There’s something about music that combines hard living with musical inspiration, and because of that we’ve lost so many rock stars way before their time. But what if Jim Morrison, Bob Marley, or John Lennon didn’t pass away so early, and were still creating musical notes and singing their classic songs to this day? What would they look like?! Thanks to Sachs Media efforts with their CGI tools, we no longer have to ask, and get to see for ourselves.
Below is one of the last known photographs of Elvis Presley, and it was taken close to his death at the age of 42. The “King of Rock” was born on Jan. 8, 1935, so if he was alive in 2019 he would be 83 years young.
Elvis Presley was what you might call a “strapping lad,” but as you can probably tell his looks had faded by the time he died of respiratory failure on Aug. 16, 1977. Addiction to drugs and a die-hard commitment to keep performing for his fans led to his downfall. But what if he went sober and was still alive today? What would he look like?
The two images side-by-side show an uncanny resemblance and are highly accurate predictions of what Elvis would look like today. Artists at Sachs Media examined how Elvis aged over the years and came up with the Computer Generated Image (CGI) of “the King” on the right.
As you can see, Elvis’ famous, slight lip quiver and faint wink of his left eye have led to a few more wrinkles on that side of the face. Elvis also still has a full head of hair, as the man who was famous for his jet black hair (he used shoe polish for dye by the way) never lost a shred of his hairline.
This photograph of John Lennon was taken about a mile and a half from The Dakota (the building where he was killed) at the age of 40. The ex-Beatles songwriter, singer, and guitarist was born on Oct. 9, 1940, which would make him 79 years old if he was alive today.
Despite the fact that Lennon certainly didn’t shy away from substances that would’ve aged him, he appears to have aged very well in the course of his lifetime. He was relatively healthy when he was gunned down by March David Chapman on Dec. 8, 1980, and one can only surmise that if the lunatic Chapman hadn’t done that terrible deed, Lennon would still be looking good today.
You can almost see the wisdom in the eyes of the 79-year-old Lennon, as the outspoken champion for world peace likely would’ve reached philosopher status. He’s also opted for contact lenses, showing us the first Lennon without glasses since his starring in How I Won the War in 1967.
Lennon’s hair has thinned and his hairline has receded, but the Sachs Media artist has been kind to the color of Lennon’s hair, as even at 40 he showed no sign of going grey. As for his attire, Lennon adopted a more avant-garde look after marrying Yoko Ono, and gone were his days of psychedelic suits and fur coats.
The happy Jimi Hendrix that you see below is shown arriving at Heathrow Airport in London in August of 1970. A tragic member of the 27 Club, Hendrix was born on Nov. 27, 1942, so if he was alive today, he would be 76 years old.
Hendrix didn’t really seem to age a day while he was in the spotlight, and perhaps he wasn’t alive long enough to show it. It would’ve taken a Herculean effort to get Hendrix sober, at least enough so that he would live long enough to know what he looked like when he was older, as he was accustomed to abusing barbiturates and alcohol at the same time.
Jimi Hendrix was considered one of the greatest guitarists of all time, and we can only dream about what music as a whole would’ve been like if he had been alive all this time. The CGI pictured on the right matches his nose and lips perfectly and even has him sporting the same goatee.
Although his hair has thinned and his hairline receded, he looks pretty good for a man in his mid-70s. Music fans missed out on many groundbreaking tunes because Jimi Hendrix was the first guitarist to master the art of feedback. He also had a unique style where he’d use his pinkie to play a note higher on the string, so extra sound filled his melodies like a fire in the night.
Janis Joplin, or “Pearl” as she was commonly known, should still be screaming her raw authentic style into microphones around the world. But instead, she died on Oct. 4, 1970. The photograph below was taken about three months before she died in late June 1970, and she’s pictured wearing some unique clothes, as she was famous for designing her own outfits.
Janis Joplin was born on Jan. 19, 1943, so she would be 76 years old this year. Joplin likely would’ve had a few hard years ahead of her, as she frequently drank and used drugs simultaneously. In that way, she’s a lot like Jimi Hendrix, and just like him, Joplin is another member of the 27 Club.
Janis Joplin is considered the first female rock star in history, and just like the first rock ‘n roll artists, Joplin had her origins in blues. In any photograph of Joplin singing music, she looks like she’s in a rage-filled trance, as she sang with the feeling of a thousand poets.
