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The 27 Club: Musicians Who Met Their Untimely Demise at Age 27

Photo from the Smothers Bothers Show 1969

Photo from the Smothers Bothers Show 1969

They Went Too Soon

I have been a music fan my entire life, I have always been fascinated not only with the music, but also the personalities of these great musicians.

Many times these musical geniuses could barely stand their own skin long enough to produce a few classic albums, and just like the candle they burned from both ends, their lives suffered the same early fate.

Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain all have something in common, they had the unfortunate distinction of passing away at the age of 27.

I knew about the 3 deaths from the 70-71 era, and always thought that was odd, but I had not made the 27 connection until Nirvana's founder/lead singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide on April 15th 1994.

The 27 club was definitely in the news at that point, I since had learned that original Rolling Stones guitarist and founding member Brian Jones was 27 when he died as well.

Nearly all of these untimely deaths have one thing in common, a death spiral documented in the media, that anyone with common sense can see what the end result will be.

Amy Winehouse: The Latest Member

Several years ago I had become a fan of Amy Winehouse. Her antics and personal issues aside, I had really grown to appreciate and love her singing voice. I am not easily smitten by a vocalist, but I enjoyed her retro-style.

I tend to be an instrumental music fan, Winehouse though, had touched a part of me that few singers have.

I remember discussing with my mother who also liked her, my mother said: "She's not going to last long", I said: "yeah she's showing up on the news way too much for the wrong reasons".

On September 23rd 2011 Amy Winehouse was found dead at her Camden Square home, thus entering the 27 club as its highest profile member since Kurt Cobain.

What a waste I thought. I was upset over this for several days, such a waste of a talented human being.

Much like when Janis Joplin's death hit the news in 1970, people were shocked at the awful waste of talent, and it stirred up emotions of what might have been.

Amy Winehouse

Robert Johnson: Perhaps The Most Important Club Member?

I didn't think about the 27 club being a super-natural curse, that's until I found out that famous blues singer Robert Johnson was the original high-profile member of the club. In the history of American popular music, Johnson may be the most important member.

Robert Johnson who is probably the greatest and most important blues singer and guitarist of all time in terms of influence, and one of the main influences on rock's development. Johnson, as legend tells it, sold his soul to the devil for his increased ability to play.

This of course adds to the mystique of the 27 club. Though Johnson's fate may not have been his own, as he may have been poisoned by his girlfriend with strychnine.

Kurt Cobain: The One I Never Saw Coming

Another sad thing about the 27 club, almost all of those involved seemed to die within 3 or 4 years of achieving super-stardom. I don't remember thinking Cobain was on the edge of death.

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Cobain's case was particularly sad to me. Though I am not a fan of the band, I recognize greatness and originality when I see it. This guy Cobain, from what I have read really was his own man, fame, was abhorrent to him. Something to be ashamed of perhaps?

I have often wondered if Nirvana would have just remained a little indie band hidden in the shadows all but to am energetic cult following, would Cobain still be alive?

Cobain started feuding with other musicians like Axl Rose and even Pearl Jam's front-man Eddie Vedder over what he felt was not being true to the art. Those situations seemed like someone who was focused on things that didn't honor his own art.

Perhaps Kurt wasn't comfortable in his own skin first, then when fame and fortune hits, you sabotage it all, seems like most of the 27 club have this in common. They weren't really looking for fame, just a creative outlet to pour out their emotional baggage.

When I heard of Cobain's death by suicide, it was particularly shocking. I always wondered if Kurt just said the hell with it subconsciously?

Kurt Cobain

1970: The Worst Year For Club Membership

Probably no other year in music history was worse than 1970.

To lose one of the most iconic male and female singers in rock history Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin is shocking enough, but to also lose the greatest guitarist in rock history Jimi Hendrix as well. It must have felt like indeed a curse was in effect.

It would be like losing George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Johnny Cash from the world of country music in their primes at the same time

Imagine the blues genre losing Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and B.B. King at their creative peaks? Devastating it must have been for the music lovers in 1970?

Jimi Hendrix

Janis Joplin

Who's Next to Join the Club?

Now we have 7 high-profile members of this exclusive club, I wonder who will be the next to go?

Just take a look at the news, who's 27 or younger and heading down the path to destruction? Odds are, you have a candidate already in mind?

It's a shame, but just like the average man or woman, even the musically gifted can't escape the human condition, and they have the added pitfalls that go along with fame.

Is it supernatural or just a coincidence? I wonder who the next member of the 27 club will be?


Christopher Nowak on December 17, 2019:

There are two famous members of THE 36 CLUB.

I shall let you guess? HINT: ELTON JOHN.

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