Rock ‘N’ Roll Curses That Still Haunt Fans Today

Legends of curses have circulated around the rock ‘n’ roll industry since the early 1900s. Some are based on fact, while others are entirely made up. The lack of science behind someone supposedly learning guitar skills from the devil hasn’t stopped people from believing in these curses, though.

If you dream of rocking out on stage, you’ll want to be careful, because rock musicians seem to attract paranormal malice. Even if you avoid Faustian bargains and receiving song lyrics from Charles Manson, you still might get voodooed. Here are several supposed curses that terrorized rock ‘n’ roll bands.

Led Zepplin’s Faustian Bargain


Led Zeppelin's original four members, colored photo: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham, and John Paul Jones

Shortly after the band formed in 1968, a rumor unfurled that three of the four founding members–Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, and John Bonham–made a Faustian deal with the devil to bring them fame. While the band did become successful, the three members later suffered from the supposed curse.

Plant ended up in a serious car crash, which left him unable to walk for some time. Afterward, his young son Karac died from an unidentified stomach virus. Bonham passed away from addiction in 1980, ending Led Zepplin. Page struggled through a decade-long addiction to drugs. Only John Paul Jones, the one member who supposedly didn’t partake in the ritual, survived relatively unscathed.

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The Twenty-Seven Club Curse

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Since the late 1930s, musicians and artists from all genres have frequently passed away at age 27. In just four years (1969-1971), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison all died at that age. By the time Kurt Cobain died at 27 in 1994, the curse had entrenched itself into rock ‘n’ roll legends.

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In 2011, a study in the British Medicinal Journal concluded that there are no higher health risks for rock stars in their 27th year of life. That doesn’t stop people from believing in the curse, though.

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Robert Johnson And The Crossroads Pact

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Black and white photo of Robert Johnson, renowned blues guitarist.

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Robert Johnson was a blues guitarist whose techniques influenced countless rock bands, including the Rolling Stones. According to legend, Johnson took his guitar to a crossroads in Mississippi at midnight. The devil appeared, tuned his guitar, played a couple of songs, and handed it back to Johnson. This encounter supposedly gave the musician award-winning music skills.

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The curse arose after Johnson’s death, which oddly happened when he was just 27. No cause of death was released. Rock bands who covered his song “Crossroads” have met ill fates afterward. Cream recorded a cover of “Crossroads” shortly before they split up. Their guitarist, Eric Clapton, struggled with drug and alcohol addiction and later witnessed his son’s death.

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Lynyrd Skynyrd Suffers From The Crossroads Curse

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Lynyrd Skynyrd singer Johnny Van Zant and guitarist Gary Rossington perform in a concert

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One band who covered “Crossroads” in 1976 seemed to suffer from Johnson’s curse. Lynyrd Skynyrd faced tragedy soon after its inception. Their original drummer, Robert Burns Jr., died in a car crash. Founding members Allen Collins and Gary Rossington almost shared his fate in 1976.

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Worst of all, at the height of the band’s popularity in 1977, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane crashed into the Mississippi. Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gains, and band manager Dean Kilpatrick all died on impact. The rest of the band struggled with emotional trauma and addiction for the rest of their days.

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Waylon Jennings Cast A Curse On Buddy Holly

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Rock n Roll influencer Buddy Holly with The Crickets

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Buddy Holly was a singer-songwriter who pioneered 1950s rock ‘n’ roll. Waylon Jennings was Holly’s bassist. On February 3, 1959, Holly and other rockstars boarded a plane to their next gig. Since there were few seats, Jennings opted to take the bus seat instead. Holly joked, “I hope you ol’ bus freezes up!” to which Jennings replied, “I hope your ol’ plane crashes!”

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The plane did crash. Buddy Holly and his fellow members died, marking “The Day the Music Died.” The rumor of Jennings’ “curse” didn’t help alleviate his guilt. He carried that grief for the rest of his life.

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Buddy Holly’s Curse Spreads

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View of American rock and roll musician Buddy Holly's gravestone in Lubbock, Texas, 1975.

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Another reason that fans believe that Buddy Holly was cursed is because after the plane crash, everyone associated with Holly met a bitter end. Holly’s wife, Maria Elena Santiago, was pregnant when he died. Shortly after, she suffered a miscarriage.

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Ronnie Smith, a member of Holly’s previous band, hanged himself several years after the crash. His close friend and fellow artist Eddie Cochran died in a taxi accident at age 21. Even people involved in the production of The Buddy Holly Story had bad things happen to them. Screenwriter Robert Gitler committed suicide and actor Gary Busey was in a terrible motorcycle accident. Keith Moon, drummer for the Who, died of an overdose after watching The Buddy Holly Story on September 7, 1978. September 7 was Holly’s birthday.

