Our annual Death Pool: Which artists will croak in '09?

Who should fear the reaper this year?

It's January, which means it's that time of year again. No, we don't mean it's time to honor your New Year's resolution to have more empathy for your fellow man or to stop putting so much stock in gossip and rumors.

It's time to lay odds on which musicians are most likely to stop putting out new material and start being the subjects of tributes and posthumous releases.

We don't want to spend too much time repeating ourselves in our fourth annual Death Pool, so here's a partial rundown of previous picks still likely to exchange backstage laminates for toe tags. There are the perennial loony-tunes partyers like Amy Winehouse (and her enabler/husband, Blake), Lindsay Lohan, Pete Doherty and Courtney Love. Then there are those in ill health, including Dick Clark and Michael Jackson (the latter of whom is in need of a lung transplant, according to a biographer). Finally, there are the just-plain-old, like B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Les Paul.

Now, on to this year's candidates...

Axl Rose

More than a decade after turning Guns N' Roses into a solo project, Rose finally released his magnum opus—to nearly universal indifference, Chuck Klosterman notwithstanding. Now the notoriously reclusive and unpredictable Rose is about to tour behind the Disappointment of the Decade, Chinese Democracy. He belongs in a nut house, not a tour bus. Odds: 1/1,000,000.

Eddie Van Halen

He's been in and out of rehab, survived cancer, still smokes and has largely disappeared from the public eye, except when backing out of gigs. He may be playing "Eruption" on a harp before long. Odds: 1/5,150.

50 Cent

We can only have so many gangsta rappers on the list any given year before it gets monotonous. Odds: 1/50.

Scott Weiland

We can only have so many chronic rocker junkies on the list any given year before it gets monotonous. Odds: 1/20.

Pat Boone

He recently opined in World Net Daily that gay "rights" (his sarcastic quotation marks, not mine) demonstrators might threaten a level of violence comparable to the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Clearly, he has some knowledge of a coming homosexual attack that the rest of us don't know about, and the militant killer homos will need to silence him. Odds: 1/Twixt Twelve and Twenty.

Clint Eastwood

The 78-year-old director and composer announced his intention to retire from acting, giving him that much less to make his day. We'd hate to see the Pale Rider get him, but you know how quickly old folks decline after retirement. Odds: 1/18

Miley Cyrus

She supposedly tried to emancipate herself from her parents when she wasn't busy taking sexy pictures and dating older guys. Stress and distractions are not helpful to drivers, particularly young ones, but she just turned 16 and can afford whatever kind of sports car she wants. Celebrity teen drivers: yet another reason not to live in Los Angeles. Odds: 1/16.

Mindy McCready

From allegedly having an affair with Roger Clemens as a 15-year-old to drug, DUI and battery convictions to a recent reported suicide attempt, this troubled country singer doesn't look to still be here much longer. Odds: 1/15

Shifty Shellshock

A high-profile has-been, the former Crazy Town crooner spends far less time singing stripper anthems like "Butterfly" than appearing on rehab reality shows. Maybe it's wishful thinking, but we're thinking he can only relapse so many times before he gets the ultimate starry-eyed surprise. Odds: 1/11.

Joaquin Phoenix

The actor best known for his portrayal of Johnny Cash recently announced his intent to give up acting for a music career. But to judge by his recent bloated, disheveled public appearances, it looks like he's more likely to follow in his brother River's footsteps than the Man in Black's. Odds: 1/3.

 
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