Top 10 Conspiracy Theories Surrounding Musicians’ Deaths


Ever since Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the ability to shred, conspiracy theories in music have been unrelentingly frequent. In fact, one of the only things that rivals rock music’s ability to regularly attract conspiracies, is a celebrity’s death. So when the two meet, things can get kinda interesting.

10. Bob Marley Was Killed By The CIA

In 1981, Bob Marley succumbed to the cancer that had been slowly spreading throughout his body. The illness originated from a melanoma on his toe, which he refused to properly treat due to his religious beliefs.

Marley had already survived an assassination attempt in 1976, which was likely a result of the hostile relationship between Jamaica’s two major political parties – the JLP, who had the support of the US, and the PNP, who were allied with Cuba. While Marley wasn’t really affiliated with either party, the PNP tried to align themselves with him, and the Rastafarian movement. Supporters of the JLP (like the US, for example) knew that getting rid of Marley would damage the PNP’s election campaign.

But Bob Marley died of cancer, so how could his death possibly be a murder? The theory goes that Carl Colby, son of CIA director William Colby, gave Marley a pair of shoes as a gift. As he put them on, he felt something sharp puncture his toe. On closer inspection, a length of copper wire was found inside the shoe. He was told his toe was cancerous less than a year later. To this day, the CIA hasn’t declassified their files on Marley.

9. Jimi Hendrix Was Waterboarded To Death

Regarded as the greatest electric guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix had a profound impact on music before his death at age 27. The events surrounding his death are somewhat unclear. Hendrix’s girlfriend claims she came home to find him having trouble breathing, and he died en route to the hospital. On the other hand, the paramedics who were called to the scene claim he was already dead when they arrived. Despite these contradictory accounts, it was determined that Hendrix died choking on his own vomit, after mixing sleeping pills with alcohol.

However, there was one inconsistency that was seemingly glossed over by coroners. Hendrix had a relatively low blood alcohol content at the time of his death, but his lungs were filled with red wine. The amount of liquid in his lungs was more consistent with somebody who had been waterboarded.

But who would want to kill a rock legend? The FBI kept a file on Hendrix, mainly because of his subversive nature and association with the Black Panther Party. Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party’s 2008 Presidential nominee, believes his death was part of a government plot to eradicate black leaders. There is also a rumor that a life insurance policy covering Hendrix listed his manager, Mike Jeffreys (an unsavory character with mob affiliations) as the beneficiary.

8. Michael Jackson Was Murdered By The President Of Iran

In June 2009, the controversial election, and ensuing protests, in Iran was attracting international attention. The election was almost certainly fixed in favor of incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the outraged civilians had a lot of support in the West, especially from America. Then, just as a revolution seemed imminent, Michael Jackson died, and the world forgot about the corrupt Iran regime to mourn the King of Pop. Jackson’s death even replaced the Iran election as the top trending topic on Twitter.

The theory goes that President Ahmadinejad had MJ killed to distract attention from the civil unrest. The evidence is mostly circumstantial, but whether he was killed or not, Jackson’s death certainly stole the spotlight.

7. The Guitarist For The New York Dolls Was Murdered By Drug Dealers

During their brief tenure, the New York Dolls became one of the most influential bands of the 1970’s. They are often cited retroactively as one of the early pioneers of punk rock, along with other seminal acts such as the Stooges. Key to their sound was Johnny Thunders’ furious, visceral guitar style.
Thunders had battled heroin addiction for most of his life, up until his death in 1991. The police didn’t open a criminal investigation, as they assumed he had simply overdosed and died, despite the fact that many of his possessions were missing and his corpse was lay in an unnatural, pretzel-like state.

Thunder’s friends and family maintain that he had not used heroin in some time. Instead, he kept his addiction at bay with methadone, for which he had a prescription. Dee Dee Ramone claims that Thunders had gotten mixed up with drug dealers who were after his large supply. Allegedly, the dealers gave him LSD, murdered him, and made off with the methadone.

6. Elliot Smith Was Murdered By Dreamworks

It’s a familiar story – the troubled artist who finally takes his own life when depression becomes too much to bear. So when the perpetually melancholic Elliott Smith died of an apparent suicide in 2003, it wasn’t surprising when police didn’t investigate further. We’re talking about a man who had openly talked about killing himself many times.

However, the circumstances of his death were a little more mysterious than what was widely reported. Smith was a heavy drug user who had gotten clean in the last year of his life. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system, and he was in the middle of recording an album – by all reports he had turned his life around. Furthermore, the cause of death – stab wound to the chest – is extremely uncommon in suicide victims. Smith’s body also bore no hesitation wounds, which are typical of suicides by sharp force trauma. Other wounds on his body were indicative of a struggle. As a result, the coroner’s report noted the possibility of homicide. But by whom? Many theories say he was murdered by his girlfriend, Jennifer Chiba, who claims she was in the shower when he died. Others say it was drug-dealing crooks.

5. Amy Winehouse Was Killed By The Illuminati

A recent addition to the “Forever 27 club,” acclaimed singer Amy Winehouse died at her home in 2011. Her blood alcohol content at the time of her death was 0.416%. Combined with her poor health from years of drug addiction and bulimia, the dangerously high amount of alcohol she consumed on the night of her death is what was believed to have killed her.

