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The 27 Club

By Berges Y Malu | May 20, 2007

Split Magazine 27 ClubThe so-called “27 Club” is a rather ignored fact of the rock music industry. What is the club? Who’s in it? Why should you care? Here’s a primer on the club and its members.

Simply put, the 27 Club is a reference to rock artists who died at the age of 27, the most common cause of death being a drug overdose.

Founding Member

The first musician that fell victim to this phenomenon was Brian Jones, founding member, lead singer and guitarist of The Rolling Stones. He was found dead at midnight on July 3, 1969. He was found lying in his swimming pool motionless and according to the coroner’s report he died due to enlargement of the liver and heart caused by alcohol and drug abuse.

The Next Victim

On the morning of September 18, 1970, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was found dead in London. The true cause of death isn’t known, but one of the main rumors going around at the time of his death was that he had taken about nine tablets of Vesperax, a sleep-inducing medicine. Some other versions of the story indicate that he was still alive but that the medical staff that attended to him did not transport him properly and that his head was not properly supported, that the probable cause of death could be that he choked on his own vomit. However, the most popular idea is that Jimi quite simply misjudged the potency of the medicine and consumed too much. Interestingly, his German girlfriend killed herself after his long time English girlfriend Kathy Etchingham filed a libel case against her in 1996. It is believed that his German girlfriend was with him on the night of his death.

Unfinished Business

Next to join the illustrious club was Janis Joplin. In the fall of 1970, she was recording for her new album ‘Pearl’ when she suddenly died of a suspected overdose of heroin and whiskey. This was on October 4, 1970. She too was 27 at the time of her sudden death. Found dead at Landmark Hotel in Hollywood, her album ‘Pearl’ was Released about two months after her death. The album reached number one on the US Billboard Charts, and included “Buried Alive in the Blues”, a single that she wasn’t able to complete due to her untimely death. This single was a instrumental and became a huge hit.

Conspiracies Unlimited

Split Magazine 27 ClubSoon, Jim Morrison, the legendary song writer, poet and singer of the band The Doors from America joined the club. He was inducted into the club on July 3, 1971. He was found dead in his bath tub by Pamela Courson, his long time companion with whom he has been claimed to have had a “open relationship”. According to Stephen Davis who has written Morrison’s biography, it is reported that there was dried blood around his mouth and nose and large bruising on the chest. These reports suggest that Jim might have died from a massive hemorrhage caused due to tuberculosis. However, French law does not require an autopsy to be carried out if the medical examiner doesn’t suspect foul play and so due to the lack of an official autopsy, many questions remain unanswered and there is a lot of speculation regarding his death. The official cause of his death is stated to be heart failure. According to another author Danny Sugerman in his autobiographical novel ‘Wonderland Avenue’, he claims to have had a short rendezvous with Pamela in which he claims she told him that Jim had in fact died of a heroin overdose when he inhaled rather large amounts of the banned substance, believing it to be cocaine. He further claimed that Pamela had given other contradictory versions of the events leading to his death but I guess the majority of his fans seem to have have taken the heroin story as the true reason. Pamela herself died due to a heroin overdose a few years later. Ironically, she too was 27 when she died. Some conspiracies still remain that he might still be alive and might even be living in Goa (India) or some unknown Islands in the Pacific in disguise. But one must not give much credence to such stories.

A Murder Untold

Now for the Nirvana fans, here’s a little trivia for you guys too. Kurt Cobain, the lead singer of the band Nirvana is another member of the 27 Club. Let’s delve into the details of his controversial death.

A few weeks preceding his death, Kurt was diagnosed with bronchitis and flew to Rome for medical treatment on March 3, 1994, shortly joined by his wife, Courtney Love. The next morning, Love awoke to find Kurt unconscious. He had overdosed on a combination of Rohypnol and champagne. He was rushed to the hospital and spent the whole day unconscious there. After five days, he was released and left for Seattle. This was his first suicide attempt, according to Love. On March 18, Love called the police and informed them that Kurt was having suicidal tendencies and had locked himself up in a room. She also claimed that he had a gun with him. Police arrived and confiscated several guns and bottles of pills from his house. Kurt told the police that he wasn’t Suicidal and that he had locked up the room to hide from Love. She later told the police that she had not seen him with the gun nor had Kurt ever mentioned that he was suicidal.

