History of the Forever 27 Club
The number 27 may just be the most infamous number in the history of rock music. This number has taken on mythical proportions due to the prevalence of musicians who died at the age of 27.
The 27 death phenomenon started to become prevalent during the years 1969-71. During that period the rock & roll world lost the following musicians due to death: Dickie Pride, Brian Jones, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Arlester “Dyke” Christian. The term “Forever 27 Club” was not coined to refer to the list of musicians who died at the age of 27 until after Kurt Cobain death on April 5th, 1994. Since the death of Cobain, there has been much focus in the media surrounding the 27 death phenomenon. Also the high profile death of Amy Winehouse on July 23rd, 2011 once again brought renewed interest concerning the 27 club.
Notable Members of the Forever 27 Club
Even though the formation of the 27 club is quite often linked to 1969 with the death of Rolling Stones bassist Brian Jones, there were a number of musicians who died at the age of 27 prior to that. The most prominent is one of the founding fathers of the blues, Robert Johnson. The earliest recorded member of the 27 club was composer Alexandre Levy who died on January 17th, 1892.
Now we are going to profile a selected list of Forever 27 Club members. This includes high profile members along with rock & roll unsung heroes who died before their time.
Jimi Hendrix is widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time and is considered to be one of the most influential musicians in the history of rock. One of the remarkable aspects of Hendrix’s recording career his that his rich legacy was primarily established during a three year period.
Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27, on September 18th, 1970. The official cause of death has been cited as Asphyxiation caused by an overdose of painkillers. That being said conspiracy theorist has also cited the possibility of suicide and murder. Like many of the great rock & roll casualties, the mysterious circumstances behind his death have added to his legacy.
It was after Kurt Cobain’s death on April 5th, 1994 which really started to generate interest in 27 death phenomenon. It was after the death of the Nirvana’s front man that the term “Forever 27 Club” (also referred to as 27 Club, Club 27 and Curse of 27) started to be used.
Like many of the previous members of Club 27, Cobain was deeply troubled and there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding his death. The official cause of death is suicide, but there are those that feel he was murdered. There are also theories that Cobain intentionally timed his death so that he could join his musical idols as a member of the 27 club.
The charismatic front man of The Doors died at the age of 27 on July 3rd, 1971. Morrison died two years from the day that Brian Jones died. He allegedly died of a heroin overdose, but because an autopsy was never performed there is still some debate concerning the official cause. One conspiracy theory involved Morrison faking his death, and that he never really died.
Jim Morrison was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris France. His grave site has become a popular tourist attraction. It has also caused issues with the cemetery due to vandalism.
Jim Morrison’s long term companion, Pamela Courson, died on April 25th, 1974. She was also 27 years old.
The “The Queen of Psychedelic Soul” died just 16 days after Jimi Hendrix on October 4, 1970. The official cause of death was cited as a heroin overdose which may have been exasperated by the abuse of alcohol.
Like many of the members of the 27 club, she was a deeply troubled artist who lived a hard life. She also is widely considered one of the most influential female vocalists of all time.
Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine made the following poignant statement concerning Joplin’s considerable legacy:
“… Janis was a fascinating character who bridged the gap between psychedelic blues and soul scenes. She was so vulnerable, self-conscious and full of suffering. She tore herself apart yet on stage she was totally different. She was so unrestrained, so free, so raw and she wasn’t afraid to wail. Her connection with the audience was really important. It seems to me the suffering and intensity of her performance go hand in hand. There was always a sense of longing, of searching for something. I think she really sums up the idea that soul is about putting your pain into something beautiful.”
Brain Jones was a founding member and guitarist for The Rolling Stones. Due to developing a serious drug addiction he was kicked out of the Rolling Stones in 1969, being replaced by Mick Taylor. Less than a month later he died on July 3rd, 1969 due to a tragic drowning accident which took place at his swimming pool.
The original Stones bassist Bill Wyman made the following statement concerning Jones formative influence on the band: “…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.”
When people make reference to the 27 club, Jones is quite often is referred to as the start of that rock movement. His death was the beginning of a two year period which also marked the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin & Jim Morrison at the age of 27.
When Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning on July 23rd, 2011 she became the most high profile member of the 27 club since the death of Kurt Cobain. Winehouse death definitely renewed interest in the curse of 27.
Just like the other more high profile members of club 27, Winehouse was deeply troubled and she lived a hard live which lead to her premature demise.
Her throwback style with an edge was considered to be truly influential to a number of female artists who would go on to achieve substantial success.
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was a founding member of The Grateful Dead. On March 3rd, 1973 he found dead of a Gastrointestinal hemorrhage which was complicated by alcohol abuse.
McKernan also had a brief relationship with fellow club 27 member Janis Joplin. On a couple of occasions the two dueted together on the Dead’s live standard “Turn on Your Lovelight.
Check out more information on the 27 club on hubpages.com