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Eddie & The Hot Rods Anger An Occultist

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Eddie and the Hot Rods single album cover do anything you wanna do

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In 1977, Eddie & The Hot Rods released their single, “Do Anything You Wanna Do.” The song was inspired by occultist Aleister Crowley’s Law of Thelema, “Do what thou wilt is the whole of the law.” They even decided to put Crowley on the cover with a comical pair of Mickey Mouse ears on his head.

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No, it wasn’t Crowley who got upset (he died in 1947), but one of his devoted followers, Jimmy Page. Rumor has it that Page cast a curse on the band, after which the musicians dropped their label and never reached the Top Ten chart again.

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The Beach Boys Received Malicious Magic From Charles Manson

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The Beach boys band members including Carl Wilson, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, Dennis Wilson and Mike Love

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After the Beach Boys released “Never Learn Not to Love,” rumor spread that Charles Manson wrote that song for them. Unlike other rock urban legends, this one is entirely true. Manson passed the lyrics on to drummer Dennis Wilson, who changed the title and adopted it. Because Manson practiced the occult, some people believe that he passed on a curse through that song.

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The Beach Boys suffered cruel punishments from their father, Murry Wilson. Brian Wilson believed that he was being watched and that his songs influenced the real world. He got diagnosed with schizophrenia. Dennis ended up homeless and addicted, and eventually drowned in Marina Del Rey while drunk and trying to recover items he’d thrown into the marina years earlier.

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Harry Nilsson’s Cursed Apartment

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Harry Nilsson playing piano in his cursed apartment, 1972.

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When singer Harry Nilsson realized how many deaths occurred in his apartment in Mayfair, London, he left. In 1974, Mama Cass of the Mamas & the Papas died in her sleep from heart failure there. Four years later, the drummer of The Who, Keith Moon, also died there at the same age. Both were 32 years old.

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Harry Nilsson had loaned out the Flat 12, 9 Curzon Place apartment to both musicians. He disowned the apartment after the deaths. Later, The Who’s lead singer Pete Townshend bought the space to prevent it from becoming a tourist trap.

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The Curse Of The Fleetwood Mac Guitarist

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British-American rock group Fleetwood Mac members John McVie, Peter Green, and Jeremy Spencer.

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Ever since Fleetwood Mac formed in the late ’60s, their guitarists have gone off the rails in one way or another. Their first guitarist, Peter Green, entered an LSD craze and told the band manager he was Jesus. He became so obsessed with immortality that he left the band, later getting diagnosed with schizophrenia.

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Slide guitarist Jeremy Spencer left a tour to buy a magazine and never returned. Days later, the band found that he had joined the Children of God cult. Bob Welch was a guitarist prior to Lindsay Buckingham. He shot himself in 2012. Most notoriously, Danny Kirwan lost his temper onstage and banged his head repeatedly against the wall. After many troubled years, he died in his sleep in 2018.

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The Cobain Curse

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Kurt Cobain, of guitarist and singer-songwriter of Nirvana, playing a Takamine acoustic guitar during a recording session

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After Kurt Cobain died by suicide in 1994, Nirvana fans around the world wondered what pushed the singer that far. Cobain’s widow, Courtney Love, revealed that suicidal tendencies ran far back through his family, calling this genetic influence the “Cobain curse.”

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The only other confirmed Cobain suicide happened in 1979, when Kurt’s uncle, Burle, attempted to kill himself twice through gunshot. Rumors spread that more family members had the mental illness. Beyond the curse theory, research has demonstrated that genetics do influence suicidal tendencies to some degree.

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Judas Priest Delivers Satanic Messages

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Richie Faulkner,Scott Travis, Rob Halford, Glenn Tipton, and Ian Hill of Judas Priest performs at the US Bank Arena in 2011.

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Throughout the ’80s and ’90s, the “Satanic Panic” rippled through the U.S. The band Judas Priest got the worst of it when they were sued by a mother, who claimed that her two boys attempted suicide (one survived) after listening to their music. She theorized that the band placed the backmasked lyrics “do it” in “Better by You, Better Than Me” which possessed the boys to self-harm.

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The song’s supposed curse lost all credibility when the judge discovered that the Priest did admit to inserting backmasked messages into the recording. Although the court case was dropped, the idea that rock music promotes Satanic messages still lives on.

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Keyboardists Of The Grateful Dead All Meet Tragic Ends

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ince Welnick of The Grateful Dead performs at The Omni Coliseum in Atlanta.

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Deadheads likely know that the first four keyboardists of the Grateful Dead died before age 38. Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, their first keyboardist and a founding member, died in 1971 from a gastrointestinal hemorrhage (and joined the 27 Club).

