What are the top five most tragic deaths in music?  Here are my picks:

5. Sam Cooke, R&B singer/songwriter:  Cooke was shot and killed in 1964 by the manager of a motel he was staying at.  She claimed she shot him in self defense and a jury agreed, returning a verdict of justifiable homicide.  Who knows how many more hits he could have had if he had lived.  “A Change is Gonna Come,” widely considered his magnum opus, was released posthumously.

4. Buddy Holly, Rock n’ Roll pioneer:  One of the first rock n’ rollers, Holly died in a plane crash in 1959.  Like Jim Croce, he had really only just begun to achieve success before his life ended too soon.  His tragic death is the subject of Don McLean’s classic song “American Pie.”

3. John Lennon, singer/songwriter, Beatle: In 1980, while returning home to his apartment in New York City, Lennon was shot four times in the back by Mark David Chapman.  Chapman pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison.  The Strawberry Fields memorial was created in central park where Yoko Ono scattered his ashes.

2. Lee Morgan, jazz trumpeter: This is the stuff of legend. At the age of 33, Lee Morgan was shot and killed by his wife while he was on stage.  They’d had a disagreement earlier in the evening, after which she left the club he was playing at but returned just as the second set was beginning.  Just after Morgan stepped on stage to begin the set, she called his name.  When he turned around she shot him.  He bled to death before an ambulance arrived.

1. Terry Kath, guitarist/singer/songwriter for Chicago: Today is the 36th anniversary of Terry Kath’s tragic death.  On January 23, 1978 he was killed by an accidental self inflicted gunshot.  While attending a party at Chicago roadie Don Johnson’s house, Kath (who was an avid gun collector) was horsing around with a pistol.  Johnson warned him to be careful and Kath assured him that the gun wasn’t loaded, even showing him the empty magazine.  He held the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.  Unknown to Kath, there was a bullet left in the chamber and he was killed instantly.  Chicago went on to have much more success after his death but they were never the same without him.