The 27 Club
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.
|Name||Died||Cause||Claim to notability|
|Louis Chauvin||3/26/08||Neurosyphilitic sclerosis.||Ragtime musician.|
|Nat Jaffe||8/5/45||High blood pressure.||Blues musician.|
|Jesse Belvin||2/6/60||Car wreck.||R&B singer and songwriter.|
|Rudy Lewis||5/20/64||Drug overdose.||Vocalist of The Drifters.|
|Malcolm Hale||10/31/68||Carbon monoxide poisoning||Spanky and Our Gang.|
|Alexandra||7/31/69||Car accident.||German singer.|
|Alan Wilson||9/3/70||Overdose, possible suicide.||Leader singer of Canned Heat.|
|Arlester Christian||3/13/71||Shot.||Vocalist of Dyke & the Blazers.|
|Linda Jones||3/14/72||Diabetic coma.||R&B singer.|
|Ron McKernan||3/8/73||Alcoholism.||Grateful Dead.|
|Roger Lee Durham||7/27/73||Fell off a horse||Bloodstone.|
|Wallace Yohn||8/12/74||Died in a plane crash||Organ player of Chase.|
|Dave Alexander||2/10/75||Pulmonary edema.||The Stooges.|
|Peter Ham||4/24/75||Suicide by hanging.||Badfinger.|
|Gary Thain||12/8/75||Drug overdose.||Uriah Heep.|
|Helmut Köllen||5/3/77||Carbon monoxide poisoning.||Bassist with Triumvirat.|
|Chris Bell||12/27/78||Car wreck||Big Star and solo.|
|Jacob Miller||3/23/80||Car wreck.||Inner Circle.|
|D. Boon||12/22/85||Auto accident||the Minutemen.|
|Alexander Bashlachev||2/17/88||Suicide by jumping.||Russian poet, rock musician and songwriter.|
|Jean-Michel Basquiat||8/12/88||Speedball overdose.||Gray.|
|Pete de Freitas||6/14/89||Motorcycle wreck||Echo & the Bunnymen.|
|Mia Zapata||7/7/93||Murdered.||Lead singer of the Gits.|
|Richey James Edwards||2/1/95||Disappeared; presumed dead||Manic Street Preachers.|
|Fat Pat||2/3/98||Shot.||Screwed Up Click.|
|Freaky Tah||3/28/99||Shot.||Lost Boyz.|
|Rodrigo Bueno||6/24/00||Automobile Accident.||Argentine cuarteto singer.|
|Sean Patrick McCabe||8/28/00||Asphyxiated on vomit||Ink & Dagger.|
|Maria Serrano Serrano||11/24/01||Plane Crash.||Background singer for Passion Fruit.|
|Jeremy Michael Ward||5/25/03||Heroin overdose.||The Mars Volta and De Facto sound manipulator.|
|Bryan Ottoson||4/19/05||Prescription drug overdose.||Guitarist for American Head Charge.|
|Valentín Elizalde||11/25/06||Murdered.||Mexican banda singer.|
|Orish Grinstead||4/20/08||Kidney failure.||R&B group 702.|
|Lily Tembo||9/14/09||Severe gastritis.||Zambian musician.|
Table information credit: 27 Club Wiki