The 27 Club

The 27 Club: Meet the Stars Who Didn’t Make It Past 27 Years Old

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After Hollywood actor Anton Yelchin passed away in a freak accident last June 2016, he was the latest name added to the infamous list The 27 Club.

The only thing that separated Yelchin from the other big names on the list was that he wasn’t a musician by profession. Though ironically, one of Yelchin’s final roles was as a bassist of a band for the horror film The Green Room. But that could be just some sort of coincidence.

That said, is it still fair to say that the unfortunate deaths of the talented musicians of the 27 Club were coincidences as well? For those who are unaware, the 27 Club is a term given to an unusually high number of performers who died at the age of 27. What makes this even more tragic is that these individuals were at the height of their career when they died.

The Mystery Behind the 27 Club

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Member of The 27 Club

Kurt Cobain is perhaps the most famous member of the 27 Club

Cobain passed away from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head on April 5, 1994. It was said that he was suffering from chronic health problems as well as depression. Following the death of the Nirvana frontman, the public’s perception of the 27 Club worsened. His mother, Wendy O’ Connor, was noted saying that her son has gone on to join that “stupid club.”

Cobain’s widow and fellow musician, Courtney Love, seemed to have dodged the bullet herself. But the same can’t be said for her Hole bandmate Kristen Pfaff, who, at the age of 27, died of a heroin overdose just months after Cobain lost his life.

Prior to Cobain’s apparent suicide, there was an alarming rate of fallen musicians between the years 1969 and 1971. Among them were the following:

  • Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, who died on July 3, 1969
  • Jimi Hendrix of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, who died on September 18, 1970
  • Janis Joplin of Big Brother and the Holding Company, who died on October 4, 1970
  • Jim Morrison of The Doors, who died on July 3, 1971

Note that Brian Jones and The Doors frontman Jim Morrison died on the same month and day, marking July 3 as one of the most tragic dates in music history. It should be noted that other famous names included in the ill-fated group were etched way before the first known 27 Club member died. A good example here is pioneering blues guitarist Robert Johnson, who died at the age of 27 in the year 1938. If we were to rewind the clock even further, we’d find out that famous ragtime musician Chauvin lost his life to sclerosis in 1908. He too was only 27 years old.

Kurt Cobain Spouse

The anomaly would continue to haunt musicians in the 2000s. Amy Winehouse‘s death from alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, went on to break several hearts. The singer with one-of-a-kind voice was at the time on the top of her game, but unfortunately, she failed to escape the demons inside. What made her death quite eerie but tragic was that Winehouse openly expressed her fears about joining the 27 Club one day.

So is the 27 Club just a series of coincidental deaths? Conspiracy theorists think otherwise. A lot of people have noted that Cobain, Morrison, Joplin, and Hendrix all had white lighters on their hands by the time their bodies were discovered. Those reports have yet to be verified, so the debate surrounding the 27 Club continues to bewilder people everywhere.

Here are other musicians part of the 27 Club.

NameDiedCauseClaim to notability
Louis ChauvinMarch 2, 1908 Neurosyphilitic sclerosisRagtime musician
Robert JohnsonAugust 16, 1938 UnknownBluesman
Nat JaffeAugust 5, 1945 High blood pressureBlues musician
Jesse BelvinFebruary 6, 1960 Car wreckR & B singer and songwriter
Rudy LewisMay 20, 1964 Drug overdoseThe Drifters
Malcolm HaleOctober 30, 1968 Carbon monoxide  poisoningSpanky and Our Gang
AlexandraJuly 31, 1969 Car accidentGerman singer
Alan WilsonSeptember 3, 1970 Overdose, possible  suicide.Leader singer of Canned Heat
Arlester ChristianMarch 13, 1971 ShotVocalist of Dyke & the Blazers
Linda JonesMarch 14, 1972 Diabetic comaR & B singer
Ron McKernanMarch 8, 1973 AlcoholismGrateful Dead
Roger Lee DurhamJuly 27, 1973 Fell off a horseBloodstone
Wallace YohnAugust 12, 1974 Died in a plane crashOrgan player of Chase
Dave AlexanderFebruary 10, 1975 Pulmonary edemaThe Stooges
Peter HamApril 24, 1975 Suicide by hangingBadfinger
Gary ThainDecember 8, 1975 Drug overdoseUriah Heep
Helmut KöllenMay 3, 1977 Carbon monoxide  poisoningBassist with Triumvirat
Chris BellDecember 27, 1978 Car wreckBig Star, solo artist
Jacob MillerMarch 23, 1980 Car wreckInner Circle
D. BoonDecember 22, 1985Auto accidentThe Minutemen
Alexander BashlachevFebruary 17, 1988 Suicide by jumpingRussian poet, rock musician, and songwriter
Jean-Michel BasquiatAugust 12, 1988 Speedball overdoseGray
Pete de FreitasJune 14, 1989 Motorcycle wreckEcho & the Bunnymen
Mia ZapataJuly 7, 1993 MurderedThe Gits
James “Richey” EdwardsFebruary 1, 1995 Disappeared; presumed  deadManic Street Preachers
Fat PatFebruary 3, 1998 ShotScrewed Up Click
Freaky TahMarch 28, 1999 ShotLost Boyz
Rodrigo Alejandro BuenoJune 24, 2000 Automobile AccidentArgentine cuarteto singer
Sean Patrick McCabeAugust 28, 2000 Asphyxiated on vomitInk & Dagger
Maria Serrano SerranoNovember 24, 2001 Plane crashBackground singer for Passion Fruit
Jeremy Michael WardMay 25, 2003 Heroin overdoseThe Mars Volta and De Facto sound manipulator
Bryan OttosonApril 19, 2005 Prescription drug overdoseAmerican Head Charge
Valentín ElizaldeNovember 25, 2006 MurderedMexican banda singer
Orish GrinsteadApril 20, 2008 Kidney failureR & B group 702
Lily TemboSeptember 14, 2009 Severe gastritisZambian musician

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