Study: Solo stars at higher death risk than bands
LONDON (AP) — Rock 'n' roll will never die — but it's a hazardous occupation.
An academic study published Thursday confirms that rock and pop musicians are more likely to die prematurely than the general population, and finds that solo artists are twice as likely to die young as members of bands.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University and Britain's Health Department studied 1,489 rock, pop, punk, R&B, rap, electronica and New Age stars who became famous between 1956 and 2006 — from Elvis Presley to the Arctic Monkeys.
They found that 137 of the stars, or 9.2 percent, had died, representing "higher levels of mortality than demographically matched individuals in the general population."
The researchers dismissed the "fanciful but unsubstantiated" popular myth that rock stars tend to die at 27 — as Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse all did. The average age of death was 45.2 years for North American stars and 39.6 for European ones.
Solo performers had twice the death risk of members of bands. Lead researcher Mark Bellis speculated that could be because bands provide peer support at stressful times.
"Solo artists, even though they have huge followings, may be relatively isolated," said Bellis, director of the Center for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University.
Music critic John Aizlewood agreed that solo artists receive more attention and adulation — and also more pressure.
"And when you are a solo act, irrespective of what they say in interviews, it's an incredibly egotistical thing," he said. "So you tend to be dealing with people who are more emotionally extreme.
"They have an ego in the way a drummer or even a lead guitarist in a band doesn't."
In good news for aging rockers, the study found that, after 25 years of fame, stars' death rates began to return to normal — at least in Europe. A European star still living 36 years after achieving fame faces a similar mortality rate to the European public. But U.S. artists continue to die in greater numbers.