The 27 Club: An American Urban Legend 40 Years in the Making
On July 3, 1971, the lifeless body of the Rolling Stones’ Brian Jones was pulled from his Cotchford Farm swimming pool. The coroner’s report described his passing as “death by misadventure.” He was 27 years-old.
Over the next two years, rock stars Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin joined Jones in death. All were 27. When Kurt Cobain, of the grunge band Nirvana, died of an apparent suicide at 27, the group of artists became known colloquially as Club 27.
Hard drinking neo-soul singer Amy Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning and was admitted to the “club” in 2011. She, of course, was 27.
Certainly, many other musicians, some 27 but most not, died as well during this 40-year span, but the notion that the 27 club is some magically tragic number for musicians has become ingrained in popular culture. A 2011 study in the British Medical Journal demonstrated that musicians are no more likely to die at age 27 than at any other time in their 20s.
Still the mythos of the 27 Club persists even in light of the deaths at other ages of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant (29), Steve Gaines (28), and Cassie Gaines (29) whose plane went down in Mississippi, Bradley Nowell (28), founder of the band Sublime who died of a heroin overdose, and Duane Allman (24) of the Allman Brothers Band who was crushed to death in an accident when his motorcycle landed on top of him. A lot can contribute to a young celebrities troubles, from drugs, to being hounded by the press at a young age, sex tapes and WWE porn, all can be contributors to these untimely deaths. But whether or not the age of 27 has anything to do with this mythology, remains to be seen.