Stairway to Heaven: Rock, Pop, Rap Stars Die Young

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What Bellis found interesting is that in the past, researchers suspected fame and fortune encouraged stars to throw caution to the wind. But it could be that risk-taking and wild behavior predate fame as a way to cope with a difficult past.

"A career as a rock or pop star may be attractive to those escaping an unhappy childhood, but it may also provide the resources to feed a predisposition to unhealthy and risky behaviors that may not necessarily be available to other people so easily," he said.

He also said he suspects musicians who play with bands live longer because their bandmates help buffer negative influences and provide emotional support.

Bellis said the results of his study and the short lives of pop divas and guitar heroes should serve as a lesson for aspiring musicians. "It is important that children recognize that substance use and risk-taking may be rooted in childhood adversity rather than seeing them as symbols of success."

As for Harris, he said he knows he's one of the lucky ones. After nearly 10 years of craziness, traveling and playing with various high-profile bands, he realized he wouldn't last long unless he walked away from "the life." He dropped out of the music scene more than two decades ago. Next year, he graduates from medical school and plans to deliver healthcare in developing African countries.

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