Of course, high profile deaths always come with a handful of conspiracy theories, and no list of conspiracy theories would be complete without some mention of the Illuminati. With “evidence” stemming from Illuminati rituals and numerology, theorists believe her death was a ritual sacrifice.

4. Brian Jones Was Murdered By His Renovator

Late one night in July 1969, the corpse of former Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones was found face down at the bottom of his swimming pool. Jones was a member of the Stones from the very beginning, and had basically formed the band himself. About a month before his death, Jones’ drug and alcohol problems had lead to his departure from the band. The coroner’s report stated “death by misadventure,” and left it at that. You can’t really blame them – this was a man who partied so hard he got kicked out of a band that Keith Richards still performs in to this day.

Rumors that Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones’ death was actually a homicide really picked up steam in 2009. An investigative journalist brought forth evidence that Jones was killed during a fight with his pool cleaner Frank Thorogood, who was the last to see Jones alive. While the “Thorogood Theory” had existed for some time, this new evidence was solid enough to prompt Sussex Police to review the death, although they ultimately decided to leave the case closed.

3. The Bassist For Iron Butterfly Was Murdered Because He Was Too Brilliant

Phillip Taylor Kramer led an undoubtedly fascinating life. Between 1974 and 1977, he was the bassist for Iron Butterfly. He then earned a degree in aerospace engineering, and helped design a missile guidance system for the US Department of Defense. Working for his own company and as a contractor, Kramer was a pioneer in facial recognition systems and fractal compression in the 1980’s and ’90s.

In 1995, Kramer went to Los Angeles International Airport to pick up an associate, and was never seen again. In his last contact with anyone before his disappearance, Kramer called 911 from the airport, in distress, telling operators that he was going to kill himself. Police launched a massive search for Kramer, yet his remains weren’t found until four years later, at the bottom of Decker Canyon in LA.

At the time of his disappearance, Kramer was working on a faster-than-light communications system. Just days before, Kramer claimed to be on the verge of making a huge mathematical breakthrough. Conspiracy theorists believe the supposedly-revolutionary work he was doing led to his abduction and murder. The fact that he was privy to highly classified military information from his time with the DoD only serves to fuel these rumors.

2. Kurt Cobain Was Murdered By Courtney Love

Given that Cobain’s entire life has been the subject of intense fascination and scrutiny, it’s no wonder that his death has spawned one of the most compelling conspiracy theories in music. After bringing alt-rock to the mainstream in the early 90’s, the troubled songwriter became an overnight icon. His final years were marred by drug addiction and disillusionment with the rock star lifestyle. Cobain died in 1994 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound … we think.

In the years following his death, private investigator Tom Grant has theorized that Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, had arranged for Kurt to be murdered. Grant cites stacks of circumstantial evidence to bolster these claims. For one, the amount of heroin found in Cobain’s system was higher than the lethal dose, and would have made it quite difficult to operate a gun. Furthermore, the shotgun he used was allegedly too long to shoot oneself in the head with. Grant’s theory was further boosted some years later, when Eldon Hoke began claiming that Courtney Love had offered him $50,000 to kill Cobain.

1. Whitney Houston Was Murdered By Drug Dealers

One of the highest selling artists of all time, Whitney Houston tragically died in 2012. Like many on this list, she struggled with drugs and alcohol throughout much of her career. These problems were only exacerbated during her tumultuous high profile marriage to singer Bobby Brown, during which she was the victim of spousal abuse. Houston never managed to beat her addictions, and in 2012 she drowned in the bathtub of her hotel room after consuming alcohol, cocaine and various prescription drugs.

But former police officer Paul Huebl has a different story to tell. Huebl believes that Houston owed a huge drug debt, to the tune of $1.5 million. Apparently, video footage exists of two men entering Houston’s suite on the night she died. The men tried to collect the debts, and drowned her when she refused. The coroner’s report noted she had wounds on her arms and face, and that her bath water was so hot it burnt the skin off her back. Adding stock to the rumors, her former manager and sister-in-law Pat Houston claimed Whitney was murdered at first. She mysteriously changed her mind soon after.

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  1. Some of these certainly seem plausible, especially ones that pertain to the CIA, given the immense scale of unethical, immoral, and downright horrifying programs they launched during the Cold War heyday, and still continue to practice to this day, most likely even more vile than their predecessors.

  2. Don’t understand the headline … “Elliot Smith Was Murdered By Dreamworks”. Explain please. You never mention it in the description.

    • I agree. You simply state he could have been murdered by his G/F or drug dealers… where in the world does Dreamworks come into play? Unless your saying Dreamworks are just a bunch of drug dealers of course. 🙂

      • haha, my submission had another sentence at the end which read “But the most intriguing theory claims he was killed by his record label, Dreamworks – during interviews, Smith had begun telling people that they had broken into his house and we’re ‘out get him'”. I’m not really sure why it got removed from the version published on the site – perhaps they thought it was too much of a stretch and then forgot to change the title.