Life After Death: 7 Dead Music Legends Who Might Not Actually Be Dead

Rock and roll is built on tall tales of larger than life figure who do it ALL! They play louder, party harder, live faster, and cram more into their years than we can hope to in even a dozen lifetimes. When these legends die, they live on through their famous escapades and most importantly through their music. But what if they live on for a totally different reason: they’re not actually dead in the first place?

Many fans find it hard to accept that their heroes are mere mortals who have succumbed to the notoriously dangerous music biz lifestyle. So they cling to any hope that these celebrities have the last laugh, triumphing over the odds and anyone who dare thinks they could do something so un-cool as dying. Some of the complex conspiracy theories are pretty far fetched, but usually pretty interesting! From classics like Elvis Presley, and through to more recent greats like Tupac and Kurt Cobain, read on for seven puzzling cases of (alleged) life after death!

  1. Jim Morrison

    Died: July 3rd, 1971

    Cause Of Death: Heart failure, widely attributed to a narcotics overdose, while sitting in the bathtub of his apartment in Paris.

    Posthumous Sightings: Some say they saw Jim saying goodbye to his girlfriend Pamela Courson at an airport in Paris days after he was reported dead. A teller at a Bank of America in San Francisco claims that Jim completed a bank transition (in his own name), days after his supposed demise. A man in Oregon claims to BE Jim Morrison!

    Strange Phenomena: Jim spent a great deal of time at the Pere’ La Chaise cemetery during his stay in Paris, communing with the graves of artistic giants. Reportedly, his last visit occurred just seven days before he was buried there himself.

    Conspiracy Theories: Perhaps more than any other name on this list, Morrison had a motive for faking his own death. In addition to the more than 20 paternity suits he had pending, he also was facing six months of hard labor at Dade County Jail and two years probation (with drug testing) after he was found guilty of indecent exposure during a concert in Miami.

    In lighter moments, Jim was known to joke about repeating the exploits of French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who escaped to Africa after he became overwhelmed with fame. His whereabouts on his last night are fiercely debated, and even the specifics of his death are vague. In accordance with French law, no autopsy was performed because his death was deemed to be from natural causes. Morrison’s funeral was a rushed affair, attended by just five people (Courson, and band manager Bill Siddons among them) and a cheap coffin. A woman at the cemetery who happened to witness the proceedings described them as “pitiful,” with everyone leaving after only a few minutes “as if their lives depended upon it. ” Almost no members of the Doors camp claim to have seen his body -save for his girlfriend, Pam. The fact that she died several years later of a heroin overdose herself added fuel to the fire that she simply went to join Jim.

    Do We Buy It? It’s perhaps the most plausible on the list, but we still can’t fully commit.

  2. Tupac Shakur

    Died: September 13th, 1996

    Cause Of Death: Murdered by an unknown assailant while driving in Las Vegas with Death Row Records kingpin Suge Knight.

    Posthumous Sightings: He’s been seen at clubs across America, at a bar in Tasmania, a cave in Cuba, ghostwriting poetry books in Honduras and most recently at a 2014 Celtics game in Boston.

    Strange Phenomena: Believers claim that ’Pac is wearing shoes in two posthumous videos that were not available at the time of his death. He donned a pair of Penny Hardaway’s in “Toss It Up,” and can be seen wearing a pair of unreleased Air Jordan’s in “Live And Die In LA.”

    Conspiracy Theories: Towards the end of his life, he adopted the stage name Makaveli, a tribute to The Art Of War author, Niccolò Machiavelli. After reading the book in prison, there are some who believe that he was inspired to fake his own death to surprise his enemies, as Machiavelli suggests. The 2004 posthumous album Makaveli features the image of Tupac as Jesus on the cover, signaling a possible resurrection. Even Suge Knight (who has been accused of the killing, himself) has told a radio station: “Pac’s not really dead. Pac’s somewhere else. Nobody seen Tupac dead.” Knight claims that Shakur ordered his body guard Frank Anderson to ride with his Outlaws gang in a different car, thus making it easier to fake his death. And don’t even get us started on the whole needlessly complicated “Seven Day Theory”…(seriously, just google it). Why would he want to fake his death? Possibly to escape the physical threats of his rivals, and numerous lawsuits that plagued him later in life. Others believe that he was helping the FBI with their investigation against Death Row Records, and now he’s currently living in witness protection.

