On Music: Three Rock Stars who Died Choking on Vomit (and a 4th who might have)


Ransom broke new ground a couple weeks ago with his, shall we say, colorful Big D. With one mighty post, he flushed away taboos, opening up new avenues for us to write about. So, with a nod to the big R, here's one on vomit, particularly rock stars who've accidentally taken their lives by choking on their own.

First the essentials: Asphyxiating on vomit usually happens after a night of heavy drinking or a drug overdose--that is, after a person has passed out and isn't really cognizant of the upchucking. (In addition to the musicians mentioned below, some say this is how Anna Nicole Smith actually died after her overdose.) It's been described as drowning while unconscious, albeit in a sea so toxic, even the bottom crawlers steer clear.

Jimi Hendrix "“ Known for playing "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the guitar with his teeth and setting the instrument ablaze, Hendrix was one of the first to use wild amplifier feedback to his advantage. Though different accounts exist, most agree that on Sept. 18th, 1970, he died in bed after drinking wine and consuming a lot of sleeping pills before asphyxiating on his own vomit. Here's a short clip from my favorite Hendrix song--the much more mellow Hendrix playing "Little Wing."

John Bonham "“ Led Zeppelin's drummer, Bonham was famous for a steady, heavy foot on the bass drum and powerful snare. The typical Bonham sound can be heard in this clip of "Kashmir." Bonham was also famous for his insanely long drum solo in the middle of "Moby Dick," which featured him playing timpani and slapping at the drums with his bare hands.A big boozer all his life, on Sept 24th, 1980, Bonham decided to have sixteen shots of vodka"¦ FOR BREAKFAST! He went on drinking the rest of the day and eventually fell asleep. Found dead the next morning, the coroner's office said he asphyxiated on his own vomit.

Bon Scott "“ AC/DC's lead singer between 1974 and his death in 1980, Scott is best known for his vocals on the album Highway to Hell. (Though Back in Black was an infinitely bigger hit record, Scott was already six feet under by that point in the band's history.) There are many different accounts of his death, but all of them involve a heavy night of drinking in a London club called Music Machine before the night the singer passed out. Many claim, as with Bonham, Scott died choking on his own vomit. But apparently, the official cause was listed as "acute alcohol poisoning" and "death by misadventure." (Gotta love that last phrase, eh? Only in the U.K. could anyone die by misadventure.) Here's a little soundbite from title track of Highway to Hell.

Lastly, we have Eric "Stumpy Joe" Childs, one of six drummers who died while playing with the infamous rock outfit, Spinal Tap. I'll let the guys speak for themselves on this one:

While on the subject of upchucking, I know it sounds like it was ripped from an episode of Seinfeld, but would you believe I haven't done it since I was in fifth grade? If there were a category in The Guinness Book, I think I might have this one in the bag, because fifth grade for me was almost 30 years ago, folks! Yes, I'm the only one I know who DIDN'T during college (which probably only proves how little drinking this geek did). I'm sure no one can top that, but it would be fun to see how long you've gone since your last unfortunate round. Winner gets bragging rights"¦ Oh, and if you have a *funny* upchucking story you want to share, by all means, let it, um, fly.