The 27 Club is a term used to refer to popular musicians who have died tragically at the young age of 27, often as a result of drug and alcohol abuse. They were some of the most talented minds of their generation, and in their short lives each made an enormous impact. Sadly, many led hard-partying lifestyles, abusing drugs and alcohol. These are the musicians and artists who make up the 27 club.
The idea of the 27 Club came about only after the death of Kurt Cobain. Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison died between 1969 and 1971, but it was not until the death of Kurt Cobain, about two and a half decades later that the first idea of a “27 Club” was spread in the public perception.
Brian Jones was the founding member of The Rolling Stones. He was a talented multi-instrumentalist and leader of the group. However, Brain Jones developed a serious drug abuse problem over the years and was asked to leave band in 1969. Less than a month later, Brian Jones died by drowning in the swimming pool at his home.
Original Stones bassist Bill Wyman said of Jones, “He formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. … Very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it — highly intelligent — and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.”
Robert Johnson is credited today by many rock musicians as an important influence. The American blues singer who died in 1938 claims that he sold his soul at a crossroads to achieve success.
According to legend, as a young man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi, Robert Johnson was branded with a burning desire to become a great blues musician. He was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by a large black man (the Devil) who took the guitar and tuned it. The Devil played a few songs and then returned the guitar to Johnson, giving him mastery over the instrument. In exchange for his soul, Robert Johnson was able to create the blues for which he became famous.
Robert Johnson died at the age of 27 on August 16, 1938, near Greenwood, Mississippi. Although the cause of death is still unknown, there have been a number of theories offered, based on several differing accounts about the events preceding his death.
According to one theory, Johnson was murdered by the jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted. In an account by fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson, Johnson had been flirting with a married woman at a dance, where she gave him a bottle of whiskey poisoned by her husband.
Jimi Hendrix is widely considered as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of music, and one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.
Instrumental in developing the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback, Hendrix favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume and gain. He helped to popularize the use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock and he pioneered experimentation with stereophonic phasing effects in rock music recordings.
Inspired musically by American rock and roll and electric blues, following his initial success in Europe with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he achieved fame in the US after his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, before dying from drug-related asphyxia at the age of 27.
Janis Joplin was known as “The Queen of Rock and Roll” as well as “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul” at the height of her career. The American singer-songwriter death in October 1970 at the of 27 stunned her fans and shocked the music world, especially when coupled with the death just sixteen days earlier of another rock icon, Jim Hendrix, also at age 27.
On October 4, 1970, her producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie’s road manager, John Cooke, drove to the Landmark Hotel. He saw Joplin’s psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot. Upon entering Joplin’s room, he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol.
Jim Morrison was the lead singer of Los Angeles rock band The Doors. Morrison was well known for often improvising spoken word poetry passages while the band played live. Due to his wild personality and performances, he is regarded by critics and fans as one of the most iconic, charismatic and pioneering frontmen in rock music history
Following The Doors’ explosive rise to fame in 1967, Morrison developed a severe alcohol and drug dependency that culminated in his death at the age of 27 in Paris. He is alleged to have died of a heroin overdose, but as no autopsy was performed, the exact cause of his death is still disputed.
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer, guitarist and primary songwriter of the grunge band Nirvana. Cobain struggled with heroin addiction, illness and depression. He also had difficulty coping with his fame and public image, and the professional and lifelong personal pressures surrounding himself and his wife, musician Courtney Love.
On April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle, the victim of what was officially ruled a suicide by a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head. The circumstances of his death at age 27 have become a topic of public fascination and debate. Conspiracy theories have sprung up to say he was killed by Courtney Love.
Upon hearing of his death, his mother, Wendy O’Connor, lamented: “I told him not to join that stupid club.”
Amy Winehouse was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres including R&B, soul and jazz.
In 2006, Winehouse became the first Bristish female to win five Grammys, including three of the “Big Four”: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
Winehouse began binge drinking in 2008 after kicking a drug habit. By summer 2011, she had fallen into a pattern of abstaining for a few weeks, and then relapsing. One such relapse led to her death by alcohol intoxication in the morning hours of 23 July 2011.
In 2008, a book titled The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll was released. It told the history of rock & roll as seen through the lives and legacies of 34 musicians who each died at the age of 27.