Senior ANDY Editor
It was a bad two years for rock and roll.
The premature death of Rolling Stones founder and guitarist Brian Jones in 1969 sparked a morbid trend in music. By July of 1971, a mere 24 months later, rock and roll had also lost legends Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Together, these four musical icons, lost to drowning, asphyxiation, drugs and heart failure respectively, soon became known collectively as the 27 Club – musicians forever immortalized for the age at which they lost their lives.
The curse of 27 added Kurt Cobain to its roster in 1994 when Nirvana’s frontman was found dead several days after he’d shot himself the head. Cobain, who had displayed suicidal tendencies since an early age, had often expressed his desire to die at 27 like the artists he idolized; after his death, his mother is reported to have said, “now he’s gone and joined that stupid club.” The spectacle of Cobain’s suicide on top of the dramatic life he’d lead solidified his spot among his deceased peers.
Amy Winehouse’s death this past summer at the age of 27 renewed discussion of this strange phenomenon as she was added to the list. Coroner’s reports have finally revealed Winehouse’s cause of death to be alcohol poisoning. While the official statement is “death by misadventure,” a fatal level of alcohol was responsible for her demise.
Despite the seemingly circumstantial nature of these artists’ deaths, rumors still circulate about possible causes for this creepy coincidence. Apparently, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all had a white lighter on their person when their bodies were discovered. Others trace the 27 Club back to Louis Chauvin, a ragtime musician whose death in 1908 at the age of 27 is considered the originator of popular musicians dying in their prime of fame and fortune.
Whatever the cause, these tragic deaths remain a cultural phenomenon mourned by the fans, the families and the music industry.