But when she wasn’t singing, she was smiling, and it appears she kept that part of her in her old age. It’s caused some happy wrinkles (with love to Bob Ross) in her face, and her eyes still hold that energy that captivated audiences for a time that was too short.
It seemed unlikely that Jim Morrison would make it to his 30s, given his disdain for sobriety and consciousness in general. Morrison was born on Dec. 8, 1943, and in a world where pigs could fly and hell could freeze over, he would be 76 years old today.
The photograph above was taken in San Diego in August 1970, and during this time, his face and body had already begun a transformation. Morrison’s consumption of substances was part of an extremely unhealthy existence that saw him gain a lot of weight in his last few years. He also added a beard, which masked his boyish good looks.
As the front man of the Doors, Morrison’s entire existence was an experiment in reality and perception. The reality of his 76-year-old self is that he’s aged fairly well. Jim’s hairline has receded and his curls seemed to have been ironed out.
Would Jim be smiling if he was older? So few photographs actually show him smiling that it’s hard to tell. But if he had been able to put down the bottle of Jim and stop chasing the dragon, that could’ve cheered him up. The artists at Sachs Media decided to keep Morrison’s beard, which looks a lot better short than it did bushy.
The photograph below represents our last good memory of Kurt Cobain when he recorded his final album “Unplugged in New York.” Cobain was born on Feb. 20, 1967, making him the youngest rock star on our list. If he were alive today, he would be 52 years old.
Cobain was considered an icon of his generation, but he didn’t like being given that label. Nonetheless, he transformed rock when he fused it with punk and created “grunge.” He’s the last string of members from the 27 Club, and you can only wonder after only 25 years since his death on April 5, 1994, what would he look like now?
Cobain’s steely blue eyes look like they’ve seen a few things in this world. He actually looks a lot like the 27-year-old version of Cobain in a lot of ways with his long blonde hair and a short goatee. Credit to the artist at Sachs Media that had him wearing a flannel (a look he popularized).
A tortured soul near the end of his days; whether he was happy or sad, sober or not, Cobain always captured his feelings and manifested them into rock ‘n roll. His skill with the guitar also landed him in Rolling Stone’s “Top 100 guitarists of all time.”
Bob Marley was born on Feb. 6, 1945, and that would make him 74 years old if he was alive today. With exception of John Lennon, the CGI images of these rock ‘n roll legends show rock stars that could’ve saved themselves. Bob Marley’s tragic death might have been preventable, but certainly was unfortunate.
The above photograph shows Bob Marley in his second to last show. Marley and the Wailers rocked the crowd at Madison Square Garden so wildly, that the band who came after — the Commodores — were a huge disappointment. Just a few days later, Marley was jogging through Central Park and collapsed.
Marley was an avid athlete his entire life, and it was actually his love of soccer that got him into trouble. After collapsing at Madison Square Garden, it was revealed that Marley had cancer of the liver, lungs, and brain — all stemming from an old soccer injury to his big toe.
One can only imagine what the world would’ve been like if that hadn’t happened, as Marley was a champion love and human equality. That’s why his eyes look resolute and still hold the fire that burned within him as a young man. His dreadlocks look almost blonde as if he’s been basking away in the sun in Jamaica all this time.
Dennis Wilson was one of three brothers that founded the Beach Boys, and the middle child was born on Dec. 4, 1944. That would make him 74 years old today. Not only was Wilson the drummer, but he also sang backup vocals and wrote his own songs.
Wilson even had a successful solo career and was the only member of the Beach Boys who actually surfed. This photograph shows Wilson in a more dilapidated state one year before he died. He also struggled with substance abuse, and shortly after he was kicked out of the Beach Boys, he drowned at Marina Del Rey.
As you can see from the photo on the left, Wilson was a good looking guy before substance abuse began taking a physical toll. Assuming he recovered and didn’t drown that the night of Dec. 28, 1983 (it happened in shallow water, and he was trying to retrieve items he’d thrown in the marina three years earlier), he would look like the CGI rendering on the right.
Wilson has ditched the beard, which in his case is a good call, and even though wrinkles grace his 74-year-old face, he looks pretty good. His blue eyes are a little somber, befitting of the man whose downward spiral came about because he introduced Charles Manson into the Hollywood scene. True story.
Keith Moon was the boisterous drummer of The Who and is widely considered one of the greatest drummers of all time. Moon was born on Aug. 23, 1946, so if he were alive today, he would be 72 years old. This photograph was taken about nine months before he died, and he actually looks pretty good.
