By Faith Kelly
“If I could only make it to 28”
The number 27 is tolerance, intelligence, kind heartedness, and humility. 27 is humanitarianism, compassion, philanthropy, and cooperation. If this number represents such positive assets, what does this have to do with those who lost their lives at this significant age? The number 27 also represents the most infamous number in rock music history. This is the age that many popular rock musicians passed away.
The 27 Club consists of those who died from drug abuse, alcohol abuse, homicide or suicide. Most critics remember them for how they died. But many others remember them for their music, talent, and spunky personalities that they brought to the music scene. Though there is no scientific evidence of this number being a curse, after the death of Nirvana member Kurt Cobain, the idea of the “27 Club” came into play. The 27 Club also consists of those such as Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Amy Winehouse.
Brian Jones was the lead guitarist for the English rock band, that he formed in 1962, the Rolling Stones. The band included Mick Jagger, Ian Stewart, and Keith Rogers and later, Bill Wyman and Charlie. Jones was the leader, entertainer, and also managed the band. Unfortunately, Jones struggled with an addiction of alcohol and drugs. A month before Jones’ band was planning to ask him to leave the band, Brian Jones drowned in his pool on July 3rd 1969.
Born James Marshall Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix is known for exciting the crowd with the sounds of his electric guitar. As Hendrix learned to play the guitar, music became a home ground to him. He enjoyed listening to blues and rock and roll. When Hendrix was 16, his father gave him his first electric guitar. In 1959, Hendrix dropped out of high school and in 1961, he joined the Unites States Army and served for one year. He started playing backup for Little Richard, B.B King, Sam Cooke and The Isley Brothers. In 1965, Hendrix formed a group called Jimmy Jones and the Blue Flames playing gigs around Greenwich Village in New York City. Later he formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966 accompanied by Chas Chandler, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell. “Hey Joe” was released in 1967 as the band’s first single. Other hits included “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their first album in 1967, while wowing American fans at the Monterey Pop Festival, where Jimi lit his guitar on fire at the end of the show. Finally, Band of Gypsys decided to start an album, but Hendrix didn’t live to finish it. September 18th, 1960 Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead in London from an overdose of Barbiturate.
Nicknamed the Queen of Psychedelic Blues, Janis Joplin is the most unfortunate member of the 27 Club. Janis’s style of music was influenced by artists such as Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Odetta. Joplin first appeared on the music scene 1963 at the Monterey Folk Festival, but she didn’t get much attention. In 1966, Joplin was recruited into the band, Big Brother. Starting off as back up and tambourine, Janis then emerged as lead singer for the band. In 1968, the band released their first album, “Cheap Thrills.” The last time she played with Big Brother was in 1968 before she began her solo career. In September of 1969, Joplin released her first solo album “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” The album raised suspicion of her career and huge alcohol and heroin addiction. In her last interview, September 30th 1969, Janis said “It was really important, you know, whether people were going at accept me or not.” October 4th 1970, Janis Joplin was pronounced dead due to an accidental drug overdose.
Jim Morrison first became interested in poetry at UCLA. In 1965, Morrison joined Rat Manzarek, Robbie Krieger, and John Densmore to form their famous band, The Doors, of which Morrison was the lead singer. In 1967, the band released their first self-titled album, “Break on Through (To the Other Side).” Their second single, ‘Light my Fire” was number one of the Billboard pop charts. The band continued to grow in fame and make music. As the fame grew, so did Morrison’s addiction to alcohol and drugs. In 1971, he tried to get his life back on track and left the band and moved to Paris with his lover, Pamela Courson. Unfortunately, this attempt wasn’t enough. Morrison was found dead by Courson in the bathtub of their apartment on July 5th 1971 due to a heroin overdose
Kurt Cobain was the lead singer of popular 90’s band, Nirvana. Due to a stressful childhood, he began experimenting with drugs at an early age and pushing his parents away. Cobain took a liking in punk rock and took an interest in local band, The Melvins, and later became friends with member Buzz Osborne. Cobain attended many of their sessions and hung out with the bands. In high school, his addiction of drinking and drugs increased. At home, Cobain got into many fights with his mother due to his dislike of his stepfather. After spending several days in jail for legal trouble, he started to play music along with Krist Novoselic and Aaron Burchkard. In 1988, they named their band Nirvana and released their first single, “Love Buzz.” Their first album was named “Bleach” in 1989. When the band started blow up, they began having problems that resulted in two of the members being kicked out. In 1993, Nirvana rose to the top of the album charts. In his music, he expressed his emotions and personal problems. When the band released a new album, Cobain grew distant from the band. On March 4th, 1994 he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on drugs and left a suicide note, but his attempt didn’t work. Later, Cobain became hermit-like, which drove him to kill himself by shooting a gun in his head on April 5th 1994 in the guest house behind his home.
In her lifetime, Amy Winehouse won five Grammy Awards for her most successful album, “Back to Black.” Growing up, Winehouse was surrounded by jazz and had many professional jazz Musicians in her family. At age 12, Winehouse was accepted into Sylvia Young Theater School and age 16 she was expelled. That same year her demo was pasted on to A&R label by her close friend, Tyler James, which landed her a record deal with Island Universal Records. In 2003, Winehouse released her debut album, “Frank.” That album earned her a nominee for Mercury Music Prize, two BRIT Awards for best female solo artist, best urban act, and it hit double platinum status. Around this time, Winehouse developed an off and on relationship with music video assistant, Blake Fielder-Civil who is said to be the one who introduced her to drugs. Their relationship was violent and dramatic in the public eye. In 2006, she released her second album, “Back to Black”, earning Winehouse, a BRIT Award for best female solo artist and another BRIT nomination for Best British album in 2007. August 8th 2007, Winehouse overdosed on a mix of drugs. She then started seeking help for her addiction to drugs and alcohol and trying to overcome the setbacks it caused. Attempting a comeback, Winehouse decided to start her own record label and signed her goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield. This idea didn’t take off too well and on July 23rd, 2011 Amy Winehouse was pronounced dead from accidental alcohol poisoning.
Is it true that the good always die young? The 27 Club is an example of those who left too early, but still made an impact on their fans and those around them while they here. Stressful childhoods and loneliness drove these artists to depression, and eventually they turned to drugs, alcohol and suicide. Though they had tragic deaths, their legacy will forever live on through their music and fans.