    Do We Buy It? Although we’ve seen some of the alleged “sighting” photos -not to mention that creepy hologram from Coachella 2012- we’re going to have to say no.

  3. Kurt Cobain

    Died: April 5th, 1994

    Cause Of Death: Self inflicted shotgun wound to the head in the small apartment above his garage in Seattle.

    Posthumous Sightings: Puerto Rico, where he has allegedly settled into a new life, as well as Ireland, and his home city of Seattle.

    Strange Phenomena: Even after 20 years, there reportedly have been no concrete photographs of the body released from the crime scene. Journalist Richard Lee has been quoted as saying that the Seattle Police Department is “characteristically uncooperative, dilatory, and non-compliant with his requests for records and information.” Cobain’s former wife Courtney Love was rumored to have tried (and failed) to get everyone involved with his death case to sign a confidentiality agreement.

    Conspiracy Theories: Never at ease with fame, it’s easy to imagine Kurt WANTING to pull a vanishing act. Many fans, desperate to imagine a better fate for their hero, insist that he staged his own death to escape the stresses of the music business, settling down in Puerto Rico, or Ireland with the help of Courtney Love as an accomplice. Perhaps the weirdest theory is that Kurt is alive and well and still making music -posing as Rivers Cuomo, the frontman of Weezer! Fans cite a physical resemblance, and the fact Rivers is apparently obsessed with Nirvana, performing entire shows playing obscure covers from the band under the name “Goat Punishment.” According to a poster on Reddit, “Weezer tour dates and studio sessions [did] not conflict with any Nirvana tour dates.” Riiiiiight.

    Do We Buy It? As much as we’d like to believe that the Grunge King is still alive and singing about his sweater, this all just seems too vague (and too ridiculous) to be true. Nope.

  4. Jimi Hendrix

    Died: September 18th, 1970

    Cause Of Death: Asphyxiation resulting from barbiturate intoxication. Essentially, he choked on his own vomit in girlfriend Monika Dannemann’s London apartment.

    Posthumous Sightings: Allegedly in and around his hometown of Seattle, Washington.

    Strange Phenomena: According to rock legend, Hendrix repeated asked a his family and friends, “Do you think I’ll live to be 28?” in the weeks leading up to his death. The day he died, he wrote a poem entitled “The Story Of Life.” Perhaps the most chilling, he wrote a song in 1965 entitled “The Ballad of Jimi,” featuring the haunting lines “Many things he would try, For he knew soon he’d die/Now Jimi’s gone, he’s not alone. His memory still lives on/Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.” He died five years later. Some fans feel that these signs all seems to fit together a little too perfectly, and believe that Jimi engineered his own false demise to escape the harsh spotlight of fame and business contracts.

    Do We Buy It? A huge number of people have testified to seeing dead body belonging to Jimi, so we’re going to have to say no.

  5. Michael Jackson

    Died: June 25th, 2009

    Cause Of Death: Cardiac arrest due to propofol and benzodiazepine intoxication. The case was ruled a homicide, and his doctor Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

    Posthumous Sightings There is a complete website dedicated to MJ sightings (, duh), showing alleged photos from Switzerland, Spain, England, Israel, Norway, Denmark, Ireland…and pretty much everywhere else you can imagine.

    Strange Phenomena: Allegedly there were 9,282 days from Jackson’s birth on August 29th, 1958, to the infamous Pepsi Commercial mishap that set his hair on fire and nearly turned fatal on January 27th, 1984. And from that day to his death on June 25th 2009, there were also 9,282 days. We don’t know what that means, but it’s still kind of weird. Also, apparently some paramedic personnel did not recognize the King Of Pop when they began treating him.