The Who were one of the most influential bands in rock history, selling more than 100 million albums and performing at some of the most iconic music festivals ever. They rocked the crowds that filled the Monterey Pop Festival during the Summer of Love in 1967, then tore up the stage at Woodstock in 1969.
Moon had severe problems with alcohol but was actually an anti-alcohol drug that claimed his life. He overdosed on a drug meant to combat symptoms from alcohol withdrawal, but he took 32 of them when one was the prescribed dosage. Moon looks a bit more serious in his old age, and it would’ve taken him getting serious about sobriety to make sure he lived to 72 years old.
Even so, he’s nearly a spitting image of the character pictured on the left in 1973 (taken when he was 26 years old). It looks like he still has his hair, bushy eyebrows, and still hasn’t fixed that missing tooth, which is why he’s still closing his mouth.
Karen Carpenter of the Carpenters — the sibling band that included her brother Richard — was born on March 2, 1950. She makes the third drummer in a row that Sachs Media has recreated using CGI. But unlike Dennis Wilson and Keith Moon, Carpenter had other complications that led to her being taken from the world too early.
Photographs of Carpenter prior to her death on Feb. 1, 1983, are hard to look at, as she had an eating disorder that ultimately claimed her life. Carpenter’s smile could light up the stage, but anorexia put such a strain on her heart, that it gave out when she was just 32 years old.
Carpenter started out as the Carpenter’s drummer, but her voice was so good and her presence on the stage was so commanding, that she became the band’s frontwoman. Audiences couldn’t get enough of her, and eventually, she embarked on a successful solo career. But something was amiss, underneath it all, Carpenter had major issues with her own appearance.
Carpenter’s main legacy was her smile (which still beams in this photo) and, unfortunately, her battle with an eating disorder. While her death was sudden and tragic, it did have the unintended consequence of bringing awareness to eating disorders. The lack of eating and high-energy performances were just too much for the rock stars’ heart.
Bobby Darin was what you would call a “jack-of-all-trades” musician, as he played several different instruments on top of singing, spanning many different genres. Darin was born on May 14, 1936, so if he were alive today, he would be 82 years old.
Darin had health complications his entire life; when he was a child he contracted rheumatic fever. The illness immediately put an “expiration date” on his life, so he always knew he wouldn’t have much time on this earth. He used that knowledge to push himself to the top of the music world, before he was taken on Dec. 20, 1973.
Many people share a fear of the dentist, but in Darin’s case, his visit with the dentist turned deadly. He was already having heart complications when he failed to take antibiotics that would’ve protected his heart during the dental procedure. Instead, he developed sepsis, and attempts by surgeons to repair the valves in his heart ultimately led to his death.
Bobby Darin was a classy guy and good looking, too. His good looks would’ve followed him into old age as the CGI version at the right reveals a man dressed in dapper fashion. His hairline has receded and wrinkles abound, but his subtle smile and twinkle in his eyes still prevail.
Cass Elliot, or “Mama Cass” as she was also referred to, was a lead singer in the band Mamas and the Papas. Born on Sept. 19, 1941, her voice was beautiful, her attitude was sunny and optimistic, and she was always good for a laugh.
Elliot went on from the Mama’s and the Papa’s to launch a solo career. Following a disastrous opening night in Las Vegas brought on by complications from extreme weight loss, the singer dove headlong into substance abuse. Her health and career eventually recovered, however, and though she was a bit overweight when she died of heart failure, there were no drugs in her system.
No, Cass Elliot did not choke on a ham sandwich when she died, as the urban legend purported. But if you’re looking for an interesting tid-bit about her death, consider that her and Keith Moon both died in the same room — four years apart.
Prior to the onset of her solo career, Elliot dropped from 300 pounds to 200 pounds, then gained another 50. The fluctuation must’ve been hard on her heart, and as you can see, odds are that she would’ve kept a bit of her weight on in later years. Her smile still shows through, and you can almost hear her laugh reach through the photo.
Randy Rhoads died so young that he didn’t even make the 27 clubs, as he passed away at the young age of 25 years old. Though his time on planet earth was brief, Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist was still considered one of the best, most influential musicians with a six-string of all time.
Rhoads had difficulties with bandleader and rock legend Ozzy Osbourne, and prior to his death on March 19, 1982, he had already decided to leave the band. While on tour, Rhoads would constantly seek out lessons from classical guitarists and planned to pursue a degree in that field at UCLA.
