Our favorite musicians make us happy on good days, sad on days when when you’ve run out of ice cream, the whole gamut of emotions. But musicians do have a dark side, as we all know. Some are abusers, drug addicts, and yes, some of the people whose music you’ve enjoyed have killed people.
Whether in self-defense, by accident, or, very occasionally, cold-blooded murder, there are a handful of artists in the world that have taken the life of another. Sometimes it ends their career, but for a surprising number of them, their musical life keeps moving right along. You might enjoy some of these artists and have completely forgotten that they’ve ended a life, or you might not have known it ever happened at all.
While plenty of musicians of all genres have bragged about killing people in their lyrics, these are some who can actually back that up.
Gucci Mane shot a man early in his career
Trap music pioneer and Atlanta hip hop mainstay Gucci Mane has released nearly 20 albums and has even been nominated for a Grammy. He’s worked with a number of other artists like Drake, Selena Gomez, and even Marilyn Manson. Numerous young rappers, from Atlanta and all over the world, cite him as a major influence in their work. In the last 15 years, he’s made a huge impact on the genre and will likely continue to do so.
But Mane, real name Radric Davis, does have a dark past. He was famously a drug dealer for several years and even spent 90 days in jail on a possession charge for crack cocaine in 2001. And then, in 2005, just days before the release of his debut album, Trap House, he was charged with murder. While visiting a friend at her apartment, five men broke in, threatened, and assaulted Mane and his friend. Mane shot at the men, killing one, Henry Lee Clark III, according to MTV News.
Gucci Mane turned himself in to police and maintained he had shot at the men in self-defense. He was initially charged with murder, and a trial was set for the following year, but within six months, the prosecution had dropped the case after an eyewitness came forward and corroborated Mane’s telling of events.
A French singer was involved in a mysterious death
French actress Claudine Longet was very popular in the 60s and 70s. She appeared on shows like McHale’s Navy, The Name of the Game, and Hogan’s Heroes. After making appearances on several variety shows, where she displayed her singing talent, she scored a recording contract, and while she continued to act, she became more focused on being a musician.
Longet’s popularity only continued to grow. She became friends with Robert F. Kennedy, and was even with him the night he was killed. But Longet had another terrifying night involving a shooting in her future. On March 21, 1976, Longet called police to her home, according to The Vintage News. She had shot her boyfriend, Olympic skier Vladimir "Spider" Sabich.
Longet claimed it was accidental, that Sabich had been showing her how to use the gun when it discharged. Police took her blood and her diary. The blood showed traces of cocaine, and the diary showed their relationship wasn’t exactly smooth, but since these had been obtained without a warrant, they weren’t included in the trial, according to GQ. Longet was eventually charged with negligent homicide, which included 30 days in prison and a small fine. Her career immediately ended. A year later, she agreed to never discuss the incident again if Sabich’s parents dropped a civil suit against her. The public was convinced she got away with murder, though, and people still debate exactly what happened that night.
Suge Knight has only killed one person (that we know of)
Rap producer and mogul Marion "Suge" Knight has a reputation in the music industry for being ruthless, even downright cut-throat. He’s been linked to several murders, including those of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. He and his label, Death Row Records, have deep ties to Los Angeles’ gang underworld, He’s been caught up in all kinds of illicit activity, the depths of which might never be fully known.
But there is at least one death out there that definitely happened because of Knight. In January, 2015, Knight got into an argument with Cle "Bone" Sloan, who was working on the film Straight Outta Compton, a biopic about N.W.A., a group Knight had had many dealings with over the years. What started out as a verbal altercation in a Tam’s Burgers parking lot turned violent when Knight backed over Sloan in his vehicle. He then threw the truck into drive and hit his own long-time friend, Terry Carter, before driving away. Carter later died from his injuries, according to NBC News.
Knight was caught later that day for the hit-and-run. He was initially charged with murder and was staring down a life sentence, but Knight and his lawyers reached a plea deal where Knight would plead no contest to voluntary manslaughter, which came with a sentence of 28 years. He’ll be up for parole in 2038 at the soonest.
C-Murder … committed a murder
In the late 90s, after the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, the rap world underwent a shakeup, and one of the biggest labels to come out of that era was No Limit Records, a label founded by rapper Master P and his two brothers, Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder. The labels and its artists rose quickly, even attracting the likes of Snoop Dogg, who signed with No Limit after finally leaving Death Row Records.
While Master P and Silkk the Shocker kept things pretty chill, reveling in their musical success and even branching out into other forms of entertainment, C-Murder’s career was sidelined in 2003, when he was convicted of second degree murder after killing a 16-year-old fan. For still unknown reasons, Steve Thomas and C-Murder got into an altercation at a New Orleans night club, during which C-Murder shot and killed the teen, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
C-Murder was sentenced to life in prison, where he remains, but he does still make music and release albums while incarcerated. He has now released the same number of albums from prison that he did before his conviction. His lawyers have been trying to get him a new trial, as two former witnesses have now recanted their testimony, but these efforts have been in vain so far.