On April 3, Cobain’s mother filed a missing person’s report and claimed that Kurt was suicidal and that he had even bought a shotgun. At around the same time, Love hired a Investigator called Tom Grant and asked him to find out the whereabouts of Kurt.

Soon after on April 8, Kurt was found in the spare room of his house at Lake Washington. He was found by a electric utility employee Gary Smith. Gary had visited the house to install security lighting at the home when he saw Kurt in a resting position. Apart from a small amount of blood coming from his ear, there were apparently no signs of trauma, he even thought for some time that Kurt was sleeping. Gary found what he thought could be a suicide note beneath a overturned pot. The shot gun was by Kurt’s side. An autopsy revealed that the death was a result of “self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head”. The report also estimated the death to have taken place on April 5.

Split Magazine 27 ClubThough he is legally recognised to have committed suicide, there are many theories that claim that he was murdered. The main proposer of such a theory is Tom Grant, the investigator who was employed by Love to find out the whereabouts of Kurt. He claims that the death was a result of a homicide and not suicide as claimed by the State. He claims that the heroin levels in Kurt’s body was simply to high for him to have injected it himself and then to pull the trigger, that the heroin was administered simply to incapacitate him.

He further states that the suicide note was actually a letter that was written to announce his intent to leave Love. It was NOT a suicide note! He believes that the last few lines are the only lines in the whole letter that indicate that it might be a suicide note. He also claims that the latter part was written in a different handwriting and not in the same style as that of the earlier part of the letter. Grant claims to have met handwriting experts who agree with his assertion. He further claims that the positioning of the shotgun as the autopsy report states means that it would be impossible for Kurt to shoot himself, since Kurt’s arm would be too short to pull the trigger of the gun. Also, Kurt’s fingerprints were not found on the gun and there were no gloves found on his body or near him. Even the pen which he wrote the suicide note doesn’t have any fingerprints. Another claim is that Kurt had actually contacted a lawyer to draw up a will and had specifically asked her to keep Love’s name out of it since he was planning on divorcing her soon. Another reason he claims that could point to murder! Though he accepts that the circumstantial evidence doesn’t point to murder, the larger conspiracy does. However, no one knows the truth and all these simply assertions made by Grant.

Close Shave?

Many more less famous musicians have also been members of this club. The death of Hillel Slovak, the original guitarist for the immensely popular rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, was a near miss. He died at the age of 26 years and 2 months. He too died of a heroin overdose according to the autopsy report.

Controversies Surrounding The Club

Many claim this is plain co-incidence, but the fact remains that many rock artists are still scared of this phenomenon and still fear dying at the age of 27. Even the Beatles were brought into the controversy when they claimed that Paul McCartney had died due to a suspected drug overdose and that the Beatles had in-fact brought in a look-alike to perform. Also, the Beatles car parked in the lower left hand corner on the Abbey Road album cover made the claim more serious. However the fact remains that Paul is still alive today and has recently even fathered a child. The club hasn’t had any new additions recently, however there have many intellectuals from the fields of science and literature who have died at the age of 27.

Comments

23 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. May 21, 2007, 10:31 am Vishal

    Technically, Robert Johnson should be the founding member of the “27 club”.

  2. May 21, 2007, 1:03 pm Berges Malu

    Hey Vishal thanks for pointing out the lacunae…. it stands corrected robert johnson the blues singer was the founding member!!!

  3. May 23, 2007, 12:47 pm Berges Malu

    But since we are talkin in terms of rock musicians Brian Jones is the first member!

  4. June 7, 2007, 2:02 am Bhavita

    interesting indeed.as much as we worship and idolise them.after their tryst with drugs and history of substance abuse, I really wonder of the consequences of them bein role models.i know most will disagree but lets remember they continue to infleunce us till today in all possible ways..music bein among other things…

  5. July 10, 2007, 1:44 am Parinita

    Ok, very interesting. Especially the one about Kurt Cobain. Hmmm good job.

  6. August 6, 2007, 10:20 am Summer

    My mom and I have often wondered about the fat that Jimi, Janis, and Jim died at 27. but recentlywe heard that Otis Redding did as well. how come he is not on any of the lists?

