Amy Winehouse, as we all already know, is no longer with us. An alcohol-related death (or detox-related), her passing came unexpected to her family, friends, and fans. However, this is not the first time that such a thing has happened. She has joined what many call, ‘The 27 Club,’ ‘The Curse of 27,’ or the ‘Forever 27 Club.’ It is a title for a group of influential musicians who died at the age of 27; they are united by this fact, and by the fact that they led and defined the ‘rock and roll lifestyle’ – for better or worse. This is a tribute dedicated not only to Amy Winehouse, but also to other famous and incredible musicians who passed away at 27.
Let us remember them through the music they created.
Robert Johnson (1911-1938), one of the most influential bluesmusicians in music history, specializing in the Mississippi Delta blues style, died at 27 under shadowy circumstances often associated with strychnine poisoning from a whiskey bottle.
Listen to his famous song, ‘Sweet Home Chicago.’
Brian Jones (1942-1969), founding member of the Rolling Stones and talented musician, took an innovative approach to rock music by incorporating folk instruments like marimba and sitar. Because of substance abuse problems, he left the band in 1969 and was shortly after found drowned in a swimming pool at his farm. There is still today much controversy surrounding his death, as some say it was suicide and others argue it was murder (as much of his expensive music equipment mysteriously disappeared).
Listen to the Rolling Stones song, ‘Paint It Black’ where Jones plays sitar (taught by George Harrison himself).
Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), guitarist and singer-songwriter, is viewed by many as one of the best, if not the best, electric guitarists in history. His pioneering songwriting and electrifying playing techniques changed the direction of rock music in the 60s. He died in London after taking nine times the prescribed dose of his sleeping pills and subsequently asphyxiating on his own vomit. There is still much controversy in his death, as the time of death and the possibility of suicide (or murder) has never been entirely ruled out.
Listen to his masterpiece, ‘Bold As Love.’
Janis Joplin (1943-1970), singer-songwriter, dancer and painter, has been called ‘The Queen of Rock and Roll’ and she has well deserves the title. One of the most original vocalists of the 60s, she gained a wide following and has been ranked in the top 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone. She died in a hotel room on an overdose of heroin, combined with alcohol. She died only sixteen days after Hendrix.
Listen to her famous song, ‘A Woman Left Lonely.’
Jim Morrison (1943-1971), lead singer and lyricist for The Doors, is viewed by many to be one of the best frontmen in rock history. His crazy personality and performance techniques established him as an icon of the late 60s. After 1967, The Doors rose to immense popularity and Morrison began developing alcohol and drug problems to cope with the pressure of heavy touring and writing. He died in Paris due to a heroin overdose, allegedly. Like the others of ‘The 27 Club,’ his death is widely disputed to this day – as no autopsy was performed on his body after death.
Listen to The Doors song, ‘The End.’
Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), guitarist, singer-songwriter, and the lead singer and guitarist for Nirvana. Cobain is held by his fans to be a ‘spokesman’ for a new generation, and his band has been described as the ‘Flagship band’ of Generation X. He was a heroin user in his later years, and he developed worsening periods of illness and depression. After one (or several) suicide attempt(s), Cobain was found dead in his home, where he shot himself and left a suicide note, describing the lack of excitement and passion in his late life. He is still hailed as one of the greatest musicians of the 90s.
Listen to Nirvana’s award-winning song, ‘Come As You Are.’
And, of course, we come to Amy Winehouse (1983-2011). English singer-songwriter with one of the most recognisable voices in modern music, she was the first British female to win five Grammys. She won a BRIT Award for Best British Female Artist, and she won the Ivor Novello Award not once – but three times. Highly acclaimed as she is, she had many personal issues and drug and alcohol related problems. She was found dead in her home, and the postmortem was inconclusive. There were no illegal drugs, and the death was likely alcohol related. Many musicians have paid tribute to Winehouse since her death, and, for better or worse, her place in modern music will never be filled.
Listen to her famous song, ‘Rehab.’
Image credit – Kim Erlandsen, NRK P3