Norwegian black metal is serious
While goth and emo music are obsessed with death, Norwegian black metal is a whole other story. In the early 90s, Norwegian metal bands dressed in corpse paint and went to extremes to project a violent, nihilistic image, which included burning down historic churches throughout the country.
Most famous among these was Euronymous of the band Mayhem. Just as an example, one of his more notorious acts was coming across the corpse of his bandmate, Dead, who had just committed suicide. Instead of notifying authorities, it’s rumored Euronymous went to the store to buy a disposable camera, posed Dead’s body, and took photos of it, one of which later showed up on the cover of a Mayhem live release.
Then fellow Norwegian black metal musician Varg Vikernes (pictured), who performed under the name Barzum, started feuding with Euronymous, which ended when he showed up at Euronymous’s apartment and murdered him, according to the BBC. Although the exact cause of the feud is murky (Vikernes claimed Euronymous planned to kill him, but it’s not clear if this was true), Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison and was released in 2009 on parole. If anything, the whole incident made Vikernes even more popular among black metal fans, and he still has a following and makes music to this day.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Big Lurch committed a horrific crime
You may not know the name Big Lurch, an up-and-coming rapper in the early 2000s. His first album, The Puppet Master, was garnering pre-release buzz, and he was starting to build a name as a talented horrorcore rapper, with lyrics about grisly murders and cannibalism. At six-foot-seven, Lurch was an intimidating presence and even named himself after the Addams Family’s butler.
In April 2002, though, everything changed. Big Lurch was accused of gruesomely killing his roommate, Tynisha Ysais, while high on PCP. Police found Ysais with her chest split open and bite marks on her face and lungs. While high, Lurch had apparently become convinced the devil lived in his roommate’s stomach and had attempted to remove the demonic presence by killing and cannibalizing parts of Ysais. Lurch himself was found outside, in the middle of the street, naked and bloody, staring at the sky. He was in an induced coma for about two weeks, and when he finally awoke, he found out what he’d done. Lurch had no memory of the events at all, according to iHeartRadio.
Big Lurch was given two life sentences, and he remains in prison today. The owner of his record label, who also worked as his lawyer, renamed Lurch’s one and only album It’s All Bad, and it was finally released just a few months after his conviction.
Snoop from The Wire killed someone as a teen
The Wire, David Simon’s love letter to the city of Baltimore and an HBO hit frequently cited as one of the greatest television shows of all time, featured a number of breakout stars, such as Idris Elba and Michael K. Williams. But one of the more understated performances came from Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, who played a criminal of the same name on the show. Her quiet, ruthless demeanor with just a hint of sensitivity made her a fan favorite.
Since the show ended, Pearson has been trying to break into music, working with various rappers and appearing in music videos, and does still work in film and television projects. But what happened before The Wire is also quite interesting. Pearson learned how to portray a criminal by actually being a criminal in her youth. Starting out as a drug dealer while just a teen, Pearson had quite a record, and likely would have continued doing it if not for a murder charge.
When Pearson was only 14, she killed 15-year-old Okia Toomer, according to Salon. She was convicted of second degree murder for the killing, but since she was a minor, only served a little over six years. After her release, she pulled her life together, earning a G.E.D. and working legit jobs. Four years later, she met Michael K. Williams, who helped her get a role on The Wire.
Bobby Beausoleil got a career boost from Charles Manson
You might be forgiven for never hearing of Bobby Beausoleil. Very few people knew of him or his music in the 1960s. A talented guitarist, Beausoleil was a bit of a troublemaker in his youth, and gravitated toward the hippie movement of Southern California as an adult. He played with several L.A. musicians as a guitarist and was beginning to make a name for himself when he met a fellow young musician named Charles Manson.
After playing with Manson a few times, and even appearing on Manson’s one and only studio album, they became closer and Beausoleil eventually joined Manson’s "family". Afterward, Manson convinced Beausoleil to kill Gary Hinman, who Manson believed owed the family money. Beausoleil did as he was told, and after Manson and the rest of the family were caught and imprisoned, Beausoleil went away, too, and was sentenced to death, according to Vice.
After a few years, Beausoleil’s sentence was instead commuted to life in prison, and he is still incarcerated today. But since his conviction, Beausoleil has continued making music and art, and his work has actually become quite popular since. Beausoleil has released multiple albums during his prison stay, and even wrote and performed the score to a Kenneth Anger film, Lucifer Rising. He’s also worked on initiatives to improve prison music programs, and has helped his fellow inmates start several bands.
