VOICE OVER: Ryan Wild
WRITTEN BY: Jordy McKen
These musicians took the "rock and roll lifestyle" to the extreme...and paid the price. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we're looking at musical artists and producers who were convicted for taking a life, often ruining their careers and legacies in the process. Our countdown of musicians who turned to murder includes Faust, Varg Vikernes, Phil Spector, and more.
Musicians Who Turned to Murder
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re looking at musical artists and producers who were convicted for taking a life, often ruining their careers and legacies in the process.
Bård Guldvik Eithun, better known as Faust, was a drummer for the Norwegian black metal band Emperor. But in August 1992, a year after the band was formed, his career took a dark swing. While in Lillehammer, Faust met Magne Andreassen, who allegedly flirted with him. The drummer went with Andreassen to the woods. There, Faust stabbed him to death. In later interviews, Faust insisted he wasn’t motivated by homophobia. Instead, he described this slaying as an “impulse killing.” After admitting to his guilt, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1994. Faust was released in 2003 and restarted his music career.
A trailblazer in experimental music mixed with space-age themes, this producer was best known for his work in creating the Tornados’s smash hit “Telstar” in 1962. But he also had a troubled side. In his last years, paranoia and mood swings seemed to consume him. In February 1967, at his home studio in London, Meek was allegedly behaving erratically. He got into an argument with his landlady, Violet Shenton, over noise complaints and unpaid rent. The producer took out a firearm he had confiscated from ex-Tornados member Heinz Burt and shot Shenton before taking his own life.
Bursting into the acting and music scene in the 1960s, Parisian-born Claudine Longet settled into a life as a celebrity and her marriage to singer Andy Williams. After the marriage dissolved, in March 1976, Longet was in Aspen, Colorado, with her partner Vladimir "Spider" Sabich, an Olympic skier. According to Longet, Sabich was demonstrating to her how to use a firearm when he was fatally shot. However, she was convicted of negligent homicide in 1977. She received a fine and 30 day-jail sentence, but was allowed to decide when she went in. Upon release, Longet disappeared from public life and married her defense attorney, Ronald Austin.
After carving out a career in music and acting, Bobby Beausoleil’s life changed for the worse in 1968 when he met Charles Manson and his family. In July 1969, Beausoleil, Susan Atkins, and Mary Brunner were sent by the cult leader to demand money from Beausoleil’s former housemate, Gary Hinman. However, he didn’t have the cash. Hinman was held captive and attacked over 3 days by Manson and his followers. On Manson’s orders, Beausoleil killed Hinman. Over a week later, Beausoleil was arrested while sleeping in Hinman’s vehicle, which he took from the scene. He was found guilty of murder. His 1970 death sentence was later changed to life imprisonment and he has been denied parole over a dozen times.
Under the project Burzum and working with other bands, Varg Vikernes was one of the biggest names in Norway's black metal scene in the 90s. On top of being found guilty of burning down several churches and having extreme far-right beliefs, his life unraveled further in August 1993. Feuding with fellow musician Euronymous, Vikernes met the Mayhem guitarist at his apartment in Oslo. The situation quickly escalated, and Vikernes fatally stabbed Euronymous. In 1994, Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison for charges like first degree-murder, several arsons, and the theft of explosives. In 2009, he was released and moved to France with his family, where he continued to spread extremist ideologies.
As the self-styled King of Western Swing, Spade Cooley was one of the biggest country musicians in the 1940s into the 50s. He even got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. But in April 1961, Cooley tarnished his reputation forever. His wife, Ella Mae Evans, was reportedly looking to leave him. Filled with rage, Cooley attacked and killed Evans in front of their daughter, Melody, who testified against her father in court. He received a life sentence. With the support of California Governor Ronald Reagan, Cooley was set to be paroled in 1970. However, during a brief release to perform at a benefit concert, Cooley had a heart attack and passed away offstage.
Formed in 1980, French rock band Noir Désir was one of the biggest in the country. Led by Bertrand Cantat, the band’s reputation would change in July 2003. Cantat had traveled to a hotel in Vilnius, Lithuania, with married actor Marie Trintignant, with whom he was having an affair. During an argument, a jealous Cantat allegedly attacked Trintignant. After losing consciousness and being taken to the hospital, Trintignant died from her injuries a few days later. Cantat was sentenced to eight years in jail. After serving half his sentence, he was released in 2007. Three years later, Cantat’s ex-wife, Krisztina Rády, who had supported Cantat during the trial, took her own life after months of suspected abuse from the musician. However, authorities didn’t press charges.
As one of the most in-demand session drummers and writers around, Jim Gordon worked with massive names such as Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Barbra Streisand, and Tom Petty. But behind the scenes, Gordon was struggling with schizophrenia. Despite trying to get medical help, he was never properly diagnosed so his problems continued. In June 1983, Gordon killed his mom at her Los Angeles home, claiming to hear her voice tormenting him in his head. He was later sentenced to 16 years to life in prison. Over the years, he was denied parole many times, typically because he didn’t go to his hearings. In March 2023, Gordon passed away in jail from natural causes.
Beasts of Satan
For years, Italy was plagued by a streak of crimes committed by the Beasts of Satan. While not all members of this group were musicians, they were all allegedly Satanist. In 1998, Chiara Marino and Fabio Tollis were stabbed to death by group members while they were reportedly under the influence and carrying out a supernatural rite. Then, in 2004, Mariangela Pezzotta was shot. From 2005 to 2006, eight members were tried for their roles in the crime spree, with one member cleared while the rest received sentences ranging from 16 years to life imprisonment. Ferocity and Psycho Blasphemy band member Andrea Volpe and his girlfriend Elisabetta Ballarin, who helped the former, were ultimately released from prison. It’s believed the Beasts of Satan could be responsible for over a dozen other unsolved cases, either directly or indirectly.
There aren’t many people who had as much of an influence on popular music as Phil Spector. The producer and songwriter worked with numerous legendary acts, including the Beatles, the Ramones, Tina Turner, and The Ronettes. In February 2003, actor Lana Clarkson was with Spector at his mansion in California when she was fatally shot. Spector claimed that Clarkson accidentally took her own life. However, his chauffeur claimed that Spector admitted he had killed someone. In 2009, he was found guilty of Clarkson’s murder and sentenced to 19 years to life. Spector attempted to appeal the decision numerous times, but each was rejected. In 2021, he passed away in jail.
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