    Conspiracy Theories: There are reports of a video (we admittedly haven’t seen it ourselves) that show a figure exiting the back door of Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office -and there are some who say that figure is Michael Jackson himself. Why would he fake his own death? Perhaps to get out of his massive $400 million debt, which lead him to sign up for 50 dates at London’s 02 Arena in the first place. There are others who argue that he had been planning this disappearance act for years, as both a lover of pranks and publicity stunts. Will be pop back up for the ultimate comeback? Is his recent album XSCAPE merely a way of checking in with fans until he makes his big return?

    Do We Buy It? No way.

  6. Elvis Presley

    Died: August 16th, 1977

    Cause Of Death: Generally believed to be a heart attack caused by combined drug intoxication, while in the upstairs bathroom of his Graceland home.

    Posthumous Sightings: Too many. From Vegas to potato chips, and everything in between. The most interesting took place at the Memphis airport a day after his death. A man matching Elvis’s description was allegedly seen buying a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires under the name John Burrows, which was the name Elvis’ posse used when booking hotel rooms.

    Strange Phenomena: There are some who say that his middle name is spelled wrong on his headstone, reading “Aaron” instead of “Aron,” which he changed it to later in life to be closer to the name of his stillborn twin, Jesse Garon Presley. Others say this is total nonsense.

    Conspiracy Theories: After decades under the scorching glare of the celebrity icon spotlight, Elvis yearned for a peaceful life. He reportedly told his record producer on a number of occasions, “I’m tired of being Elvis Presley,” and a seemed desperately unhappy with his life. The story goes that a waxwork was buried in a 900 pound coffin equipped with A/C to keep it from melting. Even his father Vernon referenced the fact that Elvis was actually “upstairs” at Graceland, and “We had to show the people something.” He was probably joking, but there is something strange about the upstairs of Graceland: No one is allowed up there. These were Elvis’s private quarters, and also the place where he died. No photographs have ever been released to the public. The only three people who are allowed up there are Elvis’s former wife Pricilla, daughter Lisa Marie (who once brought her one-time husband Nic Cage), and the Graceland curator. Nothing has been touched since the day he died. There are some who believe that Presley is still alive up there, hiding out in his sanctuary.

    Do We Buy It? Anything’s possible with The King.

  7. Paul McCartney

    Died: November 9th, 1966

    Cause Of Death: A car accident that resulted in his decapitation.

    Posthumous Sightings: About 50 years worth of tour dates, Grammy honors, that time he was on The Colbert Report

    Strange Phenomena: After his alleged death, he’s released over 20 solo albums. That’s even more than Tupac!

    Conspiracy Theories: We all know about the untimely death of Paul during the recording of their landmark Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. Fearful of destroying their world-wide success, the Fabs replaced him with lookalike William Shears Campbell. Thankfully, the surviving Beatles put messages in their album covers and song lyrics that would point the faithful in the right direction and let them know exactly what had happened. Just look at the funeral procession on the cover of Abbey Road, not to mention the terrifying backwards messages on The White Album that appear to say “Turn Me On, Dead Man,” and “Paul Is A Dead Man, Miss Him Miss Him.” There it is, spelled out in for us, right? But despite this overwhelming evidence, there are still people out there who insist that Paul McCartney is STILL alive! There isn’t even a great conspiracy theory, it’s just that it NEVER HAPPENED AT ALL! Including the man himself, who has joked, “If I were dead, I’m sure I’d be the last to know.” Pretty crazy, right?

    Do We Buy It? You know, it’s just nutty enough to believe it! Yes, in August 1969 a DJ started a rumor that Macca had died, citing dubious “evidence” in album sleeves. It was just a joke, but the hoax quickly swept the world, leading to Life Magazine and Rolling Stone cover stories insisting that Paul was indeed still in the land of the living.

VH1 Music Editor + Seltzer Enthusiast