The 27 Club is the unofficial name for a group of famous musicians, artists, or actors who died at the age of 27. There is a strong notion of myth surrounding the 27 Club and the iconic artists that died at that age. Many wonder what is the connection between the members of the club, besides the age, that is. Maybe it is the fame that throws them into a fast and furious lifestyle. Perhaps, like Icarus, they fly too close to the burning sun.
By Tommy Quitt [CC BY-SA 4.0], from Wikimedia Commons
The first known member of the notorious club was Alexandre Levy, a popular Brazilian pianist, and composer that was considered one of the best musicians of his time and was often named in the same breath with classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven. There is no record regarding the cause of his premature death in 1892 at the age of 27. As we commemorate the death of Amy Winehouse, the famed British singer that died on July 23, 2011, here is a list of the most famous members of the 27 Club.
Amy Winehouse – Tears Dry on Their Own
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British singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse, was born September 14, 1983. In 2004, Amy’s debut album, Frank, was nominated for The Brit Awards in two categories – British Urban Act, and British Female Solo Artist. Her single, Back to Black was #1 on the Billboard chart for three consecutive weeks. The retro-soul singer was also a six-time Grammy award winner for hits such as You Know I’m No Good, Rehab, and others. Her notable musical feats were often overshadowed by her turbulent personal life and drug abuse. The singer was found dead on July 23rd, 2011 at her London home in the Camden section. It was reported that Amy died of alcohol poisoning after a long-running battle with alcohol addiction. The Amy Winehouse Foundation was launched after her death by her father, Mitch Winehouse to raise awareness and support organizations that help vulnerable young adults with addiction problems.
Brian Jones – Let it Bleed
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Brian Jones was born on February 28th, 1942, in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, beautiful countryside and a spa-town in south-west England. Brian was a multi-talented instrumentalist, and the original founder and leader of the very popular and groundbreaking music band, The Rolling Stones. The band was known as a British blues outfit initially but was later pushed into a different direction by the band’s manager, Andrew Loog Oldham. This new development didn’t sit well with Brian, and he was said to have felt alienated from the group. Brian began to abuse drugs and alcohol, a fact that started taking a toll on his performance with the band. He was ousted from the band in 1969, while Mick Jagger and Keith Richards took over the band’s musical direction. On July 3rd, 1969, less than a month after his departure from The Rolling Stones, he was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. His death was the first in a series of the other 1960’s rock stars that died in the following years and marked the end of an era.
Jimi Hendrix – Excuse Me, While I Kiss the Sky
Photo by David Redfern/Redferns
American rock singer, songwriter, and guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, was born November 27, 1942. Jimi became very famous during his short four-year music career and was described as the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Hendrix was very creative with the guitar and was able to bridge R&B, blues, and jazz to rock & roll. Although he had drug and alcohol addiction problems, the exact details of his death are uncertain. He was however said to have taken 9 sleeping pills the night before he died on September 18, 1970.
Kurt Cobain – The Sun is Gone but I Have a Light
Photo by Michel Linssen/Redferns
Kurt Cobain was born on February 20, 1967. The American singer, songwriter, and musician formed his band Nirvana in 1987, along with fellow bass player Krist Novoselic and drummer Aaron Burckhard who was later replaced with Dave Grohl. The band’s big breakthrough was with its second studio album, Nevermind. Cobain that had encounters with narcotics at an early stage of his life didn’t manage well with the success and turned back to drugs. The personal and professional pressures that surrounded his marriage to his musician wife, Courtney Love, did nothing to help him cope with life, and he was said to have struggled with severe health problems – including depression and heroin addiction the last few years before his death. On April 8, 1994, an electrician that came to install a security system in Kurt Cobain’s Seattle home found him dead with a shotgun lying next to his chin. The Seattle police ruled his death as a suicide. In 2014, Cobain was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, alongside his band members Novoselic and Dave Grohl.
Jim Morrison – This is the Strangest Life I’ve Ever Known
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Jim Morrison was the lead vocalist of the band, The Doors. Born December 8, 1943, he was regarded as an icon of youth counterculture in the 1960’s. Throughout his short adult life, he had several serious and casual relationships but maintained a steady relationship with Pamela Courson. Paul A. Rothchild, the producer that worked closely with The Doors, described Jim Morrison as two distinct and different people; a friendly guy when he was sober, and a maniac when he was drunk. On July 3, 1971, he was found dead in a bathtub at his apartment in Paris. The cause of his death was listed as heart failure, although an autopsy was never performed.
Richey Edwards – Each Day Living Out a Lie
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Born December 22, 1967, Richey Edwards was the rhythm guitarist and main lyricist of Manic Street Preachers, a Welsh punk rock band active since the 1980’s. He was famous for his dark, politicized and intellectual songwriting, as well as his enigmatic character, which earned him somewhat of a cult status in the UK. Edwards disappeared on February 1, 1995. On February 17, 1995, his car was found near the Severn Bridge, a mile long motorway in South Gloucestershire, England, and it was believed that he committed suicide by jumping off the bridge. Before his disappearance, Edwards suffered from depression most of his adult life. On November 23rd, 2008, the police declared him presumed dead after years of fruitless searching.