Ozzy Osbourne was touring Florida on a bus when a problem with the air conditioning caused them to stop at a small airfield. The previous evening Rhoads had commented on Osbourne’s drinking and said, “You’ll kill yourself, you know? One of these days.”
As Osbourne slept in the bus, the driver of the bus decided to go for a joy ride in a “borrowed” airplane. After two successful attempts at buzzing the bus (to try and wake up Osbourne), the third pass saw the wing clip the bus, and Osbourne woke up to the plane, with Rhoads as a passenger, burst into flames as it crashed into a nearby mansion.
Tupac is another musician who fell short of the necessary requirement to a part of the 27 club, as he died at the young age of 25 years old. However, Tupac accomplished more in 25 years than most of us will in a lifetime. He starred in nearly 10 movies and has eleven albums that have reached platinum status.
Tupac was a complicated individual to say the least, and to say he was outspoken is like saying the sun is hot. The gang sign flashing and self-proclaimed THUG was a champion for civil and women’s rights, while he also advocated violence and was convicted of sexual assault.
Tupac was born on June 16, 1971, which would make him 48 years old today. We can only hope that he would’ve kept his unique style with a bandanna, as his face looks a bit thinner, and chiseled. It’s hard to say whether Tupac would’ve kept his good looks in his old age, and that has to do with how his life would’ve played out.
Perhaps Tupac would’ve come back to the poetic, peace-loving activist that he was when he was young, but perhaps he would’ve kept with his energy fueled, militant stance toward civil rights. That might’ve put more years on his life, making him appear older than he actually was.
Buddy Holly was born on Sept. 7, 1936, in Lubbock, Texas. Holly eclipses even Tupac and Randy Rhoads as the youngest musician to have passed early, which was at the tender age of 22 years old. Even still, bands and musicians such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Eric Clapton were influenced by his style.
You can thank the horn-rimmed glasses-wearing Holly for the rock ‘n’ roll band set up as we know it, as he was the first to implement two guitars, a bass, and a drummer. If it weren’t for a tragic plane crash that claimed his life, as well as the Big Bopper and young sensation Richie Valence, Holly would’ve changed the landscape of the music industry.
Holly began his music career performing songs in the style of country, gospel, and blues, before experimenting with rock ‘n’ roll, but when he opened for an Elvis Presley concert in 1955 he never turned back. Holly looks so young in his photos that it’s difficult to imagine him in old age, but a closet smoking habit has stained his teeth, and his hairline is receding.
Holly was in a hurry trying to make the next venue during a Mid-west tour in 1959, and chartered a plane during a snow storm. It would be a fateful decision, as the plane crashed shortly after takeoff on Feb. 3, 1959, killing the pilot and three musicians aboard.
It’s hard to believe that Biggie Smalls has been dead for over 22 years, but there would be a noticeable difference between a 24-year-old Smalls, and the 47-year-old he’d be today. Christopher Wallace (his actual name) stood at six-foot-three-inches tall and weighed in somewhere in the neighborhood of 350 pounds. He was a formidable presence as much as he was a talented rapper.
Another performer whose day in the sun was all too short, Wallace has managed to sell 17 million records across the United States. But due to an unsolved murder that took place in Los Angeles California on March 9, 1997, we won’t be hearing any new music from the rap legend.
Biggie was still growing up when he died, and if he were alive now some of his extra weight would’ve settled in his face. Wrinkles have set in, but we can see that his face would’ve been made even more expressive over time. Of course, that time was cut short, despite the fact that he hired a security detail just prior to his assassination.
The night he was killed he was rolling deep, with two Suburbans, one of full of bodyguards, and the head of his security at his record company in another car. Despite all that, a man in a blue suit and a bow tie rolled a black Impala up next to Biggie’s Suburban, shot him four times, and fled the scene without ever being caught.
Lynyrd Skynyrd was at the height of their popularity when their rising star fell from the sky. Eddie Van Zant was the frontman who sang hits such “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “That Smell,” and according to bandmates was something of a clairvoyant.
Van Zant was born on January 15, 1948, which put him at 29 years old before he died. He often repeated to family and his band that he was never going to make to his 30s. Despite protests and pleas to not talk that way, his self-fulfilling prophecy came true on the night of October 20, 1977, in the skies above Mississippi.
