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Universidad de Guanajuato CAADI Valenciana Materia: ingls Alumno: Benjamn Pacheco Lpez Semestre: 4 Carrera: Letras Espaolas

The myth and the coincidence in The 27 Club Everybody was young, passionate and determined to conquer the world or maybe they were just a group of persons who coincidintly died at an early age: The 27 Club. Today, this label reffers a group of virtuos musicians who died at the same age and contributed to the industry of music in different levels, but also involves people with complicated lives who felt depressed and misunderstood so many times. According to Charles R. Cross, biographer of several rockstars, this phenomenon is more a name for a grouping of obituaries1 than a properly club because it refers to a group of famous musicians who died at 27 years old. In fact, from 1908 to 2011 there are fourty five club members2, between singers, guitarists and pianists, but the list tends to change from one resercher to another. However, the most representative are: Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, James Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and recently, Amy Winehouse. For the record, even Mexican banda singer Valentn Elizalde is included but this is questionable, according to the requiriments to enter to the list. Back to Cross, It wasn`t until Cobain took his own life in 1994 that the idea of the 27 Club arrive in the popular zeitgeist3. The journalist explains that when Cobain committed suicide, the press quoted out of context a declaration of his mother, Wendy Fradenburg Cobain Oconnor, which was related to an idea of the Forever 27 Club or the Curse of 27, as the club is also known. The first quote was carried worldwide by The Associated Press (AP): Now hes gone and joined in that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club4, but the full quote reveals a mother more concerned about his only son: Ill never hold him again. I dont know what to do. I

Charles R. Cross, Only the good die Young,, p.1 [Consulted in 22 April 2012]. 2 Simon Phillips, The 27 Club. Infographic,, [Consulted in 22 April 2012]. 3 Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.1. 4 Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit, p.1.

dont know where to go5, according to Aberdeen Daily World. This crucial words stupid club, apparently had an impact in popular culture and remains as a topic that appears from time to time when a rockstar dies. Besides, the development of Internet had an impact on the design of blogs, specialized websites and thousands of articles in magazines; likewise the publication of books, documentaries and even movies related to the Curse of 27, spreads the idea that there is something special about this celebrities. This paper does not attempt to present all the information related to The 27 Club. However this is a simple approach to the lives of the main members of the club and some specialized opinions about it. I hope that the readers can find further information about this interesting club. Maybe the people died but their legacy will live forever.

Some opinions: biological and mathematical analysis In recent years, the scientists have been interested in The 27 Club. Cross refers that is not surprising the inordinate number of rock musicians who have died in their twenties considering that lifestyle factors, including drug and alcohol abuse, played a role in most of these deaths. He said that scientists have suggested that we are captivated with analyzing death because such investigations make us better able to stave it off6. This is the reason why the people scan the obituaries and that to look at the ages of the deceased, an action that appears to be universal and across cultures. The journalist ads: It may come from a need for assurance that most deaths fall within a normal range Early death is almost expected for those who are famous perhaps as a precautionary tale of excess and as a further warning7. In contrast, Cross quotes the intent of the Astrological Lodge of London for explaining the statistical spike of the 27 Club. The members of this astrological group maintain that it is all about the stars: Saturn returns in astrological terms every 28 years marking a life transition. Saturns return marks the end of youth and the

5 6

Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit, p.1. Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.3. 7 Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.3.

beginning of maturity. However, there is no statistical increase of death at 27 among the general population, just famous musicians 8, the author seems to say ironically. In the other hand, Adrian Barnett, a scientist from Queensland University of Technology in Australia, concludes that the age is unlikely to have been the cause of the demise of these artists. According to a research to test the 27 club hypothesis, Barnett compared the mortality of famous musicians with that of the UK population. He included 1046 musicians (solo artists and band members of different musical genre) who had a number one album in the UK charts between 1956 and 2007. During this period 71 of the musicians died, which represents the 7 % of the sample. For the test, Barnett and his colleagues used mathematical analysis to determine the significance of age 27. They found no peak in the risk of death at this age, however musicians in their 20s and 30s were two to three times more likely to die prematurely than the general UK population. One of the evidences founded in this research is that there where no deaths in this age group in the late 1980s. Barnett speculates that this could be due to better treatments for heroin overdose, or the change in the music scene from the hard rock in the 1970s to the pop dominated in the 1980s9. At the end of the research, Barnett said that the 27 club is based on myth, but warned that musicians have a generally increased risk of dying throughout their 20s and 30s () this finding should be of international concern, as musicians contribute greatly to populations quality of life, so there is immense value in keeping them alive (and working) as long as possible10. In general, this information can help us to understand that apparently there is no connection between the age and pre-natural death in an artist. In fact, Cross reminded us that several musicians were very superstitious about death. For example, Jimmy Hendrix believed in astrological designs. According to the article, the guitarist predicted his own accidental death at 27. Hendrix, who was born in Harborview Hospital on Nov. 27, suggested in several conversations that he would die at 27. Just days before his death, he told one interviewer: Im not sure I will live to be 28 years

