The tongue-in-cheek book title may be the biggest drawback to this treasure trove of interesting information. While the deaths of the famous and infamous always seem to garner enough interest for media outlets to conduct almost daily eulogies on their behalf, it is the death of the "rock star" that often gains some of the greatest attention (think Elvis Presley). The "sex, drugs and rock n' roll" mantra always seems to lead to the early demise of some rock icons (think Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison), the deaths of others are often shrouded in mystery (Brian Jones) or mythology (Mama Cass). What makes the ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DEAD ROCK STARS so impressive is that it is simply a great resource on the lives (not just the deaths) of both prominent and obscure "rock stars" (a term used liberally considering the book includes the likes of Kurt Cobain ... and Frankie Lymon).
The book is presented chronologically rather than alphabetically as each chapter represents a complete year (January-December, from 1965 through 2006) containing the "obituaries" of those who have passed during the given year. True to the book's title, each "obit" is preceded with an icon that represents the cause of death (drugs, illness, suicide, etc.) and is followed with a healthy dose of useful and interesting details that inform the reader of the decedent's significance ... including the good, the bad and the bizarre (GG Allin for example). Jeremy Simmonds' methodical approach to the subject matter includes a preface that explains the likelihood of certain "rock stars" not being included in the book, the rationale for those who were included and the deaths of some prominent figures prior to 1965. To include as many individuals as possible, the author opts for brevity over bounty and the presentation is more factoid-based than biographical ... even then, the book clocks-in at 600+ pages. Interesting sidebar lists and photos are peppered profusely throughout the book and some of the more significant individuals are given a full page "obit". What I found most useful about the book was the diverse range of those individuals referenced, from the totally obscure to the superstar icons with the almost famous, one-hit wonder types filling the middle. Throughout this voluminous accumulation of obituaries, I learned a great deal. The book reminded me of artists I'd long forgotten about, informed me of those whose contributions I knew little about, shocked me with those who I thought were still alive and clarified certain deaths that have been mischaracterized over the years.
At first glance (again, blame it on the title) the book alludes to a sarcastic/distasteful approach on the subject matter ... but it is not. The ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DEAD ROCK STARS is a fairly comprehensive resource that takes account of those who contributed to the music scene but are no longer around. The book should appeal to anyone that enjoys/appreciates modern music and/or pop culture.