  7. October 17, 2007, 12:55 am gerald

    I agree, Robert has to be the founding member, and the list/club is not exclusive to the top 4 or 5 named. See the following:

    http://www.the27s.com

    now, this sounds good!!!! Cheers ev-body

  8. October 24, 2007, 9:15 pm Berges Malu

    Well Summer Otis Redding Died at the age of 26 so he wasnt exactly 27 years old thats the reason why he might not be included in the list.
    Cheers~

  9. November 2, 2007, 8:49 pm vavi

    I think kurt did not commit suicide…or may be are only apologies..but he is still alive in a certain way. I love him

  10. January 23, 2008, 2:14 am Dixiie

    Kurt Cobain was murdered. http://www.myspace.com/justiceforkurt

  11. February 13, 2008, 11:10 am Cpt. Carbomb

    The founding member should have been Louis Chauvin a ragtime musician but R. Johnson defiantly had the most interesting story to add to the mysticism of the club. About the Kurt (Kurdt) Cobain “murder” it was suicide ask anyone who knew him personally after Rome he had become at peace with death. The Rome thing was for attention but it set the stage for the end. I know that that probably will not convince any of you conspiracy nuts out there but that is the most probable account of what happened.

  12. February 14, 2008, 8:56 pm Berges

    Well captain carbomb no one knows for sure about how Kurt did die. For most of us it will just remain a mystery.

  13. February 17, 2008, 3:50 pm stonesavant

    Kurt Cobain was assassinated. Read Hank Harrison’s book Love Kills! It dosen’t prove anything but it sure points out that Courtney was capable of it.

  14. March 1, 2008, 12:29 pm Debbie Johnson

    My daughter and her cousin died with 2 other friends in a car accident on June 11, 2005. She was an artist inspired by rock musicians. In her portfolio are pictures of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and her last work, Kirt Cobain. She was 27. Her cousin would have been 27 on July 23. He had been in a band since about age 13. He played guitar as did the other two friends. This all seems too much to attribute to coincidence.

  15. May 18, 2008, 11:17 pm Berges M

    Sorry for the loss, but this sounds interesting. Was she carrying pictures of these people in her portfolio with her when she met with the accident?

  16. June 18, 2008, 5:46 pm KaJaRiNin

    Hope Amy Winehouse isn’t the next!

  17. July 20, 2008, 1:51 pm Berges Malu

    Well she just could be considering her current situation :P

  18. August 31, 2008, 4:44 am Jax

    I’m a big Hendrix and Joplin fan, but it’s only been the last month that I’ve noticed they both died at 27. I just turned 27 last month. Two weeks ago my heart STOPPED as a result of perscription drugs. I just happened to be in the hospital visiting a friend when this happened. They had to shoot me up with something called Narcan, and I came back to life. Weird. I’m very lucky, and it sure as hell woke me up. But I’m no rockstar. That’s for sure.

  19. September 15, 2008, 12:49 am Jordan E. Franklin

    This is fascinating. For years, I have been fascinated by the 27 Club. I am an aspiring writer and musician. Currently I am eighteen. I find this stuff scary and yet I still want to enter the music business. Regardless, I think Robert Johnson is the founding member. Also, the legend and mysticism surrounding his life and death make a truly spooky story.
    In Numerology, the number 9 represents life and death. It basically represents a cycle. Since 2 plus 7 equals 9, maybe this has something to do with it.

  20. September 26, 2008, 9:31 am M.E.L.

    What about Jason Thirsk from Pennywise? Wasn’t he 27 when he died?

  21. October 14, 2008, 5:15 pm jaz and abby

    do you know how hard it is to find something like this very interseting is it just in the rock music literature and academic fields or is it in any other???
    do you know if there’s not a singer or musician of an underground band that died at the age of 27??

  22. June 5, 2009, 7:11 am 27 king

    my birth date adds up to 27 6 9 8 4=27 i am the 27 king im 25 going to join soon

  23. July 7, 2009, 5:32 am Segovia

    Robert Johnson started the 27 club
    He was said to have souled hes soul to the devil
    to become the best guitar player and so in turn
    he died young

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