The recent death of incredibly talented actor Philip Seymour Hoffman of a heroin overdose on February 2, 2014 once again reminded us all of the dangers of fame and addiction. Only 46 years of age, he was a master of his craft with years ahead of him, but this was not meant to be. When we move from actors to musicians however, 46 seems to be a long and healthy life for many of the most famous who died so very young. The number of rock musicians who died early in life is clearly far too many. That being said, the fact that so many of the biggest and most influential talents in rock music history died at the age of 27 is downright bizarre.
Over the years, the conspiracy theorists have come up with a number of stories behind the deaths of the members of this so called “27 club.” These stories have grown more and more outrageous with each year passed, with everything from legal cover-ups to elaborate hoaxes and even deals with the devil gleefully spun into rock mythology gold in order to try and make some sense of these tragic losses.
Below, in no discernible order, is a list of the most famed deaths in music, all coming at the youthful age of just 27 years old.
1. Kurt Cobain
Cobain had possessed a troubled mind for most of his life, which was accelerated by his heroin addiction and refusal to attend rehab. Cobain became the gravelly voice of the 1990s grunge movement the minute ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hit the airwaves, with the Nirvana leader continuing to create brilliant rock milestones until the day he died.
2. Jimi Hendrix
His unparalleled ability to express and innovate on the guitar, as well as his endless desire to redefine everything about what rock music could be and how it was presented, make it all but certain that the four original albums we got to hear from Hendrix were only the tip of what he could have accomplished with more time. Sadly, a combination of red wine and sleeping pills (reportedly, stronger than expected) took that all away from us.
3. Brian Jones
Jones, a slide guitar genius who intended to be the Stones’ leader as they performed more traditional blues-based music, was slowly pushed to the side in favor of the impressive songwriting abilities (and charismatic on-stage presences) of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After he contributed to just two songs on 1969′s ‘Let it Bleed’ album, Jones’ substance abuse problems — including an arrest that threatened his ability to tour overseas — became too much for his bandmates. Those same abuse problems are also believed to have contributed to his drowning death.
4. Jim Morrison
The singer reportedly died on July 3, 1971 — again, at the age of 27 — of heart failure in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. In accordance with French law, since there was no sign of foul play, no further investigation was performed. However many people suspect that Morrison in fact died of a heroin overdose, possibly in the bathroom stall of a nearby club. Or… maybe he faked the whole thing and is raising horses in Oregon.
5. Janis Joplin
According to Rolling Stone’s account, Joplin was found dead in L.A.’s Landmark Hotel, with fresh needle marks on her arm and $4.50 clutched in her hand. It has been suggested that her dealer accidentally sold her and several other clients an overly strong dose of the drug. She was in the process of finishing up what would turn out to be
the her posthumously-released 1971 solo album ‘Pearl,’ having just completed the a cappella track ‘Mercedes Benz‘ three days earlier.
6. Robert Johnson
Since so little is known about Johnson — who recorded barely more than two dozen songs, including ‘Dust My Broom’ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ in his unnaturally short life — some pretty crazy myths and rumors about him have taken hold in many people’s minds. He’s rumored to have sold his soul to the Devil, and to have died after being poisoned by the jealous boyfriend of a woman he was talking to, just as famed talent scout John Hammond was trying to hand him a one-way ticket to fame and fortune.
7. Amy Winehouse
An English singer-songwriter known for her deep contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including R&B, soul, jazz, and reggae. Winehouse’s 2003 debut album, Frank, was a critical success. Her 2006 follow-up album, Back to Black, led to five 2008 Grammy Awards, tying the record for the most wins by a female artist in a single night, and made Winehouse the first British female to win five Grammys, including three of the general field “Big Four” awards: Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year.After years of abusing drugs and alcohol, Winehouse was found dead in her apartment of alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011. Her album Back to Black released posthumously became the UK’s best-selling album of the 21st century.
8. Jean-Michel Basquiat
An American artist and founder of the punk band Gray, Basquiat gained popularity first as a graffiti artist in New York City, and then as a successful 1980s-era Neo-expressionist artist. Basquiat’s paintings continue to highly influence modern-day artists and command high prices at auctions around the world.
9. David Alexadnder
Alexander can be heard in the Stooges’ self-titled debut album along with the group’s sophomore masterpiece, ‘Fun House.’ The bassist was dismissed from the Stooges after losing interest in rehearsals and being too drunk to play a hometown gig in Michigan. The bassist died of pneumonia and an inflamed pancreas in 1975 at the age of 27. Alexander’s alcohol abuse reportedly contributed to the bassist’s early demise.
10. Alan Wilson
Wilson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston suburb of Arlington, Massachusetts. He majored in music at Boston University and often played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit. He acquired the nickname “Blind Owl” owing to his extreme farsightedness; in one instance when he was playing at a wedding, he laid his guitar on the wedding cake because he did not see it. As Canned Heat’s drummer, Fito de la Parra, wrote in his book: “Without the glasses, Alan literally could not recognize the people he played with at two feet, that’s how blind the ‘Blind Owl’ was.