""CLUB 27" Drugs, Suicide, Rape, Car Crashes 15 Artists who died at the Age of 27 This list includes Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse....
When Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain was found dead in April 1994, his grieving mother was quoted in the press as saying, “I told him not to join that stupid club.” The “club,” of course, refers to the now-mythologized “27 Club,” the supposedly cursed age at which rock stars are likely to die.
With the exception of the “32 Club,” no other age exists where musicians have an abnormally high rate of death. Is it a coincidence, or is there a reason behind this phenomenon?
Maybe a bit of both. While it’s likely a coincidence that so many celebrity musicians have died at the age of 27, it’s not coincidental that so many die young — in fact, according to team of British researchers, “North American pop stars were 87.6% as likely to be alive as [non-rock stars] of the same age and ethnicity — the lowest survival rate of any group identified” in a 2011 study. So if you’re looking to live a long life, steer clear of a career in the rock music biz — or take heed of the tragically short lives of these 15 rock stars.
Brazilian Alexandre Levy is the very first member of the 27 Club. The São Paulo-born composer was a pioneer of Brazilian musical nationalism, fusing classical composition with Brazilian folk music, but died mysteriously in 1892. He did not suffer from any known illness, and the details of his death were never disclosed.
Brian Jones — and not Mick Jagger — was the original bandleader of the Rolling Stones. According to the Rolling Stones’ original bassist Bill Wyman, “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.”
Jones was a member of the Stones from 1962 until he was booted out of the band in June 1969. Less than a month later, he was found dead, having drowned in his swimming pool — intoxication from drugs and alcohol likely played a role. Forty-plus years later, the band is still going.
In mid-1970, Alan Wilson attempted suicide by driving his car off of a Los Angeles freeway. However, he survived the attempt, and though he suffered from depression, was released from the hospital shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, Wilson did not survive much longer. On September 3rd, he was found dead on a hillside Topanga Canyon. His death was attributed to “acute barbiturate intoxication,” and it was never clear whether it was a suicide, as no note was left.
Like many of the talented musicians on this list, Jimi Hendrix struggled greatly with drug and alcohol abuse during his short life. The Seattle native met his end in London while staying with his girlfriend Monika Dannemann, who was the last person to see him alive. After sharing a bottle of wine, Dannemann drove Hendrix to a friend’s house at 1:45 a.m. on September 18th, and picked him up at 3 a.m. The two stayed awake talking until 7 a.m., when they finally went to sleep.
When Dannemann awoke at around 11 a.m., she found Hendrix still breathing, but unresponsive. By 11:30, Hendrix was at St Mary Abbot’s Hospital, and by 12:45 that afternoon he was dead. His obituary revealed that Hendrix died of asphyxiation after choking on his own vomit due to barbiturate intoxication — he had ingested nine of Dannemann’s prescription Vesparax sleeping tablets, 18 times the recommended dosage.
In 1996, Dannemann committed suicide at the age of 50.
Just 16 days after the death of Jimi Hendrix, singer Janis Joplin was found dead in her room at the Landmark Motor Hotel (now the Highland Gardens Hotel) in Hollywood, California.
The official cause of death was a heroin overdose. It has been suggested that Joplin accidentally overdosed due to being supplied with abnormally potent heroin, as several of her dealer’s other customers also overdosed the week of her death.
On the morning of July 3, 1971, Jim Morrison’s girlfriend Pamela Courson awoke to find Morrison dead in their apartment bathtub. The official coroner’s report simply listed his cause of death as heart failure, although no autopsy was performed due to the ruling out of foul play.
Courson gave several contradictory accounts of Morrison’s death. Morrison may have died due to accidentally inhaling a large amount of heroin — thinking it was cocaine — and ultimately succumbing to a hemorrhage. It is also possible that Morrison began to cough up blood after a night of drinking and purposefully taking heroin. He may have even suffered from a chronic lung ailment, such as asthma, which contributed to his death.
However, according to Morrison’s friend Alain Ronay — who arrived at Morrison’s apartment shortly after his death — Morrison had indeed taken heroin after a night of drinking. While he was coughing profusely, Ronay reported that Morrison actually vomited blood before drawing himself a bath. Courson, strung out and nodding off herself, believed that Morrison had recovered — so she went to sleep, rather than calling for emergency medical attention.
