Things Found At Rock Star Death Scenes

Some rock stars are as known for their illustrious careers as for their outrageous, untimely, or simply bizarre deaths. Sadly, a rock star's lack of privacy tends to follow them beyond the grave, as pictures, inquests, and theories about their death flood the internet as soon as they pass away. Social media access paired together with humans' age-long morbid fascination with death means that, today more than ever, fans will dig deep into the stories behind their rock idols' deaths.

Even in the case of unsuspicious rock star deaths, there can be a fair amount of discussion. When David Bowie died in January 2016, his social media accounts announced (via BBC): "[Bowie] died peacefully, surrounded by his family." However, subsequent articles picked on the matter. The Guardian suggested that Bowie's 2016 song "Lazarus" is not a hint at his imminent death, as the video was created before his terminal cancer diagnosis, despite rumors that Bowie knew it would be his swan song. NME went as far as uncovering a moment in the 1970s when a psychic told Bowie he would die aged 69. So imagine the attention and speculation a rock star's death gets when the cause is not as obvious, or when there are drugs involved. Let's explore some of the strangest things found at rock star death scenes.

The following article contains references to substance abuse, eating disorders, and suicide.

Kurt Cobain

In 1991, Kurt Cobain, along with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic, made rock history and practically led the grunge movement with their revolutionary album "Nevermind." But as per Rolling Stone in 1992, Cobain was already tired: "All I need is a break and my stress will be over with." According to The New Yorker, Cobain struggled with heroin abuse and suffered from deep depression. 

But Cobain's heroin addiction, tumultuous relationship with Courtney Love, and fame-induced stress sent him down a rabbit hole. As Rolling Stone reports, Cobain tried to take his life in March 1994. Love checked herself into rehab, hoping to convince Cobain to join her. But in April, Cobain borrowed a gun from a friend (saying he wanted to protect himself from trespassers) and took his life inside his Seattle home greenhouse.

He was found four days later after his mother had filed a missing person report, and several of his friends became worried about his absence. Two decades after his death, police released images from Cobain's death scene, in order to debunk murder conspiracies (via CBS) — at the scene were Cobain's borrowed shotgun, a cigar box containing drug paraphernalia, his famous sunglasses, a wooly trapper hat, and his suicide note, which he left in a plant pot with a pen struck through the middle.

Amy Winehouse

As Grammy reports, Amy Winehouse won a staggering five Grammys in 2008 — she was only in her 20s. Her 2006 album, "Back to Black," topped the charts worldwide. But the singer became famous both for her incredible singing and her drug use and eating disorder. Her brother, Alex Winehouse, told The Guardian he believes it was her bulimia, not her rampant drug use, that brought her demise: "You knew just by looking at her ... She would have died eventually, the way she was going, but what really killed her was the bulimia." 

Amy Winehouse was severely affected by her fame and the pressures of the music industry, as her best friend Tyler James confessed to The Times. The lack of anonymity and pressures of being a star increased her drug abuse and eating disorder. In June 2011, BBC announced she canceled her tour to solve personal issues. On July 23, her bodyguard found her fully clothed, face-down on the bed of her North London home — she had died of alcohol poisoning, as the Daily Mail confirms through two official inquests. Next to her body was a laptop, where she'd been watching videos of herself. On the floor were two empty vodka bottles — the scene is symbolic of just how deadly fame was to Amy Winehouse.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Keith Relf

Keith Relf became a rock star in the early 1960s, as the frontman of the Yardbirds (via Ultimate Classic Rock). If his name didn't make the headlines that much, it's probably because he was seriously outshadowed by his bandmates, guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page. When the Yardbirds broke up in 1968, Jimmy Page took over the New Yardbirds, and the band soon changed their name to Led Zeppelin. But that is not Relf's only connection to Zeppelin — he also contributed to Jimmy Page's iconic re-imagining of Jake Holmes' "Dazed and Confused" that would eventually become a Zeppelin staple (via Showbiz Cheatsheet).

Sadly though, Relf didn't get to make much rock 'n' roll history afterward. His three rock groups — Together, Renaissance, and Armageddon — didn't meet a huge success. And on May 14, 1976, Relf's life would come to a sudden end. He was playing the guitar in his home's cellar when he stepped on a gas pipe and was fatally electrocuted. He was reportedly found by his 8-year-old son, with the guitar in question at the scene.

