What might some of the rock 'n' roll era's greatest stars have achieved and what might they look like now, if they had not died before their time? To explore these tantalizing questions, Sachs Media Group partnered with photo restoration and manipulation company Phojoe to create this gallery of images. It is a heartfelt tribute to the memory of beloved artists who helped shape generations of music fans, in order to keep their memory alive for future generations.
Guitarist/songwriter with the breakthrough grunge band Nirvana
Died: 1994 Age: 27
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 8, 1994) Considered by many to be the greatest rock artist of the 1990s, guitarist/songwriter Cobain led the Seattle-area band Nirvana to the top of the charts with “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a hard-driving song from the band’s Nevermind album. The album produced a series of hits, including “In Bloom,” “Come As You Are” and “Polly,” and ushered in a new genre of rock called “grunge.” Cobain was hailed as the voice of a dissatisfied generation, but the acclaim proved too much for the young artist. A year after the release of the group’s follow-up album In Utero, the 27-year-old Cobain fatally shot himself. Cobain, as a part of Nirvana, was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for induction in 2014.
Drummer for the Beach Boys
Died: 1983 Age: 39
Dennis Wilson (December 4, 1944 – December 28, 1983) Wilson was the drummer for surf music pioneers the Beach Boys, contributing greatly to the California band’s overwhelming success in the music industry. He was part of a true family band, joining brothers Brian and Carl Wilson, cousin Mike Love and good friend Al Jardine to produce upbeat songs that featured catchy guitar hooks, pulsing drum beats and incomparable vocal harmonies. He was assigned lead vocals on a few early songs, but his vocal claim to fame came in 1965 with the song “Do You Wanna Dance.” Dennis’ gruff voice captured the hearts of millions when combined with tender ballads. Dennis struggled with alcohol and drugs, and he died of an accidental drowning in 1983, when he was just 39 years old. Wilson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Beach Boys in 1988.
Singer and drummer for the Carpenters
Died: 1983 Age: 32
Karen Carpenter (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983) Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Carpenter and her brother Richard formed the Carpenters. Together, they made up one of the most successful groups of the early 1970s with hits like “Close to You,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “Top of the World.” They were among the biggest-selling acts of the decade with ten million-selling singles, and over the years their combined worldwide sales of albums and singles has exceeded 100 million units. However, Carpenter suffered from self-image problems and after a long battle with anorexia nervosa put undue stress on her heart, she died from cardiac arrest at age 32.
Reggae music’s most influential artist
Died: 1981 Age: 36
Bob Marley (February 6, 1945 – May 11, 1981) Coming out of Kingston, Jamaica’s Trench Town ghetto, Marley became reggae music’s most influential artist. Marley founded the Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, and the group produced some of the genre’s most recognized songs, including “Get Up, Stand Up” and “I Shot the Sheriff.” After Tosh and Wailer left the group, Marley continued producing such hits as “Exodus,” “One Love” and “Three Little Birds.” Marley was hugely influential in Jamaica in the mid 1970s, described by Time Magazine as rivaling the government as a political force. Marley died of cancer in Miami in 1981 at the age of 36, and was buried in Jamaica with full state honors. Marley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994.
Founder of the Beatles and influential songwriter and pioneer for peace
Died: 1980 Age: 40
John Lennon (October 9, 1940 – December 8, 1980) Lennon formed half of music’s most successful songwriting partnership, joining with Paul McCartney to compose dozens of Number 1 hits. Lennon founded the Quarrymen in the late 1950s in his hometown of Liverpool, England, eventually joined in the band by McCartney and guitarist George Harrison. Lennon changed the group’s name to the Beatles and, finally joined by drummer Ringo Starr, in 1962 the band began an eight-year run producing an unprecedented string of hit singles and such influential albums as Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Abbey Road. After the band broke up in 1970, Lennon went on to have a successful solo career with hits like “Instant Karma,” “Imagine,” “Mind Games,” “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” and “Woman.” After a five-year break from recording to concentrate on raising his young son, Lennon made a successful return to the music scene in 1980. Shortly after the release of the album Double Fantasy, at the age of 40, Lennon was shot to death as he arrived home from a recording session. Lennon was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Beatles in 1988 and as a solo artist in 1994.
Notoriously wild drummer for the Who
Died: 1978 Age: 32
Keith Moon (August 23, 1946 – September 7, 1978) One of the greatest rock and roll drummers ever, Moon earned a reputation as “Moon the Loon” from the trail of destroyed drum kits and trashed hotel rooms left in his wake. He was known for his unique drumming style, playing zigzag across his elaborate drum kit with a wash of cymbals. His playing ushered in an era in which drums became far more than simply a means of keeping the beat. Moon’s unorthodox yet exciting style of drumming can be found on many of the Who’s greatest recordings, including “I Can See For Miles,” “Young Man Blues,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Who Are You.” Moon died in 1978 at age 32 after overdosing on medicine he was taking to combat alcoholism. Moon was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 as a member of the Who.
