit the 1990s, with 26 artists listed, then cools off a bit at the start of the new millennium with 18 deaths. We’ve already matched the first 10 years of the aughts by only 2016, with 18 deaths so far.
Twenty of the 79 deaths included here were suicides, five were accidents. The other 54 were murders. Clearly violent gun crimes are getting worse, and you don’t need this chart to tell you that.
As you scroll past the faces on this chart, please consider that a gun abruptly silenced each individual, killing not just the artist but the art they were destined to create—output that never had the chance to see the light of day.
Rest in peace, Tommy.
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