Cass Elliot

The Mamas and the Papas' haunting voice belonged to Cass Elliot — she was well-beloved by her audiences, but, as Vogue suggests, she wasn't spared from the fatphobic views in the United States at the time. Her very band had this lyric in their 1967 song "Creeque Alley:" "No one's gettin' fat except Mama Cass." Elliot had struggled with her weight for decades, as she once commented (via The Guardian), "I've been fat since I was seven, and being fat sets you apart."

She started a radical diet: She fasted four days a week for seven months in a row, eventually losing 110 pounds in 1968 but ending up in the hospital. In 1969, Time reported that Elliot was continuing a dangerous diet. She joked that it cost her $2,000 a pound, as she had to cancel $250,000 worth of shows while she was in the hospital. "The Mama Cass diet can give you acute tonsillitis, hemorrhaging vocal cords, mononucleosis, and a case of hepatitis," she said.

On July 29, 1974, Mama Cass was found dead inside her London apartment, reports Vogue. She had suffered a heart attack (the result of her intense diets). But it was the ham sandwich found on her bedstand that triggered a fatphobic rumor — that Elliot had died choking on the sandwich. It was a bad joke that ignored Elliot's many efforts to lose weight and, in a way, her illustrious career.

Michael Jackson

In 2009, Michael Jackson was preparing for a huge comeback: a series of farewell concerts at the O2 Arena in London, as the Times reports. Jackson fans were so enthusiastic that 360,000 registered applications before ticket sales started, and the 10 concerts were upped to 50. But as per CNN, Jackson was struggling with severe insomnia at the time — he'd gone 60 days in a row without getting REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. With this came a myriad of issues: He had paranoid episodes, would talk to himself, and was unable to remember lyrics or dance moves.

That's when Jackson's doctor, Conrad Murray, chose to prescribe him propofol. But propofol is an anesthetic that, according to sleep expert Dr. Charles Czeisler, should never be used as a sleep aid, as it doesn't offer the patient any REM sleep (and this can be lethal). On June 25, 2009, Jackson was found dead and the scene was at the very least eerie. As per TMZ, the death scene included bottles of propofol and benzodiazepines, the combination of which triggered the fatal overdose (via iNews). But at the scene were also an IV drip, Benoquin tubes (which Jackson used to treat his vitiligo), an oxygen tank, a cardiology book, and a vintage doll. The latter can be seen as a creepy mirror of the serious allegations against him.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell was one of the big faces of the grunge era as the leader of Soundgarden and in 2017, he and his band were on tour after a temporary hiatus (via All That's Interesting). Soundgarden would give their very last show at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan, on May 17. After the show, Cornell retreated to his room at the MGM Grand Hotel. But about half an hour before midnight, his wife noticed the lights in their Los Angeles home were flickering on-and-off — Cornell could activate them from an app on his phone, so she started worrying about his state of mind. When his wife called him, Cornell reportedly slurred his words — She didn't believe him when he said he'd only taken a couple of Ativan doses (anti-anxiety medication). So she called Cornell's bodyguard, Martin Kirsten, to go check on him.

Just after midnight on May 18, Kirsten entered the room and found a very disturbing death scene, as Digital Music News reports. Cornell had taken his own life using an exercise band. The police officers that arrived at the scene eventually also found medication bottles containing prednisone, omeprazole, and lorazepam. The death scene photos also show Cornell's guitar, guitar case, sunglasses, a deodorant bottle, and a contact lenses case.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

Elvis Presley

The King of Rock 'n' Roll had 108 Billboard Hot 100 hits, 129 Billboard 200 charted albums, and 67 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, as Billboard confirms. But during the last year of his life, as I Love Classic Rock reports, Elvis Presley had retreated from the spotlight and had become addicted to junk food as well as a plethora of prescription and non-prescription drugs (opiates, barbiturates, and sedatives included, as per Town and Country).

On August 16, 1977, Presley's girlfriend, Ginger Alden, found him lying unconscious on the floor of their bathroom in the Memphis mansion, Graceland. When the paramedics arrived at the location, they found an empty bottle of Parafon Forte painkiller tablets and a vial of Trisolaren, a tanning drug, as the Daily Mail explains. The two bottles went up for auction in New York in 2015. 

