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Rolling Stone Readers Name Top 10 Greatest Dead Rock Stars

From John Lennon to Keith Moon, here are the musical legends we miss the most

Kurt Cobain, dead, rockstars, rock stars, legends

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From John Lennon to Keith Moon, here are the musical legends we miss the most

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1. John Lennon

Last week we gave our readers the slightly morbid task of voting for their favorite dead rock star. The feedback was overwhelming – and now we've compiled a top 10 based on your votes. Number One (by a fairly wide margin) was John Lennon. For all of these artists we tried to find some of the last available footage of them either onstage or in the studio. For John Lennon, it was an Elton John concert at Madison Square Garden in November of 1974. Lennon came out to sing "Whatever Gets You Through The Night" and "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" before closing with "I Saw Her Standing There." "We thought we'd do a number by an old, estranged fiance of mine named Paul," Lennon says in the clip.  "It's an old Beatle number I've never sang before and we just about know it."

By Andy Greene

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2. Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix was in pretty rough shape when he toured Europe in the summer of 1970. Burned out from endless roadwork and heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol, Hendrix played some rather sloppy shows – once even leaving the stage after just two songs. The tour wrapped up September 6th, 1970 at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany. There's no video of the gig, but here's audio of "All Along The Watchtower" from the show.

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3. Kurt Cobain

People often point to Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert in November of 1993 as their final performance, but they actually hit the road for a brief tour afterwards. It wrapped up March 1st, 1994 in Munich, Germany. Here's audio from the final encore of "Heart Shaped Box." Cobain killed himself just over a month later.

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4. Jim Morrison

When Jim Morrison died in 1971 he was just 27, but years of hard living made him look at least a decade older. This 1971 Australian TV clip of The Doors playing "Crawling King Snake" from L.A. Woman is the last known footage of Morrison playing with the group. As you can tell from the video, Morrison was in far from peak form.

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5. Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley's final few tours were sad affairs where an increasingly bloated King huffed and puffed his way through limp versions of his hits. There were, however, moments of brilliance. One night in June of 1977 in Rapid City, Iowa he sat down at the piano and belted out a gorgeous rendition of "Unchained Melody." Knowing he'd die just two months later makes this video even more gut-wrenching to watch.

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6. Freddie Mercury

When Queen went into the studio to cut Innuendo in 1990 Freddie Mercury knew that he was losing his battle against AIDS. Many lyrics reflect this, particularly "The Show Must Go On" and "These Are The Days Of Our Lives." They made a video for the latter that showed just how frail Mercury looked shortly before his death in 1991, and how determined he was to craft one final masterpiece.

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7. Janis Joplin

There doesn't seem to be any good footage from Janis Joplin's final concert at Harvard Stadium in August of 1970, so check out this stunning performance of "Cry Baby" from Festival Express cut just a few weeks later. It's definitive proof that Joplin went out near the peak of her powers.

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8. George Harrison

George Harrison didn't like performing live: His only solo tours were in America in 1974 and Japan in 1991. His final performance was as a surprise guest at Bob Dylan's 30th anniversary tribute concert at Madison Square Garden in 1992. Harrison covered "If Not For You" and "Absolutely Sweet Marie" before joining all the performers for the finale of "My Back Pages" and "Knockin' On Heavens Door." In later years he'd perform at the funeral for Carl Perkins and on VH1 with Ravi Shankar, but this was his last appearance at an actual concert before his death in 2001.

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9. John Bonham

In the summer of 1980 Led Zeppelin did a quick 14-date European tour that wound up being their final gigs with drummer John Bonham. It ended July 7th in Berlin. There's no video, but you can hear  audio of "Trampled Under Foot" from the show here. Bonham died three months later, right as the group was planning on coming to America for another tour.

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10. Keith Moon

The Who had been off the road for two years when director Jeff Stein brought them into London's Shepperton Studios to record live versions of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Riley" for his documentary The Kids Are Alright. Stein was unhappy with their take of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and coaxed them back to the stage to play it one last time. That take wound up in his movie, and was the last time that Moon played with The Who. He died four months later in the same London apartment where Cass Elliott had died four years earlier.

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