Why is it that so many important figures in the history of rock have died at the age of 27? Have you ever heard of the 27 club? Some of the finest performers have met their untimely demise before reaching their 28th birthdays. Maybe there is some sort of curse surrounding that age. Maybe we’re seeing a connection that isn’t truly there. We’ll let you ponder the mystery, but first, let us introduce some of the finest members of the 27 club.
9. Brian Jones – February 28, 1942 – July 3, 1969
Our first member was an old school rock and roll bad boy. Fathering his first child at the age of 17, and many more after that, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones lived the way he wanted. He followed his whims, whether it was being nasty, indulging in drugs, or playing the blues on a guitar. He spent his life as a drifter, never truly finding a home. Mick Jagger remarked on the sensitivity of Brian’s playing, that is, when he would show up to the studio. Sadly, he was found drowned in his pool one month after being kicked out of the band.
8. Alan Wilson – July 4, 1943 – September 3, 1970
Alan ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson was an expert in the blues. John Lee Hooker called him the “greatest harmonica player ever” owing to his deep knowledge and love of the music. In his early 20s, he had already played with some of the biggest names in the blues, and would go on to sing two hit songs. He suffered from deep depression and attempted suicide months before he was found dead from an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol. Whether or not his death was a suicide is unknown.
7. Robert Johnson – May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938
Robert Johnson was a bluesman considered to have an important influence on the evolution of rock music. Not only was he a talented guitarist, singer and songwriter, his life had a legendary quality making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. It is said that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for success. It may be true because his success only came after he lost his life by unknown means, further shrouding his legend and legacy in mystique.
6. Janis Joplin – January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970
Our next 27 club member sets the stage for the common way in which most of these musicians passed. Janis Joplin lead an emotionally unstable and substance fuelled life. This, along with her raw singing ability, kept audiences spellbound. Few could match the fireworks on display when she howled her gritty songs. Despite her musical talents, she could not keep up with her drug use and was found lifeless in her apartment having overdosed on heroin.
5. Kurt Cobain – February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994
This young songwriting genius was unable to cope with fame. Kurt Cobain was the spokesperson for a generation that rebelled against radio pop and glam rock, creating a new breed of music dubbed grunge. The movement was casual and apathetic, and Cobain’s lyrics captured the mood with a bleak sense of humour and melodic hooks. Sadly, he committed suicide while high on heroin. He was found dead from a shotgun wound to the head, although one detective claims it was a murder. Either way, his great talent was taken away at an early age.
4. Jim Morrison – December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971
The poet of rock. The Lizard King. Jim Morrison was a sex icon and rock God of the highest order. From his controversial refusal to censor the word “higher” on live television, to his wild drug and alcohol fuelled antics and escapades, he embodied the hedonistic artist tapping into excess and creativity. His fame lead to a raucous life which eventually took its toll. Morrison’s death was also shrouded by mystery, although it is most likely he died in his Paris hotel bathroom from mixing the wrong drugs.
3. Jimi Hendrix – November 27, 1942 – September 18 1970
The seminal guitar player extraordinaire, who is inspiring to this day, was a complicated man. He felt deep insecurity about his playing and style of dress, despite being considered the best rock guitarist by many of his contemporaries at the time. His sound defined the coming generation of hard rock, and he was rapidly evolving as a songwriter, but even his love of music couldn’t keep the demons at bay. He was found overdosing on sleeping pills and alcohol, and soon after passed away.
2. Amy Winehouse – September 14, 1983 – July 27, 2011
Amy Winehouse’s famous declaration “I don’t wanna go to rehab” was dark foreshadowing of what was to come. Her skillful singing led her to many different genres of music. Her music reflected influences from jazz, neosoul, R&B and rock, with her expressive performances placing her among the top performers of her generation. She was also a tormented soul whose depression and substance abuse lead to her recent death in 2011 from alcohol poisoning.
1. Paul McCartney – June 18, 1942 – ???
For the final member of our list we look at perhaps one of the greatest hoaxes of all time. Everyone knows the Beatles, one of the most iconic and influential rock groups of the 20th century. They were so popular nobody could hear their concerts because their fans would scream too loud. This lead them to a secluded musical life of making hit records in the studio. They were a moneymaking behemoth and nobody wanted the gravy train to stop. It’s speculated that Paul McCartney died in a car accident and was replaced by a look-alike, Faul McCartney, who has been playing the role ever since. Was it really a hoax? There have been numerous clues such as the Abbey Road album cover where each of the Beatles represents a figure of the funeral procession with Paul as the dead man, walking barefoot. We’re not sure what the truth is, but you can read about the evidence online and decide for yourself. Maybe there is some significance to being a rockstar at the age of 27. Some curse that started with Robert Johnson when he first made a deal with the devil. Maybe the music business attracts wild personalities who live their life on the edge, and succumb to the pressures of the industry by turning to drugs and partying. These musical geniuses may have died, but they left a lasting legacy. Wherever these 27 Club members are hanging out right now, there must be one heck of a concert going on.