Classic Rock

Famous 70s’ Musicians and Celebrities Tragically Killed

todayApril 4, 2024

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The ’70s was a remarkable era of famous actors, talented musicians, and stunning models. But sadly, some stars of that time suffered brutal losses of life due to acts of violence. This haunting reality affected even the favorites of the time, showing that fame doesn’t offer protection from tragedy. Some crimes remain open to this day.

David “Stringbean” Akeman


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David Akeman, popularly known as “Stringbean,” was a top country music star. Known for his banjo playing and comedic act, he captured the audience’s attention on television. When he wasn’t performing, he spent time on his farm in Ridgetop, Tennessee. Tragically, in 1973, David and his wife, Estelle, were murdered during a robbery at their home. Steve Gibson, a family friend, once remembered the couple saying about their farm: “We’re so happy here, we want to live in this little cabin ’til the day we die.”

John Lennon


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Bob Crane


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The mystery of Bob Crane’s death still remains. Crane, known for his role in the hit show “Hogan’s Heroes,” was found brutally injured in an apartment building in Scottdale, Arizona. Local theater director, Ed Beck, who had rented the apartment, was asked to identify the body. Beck could only say, “There was no way I could identify him from one side. The other side, yes.”

This happened on June 29, 1978. After that, Crane’s private life was revealed. his son, Robert, said his father had a problem with sex, liked to take adult photos in his dressing room, and had affairs while working, but everything was with agreement. He also said he thinks his father was killed because he wanted to change his life and job, not because of his sexual actions.

John Henry Carpenter, a close friend who helped Crane get the equipment to make his adult films, was a suspect but was not found guilty. Robert thinks his father was killed because he wanted to leave the group that included Carpenter. He told Entertainment Weekly, “There’s still fog. And when I say ‘fog,’ it’s that word ‘closure,’ which I hate. But there is no closure. You live with death for the rest of your life.”

John Lennon, a music legend, was shot dead in 1980. Before his death, in an interview with Playboy, he had remarked about how non-violent people sometimes die violent deaths, saying, “I can never work that out. We’re pacifists, but I’m not sure what it means when you’re such a pacifist that you get shot. I can never understand that.” The gunman, Mark David Chapman, was a previously obsessed Beatles fan, had met Lennon, got an autograph, and later shot him outside his home.

Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye’s story is one of family turmoil, ended by his own father’s hand on April 1, 1984. Gaye once described living with his father as being under the rule of “an all-cruel, changeable, cruel, and all-powerful king.” A family dispute turned deadly, leaving the world bereft of a musical genius.

Jaco Pastorius


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Renowned for revolutionizing the electric bass in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Jaco Pastorius’ life ultimately descended into turmoil exacerbated by his battles with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness. His behavior became unpredictable, resulting in legal troubles and strained personal relationships.

Regrettably, this period culminated in Pastorius’ death in 1987. After being barred from several Florida nightclubs due to his conduct, he was involved in an incident outside of one such establishment. On September 12, Pastorius attempted to enter a club and was violently beaten by club manager Luc Havan. Pastorius suffered grievous injuries from which he never regained consciousness and was taken off life support nine days later, on September 21.

Havan faced charges for second-degree murder but ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The court sentenced him to 21 months, though he was released after four months served, leaving the music world to mourn the loss of a legendary and influential musician.

Al Jackson Jr.

Al Jackson Jr., a soul music pioneer with Booker T. and the MG’s, endured a tumultuous personal life. In July 1975, an argument with his wife Barbara led to him being shot; she claimed self-defense, and charges were dismissed. They remained together through continued success with the band, but Al would not live to see their next recording session.

On October 1, 1975, police discovered Barbara outside their home, hands bound, with Al shot dead inside. She testified that a burglar had invaded the home, tied her up, and then killed Al when he returned. Despite suggestions that Al might have known his assailant, the murder remains unsolved. Speculations abound, including theories tied to the demise of Stax Records and business disputes, but no definitive explanation has been uncovered.