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Keith Godchaux joined the band next. In 1979, he died in a car accident after he left the band. The third keyboard player, Brent Mydland, died of an overdose in 1990. More recently, Vince Welnick reportedly committed suicide in 2006. His final album, released postmortem, was titled “I’m Scared.” These deaths have added up to the Grateful Dead Keyboardist Curse.

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The 1990s Were A Cursed Decade For Rock

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Display collection vinyl records inside antiques center.

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The ’90s starred some of the greatest tragedies in rock history, including the death of Kurt Cobain and Richey Edward’s disappearance. With all the disasters occurring, people began to suspect that some paranormal forces impacted rock and alternative musicians during the decade.

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A few musicians who unexpectedly passed away during the decade include Andrew Wood from Mother Love Bone, Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, Bradley Nowell from Sublime, and Jonathon Melvoin of Smashing Pumpkins. All died suddenly from an overdose at the height of their group’s career.

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Badfinger Could’ve Excelled, If Not For The Curse

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Badfinger band members Pete Ham, Joey Molland, Mike Gibbons, and Tommy Evans

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The members of Badfinger were good-looking, talented, and had connections to the Beatles. People called them “the new Fab Four” and expected the band to rise to stardom. But everything that could go wrong, went wrong twice, and fans labeled their tragedy a curse that people still know them by today.

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The band struggled with its management, with guitarist Peter Ham’s wife taking control. They were caught up in murky legal situations they couldn’t claw themselves out of. In 1975, Ham took his own life. The other guitarist, Tom Evans, followed suit eight years later.

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AC/DC Struggles With Diabolical Forces

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AC/DC Members Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Angus Young, Cliff Williams, Phil Rudd studio group shot

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With the rise in popularity of the Led Zeppelin curse, fans worried that AC/DC suffered from a similar paranormal happening when Bon Scott died in 1980. The notion of AC/DC’s curse faded into obscurity until 2014, when things started to get weird.

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In 2014, guitarist Malcolm Young began feeling the effects of dementia and left the band to live in a nursing home. That same year, drummer Phil Rudd was arrested for attempted murder by trying to hire a hitman. The charges were dropped, but now, the only original member of the band is Angus Young.

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The Allman Brothers Band Motorcycle Curse

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Duane Allman chats with his brother Greg Allman backstage before the Allman Brothers' performance

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Ever since the Allman Brothers Band formed, the southern rock group seemed to crash into tragedy. Two years after the band began recording, founder and slide guitarist Duane Allman died tragically in a motorcycle accident in Macon, Georgia. While fans grieved his death, no one suspected a curse until bassist Berry Oakley crash his motorcycle a year later, three blocks from Allman’s fatal crash.

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These two deaths made people suspect that a curse spread throughout the band. Duane’s brother Gregg Allman battled hepatitis C, drug abuse and, finally, liver cancer. In 2017, drummer Butch Trucks took his life in front of his wife.

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San Francisco’s Last Show Curse

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George Harrison, center, and Ringo Starr, partially obscured, and the rest of The Beatles walk onto the infield of Candlestick Park, their last public concert.

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When the Black Keys played their last show in 2015, they sensed the end coming–rockstar’s final performance tends to happen in San Francisco. Frontman Dan Auerbach told Uncut, “This could be a curse.” For instance, the Beatles’ delivered their final performance in Candlestick Park, feeling disconnected from their tour the whole time.

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A decade after, the Band played their Last Waltz in the Winterland Ballroom of San Francisco. They, too, had lost their passion. The Sex Pistols’ only tour had started off disastrously, and ended the same way–also at Winterland Ballroom.

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Dead Man’s Curve Becomes Dead Man’s Curse

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Photo of Jan & Dean rock duo with a yellow background

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When the rock duo Jan and Dean recorded Dead Man’s Curve in 1964, fans invented strange interpretations of the song. The lyrics detail a teen who races another driver in his Corvette Sting Ray. However, some fans believed that the singers were asking the universe to make them immortal.

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The rumor spread like wildfire when, in 1966, Jan crashed his Stingray into a parked truck. Some versions of the story say he crashed on Dead Man’s Curve, but his accident occurred the next street over, on North Whittier Drive. Although Jan narrowly survived, fans still believed that this came about from the curse.

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Richey Edwards’ Mysterious Disappearance Raises Eyebrows

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Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers is interviewed in the offices of the NME, London, 1992.

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Richard Edwards was a Welsh rock and alternative guitarist in the band Manic Street Preachers. In 1995, on the day the band scheduled to fly to their U.S. tour, he took his wallet, car keys, and Prozac, and disappeared. To this day, he is still a missing person.

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With a disappearance as shocking as this, fans naturally speculated that something paranormal occurred, especially because his last recorded work was titled “The Holy Bible.” Sightings of the guitarist have popped up as recently as 2018, leading people to believe that he may haunt the earth, or staged his disappearance.

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