10 Musical Artists Who Died in Plane Crashes

Posted in: Musicouching by Carlos Máximo on April 27th, 2009 | 2 Comments

This is a short collection of famous artists that died in plane accidents.

Music fans know today as “The Day the Music Died” because a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper crashed in Iowa, killing them all. The site of the crash is only about an hour and a half away from Des Moines, so it’s a pretty big deal around here, especially since this year is the 50th anniversary. But there seems to be an inordinate number of recording artists who have died in plane crashes. I mean, probably not – since so many of them fly on small planes to get from gig to gig, it stands to reason that the number of deaths by plane crash would be higher in the music industry than any other profession. But still… it seems like a lot, and they’re all certainly very tragic. Today’s Q10 pays homage to 10 other music greats who met their ends via aviation accident.

1. Patsy Cline, 1963.

Patsy may have had a premonition that she was going to die – according to June Carter Cash and Loretta Lynn, Patsy told them that something didn’t feel right and she didn’t think she was going to be around much longer. That was in 1962, and in 1963, the plane taking her from Kansas City to Nashville crashed just about 90 miles away from its destination.


2. Ricky Nelson, 1985.

There are lots of things you might know Ricky from – The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, his teen idol days or as the dad of Gunnar and Matthew. He was also married to Mark Harmon’s older sister, Kristin. By the late ‘70s, though, he was in a lot of debt and his wife left him and took the kids. He started touring almost constantly to try to dig his way out of his financial hole. It was a 1985 nostalgia rock tour of the South that would be his undoing – after playing a show in Guntersville, Alabama, he and his band were headed to Dallas to play a New Year’s Eve show. It crashed northeast of Dallas, killing all seven passengers (the pilots survived). Investigation later showed that a fire had broken out in the cabin and the pilots attempted an emergency landing.

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and his sister, backup singer Cassie Gaines, 1977.

The band was flying from Greenville, S.C., to Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge; the plane went down about five miles outside of Gillsburg, Mississippi. There is a lot of speculation as to why the plane actually crashed, but the official accident report says that it was a combination of fuel exhaustion, engine malfunction and inadequate flight planning.

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