Johnny Thunders was a guitar hero, a punk icon, and a troubled soul. His life was full of highs and lows, from his glory days with the New York Dolls and the Heartbreakers to his struggles with drugs and health issues. He influenced generations of musicians with his raw and raunchy style, but he also left behind a legacy of unanswered questions and conspiracy theories. What really happened to Johnny Thunders on April 23, 1991, when he was found dead in a New Orleans hotel room? Was it a natural death, an overdose, or a murder?
The Official Cause of Death: Drug-Related Causes
According to the coroner’s report, the official cause of death for Johnny Thunders was drug-related causes. The autopsy revealed that he had cocaine and methadone in his system, as well as traces of other drugs. The report also stated that Thunders had advanced leukemia, which could have weakened his immune system and made him more vulnerable to infections
However, some of Thunders’ friends and fans have expressed doubts about the accuracy and completeness of the coroner’s report. They argue that the levels of cocaine and methadone in his blood were not high enough to cause a fatal overdose, especially for someone who had a long history of drug abuse and tolerance. They also point out that Thunders had been trying to quit heroin and was on a methadone program, which would have reduced his cravings and withdrawal symptoms
The Alternative Theories: Leukemia, Robbery, or Murder
Some of the alternative theories about Johnny Thunders’ cause of death suggest that he died of natural causes, such as leukemia or a heart attack, and that the drugs in his system were incidental or irrelevant. One of his former lovers, Susanne Blomqvist, claimed that Thunders had been diagnosed with leukemia in 1987, shortly after the birth of their daughter Jamie. She said that he had visited a doctor once and that something had changed in his health. She also noticed that he looked pale and thin in his last year of life
Other theories suggest that Thunders was the victim of a robbery or a murder, and that the drugs in his system were planted or injected by his assailants. One of the most vocal proponents of this theory was Dee Dee Ramone, the bassist of the Ramones and a close friend of Thunders. Ramone claimed that he had received a phone call from Stevie Klasson, Thunders’ guitarist, who told him that Thunders had been robbed and killed by some “bastards” who wanted his methadone supply. Ramone also said that Thunders had been beaten and strangled, and that his room had been ransacked
However, there is little evidence to support these claims, and some of them contradict each other. For instance, Klasson later denied that he had ever called Ramone, and said that he had found Thunders lying peacefully on his bed, with no signs of violence or struggle. He also said that Thunders had been in good spirits and had played a successful gig the night before his death.
The Conclusion: A Mystery That Remains Unsolved
The truth about Johnny Thunders’ cause of death may never be known for sure, as there are too many gaps and inconsistencies in the available information. Some of the witnesses and sources have changed or recanted their stories over the years, and some of the evidence and records have been lost or destroyed. The only thing that is certain is that Thunders died too young and too soon, leaving behind a legacy of music, mystery, and controversy.