Janis Joplin – You Say That It’s Over Baby, Lord
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Janis Joplin was born January 19, 1943. She was known as The Queen of Psychedelic Soul and one of the most influential pioneers of rock music. Before she began her solo career, the singer-songwriter was initially the lead singer of the San Francisco band Big Brother, and the Holding Company. Critics and fans referred to her stage presence as electrifying. Like most members of the 27 Club, Janis struggled with alcohol and drug addiction. As she made progress in her career, her addiction worsened. On October 4, 1970, Janis died of heroin overdose and alcohol abuse, mere 16 days after the death of Jimi Hendrix. Her final album, Pearl, was released less than a year after her death. The album shot straight to #1 on the Billboard charts. In 1995, Janis Joplin was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Till date, she remains one of the top-selling musicians in the US.
Mia Zapata – I Tell Myself, Just Let it Breathe
Born August 25, 1965, Mia Zapata was the lead singer of a Seattle punk band, The Gits. She was regarded as a punk force, and the leading female voice in Seattle’s rapidly increasing, male-dominated grunge scene. The group became the locals’ favorite after they released their debut album, Frenching the Bully in 1992. On July 7, 1993, on her way home late at night after leaving her friend after a few drinks, Mia was viciously beaten, raped and strangled to death. Grunge celebrities such as Pearl Jam and Nirvana helped in raising thousands of dollars for the investigation of her murder. Her murderer, Jesus Mezquia, was not found and convicted until 2003 when he was sentenced to 36 years in prison. To honor Mia’s memory, her friends founded a self-defense organization, Home Alive.
Rudy Lewis – Save the Last Dance for Me
The Drifters, 1961. Rudy Lewis standing on the right side of the picture.Photo by Gilles Petard/Redferns
Rudy Lewis was an American singer and member of the legendary R&B group, The Drifters from 1960 till his death in 1964. The R&B singer who was born August 23, 1936, started off as a gospel musician before moving on to become the lead vocalist for The Drifters. According to a source, Billy Vera, Rudy was addicted to heroin and suffered from binge eating disorder. This problem was not known to the public. On May 20, 1964, he was found dead in his hotel room. However, the actual cause of his death remains unknown, as an autopsy was not performed. Rudy’s family and close friends presume that he may have died from a combination of a drug overdose, heart attack, and asphyxiation. Rudy Lewis was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Kristen Pfaff – All of My Life I Wanted to be Something.
American musician, Kristen Pfaff was born May 26, 1967. She was best known as the bassist for the alternative rock band, Hole since she joined the group in 1993 until her death in 1994. Before joining the band, Kristen was the bassist and a backing vocalist for a band based in Minneapolis, Janitor Joe. Pfaff played on Live Through This, the only album she recorded with the group. Like many other popular musicians, Pfaff didn’t cope well with fame and developed a drug abuse problem. On June 16, 1994, Kristen was found dead in her apartment. Her death was attributed to a heroin overdose. After her death, Kristen Pfaff was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, an award her mother received on her behalf.
Jean-Michel Basquiat – Most Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off
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Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 22 December 1960. Before his limelight, he featured his artworks on sweatshirts and postcards which he put on sale. Basquiat achieved fame in a short period of time – his artworks were publicly displayed all around the world, including a journey to Ivory Coast for a show, and an exhibition of about 60 paintings at Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery in Germany. Basquiat was the youngest artist ever to showcase a work of art at the gallery. The graffiti artist died of drug overdose on August 12, 1988, at the age of 27. Even after his death, he was remembered on May 2017 when Untitled his 1982 painting of a skull was bought by a Japanese billionaire for $110.5 million during an auction. It became most priced painting by a Black American artist.
Jacob Miller – Fly Like a Dove
Born on the 4th of May, 1952, Jacob Miller was a Jamaican reggae artist. Besides his successful career as the lead singer of Inner Circle, the talented singer, often referred to as the next Bob Marley, pursued his own solo career. Miller produced quite a number of songs such as “Baby I Love You So,” “False Rasta,” “Who Say Jah No Dread,” “Each One Teach One,” and “Girl Named Pat,” which eventually became classics. Miller died inon Sunday, 23 March 1980 in a car accident in Kingston, Jamaica, with one of his sons. Inner Circle split up after his death only to make a comeback in 1986.
Ron Pigpen McKernan – All I Gotta Do isDrink that Wine
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Ron McKernan who was popularly known as Pigpen was born on the 8th of September 1945. He was an organist, singer and one of the founding members of the Grateful Dead, the popular San Francisco band in the 60’s and 70’s, and was very instrumental to the band’s success. McKernan was known to be an alcohol addict, a fact that affected his health as he was forced to retire from musical tours in 1972. On March 8, 1873, Ron died of gastrointestinal bleeding caused by complications from excessive intake of alcohol. Days before he died, McKernan recorded a cassette where he sang about no longer living in pain.
