The laws of probability and rock tradition dictate that 2006, like every year before it, will not end without a notable musical death or two. Eventually, all our rock heroes end up in the Afterlife All-Star Band.
Those who went to the afterparty in 2005 -- including Luther Vandross, Link Wray, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, and R.L. Burnside -- were mostly aged, disease-stricken or both, so rock eulogists only had to pull their obituaries from a file and fill in the dates. This year, we predict the Grim Reaper will harvest some younger souls along with oldsters who are running out of chances.
Toby Keith: No longer satisfied with writing fist-pumping war anthems, the country jingoist will enlist in the Army so he can personally put a boot up the ass of . . . well, someone. He'll promptly be killed by an Iraqi who recognizes the singer's voice from the song played during his terrifying interrogation, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."
Rock 'n' roll death pool
Michael Jackson: Every day brings more pathetic news about the fallen King of Pop. Now he's reportedly bankrupt and hiding in Bahrain gulping painkillers and tranquilizers by the handful. There's a damn good chance he goes to the real Neverland this year.
Courtney Love: The violence-prone Nirvana widow was recently released early from her umpteenth drug rehab program and is back on the streets again. The long-awaited Kurt and Courtney reunion tour may be scheduled for 2006.
David Crosby: After his 2004 weapons-and-pot arrest, we can't help but wonder how long his 11-year-old replacement liver will hold out.
B.B. King: The string-bending blues ambassador is 80 and diabetic, a combination of age and ailment that bodes ill for the Beale Street Blues Boy King.
Conor Oberst: The pretentious Bright Eyes howler will be found facedown in a puddle of rock-critic drool. The Omaha Medical Examiner's Office will declare the cause of death to be an intentional overhype brought about by chronic exposure to Bob Dylan comparisons.
Eminem: Fresh out of rehab for addiction to sleep medication, the rapper announced on a Detroit radio station his recent reconciliation with ex-wife Kim Mathers. Remarrying the woman who inspired his most heartfelt murder-fantasy songs might be the worst possible way to begin the long road to sobriety.
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James Brown: The 72-year-old funk and soul pioneer has been treated for prostate cancer after 50 years of hard living and even harder working. How much longer before he gives it up and turns it loose?
Mick Mars: Mötley Crüe's guitarist already looks like a walking skeleton thanks to a degenerative bone disease, so it can't be long before he's running with the devil.
R. Kelly: After 2005's "Sex Weed," the accused Teen Beat fan and urophiliac will realize he has completely exhausted his supply of double entendres and reach for his Beretta one last time, thus sparing the world from "Trapped in the Closet" parts 13-24.