How musicians die

It's said that when the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker died, a huge clap of thunder shook the building where he ended his days. Parker's death, while a tragic loss to music, wouldn't have come as a surprise to anyone who knew him. He reached a mere 34 years old, though the coroner took one look at his ravaged body and concluded he must at least be in his fifties. Parker's long-time heroin addiction was just one element in a life of varied and colossal substance abuse. But in the end it was most likely alcohol that killed him.

In this regard he resembled English contralto goddess Amy Winehouse. Her consumption of exotic and illegal drugs, including heroin, might have been on a scale to rival Charlie Parker's, but it was ultimately vodka which proved fatal to the brilliant singer songwriter in her North London flat. Her cause of death was recorded as alcohol poisoning, bingeing after a period of abstinence. In its own way, her loss to the world of music was as profound as Parker's.

I became preoccupied with the connection between death and music when I was researching my first Vinyl Detective crime novel Written in Dead Wax. After all, it was a murder mystery, and the McGuffin was a rare jazz record, situating music as the motive for the deaths unleashed. For the second novel in the series, The Run-Out Groove, it's a rare rock recording which sets the story in motion, but naturally violent, unexpected and premature death is still inextricably woven into the narrative... Read the rest