The Famous 27 Club is the name given to a group of musicians/artists who have tragically died at the young age of 27. They were some of the most talented and influential artists of their generation. In their short lives each one had made a huge influence on the music world. Unfortunately many of these artists had led hard- partying lifestyles full of drug and alcohol abuse. Some had emotional problems as well. Another frequently used name for the group is “The Forever 27” club.
This list is not complete by a long shot but I have included some of the more famous musicians.
No One Gets Out Of Here Alive
Jim Morrison lead singer and songwriter of the Doors. After struggling with drugs and alcohol for some time. Morrison died of a presumed heart attack on July 3rd 1971 in Paris. Much speculation has surrounded his death reportedly he died of heart failure in a bathtub in his apartment.
An autopsy was never performed because police did not suspect foul play, which has led to many speculations and a string of conspiracy theories about the cause of his death. One of the most popular theories as to his cause of death was that he accidentally snorted some of girlfriend Pam Coursen’s heroin, having mistaken it for cocaine and died from accidental ingestion. Some say that Pam Coursen had lied to the police to cover up her own drug habit. She had him buried a few days later in a Paris cemetery.
An ironic twist to add to the Morrison mystique. Pamela Coursen died three years after Jim Morrison at the age of 27.
A Woman Left Lonely
Janis Joplin was a singer/songwriter and 60s icon. One of the first true female superstars. Died of a heroin overdose on Oct 4, 1970 Legendary singer/songwriter who started with the psychedelic-acid rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company and later as a solo act with her own backing groups. Janis had a history of alcohol and drug usage as did many artists had during that time period.
Before she died she had been off heroin for about 6 months. She had been recording sessions with her producer and one day after they finished the recording session she told her producer she would return in the morning to finish her vocals. She did not show up the next day for recording and was subsequently found dead in her hotel room.
It was reported that Janis, who enjoyed drinking, had said that drinking alcohol had affected her voice so about two weeks prior to her death she had resumed heroin consumption.
Turn On Your Lovelight
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, founding member and original keyboardist of the Grateful Dead. Died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage, associated with alcohol, on Mar 8, 1973,. Pigpen was considered by many to be the heart and soul of the Grateful Dead. His love of blues was a driving force during the band’s early years.
His nickname came from what was called his “funky approach to life and sanitation”. The band eventually immersed themselves into the LSD culture but Pigpen was not a fan as he preferred his trips be alcohol centered. When the band’s second album was released most traces of traditional blues had been replaced under their hallucinatory influences. Musically the band was changing and they added a second drummer and keyboardist which resulted in a diminished role for Pigpen. In spite of this conflict he still made his presence known during their live performances. His lead vocal on “Turn On Your Lovelight” was always a signature highlight of their live shows.
Pigpen’s health took a turn for the worse in 1970. It was bad enough that the doctors told him he needed to quit touring, which he did until late 1971. But, soon his health got worse and he quit touring again after the Bands 1972 European tour. He made his final appearance with the band at the Hollywood Bowl in Jun of 72. His love of the blues was only equaled by his love of alcohol. After years of hard living it finally caught up with him on March 8, 1973, when he died of internal hemorrhaging caused by years of excessive drinking.
Purple Haze, All In My Brain
Jimi Hendrix was a legendary guitarist and songwriter for the Jimi Hendrix Experience & Band of Gypsys, died from asphyxiation as a result of wine and sleeping pills (choked on his own vomit) on Sep 18, 1970
Like so many other members of the “27 club” the circumstances surrounding the death of Jimi Hendrix remain rather mysterious and still a matter of debate. One theory says that Hendrix’s death was a result of a government conspiracy involving his girlfriend Monika Dannemann. Other explanations include he committed suicide or simply asphyxiated after overdosing on barbiturates.
One thing we know for sure is that Jimi Hendrix was a longtime recreational drug user in spite of the fact that he died at such a young age.
Here is the official version of his death: After a night of partying with friends Hendrix was met by his girlfriend, German figure skater Monika Dannemann, whom he had been dating for some time. They arrived at her apartment where they spent the remainder of the evening together. Hendrix had already consumed a good bit of wine and in addition to that he also took some of his girlfriend’s sleeping pills. She said he had taken 9 tablets which was far more than what would be a prescribed dose.
The next morning his girlfriend awoke and left the apartment to run to the store and when she returned around 10am she found him unresponsive and covered in vomit. She called one of Jimi’s friends who advised her to call an ambulance. The medics arrived to find him dead at the scene and the autopsy concluded that he died of asphyxiation sometime shortly after midnight.
Conflict: As you can see from the findings above and his girlfriend’s story that their is a bit of confliction. If he died shortly after midnight why did she not see the vomit on him prior to leaving for the store. In spite of the official findings, many believe his death happened differently. His girlfriend’s story has changed from telling to telling but according to her Hendrix was sleeping when she left to go to the store. When she returned she found him having trouble breathing and according to her Hendrix was alive when he was placed in the ambulance.
There are other theories about Jimi Hendrix’s death including that he was murdered by his girlfriend but the fact remains Jimi Hendrix died and we will probably never know anything other than what the official findings have already said. If you are interested in some of the other theories I suggest a google search on his death and you can find lots more to read.
Up Jumped The Devil
Robert Johnson was a pioneering blues musician and guitarist. Some said he had sold his soul to the devil in order to become a guitar virtuoso. In his short career he had recorded 29 songs the most famous being “Crossroads Blues” later covered by the 60s super group Cream and many other groups over the years. Most likely died of possible strychnine poisoning on August 16, 1938, after receiving whiskey that was probably tampered with in a Greenwood, MS bar.
Some have said he was given the tainted drink perhaps by a jealous husband or girlfriend. His music has influenced many blues musicians over the decades. He is widely considered the first member of the ’27 club.
Pete Ham. Keyboardist and guitarist of the British band Badfinger. Ham committed suicide on April 24, 1975, when he became depressed while EMBROILED in band-related issues involving label and manager problems, as well as lack of money. Warner Bros record company sued Badginger’s business manager, Stan Polley, after an advance had vanished, and when Polley vanished as well, the band was left penniless. Believing he had been wiped out, Ham hanged himself in his garage. He left a suicide note telling his pregnant wife and her son that he loved them.
In an ironic twist of fate in 1983 two of the remaining band members, Joey Molland and Tom Evans had set up rival Badfinger bands. Evans, who had been Ham’s writing partner, suffered more mismanagement and was hit with $5 million dollar lawsuit. After a bitter argument with Molland over royalties for “Without You” Evans put down the phone and went to the garage and hanged himself. Many had said he had never gotten over Ham’s death
Dave Alexander bassist for legendary punk band the Stooges. Died of Pulmonary edema associated with alcohol on February 10, 1975. He had been fired from the band a few years earlier for showing up for a concert too drunk to play and he continued his downward spiral before dying a few years later.
Richey Edwards. Founding member and lyricist for the Manic Street Preachers. He disappeared and was presumed dead from suicide on Feb 1, 1995
Paint It Black
Brian Jones. Founding member and guitarist of the Rolling Stones. Died from drowning in a swimming pool one month after being kicked out of the band on July 3, 1969 after developing a drug problem. Shortly after he died other theories as to the cause of his death arose and some associates of the Rolling Stones claimed to have information that he was murdered.
No theory has been proven. The official cause of death was listed as a drowning “death by misadventure”.
Below is a YouTube video of Rolling Stones Tribute to Brian Jones with two unreleased songs.
Don’t Forget To Boogie
Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, singer/songwriter and co-founder of Canned Heat.
I found this tribute page to Alan Wilson that tells his story far better than I could so I will link to it HERE. It will open in a new window.
Kristen Pfaff. Bassist for Hole. Died of a heroin overdose on June 16, 1994
Kurt Cobain. Singer and songwriter for Nirvana and grunge icon. Death by suicide (gun shot) on April 5, 1994
Any Winehouse. Singer and famous for the song “Rehab”, was found deceased in bed at her London home from accidental alcohol poisoning. She had a long troubled history of drug and alcohol problems.
Newest member Kim Jong-hyun. K-pop singer and front man of South Korean group SHINee, died after being found unconscious in a hotel room. While no cause has been announced, it is speculated he may have died from suicide.
This list and their stories has been compiled from various websites and blogs and is no where complete or conclusive. I am still researching some members of the Famous 27 club and will be adding to this page as I complete my research.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts below.
Perhaps you were fortunate to attend a concert by someone on this list. If so I’d love to hear your story.
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