Far too many of music’s great artists have left us long before their time. Thankfully we have their music, and precious footage of them doing what they love -and what we loved them for. Continue on to see the spellbinding final performances from 15 music legends, just before we lost them.
Otis Redding: December 9th, 1967 in Cleveland, Ohio
The soul pioneer performed a stirring rendition of his immortal “Respect” for an episode of the regional music program, Upbeat. He died the following day in a plane crash that also claimed four members of his backing band, The Bar-Kays.
Jimi Hendrix: September 6th, 1970 in Isle Of Fehmarn, West Germany
Hendrix’s last show at the German The Love And Peace Festival has gone down into legend. Only a few videos of the show have survived, and here they’ve helpfully been edited together into one. He died less than two weeks later on September 18th.
John Lennon: April 18, 1975 at New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Although his last live concert was November 28th, 1974 as a special guest for two songs at Elton John’s Madison Square Garden show, the last time Lennon played in front of an audience was for this television special honoring entertainment magnate, Lew Grade. He retired from music soon after following the birth of his son, Sean in October. He had just released his comeback album Double Fantasy when he was assassinated on December 8th, 1980.
Elvis Presley: June 26th, 1977 in Indianapolis, Indiana
The King Of Rock was scheduled to head out on another round of tours on August 16th, 1977, but he was found dead that afternoon in the bathroom of his Graceland mansion. You can listen to his final show, recorded just a few weeks earlier, here.
Sid Vicious: January 14th, 1978 in San Francisco
Punk prototypes The Sex Pistols had a very fitting end -a seriously acrimonious breakup following a disastrous American debut tour. In light of bassist Sid Vicious’s heroin overdose in February 1979, this footage marks the last time the most famous line-up would ever play live.
Freddie Mercury: August 9th, 1986 at Knebworth Park in Knebworth, United Kingdom
Queen’s Magic Tour was their biggest and flashiest to date, but it also proved to be their last with irreplaceable frontman, Freddie Mercury. He was diagnosed with AIDS the following year, which lead to the band’s decision to cease touring. The disease claimed Mercury’s life on November 24th, 1991. View his entire final concert here.
Nirvana (with Kurt Cobain): March 1st, 1994 in Munich, Germany
Three days after this stop on the band’s European Tour, Kurt Cobain was found unconscious in his Rome hotel room by wife, Courtney Love. He was rushed to a hospital, where a doctor told the press that he had reacted to a combination of prescription Rohypnol and alcohol. The remainder of the tour was canceled as Cobain’s heroin addiction resurfaced. He attempted rehab, but he was found dead in his Seattle home on April 8th, 1994, of a self inflicted gunshot wound.
Frank Sinatra: February 25th, 1995 in Palm Springs, California
Old Blue Eyes’ final major concerts were held in were held in Japan’s Fukuoka Dome in December 1994, but several months later the 79-year-old performed for 1,200 guests at a private party for his Frank Sinatra Desert Classic golf tournament. He died on May 14th, 1998.
Tupac Shakur: July 4th, 1996 at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles.
’Pac’s last performance at this LA hotspot was later released as an live album in 2005. See the entire concert here.
Biggie Smalls: March 7th, 1997 in Los Angeles
The Notorious B.I.G. performed at the 11th Annual Soul TrainMusic Awards held at The Shrine Auditorium. He was killed two days later on March 9th, 1997.
George Harrison: January 23rd, 1998 in Jackson, Tennessee
The former Beatle performed a short rendition of “Your True Love” at the memorial service for his musical hero and friend, Carl Perkins. For a more complete (and better filmed) final performance, check out this wonderful acoustic set he performed for VH1 in 1997. Cancer took the so-called “Quiet Beatle” on November 29th, 2001.
Aaliyah: July 25th, 2001 in Los Angeles on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
The R&B chanteuse was killed on August 25th, 2001, while traveling home from The Bahamas after filming the music video for “Rock The Boat.” The crew’s twin-engine Cessna airplane crashed soon after takeoff due to being over its weight restriction for luggage and passengers. This spot just a month earlier on The Tonight Show proved to be her last performance.
Johnny Cash: July 5th, 2003 in Hiltons, Virginia
The Man In Black gave his swan song during several surprise appearances at the Carter Family Fold, in rural Virginia. He dedicated the performances to his beloved wife, June Carter, who has recently passed away. “The spirit of June Carter overshadows me tonight with the love she had for me and the love I have for her,” he said after taking the stage. “We connect somewhere between here and heaven. She came down for a short visit, I guess, from heaven to visit with me tonight to give me courage and inspiration like she always has.” He joined her on September 12th.
Michael Jackson: June 23rd, 2009 in Los Angeles
The King Of Pop was filmed rehearsing for his upcoming This Is It concert series in London that summer. The footage was later edited together into a movie of the same name in the wake of his tragic death on June 25th, two days after this clip was recorded.
Whitney Houston: February 9th, 2012, Los Angeles
The diva performed with her friend Kelly Price at a pre-Grammy’s party just two days before she was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hills Hilton on February 11th, 2012.
[Photo: Getty Images]