THE CURSE OF 27

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Apart from being regarded as some of the greatest musicians in the world what is it which links Kurt Cobain (NIRVANA), Jim Morrison (THE DOORS), Brian Jones (THE ROLLING STONES), Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin etc? The answer is the number 27. They all died at the age of 27. And the list doesn’t end here. There are about 45 great musicians who lost their life at the age of 27 the latest being Amy Winehouse who died in 2011.

      Interestingly most of these deaths occurred under mysterious circumstances and, to this day, speculation and controversy rage about many of them. Many of the celebrity deaths are linked by some bizarre and unlikely correlations. For example, Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison all knew each other and died within a 10-month period. Jones and Morrison died on the same day, two years apart. And Cobain was married to Courtney Love, who was pictured as a five-year-old child on the back of the Grateful Dead’s 1969 album Aoxomoxoa along with Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan (who joined the 27 Club on 8 March 1973), and played in the grunge band Hole with Kristen Pfaff (who became a member on 16 June 1994). Hendrix, who was born on 27 November, counted astrology as one of his hobbies and said many times that he expected to die at 27. This kind of foresight or foreboding seems to have been mirrored in Winehouse’s behaviour in the final weeks of her life. Though she stopped short of openly predicting her death she is known to have spent time tracking down long-lost friends and acquaintances, as if wanting to say goodbye.

      It has been suggested that the very lure of joining the exclusive 27 Club and guaranteeing some level of rock ’n’ roll immortality has been too much for some to resist. Shortly after Cobain’s death, his mother Wendy O’Connor proclaimed: “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club! I told him not to join that stupid club!” Interestingly, several researchers have noted that during his formative years Cobain mistakenly believed that the ‘Big Five’ committed suicide. This may have had some influence on him in later years, though this is pure speculation.

          So, what is so special about the number 27. To begin with, 27 is the cube of 3 (total sum of 3x3x3), with 3 being the original ‘Magic Number’. Much like its famous cousin 23. 27 is one of those numbers that recurs time and time again in nature and popular culture. For example, the Moon takes 27 days to orbit the Earth, the Sun revolves on its axis every 27 days, there are 27 bones in the human hand etc. The number also features prominently in various sections of the Bible.

      Though this is regarded as just a myth but as biographer Charles R. Cross writes “The number of musicians who died at 27 is truly remarkable by any standard. Although humans die regularly at all ages, there is a statistical spike for musicians who die at 27.”

The 27 club —Image

Name

Date of death

Official cause of death

Dave Alexander

February 10, 1975

Pulmonary edema

Alexander Bashlachev

February 17, 1988

Fall from a height, probable suicide

Jean-Michel Basquiat

August 12, 1988

Speedball overdose

Chris Bell

December 27, 1978

Car accident

Jesse Belvin

February 6, 1960

Car accident

D. Boon

December 22, 1985

Van accident

Rodrigo Bueno

June 24, 2000

Car accident

Cecilia 

August 2, 1976

Car accident

Louis Chauvin

March 26, 1908

Neurosyphilitic sclerosis

Arlester “Dyke” Christian

March 13, 1971

Murdered

Kurt Cobain

April 5, 1994 c.

Suicide by gunshot [28]

Pete de Freitas

June 14, 1989

Motorcycle accident

Roger Lee Durham

July 27, 1973

Fell off a horse and died from the injuries

Richey Edwards

February 1, 1995

Disappeared; officially presumed dead November 23, 2008

Valentín Elizalde

November 26, 2006

Murdered

Malcolm Hale

October 31, 1968

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Pete Ham

April 24, 1975

Suicide by hanging

Leslie Harvey

May 3, 1972

Electrocution

Jimi Hendrix

September 18, 1970

Asphyxiation (disputed)

Nat Jaffe

August 5, 1945

Complications from high blood pressure

Robert Johnson

August 16, 1938

Unknown, but typically attributed to strychninepoisoning

Brian Jones

July 3, 1969

Drowned (coroner’s report states “death by misadventure”, disputed)

Linda Jones

March 14, 1972

Complications from diabetes

Janis Joplin

October 4, 1970

Probable heroin overdose

Helmut Köllen

May 3, 1977

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Alexandre Levy

January 17, 1892

Unknown

Rudy Lewis

May 20, 1964

Drug overdose

Sean Patrick McCabe

August 28, 2000

Asphyxiation

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan

March 8, 1973

Gastrointestinal haemorrhage associated with alcoholism

Jacob Miller

March 23, 1980

Car accident

Jim Morrison

July 3, 1971

Reported as heart failure (no autopsy performed, disputed)

Bryan Ottoson

April 19, 2005

Prescription drug overdose

Fat Pat

February 3, 1998

Murdered

Kristen Pfaff

June 16, 1994

Heroin overdose

Dickie Pride

March 26, 1969

Overdose of sleeping pills

Maria Serrano Serrano

November 24, 2001

Plane crash

Freaky Tah

March 28, 1999

Murdered

Gary Thain

December 8, 1975

Heroin overdose

Richard Turner

August 11, 2011

Cardiac arrest

Jeremy Michael Ward

May 25, 2003

Heroin overdose

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson

September 3, 1970

Barbiturate overdose, possible suicide

Amy Winehouse

July 23, 2011

Alcohol poisoning

Wallace Yohn

August 12, 1974

Plane crash

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