Lamb of God’s frontman killed a fan by accident
Lamb of God has been one of the mainstays of the heavy metal genre for two decades. Over nine albums, two Grammy nominations, and one gold record, the band has earned quite a following, both in the U.S. and internationally. They’ve toured all over the world, and their live shows are frequently high-energy, intense affairs, so much so one accidentally led to a fan’s death.
In 2012, the band flew to Czechia for a show in Prague. Moments after arriving, frontman Randy Blythe was arrested by authorities, though he had no idea why. In a 2010 show, the previous time the band visited Prague, a fan climbed on stage and Blythe shoved him back into the crowd. The same fan climbed on a second time, and Blythe escorted him off the stage. Then, Daniel Nosek, a 19-year-old fan, climbed the stage. Blythe confused Nosek for the fan he had already removed from the stage twice and gave him a hard push, assuming the crowd would catch him, according to Loudwire.
They did not, however, and Nosek died from injuries sustained in the fall. The band had no idea it even happened until they returned and Blythe was charged with manslaughter. After several delays, Blythe went to trial, but was eventually found not criminally liable. Blythe did publicly show remorse for the accident and even talked to Nosek’s family privately, saying they were very kind to him.
A famous French rocker killed his mistress
Bertrand Cantat, frontman for rock band Noir Désir, was a major figure in French music in the 90s. Think of a band like Nirvana, and Noir Désir was that for French rock music. The band sold millions of copies and even found success internationally. Cantat became an icon in French music.
But in 2003, while visiting Lithuania, Cantat got into a fight with his mistress, Marie Trintignant, according to the New York Times. While Cantat claimed he slapped her "four times" and then put her to bed, medical examiners quickly found Trintignant had actually been struck over a dozen times. Trintignant went into a coma and later died from the assault. Cantat was charged in Lithuanian courts with murder and was found guilty. However, he was only given a sentence of eight years and allowed to serve it in France. Then he only served half of his sentence before being released in 2007.
Cantat’s treatment and light sentencing angered women’s groups in France. After release, he went right back to playing in Noir Désir. Cantat’s wife, Kristina Rady, stood by him during the murder charge and his imprisonment. However, in 2010, she committed suicide. During that investigation, police uncovered evidence Cantat was abusive to Rady, but ended up not pressing charges, according to the BBC. Cantat remains free.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Cassidy fired on unarmed men
In the early 2000s, rapper Cassidy was well-known for his skills in freestyling and rap battles, and began making moves to release albums in a more traditional manner, signing with Ruff Ryders and releasing his debut album, Split Personality, in 2004. The album had had some success, and its single, "Hotel," had topped the charts. Cassidy began readying his follow-up, I’m a Hustla, and its single of the same name, for release in 2005.
But just a few weeks before I’m a Hustla released, Cassidy was arrested and charged based on an incident that happened earlier in the year. Cassidy and two accomplices had fired on three unarmed men, killing one, Desmond Hawkins, and injuring the other two. The event stemmed from an argument earlier in the day where one of Cassidy’s crew got into an argument with Roberto Johnson. Johnson, Hawkins, and one other got into a van, unarmed and drove up behind Cassidy’s house to confront them when they were attacked.
Cassidy was initially charged with first degree murder, according to MTV News. This was eventually dropped to third degree murder, then bumped back up to first degree once again. In the end, though, prosecutors could only convict Cassidy of involuntary manslaughter. This carried a prison sentence of 11 to 23 months, with credit for seven months he had already served. He was released in 2006 and returned to his music career.
A rock and roll legend killed his mother
A session drummer in the 1960s and 1970s, Jim Gordon played with just about every major rock artist out there, including George Harrison, The Beach Boys, and Eric Clapton, with whom he was a member of Derek and the Dominos. Gordon even received a co-writing credit for Clapton’s infamous unrequited love song "Layla" for the piano melody that serves as the song’s coda. Gordon became one of the most respected and sought-after drummers in rock.
But, tragically, Gordon was struggling with something even he didn’t understand. He had undiagnosed schizophrenia, but he’d managed to keep the symptoms at bay for most of his life, only showing occasional bouts with the illness where he’d display self-destructive behavior. Then on June 3, 1983, a voice in his head told him to kill his 72-year-old mother, according to Ultimate Classic Rock. Gordon murdered his mother, and in a 1994 interview, described it as being "like a dream" and saying while he remembered the act, it felt like he was watching it from afar.
Gordon was sentenced to life in a psychiatric hospital. He’s been eligible for parole several times since, but doctors have continuously argued he’s a danger to himself and others, especially if he doesn’t take medication, something they had noted he often resisted taking.