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.

Name Died Cause Claim to notability
Louis Chauvin March 2, 1908  Neurosyphilitic sclerosis Ragtime musician
Robert Johnson August 16, 1938  Unknown Bluesman
Nat Jaffe August 5, 1945  High blood pressure Blues musician
Jesse Belvin February 6, 1960  Car wreck R & B singer and songwriter
Rudy Lewis May 20, 1964  Drug overdose The Drifters
Malcolm Hale October 30, 1968  Carbon monoxide  poisoning Spanky and Our Gang
Alexandra July 31, 1969  Car accident German singer
Alan Wilson September 3, 1970  Overdose, possible  suicide. Leader singer of Canned Heat
Arlester Christian March 13, 1971  Shot Vocalist of Dyke & the Blazers
Linda Jones March 14, 1972  Diabetic coma R & B singer
Ron McKernan March 8, 1973  Alcoholism Grateful Dead
Roger Lee Durham July 27, 1973  Fell off a horse Bloodstone
Wallace Yohn August 12, 1974  Died in a plane crash Organ player of Chase
Dave Alexander February 10, 1975  Pulmonary edema The Stooges
Peter Ham April 24, 1975  Suicide by hanging Badfinger
Gary Thain December 8, 1975  Drug overdose Uriah Heep
Helmut Köllen May 3, 1977  Carbon monoxide  poisoning Bassist with Triumvirat
Chris Bell December 27, 1978  Car wreck Big Star, solo artist
Jacob Miller March 23, 1980  Car wreck Inner Circle
D. Boon December 22, 1985 Auto accident The Minutemen
Alexander Bashlachev February 17, 1988  Suicide by jumping Russian poet, rock musician, and songwriter
Jean-Michel Basquiat August 12, 1988  Speedball overdose Gray
Pete de Freitas June 14, 1989  Motorcycle wreck Echo & the Bunnymen
Mia Zapata July 7, 1993  Murdered The Gits
James “Richey” Edwards February 1, 1995  Disappeared; presumed  dead Manic Street Preachers
Fat Pat February 3, 1998  Shot Screwed Up Click
Freaky Tah March 28, 1999  Shot Lost Boyz
Rodrigo Alejandro Bueno June 24, 2000  Automobile Accident Argentine cuarteto singer
Sean Patrick McCabe August 28, 2000  Asphyxiated on vomit Ink & Dagger
Maria Serrano Serrano November 24, 2001  Plane crash Background singer for Passion Fruit
Jeremy Michael Ward May 25, 2003  Heroin overdose The Mars Volta and De Facto sound manipulator
Bryan Ottoson April 19, 2005  Prescription drug overdose American Head Charge
Valentín Elizalde November 25, 2006  Murdered Mexican banda singer
Orish Grinstead April 20, 2008  Kidney failure R & B group 702
Lily Tembo September 14, 2009  Severe gastritis Zambian musician

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