Dave Alexander – Every Night in Town I’m Going Down
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Born June 3, 1947, Dave Alexander was an American musician known as the Bass player and founder of The Stooges, which he formed alongwith the Asheton brothers and Iggy Pop in 1967. The band, which lived and conducted as an anarchist cooperative is known to have a powerful influence on the punk-rock and indie-rock scene. Dave Alexander was only able to feature in two albums with The Stooges before he was removed from the group in 1970 after he showed up drunk and unable to play at Goose Lake International Music Festival in Michigan. Dave died of pulmonary edema on February 10, 1975. His alcohol consumption was suspected to have been responsible for his early death.
Sahara Davenport – Eternal Queen, Will Reign Forever, Legendary, Stay Forever.
Sahara Davenport (middle) at the 21st Annual GLAAD Media Awards on March 13, 2010Photo by JONATHON ZIEGLER/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Sahara Davenport was famous for her multiple roles as an American drag queen, musician, reality television personality and a trained dancer. She was born on December 17, 1984, in Texas, USA by the name of Antoine Ashley. Sahara came into limelight when she participated in the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race. In 2011, Davenport released her second single, Go Off, which peaked at #50 on the US Billboard of Hot Dance Club Songs. Davenport died of heart failure at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore on October 1, 2012.
Anton Yelchin – The Ability to Have a Choice in What You Do is a Privilege
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Another member of the 27 club is Anton Yelchin. He was in the spotlight at the age of 12 when he featured in the fiction series “Taken” in 2002. He later featured in another fiction series Star Trek, where he played the role of Pavel Chekov. He was born on 11 March 1989 in Saint Petersburg, Russia, when early in life, after the iron curtain collapsed in 1991, his family immigrated to the USA. He died in a car accident on June 19, 2016, just outside his house in California. Yelchin came out of his car, parked in his steep driveway. The vehicle then rolled back and trapped him between the pillar and a security fence. The 2016 film Star Trek Beyond wasdedicated to his memory in one of the cinematic world’s most heartbreaking tributes.
Stretch (rapper) – What’s Tha Sense of Working’ Hard if You Never Get to Play
Stretch, born Randy Walker, was born on April 8, 1968, in Springfield Gardens, Queens. He was an American rapper and record producer who had close affiliations with Tupac Shakur. He started rapping and producing in the 1980s and formed the Live Squad hip-hop group, together with DJ K-low, and his brother Majesty. Stretch also produced and rapped on two songs in late 2Pac’s album 2pacalypse in 1991. He was murdered on November 30, 1995, in a drive-by shooting. After Stretch’s death, he was posthumously featured on 2Pac’s 1997 releases R U Still Down? And the Live Squad production Nothing To Lose.
Alan Wilson – My Dear Mother Left Me When I Was Quite Young
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Alan Wilson, born July 4, 1943, was a conservationist and a lover of nature. He was popularly known as the leader and co-founder of Canned Heat, a group that drew a lot of attention during the summer of love. In 1969, he wrote and recorded a song titled “Poor Moon,” which talked about the potential pollution of the moon. Wilson died of drug overdose in Topanga Canyon, CA on September 3, 1970, at the age of 27. His autopsy confirmed that he died as a result of accidental acute barbiturate intoxication. After his death, his family supported his dream of conserving nature by purchasing a “grove naming” in his memory through the Save the Redwoods League of California. The funds were used to support the growth of redwoods, research, education, and buying of lands with both new and old redwoods.
Jonathan Brandis – I Try to Say the Right Things and Give the Right Advice.
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Born on April 13, 1976, Jonathan Brandis began his career as a child model. He later featured in several TV commercials before landing himself television and film roles. Brandis started his acting career in 1982 as Kevin Buchanan featuring in the soap opera One Life to Live. In 1990, he starred as Bill Denbrough in the horror mini-series, It. He was the ladies’ man as he featured NBC’s SeaQuest DSV and The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter. At the time, Brandis was a regular face in teen magazines. He was found hanging in the hallway of his apartment building on November 12, 2003.
Leslie Harvey – The Danger Zone Everywhere, it is Everywhere
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Leslie Harvey was born in Scotland, on September 13, 1945. He started his career as a lead guitar player with a Scottish band named “The Blues Council.” The band separated as a result of an accident where only Harvey was unharmed. This made him join another band named “Stone of Crows.” He was starting shining like rising star, going for tours in the US before tragedy struck. Harvey’s death was as a result of electrocution that happened during a sound check before a concert. The tragic incident occurred on May 3, 1972, when he touched a microphone that had not been grounded to the earth. He was said to have been depressed about his declining career, and usually drank heavily.