An untimely celebrity death is always shocking, with some steadfastly refusing to believe the cause of death given in official news reports. Yes, there are some mighty strange rock death conspiracies out there, and here are seven of the oddest...
1. Paul McCartney
Now for many, this may come as a surprise, as ex-Beatle Paul McCartney to all intents and purposes seems very much alive! However, in one of the weirdest rock death conspiracies, there are those who believe that the Paul we’ve been listening too all these years is the winner of a Paul lookalike contest, William ‘Billy’ Shears, who was drafted into the band after Paul died in a car crash on 9 November 1966! At first it is said, it was just to be a temporary measure until everyone involved with the band worked out the best thing to do to prevent the mayhem and hysteria news of the lovable Beatle’s death would have provoked. The theorists point to various clues that ‘prove’ their version of events. Firstly on the cover of Abbey Road, Paul is barefoot, so obviously dead (no doubt with his own pair of Wings!). He’s preceded by John in white (the priest) and Ringo in black (the undertaker) and followed by George in denim (the gravedigger). And if that’s not enough to convince you, on the cover of Sgt Pepper, there’s a wreath in the shape of a bass guitar, and on the album, the lyric says they’ve formed a new band with ‘the one and only Billy Shears’.
2. Brian Jones
When on 2 July 1969, the hellraising Rolling Stone Brian Jones was found at the bottom of his swimming pool, drowned at the age of 27, the coroner ruled it death by misadventure. As guitarist Jones’ alcohol and substance abuse were well known, the death was not entirely out of the blue. However rumours went round… There was speculation that a builder working at the house whose money was being withheld from him had actually murdered the young star. It was alleged that the man had admitted the killing, but the informant later withdrew his statement. The case was looked at again by a national newspaper in 2009, but the Sussex police said that they would not reopen the case and stood by the verdict of the coroner.
3. Jim Morrison
The shaggy-haired front man of rock band The Doors was reportedly found dead by his girlfriend in a bath at his apartment in Paris on 3 July 1971, another member of the infamous 27 Club of stars who died at that age. However, there the circumstances around his death become slightly vague. It was claimed he had died of heart failure, however had been declared healthy by a doctor just beforehand. There was no autopsy performed and a media blackout on the death, which was only announced four days afterwards. The only people to see his body before it was buried were a friend and girlfriend, and the rumours commenced. Some believe that Jim was indeed dead, but that he had died of an overdose of heroin in a nightclub, with his body then being taken to the flat to be discovered to avoid any scandal. Some believed he had been killed by witchcraft. Others believe that he is not dead at all, but has faked his death – having joked about doing so and going abroad under the name Mr Mojo Rising (an anagram of his name). These conspiracy theorists even claim that he took drugs to make him look dead, but then awoke from the coma six weeks later, subsequently living on a ranch and working as an actor.
4. Elvis Presley
The King of Rock & Roll was reported to have died on 16 August 1977, a sad, undignified end, in his bathroom. However, fans were not willing to let him go that simply. The rock death conspiracies began and rumours circulated that some had seen the body ‘sweating’, others said that it was a wax dummy in the coffin. They point out that there is a discrepancy in the spelling of his middle name on his gravestone – Aaron instead of Aron as he himself spelled it. But why would he fake his own death? Some conspiracists believe that he was involved in a sting operation that involved the Mafia and he had to go into witness protection because of fears of reprisals. Whatever the truth, many are convinced they have seen the real Elvis since in locations across the globe. Didn’t you know there’s a guy works down the chip shop swears he’s Elvis!
5. John Lennon
When it comes to Beatle John Lennon, it’s not in doubt that he was shot dead outside the New York apartment building where he lived, on 8 December 1980, however there are some that believe that the murder was not simply the act of a crazed ex-fan. These conspiracy theorists claim that the government had been spying on Lennon because of his political views and killer Mark Chapman was, in fact, controlled by the CIA, who used the novel Catcher in the Rye as a trigger to set the killing in motion, and his zombie-like calmness while waiting for arrest was further proof of this.
6. Richey Edwards
The tortured soul Richey Edwards, guitarist of Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers, has been missing since 1 February 1995, and still, no-one is sure what has happened to him. Known to be prone to self-harm, he once famously carved 4 REAL into his arm with a razor blade during a magazine interview, and at another time slashed his chest. What is known is that just before he was due to fly to the US on a promotional tour, he left his hotel in London, withdrew money from a bank and disappeared. His car was later found in the vicinity of the Severn Bridge – a renowned spot for suicides. However no body has ever been found, and some claim that he had information about the New World Order and was actually targeted by government agents. Others claim to have spotted him in places as far apart as India and the Canary Islands. However, he has been declared officially dead, another member of the 27 Club.
When Tupac was shot on 7 September 1996, dying six days later, it seemed like just another violent end to a rapper’s life. However since then the rumours have abounded. Firstly it seems there were no real witness to the event, conflicting reports about how he was taken from the scene, and no-one has ever been convicted of the crime, plus after his death, no-one saw him being cremated and the person who was claimed to have been paid to carry out the cremation disappeared. Fans point out that Tupac was a fan of Italian strategist Machiavelli, who advocated faking your own death to fool your enemies at the age of 25 – Tupac’s age at the time. In fact Tupac’s first posthumous album, The Don Illuminati: The 7 Day Theory features Jesus Christ on the cover and was released under the stage name Makaveli – an anagram of Am Alive K. Also, since 1996, there have been nine albums of his released – more than his output while alive! More recently, a number of photos are reputed to show Tupac alive and well and a report in the press earlier this year even claimed some say it is in 2016 that Tupac will reveal that he is still alive. We await with baited breath!