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Home » History » 27 Club: Musicians Who Died at Age 27

27 Club: Musicians Who Died at Age 27

by Jim H

It is either an anomaly or an interesting piece of trivia regarding random coincidences. But the 27 Club phenomenon is well known among entertainment industry professionals and music fans around the world.

27 Club Facts

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 27 Club Members died within a two year period – 1969-1971. These musicians are:

  • Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Age: 27. Died on July 3, 1969.
  • Jimi Hendrix of the Jimi Hendrix Experience/Band of Gypsies. Age: 27. Died on September 18, 1970
  • Janis Joplin of Big Brother and the Holding Company. Age: 27. Died on October 4, 1970
  • Jim Morrison of the Doors. Age: 27. Died on July 3, 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 hundreds of thousands of fans. As of 2019, there are 71 members.

The Kennedy Family Curse

But this anomaly never really ended on July 3, 1971. Nor did it start on July 3, 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 early members of the club.

New Club Members

In recent years, other famous musicians and celebrities have joined the Club.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Cobain, singer/guitarist of the rock band Nirvana, died at the age of 27 on April 5, 1994. Cobain had a troubled early life after his parents divorced. Ongoing health problems and an addiction to heroin ultimately led him to commit suicide. 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.

Wendy O’Connor
27 club

Kurt Cobain is a member of the 27 Club.

Kristen Pfaff

Courtney Love, Kurt Cobain’s spouse, and singer of the rock group “Hole” Witnessed this phenomenon on two separate occasions. Not only did her husband, Cobain, join the club, but just a few months later, Hole’s 27-year-old bass player, Kristen Pfaff, died of a heroin overdose on June 16, 1994.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse

The media widely reported Amy Winehouse’s continuous battle with substance abuse. She was found dead at her home on July 23, 2011. Winehouse’s blood-alcohol content was 0.416%, five times the legal limit of alcohol to safely drive a vehicle.

Anton Yelchin

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He was a rising star on the big screen. Most people recognize Anton Yelchin as Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek reboot films. On June 19, 2016, Yelchin died in a bizarre automobile accident at his residence. Yelchin was 27.

White Lighters

According to Wikipedia, some superstitious people familiar with the phenomenon have noted “white lighters” as a recurring theme in some of these deaths. 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 on him.

The List Keeps Growing

If the list just included the celebrities listed above, it probably would never have become the myth it is today. Unfortunately, this perplexing curse continues. As seen below, the member’s list continues to grow. Some join willingly, while others had no choice.

Partial Listing of 27 Club Deaths

Name Died Cause Claim to Fame
Louis Chauvin 3/26/1908 Neurosyphilitic Sclerosis Ragtime Musician
Robert Johnson 8/16/1938 Unknown Blues Guitarist-Singer
Nat Jaffe 8/5/1945 High Blood Pressure Blues Musician
Jesse Belvin 2/6/1960 Car Wreck R&B singer and songwriter
Rudy Lewis 5/20/1964 Drug Overdose The Drifters
Malcolm Hale 10/31/1968 Carbon monoxide poisoning Spanky and Our Gang
Alexandra 7/31/1969 Car Accident German Singer
Alan Wilson 9/3/1970 Overdose, Possible Suicide Canned Heat
Arlester Christian 3/13/1971 Shot Dyke & the Blazers
Linda Jones 3/14/1972 Diabetic Coma R&B singer
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan 3/8/1973 Alcoholism Grateful Dead
Roger Lee Durham 7/27/1973 Horse Accident Bloodstone
Wallace Yohn 8/12/1974 Plane Crash Chase
Dave Alexander 2/10/1975 Pulmonary Edema The Stooges
Peter Ham 4/24/1975 Committed Suicide by Hanging Badfinger
Gary Thain 12/8/1975 Drug Overdose Uriah Heep
Helmut Köllen 5/3/1977 Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Triumvirat
Chris Bell 12/27/1978 Car Wreck Big Star and Solo
Jacob Miller 3/23/1980 Car Wreck Inner Circle
D. Boon 12/22/1985 Auto Accident The Minutemen
Alexander Bashlachev 2/17/1988 Committed Suicide by Jumping Poet, Rock Musician-Songwriter
Jean-Michel Basquiat 8/12/1988 Speedball Overdose Gray
Pete de Freitas 6/14/1989 Motorcycle Wreck Echo & the Bunnymen
Mia Zapata 7/7/1993 Murdered The Gits
Richey James Edwards 2/1/1995 Disappeared; Presumed Dead Manic Street Preachers
Fat Pat 2/3/1998 Shot Screwed Up Click
Freaky Tah 3/28/2099 Shot Lost Boyz
Rodrigo Bueno 6/24/2000 Automobile Accident Argentine Cuarteto Singer
Sean Patrick McCabe 8/28/2000 Asphyxiated on Vomit Ink & Dagger
Maria Serrano Serrano 11/24/2001 Plane Crash Passion Fruit
Jeremy Michael Ward 5/25/2003 Heroin Overdose The Mars Volta and De Facto Sound Manipulator
Bryan Ottoson 4/19/2005 Drug Overdose American Head Charge
Valentín Elizalde 11/25/2006 Murdered Mexican Banda Singer
Orish Grinstead 4/20/2008 Kidney Failure 702
Lily Tembo 9/14/2009 Severe Gastritis Zambian Musician

Table Source

Scientific Data

A scientific paper on the British Medical Journal conducted a study to see if there is any truth to the myth. According to the study, they did find a small increase in risk at the age of 27. However, they also found an increased risk at age 25 and 32. In other words, there is nothing really unique about the age of 27. Although the myth seems to have some merit when all the names are listed, the reality is that the risk of death is great at any age where alcohol abuse, hard drugs, and mental illness are present.

Originally published on 21 January 2010, this article has been updated on 16 November 2019.

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