American Idol Alum Fantasia Barrino was crowned the champ of the show’s third season that saw an amateur Jennifer Hudson dismissed before she went on take home the Oscar. Barrino, a single mother went on to become the first artist in history to see their premier single debut at No. 1. Everything was coming up roses as her second album went gold and she moved on Broadway to star in the seminal The Color Purple. Then, she went through a rough patch.
Being dropped from her 19 Entertainment management company and saw her $1.1 million home tagged for auction for failing to repay loans that secured her 2006 taxes. Added to the rumor mill is an affair with a married man. The result? Barrino was rushed to a Charlotte, North Carolina hospital after ingesting a bottle of aspirin and sleeping pills.
Drugs run rampant in the worlds of art, jazz, rock ‘n roll, soul. You know they say, if you can’t go hard, pack up and go home. The overdose should be taken seriously, but after all, its aspirin. While it could be fatal, here is a list of artists and their bevy of drugs that were guaranteed to promise sudden demise.
David Ruffin of The Temptations
The soul belting front man with the raspy, pain-filled, agonized tenor that even had Marvin Gaye green with envy. Leaving The Temptations—the most famous group in doo wop and R&B—after a successful month-long English tour, Ruffin went to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He later collapsed to his death in a crack house after allocating 10 vials between him and an acquaintance in less than 30 minutes on June 1, 1991. Ruled accidental, his family and friends however, proposed foul play due to the loss of a money belt containing over $40,000 in proceeds from the tour.
Eminent alone for being the first African-American actress ever to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, Dandrige was the in-demand thespian at the time. On September 8, 1965, numerous hours after ending a conversation with friend Gerry Branton, Dandridgewas found deceased in her West Hollywood flat at 42 years old. Dandridge, who was to travel by airplane to New York in the morning in preparation for a Basin Street East rendezvous, overdosed on tricyclic antidepressant, melipramine. Her body was discovered by manager, Earl Mills.
Known for his gospel belting technique and bevy of R&B tunes, Gerald Levert’s death shocked the black community. On November 10, 2006, Levert was found dead in the bed of his Newbury, Ohio home. The autopsy report noted that the star overdosed on a fatal cocktail of drugs—narcotic painkillers Darvocet, Percocet and Vicodin mixed with anxiety reliever Xanax and two over-the-counter antihistamines—according to the Washington Post. His death was ruled accidental, due to an acute intoxication. It was later revealed that Levert suffered pneumonia and pain from a previously torn Achilles tendon.
International Street art literati Jean-Michel Basquait was cited as one of the most influential artists to walk the earth by his peers for his graffiti-riddled neo-expressionist body of work. The Haitian / Puerto Rican artiste joined the 27 club shortly after the death of close friend Andy Warhol in 1987. Saturated with depression, Basquiat grew progressively more isolated and his drug use was now more frequent. Attempting go cold turkey on a trip to Hawaii, but failed do so and died of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988, in his New York City studio.
James Marshall Hendrix redefined rock ‘n roll and the rock ‘n roll experience, changing the suggestion-laden jukebox-kicking crank of Chuck Berry and Little Richard in favor of legato-happy wah-wah pedals and distorted stereophonic overdriven amplifier feedback. Influenced by blues, funk and soul guitarists, he went on to heighten his persona with epic performances at the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock Festival, and Isle of Wight Festival, taking the crown as king of electric guitar. At 27, he died in the wee hours of the morning on September 18, 1970 at the Samarkand Hotel at 22 Lansdowne Crescent in Notting Hill, London. The Autopsy reports that Hendrix had taken nine prescribed Vesperax sleeping pill barbiturates and asphyxiated in his own vomit and red wine. Originally, it was thought to be a suicide.
Frankie Lymon of The Teenagers
“Why do fools fall in love?” We don’t have the answers, but somehow a wisecracking, sagacious 13-year-old from Harlem got the skinny. R&B boy soprano and all-around devil-may-care Lothario Franklin Joseph Lymon’s rock ‘n roll styling brought the integrated five-piece black and Puerto Rican New York City-based boy band The Teenagers to the third eye of pop culture. They had a lot of fans, mainly Berry Gordy, who fashioned future pop icons The Jackson 5 after the band. Essential he paved the way for whiz kids Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder whose careers were on the rise at the age of 13. The boy who declared he wasn’t a juvenile delinquent passed away at 25, his dead body strewn on the floor of his grandmother’s bathroom from an heroin overdose.
King of Pop and the most famous man in the world Michael Joseph Jackson shocked the world when the global figure passed on June 25, 2009. When his death was ruled a homicide by the The Los Angeles County Coroner, soon after his personal physician Conrad Murray was charged with involuntary manslaughter. Murray administered a fatal combination of lorazepam, midazolam, propofol and sertraline. He had a connection to other drugs alphrazolam, carisoprodol, omeprazole, hydrocodone, hydromorphone and paroxetine with zero naloxone to counteract an opioid overdose. The most praised, most awarded and most eclectic pop artist of the century died at the age of 50.
R&B Singer-songwriter and funk maestro Rick James, known for hits “Super Freak,” “Mary Jane,” “Give It To Me Baby,” and “You and I” faded into forgotten pop genius limbo until funnyman Dave Chappelle utter the now famous “I’m Rick James, bitch.” Then, we tragedy struck. At the crack of dawn on August 6, 2004, James was found in the home of his Oakwood, Califonia apartment complex by his caretaker. The coroner noted that none of the drugs found in his system were life threatening and that his death as the result of acute cardiac dysfunction owed to idiopathic cardiomyopathy, an inflamed heart. The autopsy reports noted that James had been under the influence of alprazolam, bupropion, chlorpheniramine, citalopram, cocaine, diazepam, digoxin, hydrocodone and methamphetamine. He was laid to rest at the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.
This lady sure did sing the blues and she knew them well. With heart-curdling, pain-staking renditions of jazz standards like “Strange Fruit,” “Fine and Mellow” and “God Bless the Child,” singer Billie Holiday changed the art of singing as we know it. Lady Day, born Elenora Fagan, noted for her zealous one-of-a-kind irreplaceable and passionate vocals helped pioneer innovative methods to alter improvisation, phasing, melody and tempo. Sadly, she passed on July 17, 1959, in the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City, on the very deathbed in which she had been arrested for the possession of narcotics only a month or so before at 44-years-old. She died with $0.70 in the bank and a $750.00 from a tabloid.