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Updated on January 17, 2012


When you think about Motown, or even listen to an oldies radio station that plays Motown, do you ever notice how many of the artists are not with us any more? And even more than that, do you ever think about how many of them left us so young? Not all of them were victims of foul play; in fact, most perished due to natural causes. Why is that?

I've researched this situation and couldn't find any valid or sensible reason for this. I'm sure we all have a few ideas as to why so many Motown artists passed away at early ages. Reasons like: Hard work and long hours, not eating healthily, not taking care of themselves (skimping on necessities); and then, of course, there is the obvious: drug and alcohol abuse.

Well, if you add the things that the new wave of psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists have to say (which is also the obvious): lack of sleep, away from family, over doing it, and living up to customer demands; you have every reason that I found.

Considering that Berry Gordy is 80 years old, and in seemingly good health; and Smokey Robinson is 70 years old and very active, could it have been the management at Motown?

No, I don't think so; since most of those who died young were not signed to the label at their time of death. Maybe it is the lifestyle.


I have comprised a list that I call the "Fallen Heroes of Motown". I found 31 artists who died and were signed to Motown Records at some point in their career. Take a look...


Benny "Papa Zita" Benjamin - age 43, stroke (drummer, The Funk Brothers)

Bobby Darin - age 37, blood poisoning (solo artist)

Billy Preston - age 59, respiratory failure

David Ruffin - age 50, drug overdose (The Temptations, solo artist)

Dorsey Burnette - age 47, massive coronary (solo artist)

Eddie "Bongo" Brown - age 53, heart ailment (bongo player, The Funk Brothers)

Eddie Kendrick - age 52, lung cancer (The Temptations, solo artist)

Eldrige Bryant - age 36, cirrhosis of the liver (The Temptations)

Florence Ballard - age 32, cardiac arrest (The Supremes)

Frederick Earl "Shorty" Long - age 29, boating accident (solo artist)

Gloria Williams - age 58, unknown (Martha and The Vandellas)

James Jamerson - age 47, pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver (bass player, The Funk Brothers)

June Pointer - age 52, brain, liver,and lung cancer (The Pointer Sisters)

Lawrence Payton - age 59, cancer (The Four Tops)

Marv Johnson - age 54, stroke (solo artist)

Mary Wells - age 49, cancer (solo artist)

Milan Williams - age 58, cancer (The Commodores)

Marvin Gaye - age 44, murdered (solo artist)

Melvin Franklin - age 53, brain seizure (The Temptations)

Michael Jackson - age 50, cardiac arrest (The Jackson 5, solo artist)

M.C. Trouble (LaTasha Rogers) - age 20, epileptic seizure and heart failure (Rapper)

O'Kelly Isley - age 48, heart attack (The Isley Brothers)

Patrice Holloway - age 55, heart attack (solo artist)

Paul Williams - age 34, suicide (The Temptations)

Phillipe Wynne - age 43, heart attack (The Spinners)

Ronald White - age 56, leukemia (The Miracles)

Robert White - age 57, unknown (guitar player, The Funk Brothers)

Rick James - age 56, pulmonary and cardiac failure (solo artist)

Syreeta Wright - age 57, congestive heart failure (solo artist)

Tammi Terrell - age 24, malignant brain tumor (solo artist)

As you read the list again, notice that none of those artists reached the age of 60!! Do you all realize that Otis Williams is the last living member of the original Temptations and he is only 67? There is also only one remaining member of The Four Tops living as well (Abdul "Duke" Fakir), but most of the Four Tops lived an average amount of years.

I don't know a whole lot about heaven, but I know one thing for sure; there is always one hell of a concert going on!!!

Talk to you all soon!!



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    • dashingclaire profile image

      dashingclaire 8 years ago from United States

      Nice hub! People live and die everyday because of the choices they make, even some accidents can be avoided. Other times things are just out of our control and people die from cardiac arrest when the heart just stops, unlike heart attacks where there's some warning. Just have to do the very best we can to be healthy.