The ‘Forever 27 Club’ – Music’s Growing List Of Stars Who Died At 27 Years Old

By Kevin Blair

Amy Winehouse

The ‘Forever 27 Club’ has become more than a legend since the dawn of music recording. As it turns out, some of music’s most influential artists who were taken from us much too soon all parted with the living at age 27. Is it a coincidence or a curse?

The latest 27-year-old to “join” this exclusive club is Amy Winehouse, who died Saturday at her London home. No one knows why or how yet, but initial speculation – most likely based on her past – is that drugs and/or alcohol were somehow involved.

Well, they played a big part in the deaths of these other stars who preceded her “in the club.”

Robert Johnson

The first member of the club, legendary bluesman Robert Johnson, came decades before the others. Johnson influenced a myriad of musicians – including the likes of Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix – despite only recording 29 songs.

The cause of his death, on August 16, 1938, is still unknown, but is attributed to strychnine poisoning. Strychnine, a key ingredient in LSD, is perhaps the biggest link between Johnson and the era when most 27-clubbers met their maker – the late 1960s, when acid was fueling much of the psychedelic music movement.

Legend says that Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the Crossroads “in exchange for other-worldly guitar playing and song writing gifts.”

Brian Jones

On July 3, 1969, Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones drowned in a swimming pool. He was 27. Unfortunately, Jones didn’t get any credits on any Rolling Stones songs or albums despite being a big part of the band. His influence remains though, and he’s gone but not forgotten.

Jimi Hendrix

Legendary rock god Jimi Hendrix choked to death on his own vomit after he mixed his wine with sleeping pills on September 18, 1970. Not exactly what many think of when Neil Young’s term “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away” comes to mind. He was 27.

Janis Joplin

On October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin died of an overdose of heroin, morphine and alcohol at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, California. She suffered another heroin overdose earlier in the same year of her death. She was 27.

Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, avid mind-altering drug-user & lead singer of The Doors moved to Paris with girlfriend Pamela Courson, shaved off his hippie-beard, lost some weight and started to clean himself up a bit – until Courson found him dead in the bathtub of their apartment on July 3, 1971.

No autopsy was done because foul play was ruled out and the French don’t care how you died if foul play wasn’t involved.

The cause of the Lizard King’s death is listed as heart failure; however multiple accounts claim that Morrison found Courson’s heroin stash, thought it was cocaine and then snorted it until he started hemorrhaging. Instead of calling police, Courson allegedly felt a nap was more important than finding out what happened to her heroin and why her boyfriend was bleeding and unresponsive. He was 27.

Ironically, three years later, Courson died of a heroin overdose herself. She was… wait for it… 27.

Grateful Dead

Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan (front center in the image above), founding member and first (more on that later) keyboardist for the Grateful Dead suffered a gastrointestinal hemorrhage as a result of his alcoholism and died on March 8, 1973. He was 27.

Pigpen was one of four keyboardists for the Dead – all but one of whom died while in the band’s employ, leading may to percieve that the position was cursed.

Pigpen’s replacement, Keith Godchaux lasted until July 23, 1980, when he was killed in a car accident. He was 32.

Brent Mydland replaced Godchaux, but he died on July 26, 1990 of a drug overdose. He was 37.

Mydland’s replacement, Vince Welnick, seemed to escape the curse – lasting five years with the band before lead singer Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995. Welnick went on to for his own band, Missing Man Formation, after his time with the Dead; but on June 2, 2006 he became the missing man when he lost his battle with depression and committed suicide. He was 55.

Kurt Cobain

Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain‘s struggles with hard drugs (heroin was his favorite) are well known and well documented, and on April 5, 1994, after mixing the drug with some valium, he turned a gun on himself. He was 27.

It wasn’t the first time he’d attempted to do himself in though – after getting diagnosed with bronchitis and laryngitis in Germany in March of 1994, he went to Rome for medical treatment. While there he overdosed on Rohypnol (“roofies”) and champagne. He spent five days in the hospital before returning home.

Cobain’s wife, Courtney Love, said that the overdose was a suicide attempt.

The grunge god was reportedly diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) when he was a child, and in his adult years he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This probably explains the lyrics to “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

His family track record regarding self-inflicted gunshot wounds isn’t that great though, either. Two of his uncles committed suicide the same way.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was found dead at her flat in London on Saturday, July 23, 2011. At press time no cause of death has been determined.

Winehouse’s former personal assistant, Alex Haines, claims the soul-singer spent upwards of $5,000 a week on her drug habit at its height.

But in 2008, the former aide said of Winehouse, “She reckoned she would join the 27 Club of rock stars who died at that age. She told me, ‘I have a feeling I’m gonna die young.'” Amy Winehouse was 27.

Other musicians who died at 27 include:

Echo & the Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident on June 14, 1989

Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose on June 16, 1994.

-Founder of the band Gray and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a Speedball overdose on August 12, 1988.

-Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle‘s lead singer Jacob Miller was killed in a car crash on Marcy 23, 1980.

Stooges bassist Dave Alexander died of a pulmonary edema on February 10, 1975.

Badfinger keyboardist/guitarist Pete Ham hanged himself on April 24, 1975.

Uriah Heep bassist Gary Thain died of a drug overdose on December 8, 1975.

Canned Heat singer/songwriter Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died of a drug overdose on September 3, 1970.

The Drifters frontman Rudy Lewis, an alleged bing-eater, died either by a drug overdose or by choking to death in his sleep on May 20, 1964.

Jim Morrison gravesite

Jim Morrison’s gravesite in Paris.

Via Starpulse. Thanks to Bill Miro for the heads-up.


~ by The 1955 Hudson on August 16, 2011.

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