The 27 Club

27 Club member Kurt Cobain

27 Club member Kurt Cobain

Call it an anomaly or an interesting piece of musical trivia without a need for further consideration. But the 27 Club phenomenon is well known among music business professionals and fans of popular music.

The 27 Club is the name given to a group of unfortunate musicians who have died at the young age of 27, and usually at the height of their career. The most famous members of this group all died within a two year period, from 1969-1971.  These musicians consisted of:

Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.  Age: 27.  Died on 3 July 1969.
Jimi Hendrix of the Jimi Hendrix Experience/Band of Gypsies.  Age: 27. Died on 18 September 1970
Janis Joplin of Big Brother and the Holding Company.  Age: 27.  Died on 4 October 1970
Jim Morrison of the Doors.  Age: 27.  Died on 3 July 1971.

As you may have noticed, Brian Jones and Jim Morrison died on the same date two years apart.  These two years of untimely deaths devastated the music world.

But this anomaly never really ended on 3 July 1971. Nor did it start on 3 July 1969.  You can trace it back to Louis Chauvin, a ragtime musician who died in 1908 and Robert Johnson, a pioneering blues guitarist who died in 1938.  Both these musicians are also members of the 27 Club.

The most famous recent member to join the 27 Club was Kurt Cobain, singer/guitarist of the rock band Nirvana, who died at the age of 27 in 1994.  Cobain had a troubled early life after his parents divorced. Interestingly, once news spread of his fatal self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head, The New York Times reported his mother, Wendy O’Connor, as saying…

“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club.”

Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain’s spouse, and singer of the rock group “Hole” was witness to a new club member on two separate occasions.  Not only did she experienced her husband joining the club, but only a few months later, Hole’s 27 year old bass player, Kristen Pfaff, dies of a heroin overdose.

According to wikipedia’s summary of the 27 Club, some superstitious people who are very familiar with the phenomenon bring up the subject of white lighters when discussing this club.  Apparently, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix all had a white lighter in their possession when their bodies were found.  The only other original member, Brian Jones, died in a pool drowning accident – and obviously would not have had a lighter with him.

If it was only the eight musicians noted above died at 27, then perhaps this commonality would have never been considered as mysterious as it is today.  Unfortunately, this perplexing curse continues. As you can see below, the members list of the 27 Club continues to grow, some join willingly, while others have no choice.

NameDiedCauseClaim to notability
Louis Chauvin3/26/08Neurosyphilitic sclerosis.Ragtime musician.
Robert Johnson8/16/38UnknownBluesman.
Nat Jaffe8/5/45High blood pressure.Blues musician.
Jesse Belvin2/6/60Car wreck.R&B singer and songwriter.
Rudy Lewis5/20/64Drug overdose.Vocalist of The Drifters.
Malcolm Hale10/31/68Carbon monoxide poisoningSpanky and Our Gang.
Alexandra7/31/69Car accident.German singer.
Alan Wilson9/3/70Overdose, possible suicide.Leader singer of Canned Heat.
Arlester Christian3/13/71Shot.Vocalist of Dyke & the Blazers.
Linda Jones3/14/72Diabetic coma.R&B singer.
Ron McKernan3/8/73Alcoholism.Grateful Dead.
Roger Lee Durham7/27/73Fell off a horseBloodstone.
Wallace Yohn8/12/74Died in a plane crashOrgan player of Chase.
Dave Alexander2/10/75Pulmonary edema.The Stooges.
Peter Ham4/24/75Suicide by hanging.Badfinger.
Gary Thain12/8/75Drug overdose.Uriah Heep.
Helmut Köllen5/3/77Carbon monoxide poisoning.Bassist with Triumvirat.
Chris Bell12/27/78Car wreckBig Star and solo.
Jacob Miller3/23/80Car wreck.Inner Circle.
D. Boon12/22/85Auto accidentthe Minutemen.
Alexander Bashlachev2/17/88Suicide by jumping.Russian poet, rock musician and songwriter.
Jean-Michel Basquiat8/12/88Speedball overdose.Gray.
Pete de Freitas6/14/89Motorcycle wreckEcho & the Bunnymen.
Mia Zapata7/7/93Murdered.Lead singer of the Gits.
Richey James Edwards2/1/95Disappeared; presumed deadManic Street Preachers.
Fat Pat2/3/98Shot.Screwed Up Click.
Freaky Tah3/28/99Shot.Lost Boyz.
Rodrigo Bueno6/24/00Automobile Accident.Argentine cuarteto singer.
Sean Patrick McCabe8/28/00Asphyxiated on vomitInk & Dagger.
Maria Serrano Serrano11/24/01Plane Crash.Background singer for Passion Fruit.
Jeremy Michael Ward5/25/03Heroin overdose.The Mars Volta and De Facto sound manipulator.
Bryan Ottoson4/19/05Prescription drug overdose.Guitarist for American Head Charge.
Valentín Elizalde11/25/06Murdered.Mexican banda singer.
Orish Grinstead4/20/08Kidney failure.R&B group 702.
Lily Tembo9/14/09Severe gastritis.Zambian musician.

Table information credit: 27 Club Wiki

References: The 27 Club, 27 Club Wiki,

Jim H

Jim was born and raised in Naples, Italy. He created this website in December 2009 because of his fondness for historical mysteries. Since creating the website, Historic Mysteries has grown incredibly fast and almost 3,000 people visit this site daily. Thank you for stopping by and please bookmark this site.
  • Josh H

    “People, whether they know it or not, like their blues singers miserable,” Janis told rock critic and biographer David Dalton. “Maybe my audience can enjoy my music more if they think I’m destroying myself.” Cue Amy Winehouse.

    From The 27s, published October 2008

  • Jim H

    Looks like Amy WInehouse just joined the club.

  • nicole

    And now u can add Amy Whinehouse. Amazing coincidences

  • Josh Hunter

    Jim: Excellent article, I enjoyed reading the mention of Chauvin which so many leave out.

    Peter: Without a doubt, there could be other clubs based on age. However, the University of Liverpool conducted a research project in 2007 analyzing whether musicians did in fact live shorter lives compared to non. There was a staggering statistical spike in the report for age 27, which clearly differentiated this unique age as the “age at which more rock musicians have died than any other age.” Though they were unable to clarify the cause to this discovery, it was a huge catalyst for author Eric Segalstad and I to create The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll.

  • Jim

    Hi Peter. I agree. I guess this one just gets all the attention :)

  • peter

    Well, given the number of musicians on the planet, no doubt there is a 24 club, a 31 club and a 43 club etc. too.

  • Jim

    Grazie, signorina.

  • M. Noa

    How mysterious is that!!!!! Great article. Very interesting!