Three years later, on April 25, 1974, Pamela Courson herself died of a heroin overdose — at the age of 27.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan
“Pigpen” McKernan was a founding member of The Grateful Dead and played the blues organ and harmonica, as well as providing vocals. Unlike his band mates, who were heavy drug users (especially of psychedelics), McKernan’s substance of choice remained alcohol, and his heavy drinking caused severe damage to his liver by the young age of 24 in 1970.
In 1972, McKernan was forced to quit the Dead due to his liver problems, and he died within a year. Seven years later, his band mate Keith Godchaux joined the 32 Club.
Dave Alexander was the original bassist of The Stooges, playing with the band from 1967 until August 1970, when he was fired after showing up at the Goose Lake International Music Festival too drunk to perform.
Alexander’s drinking problems didn’t end there though. Nearly five years after being ejected from The Stooges, he died of pulmonary edema in his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan after being admitted to a hospital for pancreatitis, caused by his alcohol abuse.
Coincidentally, when The Stooges reformed in 2003 (they originally disbanded in 1974), they were joined on bass by Mike Watt, whose former Minutemen partner D. Boon also died at the age of 27.
A beloved DIY icon and innovative punk rock musician, D. Boon of the Minutemen was tragically killed in a van accident shortly before Christmas 1985.
While riding through the Arizona desert on Interstate 10, Boon fell ill with a fever, and retreated to the rear of the van to lie down. He was not wearing a seat belt, and when the van went off the road, he was thrown from the rear, breaking his neck and dying almost immediately on impact.
Sadly, the van was being driven by Boon’s girlfriend. She survived the crash, as did her sister.
Basquiat is far more well-known for his influential artwork than for his music. However, he was also a member of the noise rock band Gray — previously known as Test Pattern — which also included among its members actor Vincent Gallo.
Basquiat died of a speedball overdose at his art studio in New York City’s NoHo neighborhood.
On the night of July 6, 1993, after an evening of drinking with friends at Seattle’s Comet Tavern, singer Mia Zapata was abducted, raped, and strangled to death. Just like that, her band The Gits were done and the world had lost a brilliant artist to an unspeakably brutal and senseless crime.
The case went unsolved for a decade, until a DNA match made in 2003 linked Jesus C. Mezquia to crime. Mezquia was tried in a Seattle court and sentenced to 37 years in prison.
Heroin addiction, stomach illness, and depression wreaked havoc on the mental state of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, who was unable to grapple with his own demons and the pressures of massive fame. Cobain’s death in 1994 is largely responsible for the Forever 27 Club reentering the public’s consciousness.
But life has gone on for the other members of his group
Just a couple months after her friend Kurt Cobain died, Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff was found dead in the bathtub of her Seattle apartment.
Having struggled with heroin abuse herself, Pfaff decided to quit Hole and move back to her hometown of Minneapolis in June 1994. She had been to rehab just several months prior and appeared to have kicked her habit. However, when she was found on the morning of June 16th by her friend Paul Erickson — with whom she had planned to leave for Minneapolis that very day — she was surrounded by syringes and drug paraphernalia.
“[She was] bright, personable, wonderful…very, very talented, smart, and she always seemed to be in control of her circumstances,” said her father, the day after her death. “Last night she wasn’t.”
The lyricist and rhythm guitarist of Manic Street Preachers has not been seen since February 1, 1995. However, it took him nearly 14 years to officially join the 27 Club.
On February 1, 1995, Edwards and James Dean Bradfield were due to fly to the US on a promotional tour. However, he never showed up. In the two weeks before his disappearance, Edwards withdrew £200 a day from his bank account, which totaled £2,800 by the day of the scheduled flight. He checked out of his London hotel room and then drove to his apartment in Cardiff, Wales. Over the following two weeks he was purportedly spotted in a variety of locations, including Blackwood, his childhood home.
On February 14th, Edwards’ vehicle received a parking ticket at the Severn View service station, and on February 17th, the vehicle was reported as abandoned — police reported that there was evidence that the car had been “lived in.”
Since the car was found near the Severn Bridge, a renowned suicide location, many believe that Edwards took his own life by jumping from the bridge — despite saying in 1994, “In terms of the ‘S’ word, that does not enter my mind. And it never has done, in terms of an attempt. Because I am stronger than that. I might be a weak person, but I can take pain.”
Edwards was legally pronounced dead on November 23, 2008.
In 2011, Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning, becoming one of thr high-profile 27-year-old musicians to pass away. Her tumultuous life was marred by years of alcohol and drug abuse, and she sadly died alone after allegedly spending a night watching YouTube videos of herself.