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Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.3. Adrian Barnett, Is 27 really a dangerous age for famous musicians? A retrospective cohort study, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 10 Adrian Barnett, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 23 April 2012].

old11. Also, in a Tarot session, when the Death card was drawn, says Cross, Hendrix acted as if he had been given a diagnosis of cancer (and) began to act like a condemned man12. In another example, Brian Jones was apparently very pessimist about his life. It is reported that he said in an early stage of his career that he did not believe he would live beyond the age of twenty-seven13; Kurt Cobain also was known for his studies about the legendary lifestyle of rockstars of the seventies. He was under the mistake impression that these artists had all taken their own lives: I want to be rich and famous and kill myself like Jimmy Hendrix14 he told a friend in high school years, and even he liked to watch a video that showed a Pennsylvania state official shooting himself in the head on live television15, according to Cross. The other artists were not far away from issues related to death: Jim Morrison sang this is the end, my friend/The end of nights we tried to die16; Janis Joplin felt All caught up in a landslide, bad luck/ pressing in from all sides/ Just got knocked off of my easy ride/ Buried alive in the blues17; and Amy Winehouse just simply refuse to go to rehab although she knew that she will fall in drugs again.

The musical contributions The anecdotes referenced above help us to explain some parts of the behavior of the artists. Although the theme is vast, I will focus in the musical contributions of these great performers. At the end, these are the main reasons and motivations of The 27 Club.

Robert Johnson: the seed Although some researchers place the Brazilian composer, pianist and conductor Alexander Levy as the first member of The 27 Club, the crown seems to belong to
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Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.3. Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.3. 13 John Etherington, The Club of 27. Brian Jones,, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 14 Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.2. 15 Charles R. Cross, Op. Cit., p.2. 16 The Doors, The End, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 17 Janis Joplin, Buried alive in the blues, [Consulted in 23 April 2012].

bluesman Robert Johnson. The guitarist is known for been related to a legend that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for his talent18. He was born in Hazlehurst in 1911. During his life he composed only 29 songs. He died in 1938, apparently succumbing to pneumonia after drinking whiskey that had been spiked with strychnine by the jealous husband of an illicit lover19. Actually it is considered that his music legacy has entranced later generations of rock and blues musicians such as the Rolling Stones and Led Zepellin. Fans and experts alike call him the grandfather of rock and roll20.

Brian Jones Brian Jones was born on February 28, 1942, and was a founder member of the Rolling Stones in the early sixties with childhood friends Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Jones was known for his tenacity that drove the Stones to the forefront of a music rebellion and because he was able to contribute enduring musical masterpieces with instruments ignored in contemporary music up until that time. Experts said that he was truly gifted (and) was able to pick up just about any instrument and learn how to play it in just a few hours time; besides, his brilliant sitar performance on Paint It Black is heralded as one of his best21. On July 2, 1969, Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool. The police reported as death by misadventure a.k. drowning, but in 1993 was reported that he was murdered by Frank Thorogood. Despite the testimonials and evidence, the police refuse to reopen the case.

Jimmy Hendrix His real name was Johnny Allen Hendrix and he was born in November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. The staff at the music magazine Rolling Stone gived him the number one position in a polemic edition called 100 greatest guitarists. Pete Townshend wrote a profile for the special edition that was published in 2003. For

Andrew Buncombe, The grandfather of rocknroll: The devils instrument, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 19 Andrew Buncombe, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 20 Andrew Buncombe, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 21 Dawn Simonds and Lee Simonds, Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, [Consulted in 23 April 2012].

Townshend, the performance of Hendrix was fucking loud but also incredibly lyrical and expert. He managed to build this bridge between true blues guitar () and modern sounds, the kind of Syd Barret-meets-Townshend sound, the wall of screaming guitar sound that U2 popularized22. Also, Hendrix was supported by visual magic that obviously you wont get if you just listen to the music. He died in September 18, 1970, in London. The doctors said that he had a considerable amount of alcohol in his pharynx and larynx (red wine), despite suction, and it was obvious that he had drowned in his own gastric contents23.

The Pearl Janis Joplin Janis Lyn Joplin was born in January 19, 1943, in Port Arthur, Texas. Her most memorable tracks are Piece of my heart, Cry Baby and Me and Bobby McGee. As Hendrix, Joplin was included in another polemical special edition called 100 Greatest Singers of all time provided by the Rolling Stone magazine. Joplin was in 28 position and in first place was Aretha Franklin. For rock singer Melissa Etheridge, the Pearl represented an entirely different approach for female vocalists: wild and uninhibited yet still focused and deliberate. Her performance was more about passionate abandon and nuanced phrasing than perfect pitch24. In Etheridge opinion, Joplin was trying to sound like an old black woman25. She died on October 4, 1970, in Los Angeles, of an accidental overdose of heroine and alcohol26.