The night before Lynyrd Skynyrd took their fateful airplane ride the plane had shot a ten-foot flame out one of its engines. Despite the fact that barely any maintenance was done to correct this, Van Zant insisted on flying that night so as to not disappoint fans at the next venue.
The plane ran out of gas and after gliding for several minutes, it crashed into the bayou in Gillsberg, Mississippi — Van Zant was killed instantly, along with five others. He lived hard, and if he was alive today he’d be 81 years old, and still rocking fans through the ages.
Bradley Nowell, who rocked us for a brief period as the frontman for Sublime, just missed out on the 27 club by about two months. However, Nowell at least missed on the long end, as he was 28 years old when he died on May 25, 1996, of a heroin overdose.
Of course, that was before he delivered such classic albums as 40 oz. to Freedom, and Sublime. Nowell and his Southern California bandmates managed to create a perfect fusion of alternative rock, reggae, and hip hop in their music, and only left us wanting more when Nowell passed prematurely.
Nowell was a voracious reader and came just one semester shy of receiving a degree in finance. He decided not to go back to school because he had “all the hard classes left… I doubt I’ll ever go back.” It’s too bad he didn’t because he developed a drug problem shortly after leaving.
The Southern California sun would’ve certainly taken its toll on Nowell, causing a bit of sunburn. But that’s not the only thing that could account for flushed red skin, as we can see Nowell, even though he would be 51 years old today, would still be double fisting Heineken’s.
Sid Vicious might be one of the worst musicians on this list, but even though he died young he’s extremely well known. Vicious was the poster child for punk rockers back in the late 1970s – with nappy hair, hastily painted purple fingernails, and “gimme a fix” carved into his chest.
But that’s what landed him his gig as the bass guitarist of the Sex Pistols. His image was right, but he didn’t even know how to play the instrument. Then, he stayed up for two days learning a Ramone’s album back to front, and all of a sudden he could play.
Vicious was a good looking guy, but punk rock is certainly not about looking good, and his sort of crooked, half-smile, half frown, and totally distorted expression, was common for him in photos. Ever the punk rocker, making that face too many times has resulted in grooves on Vicious’ face.
Vicious was introduced to heroin by his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, and it quickly led to a downward spiral. Spungen was found stabbed to death in a New York hotel room that she and Vicious shared. He posted bail on May 25, 1977, and after almost two months clean, he relapsed and overdosed at the age of 21. If he were alive, he’d be 62 years old.
Bon Scott was working as the chauffeur of AC/DC before he became their lead singer and frontman. Evidently, AC/DC had just fired their lead singer and was playing an instrumentals only show. Bon was literally pulled from the audience and thereafter became the band’s new frontman.
Even though Scott was in his 30s, he only recently got a handle on how to write music and structure songs. While shoveling manure to make some money, he would think of the lyrics and later work on writing them with fellow musicians. This experience gave him the necessary skills to rock it with AC/DC starting in 1974.
Details of how Scott died on Feb. 19, 1980, are a bit fuzzy, but they have to do with complications with heroin (i.e. it was likely an overdose). Prior to that Scott and the band were working on their Back in Black album, which would become one of the most successful albums of all time.
AC/DC considered disbanding after Scott’s death, but after encouragement from Scott’s family, and finding new lead singer Brian Johnson (the band’s third lead singer), five months later they had an album. If Scott were alive today he’d be 72 years old, and likely would’ve shared in the decades-long success of AC/DC.
If you know southern rock the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, then you’ll certainly remember the riffs from Duane Allman of the Allman Brothers Band. As the story goes, his brother Gregg got him a bottle of illicit pills for Duane’s birthday, and instead of ingesting them he peeled the label off and used it as a slide for his guitar.
The slide became an essential part of the bands’ sound, and it was so widely appreciated that it was replicated by the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Joe Walsh of the Eagles. Allman is best known for songs such as Midnight Rider and Ramblin’ Man, and he’d have a lot more if he didn’t die in his mid-20s.
Allman was born on Nov. 20, 1946, so if he were alive today he’d be 73 years old. If he decided to keep his unique goatee style, it would certainly thin and grey, while his long-rockers hair would grey as well. As for his music, it was cut short when he died on October 29, 1971.
Allman was enjoying some time off between recording and touring in Macon, Georgia. He cruised through the streets on his Harley Davidson, when suddenly a truck with a crane stopped inexplicably stopped in the middle of an intersection. Allman died hours later after colliding with the truck.
This article was originally published on History 101: CGI shows what rock stars would look like if they were alive today