We loved their music and the personas they built around themselves. They felt so close to us that their deaths are still so shockingly painful.
Our idols aren't only people we admire and worship. We feel them like they're part of our family or even a part of ourselves. Whatever they do, they have an important impact on our lives, and naturally whatever happens to them is as if it had happened to someone really close to us. There are many cases of great legends dying and how people mourned them as if one of their closest relatives had passed away. When the cause of death is a disease or age, we seem to understand it as a process of life. However, in those cases where they were premeditatedly killed, the impact and shock are such that we feel as if someone had taken a precious treasure from our hands. Today, we're going to talk about the three most shocking murders in music history, not only because of the events that led to them, but also because they ended the life of important icons that even today people keep mourning.
John Lennon (December 8, 1980)
This is probably one of the deaths that people got more affected by. When people knew John Lennon had been declared dead at 11:15 PM of December 8, 1980, the world was in shock. On that fatal day, Lennon left his home twice, the first time around 5 p.m. to attend a recording. When he stepped out of the Dakota building, where he had his apartment, a man approached him and gave him a copy of Double Fantasy, which Lennon kindly signed. Little did he know that this man would kill him just about six hours later. That man was Mark David Chapman, a man convinced that it was God’s will to clean the world from a character like Lennon.
Once a fan, Chapman had idolized The Beatles when he was younger, particularly Lennon. But when his favorite artist declared that The Beatles were greater than Jesus, the young Chapman’s admiration soon became hatred. At the age of fourteen, he consumed drugs and dropped out of school. When he hit rock bottom, he poured all his life to religion, adopting the Presbyterian precepts. He was diagnosed with a mild schizophrenia from a young age, and later on he developed clinical depression, for which he was admitted to a clinical facility.
In an interview he gave years after the murder, he claimed that he had planned it months in advance. He moved to New York in October of that year and followed Lennon for two months. His reasons? He never accepted the fact that a person could be so blasphemous and get away with it. He hated the fact that he preached peace and love and still behaved like a spoiled rock star. However, as he claimed in the interview, a part of him was envious of the fame and talent Lennon had.
When Lennon returned home later that night, witnesses say a man called his name and when he stopped to see who it was, he received four shots in the back. He crawled to the entrance of the building where the doorman called the police and tried to save him. When he arrived at the hospital, it was too late. One of the greatest music icons had been murdered. Chapman pleaded guilty, since he thought he was just following God’s will. He’s been in prison since then, although he has asked for parole nine times.
Tupac Shakur (September 7, 1996)
Tupac is probably one of the biggest icons of hip-hop, and his death really represented a loss for the genre. Tupac had attended a boxing match at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas, where Mike Tyson was performing. After the match, he and his companions decided to go partying, but right when they were about to leave the premises, one of his producer’s associates (Suge Knight was with him that day) told them that he had spotted Orlando Anderson, a rapper who was allegedly linked to the gang of the South Side Crips, in the hall of the hotel. Why did Tupac care about these mobsters? Apparently, just some months earlier, some members of the record company Tupac signed with were robbed by one of this gang’s members. Infuriated, the rapper attacked Orlando Anderson before leaving.
After the incident, the group decided to continue with their plans, got into their cars, and drove to Club 662, where they would continue their party. On the way, around 11 PM they were stopped by a police officer because they had the music so loud and one of the cars didn’t have a license plate. Knight, who was driving, showed the officer his license, which was in the trunk of the car, and the police let them go. Just a minutes later when they stopped at a red light and Tupac started flirting with a couple of women in the next car, and invited them to party with them, the women left, and their spot was replaced by a white Cadillac whose passengers started shooting at the rapper.
He received six shots, but still conscious, he asked to be taken to his fiancé at the hotel. However, when they were driving another police officer stopped them and when he saw that both men had been shot, he called an ambulance that took them to the hospital still alive. At the record company, they were shocked when they received a phone call threatening to kill Tupac for good at the hospital, and the security around him increased. He was inducted into a coma and placed on life support machines. Six days later, he died of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.
Neither Tupac nor any of the witnesses wanted to cooperate with the police investigations. However, in 2002, the LA Times published an article by Chuck Philips based on a year-long investigation. He claimed that the ones who shot him were the Crips avenging the incident in the boxing match. There’s another theory that claims that Notorious B.I.G., his all-time music rival, had had something to do with the death, while the Jewish Defense League, a religious organization, have also been involved, since they had threatened him as well as other rappers. As the official investigation stated at the time, this is a crime that “may never be solved.”
Selena (March 31, 1995)
This is a story of false admiration, ambition, betrayal, and murder, of course. Selena is one of the most beloved Latin icons. Since her debut with her family's band, Selena y Los Dinos, she became an emblem of the American dream, the Mexican-American woman who made it in the US. With a Grammy award and more than a hundred other prizes, she broke with all the stereotypes of the female latina musician. But her career that was just taking off was abruptly stopped by one of the people who swore to be her greatest fan, Yolanda Saldívar.
Saldívar claimed to be Selena’s biggest fan, and in 1991, after constantly asking Abraham Quintanilla Jr. (Selena’s father and manager), she was named the president of Selena’s fan club. She was so witty that she ended up being quite close to the singer and her family, and in 1994 when Selena launched her own fashion brand, Saldívar was appointed as manager of the company. She played her cards quite well. However, just some months later, Abraham Quintanilla started receiving letters from fans and customers complaining about buying stuff and not getting anything, or even giving some money to the fan club without receiving any benefit, nor even an answer. Angry, the family decided to investigate the situation and discovered that Saldívar had stolen about 60 000 USD of the time. Naturally, they decided to fire her and threatened to start a legal battle against her.
Although her father restricted Saldívar to have any access to her daughter, Selena didn’t want to end the relationship in bad terms, not only because she considered her a friend, but also because Saldívar had in her power bills and bank documents essential to her business. Besides, she was the contact she had with a Mexican businessman who would help her open her first store in the country. According to Quintanilla, Saldívar attempted to kill his daughter at least four times, although this wasn’t confirmed. After several strange meetings where Selena tried to avoid any legal confrontation, Saldívar decided to act.
She summoned the singer at a motel in Corpus Christi, tired of all the pointless meetings where Saldívar would only put excuses not to give her the legal documents that belonged to the company. Angry that Saldívar was playing with her, both women started arguing in the latter’s hotel room. According to witnesses, the screams were really loud and those in the neighboring rooms could listen to everything. Selena found a satchel with bank statements, documents and a gun. Saldívar took it and shot her on her right shoulder hitting an important artery. She ran for a hundred meters while Saldívar chased her, but she managed to get to the lobby, where she said who had shot her. When the paramedics arrived it was too late, but she was still alive. At the hospital, they tried to bring her back to life for about 55 minutes, but her body had already lost a lot of blood, and she was declared dead. Thus ended the life of a rising star that ended up being an idol and a legend for the Latino community.
They were already icons, but their tragic deaths made them cultural legends we still worship and look up to. It's impossible not to wonder what would have happened if their killers had failed and they were still alive. We'll never know. What is certain is that although they are no longer with us, their memories will never fade.
For more stories of your favorite musicians, take a look at these: