There are coincidences and then there’s creepy, and perhaps both these terms describe the “The 27 Club”. It’s a strange pattern of artist’s deaths at the age of twenty-seven, many of whom met violent or drug-related ends.
The curse of the 27 year old was initially brushed off as pure myth when the pattern was first identified. Now, though, it’s an idea that intrigues many, inspiring varied conspiracy theories. Is it a myth? Is it a bizarre “Final Destination” type fate, or perhaps it’s just pure chance that all these artists met their fate at the same age?
The world may never know, but the number of members of this unfortunate club is still growing to this day. Currently, there are over forty known cases – but here are eleven of the most surprising and unusual examples.
11. Freaky Tah
Rapper and Lost Boyz member, Freaky Tah (real name Raymond Rogers), is one of the few artists on this list whose death was a murder.
On March 9, 1999 he was fatally shot in the head leaving a friend’s birthday party at Sheraton in Queens, New York. The shooter, Kelvin Jones, mistook the rapper for someone who was involved in the murder of his half-brother. It was a feud during which the Lost Boyz were mentioned.
Tragically, Freaky was pronounced dead at Jamaica Hospital. He was 27. The murder was a huge shock to the hip-hop community and the mindlessness of the act still shocks many to this day.
10. D. Boon
D. Boon (real name Dennes Dale Boon) was a songwriter, producer, and guitarist for the San Pedro, California spawned rock group Minutemen. He was known for such albums as the sentimental What Makes A Man Start Fires? and the critically acclaimed favorite Double Nickels On The Dime.
Once a rising music star, Boon was even voted #89 on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Guitarists list in 2003. At the height of the group’s stardom, however, they would take a fatal blow when Boon met his death due to a van crash. On December 22, 1985, en route to the band’s destination, Boon was suffering from a fever and was lying down without a seatbelt when the van went off road.
He was thrown out the back door of the vehicle breaking his neck on impact and was instantly killed.
9. Brian Jones
Perhaps one of the strangest deaths on this list was that of Brian Jones (real name Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones), multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, producer, composer and founder of legendary rock group The Rolling Stones.
Jones is credited for much of the band’s early success, but he sadly fell victim to a lifestyle of drugs and alcohol. In 1969 he was asked to leave the group and was later replaced by guitarist Mick Taylor. Fellow band members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards stepped up, becoming the band’s leading faces.
Following his dismissal in 1969, Jones was found motionless at the bottom of his ranch house swimming pool. Strangely, the coroner’s report declared “death by misadventure” as the cause. Jimi Hendrix dedicated a performance to him on national television and Jim Morrison wrote a poem entitled “Ode to L.A. While Thinking Of Brian Jones, Deceased” . Both men later died two years later at the exact age of 27, like Jones.
8. Pete Ham
Pete Ham was a Welsh singer, songwriter and member of the 70’s rock group Badfinger. Badfinger was best known for hits such as “No Matter What”, “Day After Day”, and the worldwide hit ballad “Without You” .
An accomplished songwriter and musician in 1975, Ham struggled with many problems after the group suffered with managerial and financial issues. He went into a deep depression and hanged himself in his own garage.
Ham left a note stating “I will not be allowed to love and trust everybody. This is better.” He even took a jab at his manager in his letter stating “P.S Stan Polley is a soulless bastard, I will take him with me” Luckily Polley was never harmed in any way after Ham’s last threat but it’s safe to say Ham gave one last “bad finger” on his way out!
7. Mia Zapata
Probably one of the few deaths on this list completely shrouded in mystery was that of Mia Zapata, member of punk rock band The Gits. A well loved lead singer, Zapata was an artist that truly loved her music and gained the respect of many fellow artists.
The Gits never really reached mainstream success past the Seattle music scene, but Zapata remained an inspiration for many female vocalists.
On the night of July 7, 1993 she left a tavern in Seattle. It was the last time she was seen alive. She was discovered by a woman later that night; sexually assaulted, beaten, and strangled near a busy intersection. The attacker wasn’t found or convicted until 2003. There is much that remains unclear about the murder, including its motive.
Zapata’s death sparked an outpouring of support from bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana.
6. Janis Joplin
A huge music icon adored the world over, Janis Joplin came to fame in the 1960s as the lead singer for the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Known as the “Queen of Psychedelic Soul” she was a major attraction at the legendary concert Woodstock and had many charted singles such as “Summertime”, “Down On Me”, “Cry Baby”, and her main number one hit “Me and Bobby McGee”.
Ranking number 46 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Singers of all Time in 2004, Joplin was the inspiration for many important singers today including Pink and Florence Welch.
Her individualism and free spirit was admired by many, but her wild lifestyle would eventually be the cause of her demise. Joplin was found lifeless on the floor next to the bed in her hotel room on October 4, 1970. The cause of death was identified as a lethal dose of heroin. Her death at age 27 came just 16 days after that of another famous “27 Club” member, Jimi Hendrix.
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat
Famous American artist, musician, and producer Jean-Michel Basquiat became a modern marvel in the 1980s and his artwork is the influence of many to this day. Expressing themes such as abstraction and figuration in his art, he became a huge figure in the Neo-Expressionist movement.
Capturing Primitivists themes his artwork has achieved national and even worldwide fame in such noted galleries such as the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and The institute of Contemporary Arts in London. Despite a major attempt at sobriety, Jean-Michel sadly succumbed to a heroine overdose August 12, 1988 in his very own art studio at the age of 27.
4. Jim Morrison
Another mysteriously eerie victim of the 27 curse was Jim Morrison, the legendary rock star, poet, songwriter and lead vocalist of The Doors.
Jim personified the rebellious counterculture of rock with his iconic baritone voice. His influence made him one of the most memorable figures in popular culture and he was ranked 47 on Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”.
On July 3, 1971 Morrison died in Paris. He was 27 years old. No official autopsy was performed, and many speculate on the actual cause of his death to this day. Some believe his demise was a heroine overdose, some that his long-time companion Pamela Courson was responsible. Still others blame a chronic respiratory illness that made him cough up blood. The French law ruled “no foul play”.
3. Jimi Hendrix
Born Johnny Allen Hendrix, the guitarist, singer, songwriter Jimi Hendrix is regarded as “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music”. Forever kept alive in pop culture and the hearts of millions of adoring fans, Hendrix is one of the most celebrated musicians in the 20th century.
He pioneered the use of electric amplifier feedback and stereophonic phasing as well as many other amplifier techniques. Rolling Stone hails him as the greatest guitarist and sixth greatest artist of all time.
His mainstream career only lasted five years, with all those achievements leaving many fans wondering what great things he could have achieved if he hadn’t died so young. On September 17, 1970 Hendrix fell victim to an accidental death due to asphyxiation from barbiturates. His demise is still openly disputed; Hendrix’s then girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, later mentioned that he took nine of her Vesparax, a potent antipsychotic withdrawn in most countries these days.
2. Amy Winehouse
The most recent member of the “27 Club” was iconic English singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse. Following much success in the UK on the back of her 2003 debut album Frank, her later album Back to Black was Grammy-winning. Destined for stardom and on an ever-increasing climb to music legend status, Amy’s time was sadly cut short due to her drug and alcohol-addicted lifestyle.
Her 2008 smash “Rehab” seemed to sum up her battle with drugs, and it seems it was only a matter of time before this rare talent was lost to the world.
On July 23, 2011 Amy was found unresponsive and unconscious in her home by her bodyguard. The cause of death was reported alcohol poisoning – her blood contained five times the legal drinking-drive limit. Posthumously, her album Back to Black became the UK’S best selling album of the 21st century and she was ranked by VH1 as one of the “100 Greatest Women in Music”.
1. Kurt Cobain
The death of American guitarist, songwriter, lead singer, and founding member of rock super band Nirvana is probably one of the most studied and fascinating of the 27 club.
Following much success after their 1991 hit “Smells like Teen Spirit” from their second album Nevermind, the group became a “flagship band” and Cobain became a household name. He was an icon for the generation dubbed Generation x.
Cobain was very uneasy with all the success and often had bouts with depression and drug use, fuelled by the pressure of the media misinterpreting his music and the scrutiny of his very public relationship with musician Courtney Love.
Often indulging in heavy drug use, Cobain made his first attempt on his life with a near fatal combination of champagne and Rohypnol. He was rushed to the hospital where he spent five days before he was released recovered.
Following his release, Cobain continued to withdraw from his loved ones and went missing for a number of days before he was found dead in his Seattle home. Cobain was found by his electrician, with a shotgun under his chin and a note. The note was addressed to his imaginary childhood friend “Boddah” and contained many suggestions that Cobain was unhappy and uninspired by his music claiming he had ” not felt the excitement…for too many years now”.
He even goes on to end the note by quoting Neil Young, ” it’s better to burn out than to fade away”. Despite his short life, Cobain is still a major popular icon and an influence on many artists today.
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