The King of Rock and Roll
Died: 1977 Age: 42
Elvis Presley (January 8, 1935 – August 16, 1977) Universally hailed as the King of Rock and Roll, Presley exploded onto the music scene in the mid 1950s. Presley was a truck driver when he was discovered in 1953 by producer Sam Phillips. He came into Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee, to record a song for his mother, and Philips was struck by Presley’s voice and signed the singer. Inspired by gospel, country and western, and rhythm and blues, Presley and his band (guitarist Scotty Moore and bassist Bill Black) recorded a number of songs for Sun, including “That’s Alright, Mama” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” Presley signed with RCA in 1955 and subsequently released a succession of hit records, including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Don’t Be Cruel,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock” and the title track from his first movie, “Love Me Tender.” Presley was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1958; after two years in the service, he returned and focused primarily on making movies and recording soundtracks. Presley starred in 33 movies in his career and returned to making music in 1968 with his famed televised comeback special. That was followed by music he recorded in Memphis, including “Suspicious Minds,” “In the Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain.” Presley was 42 when he died of a heart attack at Graceland, his Memphis mansion, on August 16, 1977. He continues to hold the record for most Top 40 hits (104), most Top 10 hits (38) and most weeks at Number One (80). Presley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986.
'Mama' Cass Elliot
Singer with the Mamas and the Papas
Died: 1974 Age: 33
‘Mama’ Cass Elliot (September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974) Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, the Baltimore native made a name for herself – “Mama” – as the booming-voiced singer with the superstar ‘60s quartet the Mamas and the Papas. From 1965 to 1968, the group recorded a series of top ten hits including “Monday, Monday,” “California Dreaming” and “I Saw Her Again.” The group’s last hit, “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” launched her into a brief but successful solo singing career, as well as acting roles. Mama Cass succumbed to a heart attack in 1974, at age 33. Cass Elliot was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Mamas and the Papas in 1998.
Hit-making singer in the earliest days of rock ‘n’ roll
Died: 1973 Age: 37
Bobby Darin (May 14, 1936 – December 20, 1973) The Bronx-born Darin was an extraordinary entertainer, excelling as a singer, songwriter and actor. Highlights of Darin’s singing career were the hits “Splish Splash,” “Dream Lover” and his signature song, “Mack the Knife,” which spent a full year in the top 10, including 9 weeks at No. 1. After lengthy health problems, Darin died following open-heart surgery at age 37. Darin was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
Ethereal “Lizard King” singer and songwriter for the Doors
Died: 1971 Age: 27
Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971) Morrison, the charismatic lead singer and lyricist for the Doors, joined with keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and drummer John Densmore to form the Doors. The band exploded onto the national music scene in the mid 1960s with the hit song “Light My Fire” and went on to create some of the most poetic, intense and revolutionary rock 'n' roll music ever produced. At 11 minutes, the band's song, "The End" was one of rock's first long-form pieces and exemplifies the sound of mid-‘60s "acid rock." Backed by Manzarek's calliope style of organ playing, Morrison wrote image-rich lyrics that revolutionized the rock genre. The band ventured across musical styles, with hits ranging from the blues-infused "Roadhouse Blues" to the horn-rich pop of "Touch Me" to the ethereal "Riders on the Storm." Morrison frequently clashed with authority, including memorable incidents in which he was banned from the Ed Sullivan Show after ignoring demands to change certain lyrics and his controversial arrest in Miami for alleged indecent behavior. He died in the bathtub of a Paris apartment at the age of 27 and is buried a short distance away. Morrison was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Doors in 1993.
Extraordinary rock-blues singer
Died: 1970 Age: 27
Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970) Janis Joplin was an extraordinary blues singer whose influence on the music industry can still be felt today. Emerging from her East Texas home of Port Arthur, she moved to San Francisco and gained nationwide acclaim as the lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band burst on the national scene with its landmark second album Cheap Thrills. Joplin performed solo at the Woodstock Music and Art Festival in 1969 and with the Full Tilt Boogie Band in the spring of 1970. Later that year, the hard-living singer was found dead of a drug overdose at the age of 27. Her final studio album, Pearl, was released posthumously and attained quadruple-platinum status. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Widely hailed as rock’s greatest guitarist
Died: 1970 Age: 27
Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) Widely hailed as rock’s greatest electric guitarist, Jimi Hendrix had an impact on the music industry this is still felt today. His first album, Are You Experienced, featured songs that would come to define a generation, including “Purple Haze,” “The Wind Cries Mary” and “Foxey Lady.” The left-handed guitarist built his own recording studio, Electric Lady Studios, in the late 1960s, and closed the legendary Woodstock Music and Art Festival in August 1969. Sadly, Hendrix succumbed to drugs, dying of an overdose in 1971 at the age of 27. Jimi Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1992.