The 27 Club

The 27 Club

Here’s a fascinating thing that makes the rounds every now and then: the “27 Club,” a group of musicians who, over the decades and for varying reasons, have died at the age of 27. And yes, lots of web sites have already done this, there’s even a book about it, but we haven’t really looked at it here on the KMA yet, so I thought we could generate some discussion…

Personally, I doubt there’s some sort of conspiracy or special significance to the number itself (death comes for us all, eventually), so I’d call it all coincidence. But the number of people, many of them very famous, who died at that specific age could lead some to believe that there’s something afoot (if they’re so minded).

It’s been posited that all of the people on this list had some sort of troubled childhood, and many had drug problems. Fair enough, but what about all of those who had similar circumstances who died at 26, or 28, or even 45 years old, then? Perhaps, in the interests of science, I should have done some research to see if I could compile a similar list of people who died at, say, age 31… Also, some of the causes of death listed here are contested (Cobain, for example). I’ve just given the officially listed causes and left the theories and controversies to those so inclined.

What do you think? Is there any significance to the 27 Club? Drop us a comment!

27 Musicians Who Died At 27:

1938 – Robert Johnson (blues musician) poisoning – strychnine

1945 – Nat Jaffe (jazz pianist) high blood pressure complications

1960 – Jesse Belvin (r&b singer) traffic collision – car

1964 – Joe Henderson (soul singer) heart attack 

1964 – Rudy Lewis (Drifters) drug overdose

1969 – Brian Jones (Rolling Stones) drowning, or “death by misadventure”

1969 – Dickie Pride (pop singer) drug overdose

1970 – Janis Joplin (rock/blues vocalist) drug overdose

1970 – Jimi Hendrix (guitarist) asphyxiation

1970 – Alan Wilson (Canned Heat) drug overdose

1971 – Jim Morrison (The Doors) heart failure

1972 – Leslie Harvey (Stone The Crows) electrocuted

1972 – Linda Jones (soul singer) diabetes

1973 – Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan (Grateful Dead) gastrointestinal hemorrhage 

1975 – Dave Alexander (The Stooges) pulmonary edema

1975 – Pete Ham (Badfinger) suicide, by hanging

1975 – Gary Thain (Uriah Heep, Keef Hartley band) drug overdose

1978 – Chris Bell (Big Star) traffic collision – car 

1985 – D. Boon (Minutemen) traffic collision – van

1988 – Jean-Michel Basquiat (painter, graffiti artist, Gray) drug overdose

1989 – Pete de Freitas (Echo & The Bunnymen) traffic collision – motorcycle

1993 – Mia Zapata (Gits) murdered

1994 – Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) suicide, by gunshot

1994 – Kristen Pfaff (Hole, Janitor Joe) drug overdose

2000 – Sean McCabe (Ink & Dagger) asphyxiation

2003 – Jeremy Michael Ward (Mars Volta) drug overdose

2011 – Amy Winehouse (vocalist) poisoning, alcohol


1995 – Richey Edwards  (Manic Street Preachers) disappeared, presumed dead by suicide 2008

27 club


Posted on March 28, 2015, in posts by aaron. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Some talented artists gone too soon – as morbid as it is, I’d be keen to read on the KMA about if there’s another significant age!


  2. Humans have always searched for patterns in chaos. We see figures in the stars. We see faces on Mars. We see conspiracy where there is only incompetence or tragedy.

    That’s my opinion anyway, and I’m a conspiracy theorist I might add!

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dude, this was almost a poem! Lemme help you finish it…

      “Humans have always searched for patterns in chaos. We see figures in the stars. We see faces on Mars. We see conspiracy where there is only incompetence or tragedy…” ESPECIALLY MORONS DRIVING IN CARS.

      I know you’re a big conspiracy/mystery thinker guy, so I figured this post would interest you! Like I said to Geoff, I dunno if there’s anything to it. And apparently I’m gonna go see if there’s a 32 Club, or whatever! haha

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I echo Mikey’s comments! Great post! That Ritchie Edwards one is crazy! Gone and no one knows what went really down….


    • Thanks Deke! I’d heard about this years ago (we all did, surely, it comes up now and again). But I thought it would be a really neat idea for a post just to see what everyone else thought!

      And yeah, that Edwards thing is strange. I’m waiting for Mr. 1537 to chime in, see what he thinks. He’s a big MSP fan!


  4. Good post and subject to tackle, Aaron – regardless of how often it’s been wrote about before.

    I’ve often rolled my eyes at the suggestion of the ’27 club’ myself. I think it became a thing due to Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Hendrix and Jim Morrison all passing at such a young age in such a short period of time. The tragedy of bright stars passing so young giving media, etc. a chance to focus on there being some sorta connection, rather than it all just being what it was – essentially misadventure and tragedy. Obviously Cobain’s passing many, many moons later meant that the whole notion of this club could be reassessed.

    I’m with Stephen in wondering whether there’s another significant age.


    • Thanks J.! I’m with you, it was likely just coincidence (and a chance to sell papers). Of course, people can see conspiracies everywhere, so something like this was bound to happen.


  5. I love these. I like to read about conspiracy theories even though I often don’t ascribe to them (9/11 for example). I think the fact they were 27 is only a coincidence. I’m sure if you dug down you’d find several who died at 39. Great post, Aaron!


  6. Phillip Helbig

    Once the idea is around, if someone dies at 27 people will mention it, if they don’t, they might not, so it tends to feed on itself. This can happen even if the original claim is provably false, such as “more babies are born at full moon”. (This is easily shown to be false. We know when full moon is, and one can get statistics of how many people were born on a certain day.)

    I haven’t checked whether 27 is statistically significant. However, it might be, and there might be a reason: By this age, the rock star has become wealthy enough to (directly or indirectly) kill himself—because he has enough money to buy drugs, because he is rich enough to get involved in things he shouldn’t, etc. Younger and the money is not there and/or they are still working. If the haven’t died by 27, they probably know how to avoid it.

    Cobain’s name reminded me of how Ian Anderson referred to him in an interview: “That chap who died who did something with a cello on MTV”. 🙂


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