Sal Mineo

In 2018, author James Ellroy wrote about a sad murder in 1976 Hollywood for The Hollywood Reporter. It all began when police found a bloody scene in a West Hollywood carport. The report said the victim had a deep stab wound in his chest, and there was a lot of blood.

The victim was Sal Mineo, a famous actor known for his role in “Rebel Without a Cause.” Witnesses said they saw a young white man with long hair running from the crime scene. This led police to investigate people who knew Mineo, especially his ex-lovers. However, about a year into the case, they found out the man they were looking for wasn’t the real murderer, leading them to Lionel Williams.

Williams’ girlfriend told police he had confessed to killing a young man in Hollywood to rob him. But there was nothing to steal and he realized he had killed Mineo. Police tracked him to Michigan and arrested him. Williams was then sentenced to 51 years in prison for the murder and some robberies.

David Huffman

David Huffman, best known for his role in “F.I.S.T.” with Sylvester Stallone, and for his work on 70s TV shows was sadly killed in 1985. His body was found in San Diego’s Balboa Park by school kids on a trip. The police found out he had been stabbed multiple times and asked for help to find the murderer. Then, a Canadian couple provided the essential clue.

The couple were in the park when Huffman was killed, and they spotted a suspicious person snooping around their motorhome. After Huffman confronted this individual, the Canadian couple’s information led to the arrest of a 16-year-old boy.

Huffman was praised at the trial for helping the couple and paid for it with his life. Genaro Villanueva, the culprit, was just 17 when he was sentenced and received 26 years to life. Per the Los Angeles Times, Judge Norbert Ehrenfreund noted Villanueva showed no remorse as he had stabbed the victim repeatedly.

Peter Tosh


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Peter Tosh, co-founder of The Wailers alongside Bob Marley, met a violent end on September 11, 1987. Tosh and friends were ambushed at his home by gunmen; the horrific incident left three dead, including Tosh, supposedly over a robbery.

Carlton “Santa” Davis, a friend and survivor, painfully recounted the assault, during which Tosh was brutally beaten and then shot, as the attackers demanded money. Davis remembers the chilling words spoken to Tosh before the brutality ensued, and the gunshots that followed. Dennis “Leppo” Lobban was arrested, and despite pleading innocent, he was convicted and sent to death row.

Dorothy Stratten


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Discovered in 1978, Dorothy Stratten was celebrated for her enchanting beauty and optimistic outlook on life. Her friend, Max Baer Jr., advised her then boyfriend Paul Snider to shield her from Hollywood, predicting that the city would inevitably destroy her innocence and pure nature.

A photo shoot with Playboy turned Stratten into a beloved celebrity overnight. Yet the ramifications were grave, as her newfound fame led her to rely heavily on Snider. Despite this, her career thrived, crossing the bridge from Playboy into mainstream film and television. As her career progressed, however, tensions between Stratten and Snider grew.

By August 1980, divorce was on the horizon. Stratten had moved out of their shared home, leaving Snider with roommates Patti Laurman and Stephen Cushner. Eventually, Stratten’s murder scene was discovered by Laurman and Cushner, described as a gruesome spectacle akin to a horror film set. Stratten had been killed and sexually assaulted by Snider, who later took his own life.

Star Stowe


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Star Stowe’s fame in the 1970s was both exciting and short-lived. She managed to enjoy dating rock legend Gene Simmons and becoming a Playboy Playmate of the Month in 1977. However, her life ended tragically on March 16, 1997, when her body was discovered behind a Florida pharmacy.

Stowe’s death was linked, albeit tentatively, with the murders of two other women, Sandra Kay Walters and Tammy M. Strunk, who met similar unsavory ends. Subsequent investigations suggested that there might have been a serial killer preying on slender, light-haired, brown-eyed women in the area.

The events leading to Stowe’s murder are widely speculated. Reportedly, Stowe got married, had a son, went through a divorce, and engaged in sex work in Florida. Playboy Director of Communications, Bill Farley, noted that Stowe’s life trajectory wasn’t uncommon, with many of the magazine’s girls marrying badly or getting involved with the wrong people. Although the initial inquiry into Stowe’s death reached a dead end, her case was reopened for investigation in 2023.

Written by: Best Classic Bands Staff

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