Untimely Deaths

The late Prince Rogers Nelson (a.k.a. Prince), a late-20th and early-21st century “musician,” seems to have died of the usual causes. Some will call his death untimely because of the relatively early age at which he succumbed. I can easily think of many real musicians who died before or at the age of 57. The following eclectic list of names (with biographical links), gives the age at which each musician died and a link to a representative recording of his or her work:

Russ Columbo, 26, “Goodnight Sweetheart” (1931)

Bix Beiderbecke, 28, “Somebody Stole My Gal” (1928)

Jimmie Rodgers, 35, “Blue Yodel Number 1 (T for Texas)” (ca. 1930)

Fritz Wunderlich, 35, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz“* (ca. 1965)

Joseph Schmidt, 38, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz“* (1930s)

Glenn Miller, 40, “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” (1941)

Kathleen Ferrier, 41, “Ombra mai fù“** (1949)

Helen Morgan, 41, “Body and Soul” (1930)

Al Bowlly, 43, “Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?” (1933)

Django Reinhardt, 43, “Ain’t Misbehavin’” (with the Quintette of the Hot Club of France, 1937)

Bessie Smith, 43, “St. Louis Blues” (1925)

Mildred Bailey, 44, “Georgia on My Mind” (1931)

Franklyn Baur, 47, “When My Dreams Come True” (1929)

Enrico Caruso, 48, “Questo o quella” (1908)

Leonard Warren, 48, “Largo al factotum” (1940s or 1950s)

Jussi Björling, 49, “Duet” (from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, 1940s or 1950s, with Robert Merrill)

Tommy Dorsey, 51, “Daddy Change Your Mind” (1929)

Jimmy Dorsey, 53, “Oodles of Noodles” (1932)

Ma Rainey, 53, “Farewell Daddy Blues” (1924)

Richard Tauber, 56, “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz“* (1920s or 1930s)

James Melton, 57, “Make Believe” (1932)

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* I chose the same song for Wunderlich, Schmidt, and Tauber just for the fun of it. “Dein ist mein ganzes Herz” is from Franz Lehár‘s The Land of Smiles (1929). The song, like many of Lehár’s, was written for Tauber, who had the perfect voice for Lehár’s lushly romantic melodies.

** If Ferrier’s rendition doesn’t send a chill up your spine and cause you to choke up, you had better check yourself for a pulse.