Safety In Numbers: Solo Artists, Americans At Higher Risk Of Premature Death Than Band Members, Europeans

on December 21 2012 10:29 AM
Whitney Houston
FBI files on Whitney Houston released Monday showed the bureau looked into a possible extortion plot targeting the singer, but ultimately found no evidence of criminality. Reuters

Could your favorite solo artist be in danger? According to a new study published by the journal BMJ Open, solo musical artists are twice as likely to die than artists who are part of a group. The study, which examined 1,489 artists who rose to fame between 1956 and 2006, was conducted by researchers at Liverpool John Moores University and Britain's Health Department.  

“Solo artists, even though they have huge followings, may be relatively isolated,” said Mark Bellas, Director of the Center for Public Health at John Moores.  

Throughout music history, various solo artists have died early, including Biggie Smalls, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, among many others. 

Honey Langcaster-James, a behavioral psychologist, analyzed the study for BBC News. 

"They can find themselves in a situation where everyone around them are paid employees -- the PR guru, their manager -- all interested in them from a financial point of view and not in their personal needs -- it's hard for the artist to know who to trust," James said. 

"They travel a lot, are away from friends and family for long periods of time and only seen for their public image, not their real self -- which can make them feel inferior, isolated and invalidated."

It's important to note that several artists who were part of well-known bands, also died young. 

Kurt Cobain of Nirvana and Ian Curtis of Joy Division were both members of bands when they ended their lives at an early age. Other artists like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Jim Morrison of The Doors also died well before their time.  

The study also found that European rock stars are now living just as long as members of the public while U.S. stars are more likely to meet an untimely demise. While 1 in 10 European solo artists die young, roughly 1 in 5 American stars die prematurely. 

Though the study's findings are intriguing, it's unclear why it was conducted in the first place. Perhaps the results will open a dialogue about the dangers those in the music industry face or the alarming rate at which young artists fall prey to drug abuse and other personal tribulations. 

After all, artists like Jackson, Winehouse, and Houston were unraveling in front of the public and those around them long before they met their end.