John Lennon 1940-1980
Most know the story: nutjob Mark David Chapman put four bullets into Lennon and then sat down calmly on the curb, a copy of Catcher in the Rye in his pocket. What you might not know is that Paul McCartney’s first response was, “Drag, isn’t it?” Yes, Paul. Drag.
Louis Armstrong 1901-1971
Though the great Satchmo was born in New Orleans, like so many other jazz greats, he made his way to New York City in pursuit of his music. Corona, Queens, to be exact, where he died in his modest home of a heart attack.
GG Allin 1956-1993
Too punk for punk, GG Allin, born Jesus Christ Allin (seriously), was a truly transgressive musician who frequently defecated on stage, broke his own bones (and others’), and threatened annually to kill himself on Halloween (though he was usually in jail on October 31). He never got the chance, dying of a heroin overdose in a friend’s East Village apartment. Billie Holiday 1915-1959
The great Lady Day died at the Metropolitan Hospital on the Upper East Side from liver complications. Perhaps Frank O’Hara said it best in his poem, The Day Lady Died: ”She whispered a song along the keyboard/ to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing.”
Lester Bangs 1948-1982
Widely credited with coining the term “punk” (in reference to the MC5), Bangs was the Hunter S. Thompson of music writing, with an outsize personality and colorful journalistic style. He died in his Sixth Avenue apartment after treating a cold with Valium and Darvon. He was listening to Human League at the time.