Stairway to heaven

The 27 Club is something nobody wants to be a part of. Yet it has long been a phenomenon that continues to spark theories
Words Yvonne Jacob

Call it a fad or just a sorry coincidence, the 27 Club sure has some famous members in it.Rumoured to have started with the demise of legendary American blues singer Robert Leroy Johnson who passed away at the age of 27, the club is all about musicians who passed away when they were 27. The term “27 Club” became widely famous after the passing of Kurt Cobain which led people to conspire theories around the doomed age where other artists like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and others too lost their lives. Here are some musicians who are, in a way, connected to the unfortunate club.



September 14, 1983 - July 23, 2011

Amy Jade Winehouse was a famous singer and songwriter who gave us a number of hits like Back to Black, Love is a Losing Game, Stronger than Me and many more. She was known for her deep and expressive vocals and also her varied mix of musical genres. Winehouse had a huge fanbase who adored her for her tragic music. The paparazzi loved the rise of her career and, unfortunately, her lows too. Towards the end of Winehouse’s career, she had developed a serious drug and alcohol addiction which came as a huge blow to her career. On 23 July, Winehouse was found dead at her home in Camden. Her demise at the age of 27 refuelled the suspicion surrounding the controversial club.



January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970

American rock, soul and blues singer-songwriter, Janis Lyn Joplin was one amongst the most widely known rock stars of that era. Joplin rose to fame after her appearance at Monterey Pop Festival, where she was the lead singer of the rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. Joplin gave us hit songs like Mercedes Benz and covers of the songs Piece of My Heart, Cry Baby and many more. Joplin passed away from an accidental heroin overdose in 1970, at the age of 27. Five of her singles had reached the Billboard Hot 100 and she was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the year 1995.



December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971

Eerily enough, adding to the list of legendary Rock and Roll artists was the lead vocalist of the rock band Doors, Jim Douglas Morrison. Morrison had co-founded the band along with Ray Manzarek in 1965. The band went on to produce hits starting from Light My Fire which belonged to their self-titled debut album. Morrison recorded six studio albums and the band also went on to release two more albums post Morrison’s demise on July 3, 1971. While the cause of Morrison’s death is uncertain, sources claim that he passed away owing to a heart failure which may or may not have been brought on by his alcohol dependency.



November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dubbed him as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” and he is also known as the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century whose influence is still very relevant in the music industry and among fans. James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix’s mainstream career lasted for roughly four years during which he earned three UK top ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, and “The Wind cries Mary”. He was also known to be the world’s highest-paid performer. His final studio album Electric Ladyland reached number one in the US in 1968. On September 18, 1970, he passed away due to barbiturate-related asphyxia, at the age of 27.



February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

Widely renowned as the guitarist and frontman of the rock band Nirvana, Kurt Donald Cobain was another influential rock musician in the history of alternative music. Nirvana, along with Kurt Cobain during his active years, delivered numerous hits, one of the most popular ones being Smells like Teen Spirit. During the last years of his life, he struggled with heroin addiction and chronic health problems like depression. Cobain was found dead at his home at the age of 27 due to a self-inflicted shotgun wound to his head, according to police investigations. In an interview with a local newspaper, Cobain’s mother quoted, “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.”



28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969

Founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones, Lewis Brian Hopkins Jones was a gifted musician who would experiment with a variety of instruments like the sitar, piano, etc for his recordings and in concerts. Jones, along with fellow guitarist Keith Richards, developed a unique style of guitar play that was referred to as the “ancient art of weaving” where both players would play rhythm and lead parts together. In 1969, the Rolling Stones asked Jones to leave as his alcohol and drug problems skyrocketed gradually. Jones died less than a month later, in the swimming pool at his home, at the age of 27.



May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938

Robert Leroy Johnson was an American blues singer, songwriter and musician. Very little is known about the musician except from his landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937. Due to improper documentation of his life and death, a lot of conspiracy theories have given rise to his legend. Johnson died on August 16, 1938, aged 27, of unknown causes. While his demise wasn’t reported publicly, he was assumed to have disappeared from the historical records. It wasn’t found until nearly 30 years later when a musicologist found Johnson’s death certificate that listed only the date and location.