27 Club

27 club by Dan Kuhlken

The 27 Club is a group of influential rock and blues musicians who all died at the age of 27, including Blues musician Robert Johnson, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse. Most members of the ‘club’ died as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, or other violent means such as homicide or suicide.

The number of musicians who have died at this age and the circumstances of many of those deaths have given rise to the idea that premature deaths at this age are unusually common. However, a study published in the ‘British Medical Journal’ in 2011 concluded that there was no increase in the risk of death for musicians at the age of 27. Although the sampled musicians faced an increased risk of death in their 20s and 30s, this was not limited to the age of 27.

Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died between 1969 and 1971, although a possible connection between their same death-age was not reported in the public press. Although some relations were occasionally noticed, those rather remained a side note. It was not until the death of Kurt Cobain, about two and a half decades after the last occurred, that the first idea of a ’27 Club’ was spread in the public perception.

According to Hendrix and Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross, the growing importance of the media — internet, television and magazines — and the response to an interview of Cobain’s mother were jointly responsible for such theories. Cobain’s mother, Wendy Fradenburg Cobain O’Connor, told the Aberdeen, Washington newspaper ‘The Daily World’: ‘Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.’ However, Josh Hunter and Eric Segalstad, writer of ‘The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll,’ assumed that Cobain’s mother referred to the death of his two uncles and his great uncle, who all committed suicide. According to Cross, the events have led a ‘set of conspiracy theorists [to suggest] the absurd notion that Kurt Cobain intentionally timed his death so he could join the 27 Club.’

In 2011, seventeen years after Cobain’s death, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27, and there was a large amount of media attention devoted to the club once again. Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age.

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