Rock and roll has a longstanding association with sex, drugs and general depravity, so itâs a natural breeding ground for myths and legends surrounding some of its more famous and colorful practitioners.
It was common in the '70s for rock artistsâ deaths to be attributed to government conspiracies, and for artists themselves to start or perpetuate rumors of their alleged illicit exploits.
Surprisingly enough, some of rockâs most outlandish myths are still circulating, masquerading as true stories.
1. Paul McCartney, Lou Reed and Ginger Baker are deadMyths:
McCartney died in an auto accident in 1966 and was replaced by an impersonator. Reed and Baker died of drug overdoses.
The McCartney and Reed myths started with what looked like legitimate wire service reports being fed to radio stations. The fact that it took McCartney a while to deny the rumour added fuel to it. The Reed hoax came shortly after the death of fellow punk rocker Joey Ramone, which gave it an additional touch of plausibility.
Baker was addicted to heroin throughout most of the '60s and '70s. After Cream disbanded in 1968, he dropped out of public view, leading some to believe that he had died a drug-related death. He kicked the habit in the early '80s and is quite alive, as are McCartney and Reed.
2. Elvis Presley and Jim Morrison are aliveMyths:
Elvis didnât die in 1977 but used that as a cover to go into seclusion and get out of the public spotlight. Jim Morrison is alive and someone elseâs body is in his grave.
In spite of extensive and largely irrefutable evidence to the contrary, there are still those who believe that Elvis is alive and is periodically spotted in convenience stores, restaurants and trailer parks all over the world.
Some people still donât believe that Morrisonâs body is the one buried in his grave in a Paris cemetery. The official cause of Morrisonâs was listed as a heart attack -- believed by many to have been drug related -- in 1971. One enterprising gentleman has even produced a video (for $24.95 plus shipping) that he claims is Morrison living the life of a cowboy in the Pacific Northwest. People who have seen the video say the man in it bears no resemblance whatsoever to Morrison, and other than the fact that many of his song lyrics had mystical themes, there is no evidence to suggest that his death was faked.
3. Cass Elliot choked to death on a ham sandwichMyth:
Mama Cass died when she choked on the sandwich she was eating, the uneaten remains of which were found near her body.
There may have been a partially eaten sandwich somewhere in the vicinity, but she died of heart failure brought on by the effects of obesity and crash dieting. The coroner found no evidence of anything, ham sandwich or otherwise, blocking her windpipe.
4. Grace Slick named her daughter âgodâMyth:
Shortly after her baby was born, Slick told a hospital attendant that the baby would be named god, with a small âgâ out of respect for the religious significance.
Slick admits that she made the remark to a nurse who was wearing a crucifix, but says she meant it as a joke. Given her well known drug use and her prominent role in the pioneering Psychedelic Rock group Jefferson Airplane, it wasnât hard to believe that she was serious. Slickâs daughterâs name is and always has been China Kantner (her father being Jefferson Airplane guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner.)
5. Mr. Greenjeans was Frank Zappaâs fatherMyth:
The gentle, kindly character on the childrenâs TV show, Captain Kangaroo was the father of Frank Zappa, who specialized in absurd humor and not-so-gentle social satire in his many song lyrics.
Zappa was the son of a Sicilian immigrant named Francis Zappa, who lived in Baltimore. The fact that among Zappaâs many songs were two titled âMr. Green Genesâ and âSon of Mr. Green Genesâ no doubt served as the basis of the myth. Coupled with the fact that Zappa's persona was such that you could easily believe most anything about him, it isnât hard to see how this myth started and lasted.