Jim Morrison James Douglas Morrison was born on December 8, 1943, in Melbourn, Florida. One important fact is that he was influenced by the poetry of William Blake and the writings of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Even the name of his band, The Doors, was taken from The Doors of Perception, a book written by Aldous Huxley on mescaline. For

Pete Townshend, The 100 greatest guitarists of all time, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 23 Tony Brown, excerpt from the book Hendrix: The Final Days, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 24 Melissa Etheridge, 100 Greatest Singers of all time, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. 25 Melissa Etheridge, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 26 Richard B. Hughes, Joplin, Janis Lyn, [Consulted in 24 April 2012].

the biographer Steve Huey, Morrison lyrics were based on image-rich poeticism () perfectly supported by the Doors swirling, eclectic psychodelic rock. Also, his work was very complex because he saw expansion of consciousness as a way of gaining access to the subconscious minds dark, unacknowledged desires; his rampaging personality dominated his songs with lust for violence, sex, alcohol, drugs, selfdestruction, anything forbidden for any reason by the authority of conservative middle America27. At the end, his best material remains some of the most original and visionary rock music ever recorded28. Alone in Paris and without the support of his bandmates, Morrison spiraled irrevocably out of control, and he was found dead in his bathtub on July 3, 1971, the victim of an apparent heart attack29.

Kurt Cobain Kurt Donald Cobain was born on February 20, 1967, in Hoquiam, Washington. He came from a musical family and began singing and playing piano. Later, he gravitated to the music of bands ranging from the Beatles to the Ramones. In a review of the Rolling Stone magazine, Cobain is considered the most important artist of the Nineties even though he lived for less than half of the decade 30. In 1991, when his musical group Nirvana presented the iconic song Smells Like Teen Spirit, Cobain became the face and enduring icon of alternative rock because of his musical genius that brought punk rock into the mainstream and a pop craftsman with a gift for setting simple melodies to noisy feedback and distortion. About his lyrics, the singer deled with the thorny discomfort of growing up and railed about his inner demons. Like Bob Dylan, he hated the notion of being dubbed the voice of a generation in Cobains case, Generation X but got it anyway31. The same article refers that Nirvanas singer fell in coma for 20 hours in March 1994 on a tour in Europe. He returned to Seattle and, finally, his body was found on April 8 with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head.


Steve Huey, Jim Morrison, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 28 Steve Huey, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 29 Steve Huey, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 30 Rolling Stone Magazine, Artists, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 31 Rolling Stone Magazine, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 24 April 2012].

Amy Winehouse Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983, in the Southgate area of North London. Besides her addictions, she was known for confessional songwriting and expressive contralto32 voice that makes her one of the most representative british singers during the 2000s. Also, her 2006 album Back to Black led to six Grammy Award nominations and five awards, breaking the record for most wins by a female artist in a single night. This acknowledge make Winehouse the first British female to win five Grammys. In 2012, Winehouse was listed at number 26 on VH1s 100 Greatest Women in Music where the first place was given to Madonna33. She was known worldwide for her distinctively soulful and jazzy vocals and her songwriting was described as deeply personal but best known for its profanity and brutal candor34. At her final days, Winehouse was found dead in her London apartment on July 23, 2011. The report, delivered three months later, revealed that her blood alcohol content (such as vodka) had reached a potentially fatal level35.

A personal conclusion Due to the popularity of the artists and musical contributions, besides the influence given to the musicians who followed, The 27 Club is far from been forgotten. Leaving aside the excesses the most important is their music and perhaps the way they represented a determined era. The lives of Johnson, Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain and Winehouse maybe can be appreciated as examples of the effect of fortune or misfortune, depending on the observer, but what nobody can deny is that they live the way they wanted, singing or playing an instrument, and gave the world a few years of intense and pure rock and roll.


Gillian Reagan, Amy Winehouse: The next tragic talent?, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 33 Mark Graham, VH1s 100 Greatest Women in Music, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 34 Rovi Cyril Cordor, Amy Winehouse, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. 35 Rovi Cyril Cordor, Op. Cit., [Consulted in 24 April 2012].

BARNETT, Adrian, Is 27 really a dangerous age for famous musicians? A retrospective cohort study, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. BROWN, Tony, excerpt from the book Hendrix: The Final Days, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. BUNCOMBE, Andrew, The grandfather of rocknroll: The devils instrument, [Consulted in 23 April 2012].

CORDOR, Rovi Cyril, Amy Winehouse, [Consulted in 24 April 2012].

CROSS, Charles R., Only the good die Young,, p.1 [Consulted in 22 April 2012]. ETHERIDGE, Melissa, 100 Greatest Singers of all time, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. ETHERINGTON, John, The Club of 27. Brian Jones,, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. GRAHAM, Mark, VH1s 100 Greatest Women in Music, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. HUEY, Steve, Jim Morrison, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. HUGHES, Richard B., Joplin, Janis Lyn, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. JOPLIN, Janis, Buried alive in the blues, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. PHILLIPS, Simon, The 27 Club. Infographic,, [Consulted in 22 April 2012]. SIMONDS, Dawn and Lee Simonds, Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. The Doors, The End, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. TOWNSHEND, Pete, The 100 greatest guitarists of all time, [Consulted in 23 April 2012]. REAGAN, Gillian, Amy Winehouse: The next tragic talent?, [Consulted in 24 April 2012]. Rolling Stone Magazine, Artists, [Consulted in 24 April 2012].