Neo-soul chanteuse Amy Winehouse’s death at 27 was a tragedy everyone had predicted for years. Some say that the self-imposed drama and lack of self-control fed the creative muse that led to great art. Mostly it saps the performer’s soul and robs them, and their fans, of their future greatness. Country music has no shortage of self destruction and many, Waylon, Haggard, Cash, Jones to name the most famous names gave it their best shot but lived a while longer to tell their tale. Here are a few that pushed it so far to led them to the last round-up.
- Keith Whitley’s drinking habits rivaled his influence on Music City. Whitley was a longtime alcoholic beginning before he was of of legal age and continuing through his early career as a bluegrass performer. Many times he had tried to overcome his alcoholism, but failed. While married to country singer Lorrie Morgan she would try and hide alcohol from him, even going as far tying their legs together before bed to ensure Whitley would not wake up in the middle of the night to drink. She would discover later that he was drinking perfume and nail polish to get get loaded. At the time of his death his blood alcohol level was .477 (the equivalent of 20 1-ounce shots of 100-proof whiskey and almost five times over the then Tennessee level of 0.1 legal intoxication limit (wikipedia)
- Gram Parsons not only brought country music to the 60’s culture that had largely shunned it, he also was was one of the first to die from a a occupational hazard of living the high-life of the era including being a jamming, and heroin using, buddy of Keith Richards. Parsons was a founding member of the Americana movement and his solo work, work with the Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers and his collaborations with protege Emmylou Harris is legendary. Parson’s career was plagued by drugs and alcohol use and before a tour was scheduled to commence in October 1973, Parsons decided to go to Joshua Tree National Monument in southeastern California. Less than two days after arriving at the park, Parsons died on September 19, 1973 at the age of 26 from an overdose of morphine and alcohol
- Hank Williams did more that just lay down the template for all country music to follow, but also the hard living that has become it’s legacy. An undiagnosed case of spina bifida occulta is beloved to have caused of his life-long abuse of alcohol and drugs. Dispute warnings from his boss and co-writer Roy Acuff, William’s demons worsened and led to his firing from the Grand Ole Opry for habitual drunkenness and, ultimately leading to his death at the age 29 on on January 1, 1953 in the back of his ’52 Cadillac on his way to a show in Charleston, West Virginia.