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Rock Stars Who Nearly Died on Stage

April 7, 2017

It’s supposed to be easy: You get up on that stage, sing some songs, and soak up the adulation. But out of the thousands of rock concerts ever staged, a few have taken a turn for the worst.
Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Patti Smith and her band were serving as the opening act for Bob Seger on his 1977 tour. While performing in Tampa, Smith fell off the stage. Like Zappa, she fell into the orchestra pit, a drop of 15 feet onto hard concrete. She was nearly paralyzed, having broken several vertebrae in her neck. Smith ultimately fully recovered, but only after months of physical therapy.

Thom Yorke

In 1993, Radiohead performed a set of songs at MTV’s Beach House. (Every summer, the network used to broadcast from a beach house in a sunny locale.) Radiohead played its song “Anyone Can Play Guitar” surrounded by fans and right next to a swimming pool. Toward the end of the song, lead singer Thom Yorke abruptly jumped into that pool while the band played on. Then he climbed out of the pool and tried to resume singing by grabbing a microphone on the ground…a live, electrically wired microphone. A fast-thinking observer quickly kicked it away, because if the soaking-wet Yorke had grabbed it, he likely would’ve been electrocuted.

Krist Novoselic

Another big star almost accidentally did himself in with MTV’s cameras rolling. Nirvana played at the 1992 Video Music Awards. During their performance of their hit “Lithium,” bassist Krist Novoselic did a stunt he often did: throwing his instrument up in the air as high as he could, and then catching it when it came back down. Except that this time he didn’t catch. It landed on his head. He went down hard and had to seek hospitalization.

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa and his band the Mothers of Invention were playing in a theater in London in 1971. And then a man suddenly rushed the stage and pushed Zappa into the orchestra pit. That’s a long fall, and Zappa was roughed up pretty bad: His larynx was crushed, his chin was gashed, he broke a rib, and his leg fractured. He had to use a wheelchair for a year. So why’d the guy do it? He thought Zappa was checking out his girlfriend from the stage.

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