But when the paramedics took Presley to the hospital that day, they found much more in his system: Dilaudid, Percodan, Demerol (all of them opioids), Quaaludes, and codeine. He was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., and his physician, Dr. George Nichopoulos, had his license ultimately suspended for prescribing Presley many of the substances that got him killed.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Whitney Houston

While Whitney Houston became an internationally acclaimed singer, she also struggled with substance abuse and a tumultuous personal life (from childhood trauma to difficult relationships, as Vanity Fair explains). During the 1990s and 2000s, Houston was married to musician Bobby Brown, and their relationship became a frequent topic of discussion, with mentions of serious drug abuse and even violence (via Yahoo! News).

However, Brown spoke on A&E's "Biography: Bobby Brown" (via Yahoo! News) and explained that both he and Houston had serious addiction problems — he wasn't the "bad boy" painted by tabloids as the negative influence who got Houston hooked to drugs. He added that the battery allegations, which eventually ended their marriage, related to an accident where he was aiming for Houston's dealer and instead hit her face.

Houston and Brown's marriage ended in 2007, as per Insider, but she continued to overindulge in narcotics. On February 11, 2012, she was found dead in a bathtub at the Beverly Hills Hilton, as the Daily Mail reports. At the scene were a hairbrush, two hair bands, several prescription drugs, and olive oil, which was mixed in with the water. The official cause of death was drowning, facilitated by heart disease and cocaine use, as per ABC News.

Aaron Carter

Aaron Carter became a teen favorite in the early 2000s, with hits such as "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and "That's How I Beat Shaq" (via Billboard). As The Guardian explains, Carter already had three bestselling albums by the time he was 13. But teenage stardom can come with a plethora of problems — in Carter's case, it was his own parents who spent half a billion dollars from his money, as he told VladTV. And the problems didn't end with his teen years.

As per US Weekly, Carter struggled with substance abuse and went down a rabbit hole after the death of his father in 2017. He confessed that he didn't believe he would live past the age of 30 when he was younger, but at the time of the interview, he was feeling more hopeful: "I dealt with a lot of trauma, a lot of loss, a lot of loneliness. I just felt like I needed to get away ... My goal is to be the phoenix that rises from the ashes." 

But in 2022, Carter's situation started to look grim again. According to the Los Angeles Times, he'd lost custody of his son and was fighting to get him back in September. In November, his housekeeper found him unresponsive in his bath — he had drowned, aged 34 (via TMZ). Another TMZ report describes the eerie death scene: In the bathroom and bedroom were bottles of prescription medication and cans of compressed air and bottles, hinting at a substance-related drowning.

Janis Joplin

Much like Jimi Hendrix or Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin was the epitome of the hippie era. She was also a fresh voice in a male-dominated genre and a very promising artist. But, as per her friend Peggy Caserta's memoir, "I Ran Into Some Trouble" (via All That's Interesting), the two of them struggled with heroin addiction. On October 4, 1970, Joplin was discovered dead in her Hollywood hotel room. She was found clutching money in one hand and a box of cigarettes in the other.

Three days later, her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered by her family into the Pacific Ocean. But this was bad news for Caserta, who believes Joplin didn't really die of a heroin overdose, as she had used the same batch around the same time as her and it wasn't particularly potent. The full reality of her death — as well as her clutching money and cigarettes — might remain a mystery forever.

Chester Bennington

Not only was Chester Bennington the voice of Linkin Park, but he was also the heart and soul of the group. With him at the forefront, the band scored six number one albums on the Billboard 200 and electrified fans around the globe with their unique musical blend of rock, hip-hop, electronica, and metal, as well as their angst-ridden and poignant lyrics. On July 20, 2017, Bennington was found dead at his California residence, as per BBC.

TMZ obtained a toxicology report that revealed further details about the singer's passing, as well as what was found at the death scene. According to the description of the scene, Bennington was found with a black leather belt featuring a Hugo Boss buckle around his neck. In his pockets, investigators found coins and a boarding pass for a flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles. A handwritten journal containing what was purported to be Bennington's biography was found in the room, as well as a typed biography in a nightstand. In addition, the officials discovered an iPhone, a half empty bottle of Corona, one empty bottle of Stella Artois, a prescription for Zolpidem, and other miscellaneous items scattered around the bedroom.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.