Club 27

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With the death of the Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain (right), Club 27 became famous

As a 27 club , and Club 27 or 27 Club in inconsistent demarcation a number of well-known musicians is called, who died at the age of 27 years. Rock and blues musicians in particular are counted as members .

It began with the death of Brian Jones († 1969), who became the first "member" of the club. In the early 1970s, the musicians Jimi Hendrix († 1970), Janis Joplin († 1970) and Jim Morrison († 1971) died. After the suicide of Kurt Cobain († 1994), the concept of "Klub 27" became well known. Since the death of Cobain, the “club” has been quoted again and again in dozens of music magazines and specialist journals as well as in the daily press. With the death of the singer Amy Winehouse († 2011), the "Klub 27" gained renewed attention. Other musicians are also occasionally added, for example Robert Johnson († 1938).

In the broadest sense, the club also includes other notable artists who died at that age; however, these do not count as "main members".

Several exhibitions have already been dedicated to the club, and in addition to the sale of merchandising products, novels, films and plays have also taken up the topic. Various theories and speculations entwine around the causes of early death and possible connections. Other sources refer to an accumulation of musician's deaths at the age of 27 as a myth, based on selective perception .

Concept formation

Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died between 1969 and 1971, and also within a period of exactly two years due to the days of death of Jones (July 3, 1969) and Morrison (July 3, 1971). But in the general public no connection was made between the common age of death. The connection was noticed every now and then, but remained more of a side note. It was only with the death of Kurt Cobain, almost two and a half decades after the others, that the idea of Club 27 spread to the public. The Hendrix and Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross makes the growing importance of the media - namely the Internet , television and magazines - and an interview response from Cobain's mother jointly responsible for this. This had told a reporter for the Aberdeen newspaper The Daily World :

“Now he's gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club. "

“Now he's left us and joined this stupid club. I told him not to join this stupid club. "

- Wendy Fradenburg Cobain O'Connor : Interview, quoted from: Heavier Than Heaven

Cross suspects that she was referring to Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison's common age of death, other authors share his view. In contrast, Josh Hunter and Eric Segalstad, authors of a non-fiction book on the "27ers", assume that Cobain's mother was referring to a tragic excerpt from the family history: Two uncles and one great-uncle of Kurt had all died by suicide.

The quote was published in the April 18, 1994 issue of Newsweek , distributed worldwide by the Associated Press , discussed by radio DJs , and echoed on internet forums and later on blogs . Theories developed here such as that Cobain deliberately chose to commit suicide at the age of 27 in order to be able to join the club.

Musicians of "Klub 27"

The "Klub 27" has not experienced a generally accepted definition since Cobain's death, so that different views exist as to who is among its members. Before Winehouse's death, the five other aforementioned musicians were usually mentioned, for example in articles in the daily newspapers Hamburger Abendblatt , Rheinische Post and The Daily Telegraph , the news magazine Focus or websites such as MSN , and UpVenue . Variations of this group have - to the exclusion of Jones - only four members or take on additional members , for example with Robert Johnson .

According to an alternative approach, all known musicians who died at the age of 27 are included. This age of death should especially common among successful musicians to various sources, but this is under investigation highly controversial.

Musicians who are usually counted as "Club 27"

The following six musicians are always or mostly referred to as members:

photo Surname Date of death Age Official cause of death Role in music
Brian-jones-1965.jpg Brian Jones 03rd July 1969 27 years and
125 days
drowned in a swimming pool,
exact circumstances of death have not been established
Founding member of the Rolling Stones , guitarist and multi-instrumentalist
Jimi Hendrix 1967-cropped waist.png Jimi Hendrix September 18, 1970 27 years and
295 days
choked on vomit
after an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills
Rock guitarist, singer and songwriter
Janis Joplin in 1969 (cropped) .png Janis Joplin 04th October 1970 27 years and
258 days
Heroin overdose Lead singer and songwriter for several rock and blues bands
Jim Morrison (1970) .jpg Jim Morrison 03rd July 1971 27 years and
207 days
Heart failure,
exact circumstances of death have not been established
Singer, songwriter and video director for The Doors
Nirvana around 1992.jpg Kurt Cobain 0April 5, 1994 27 years and
044 days
Heroin-influenced suicide with a gun Singer, songwriter and guitarist from Nirvana
AmyWinehouseBerlin2007.jpg Amy Winehouse July 23, 2011 27 years and
312 days
Alcohol poisoning Soul singer and songwriter

More musicians who died at the age of 27

The list below provides an overview of a number of musicians who died at the age of 27 and were counted as Club 27 by various sources.

Surname Date of death Official cause of death Role in music
Alexandre Levy January 17, 1892 unknown Composer, pianist and conductor
Louis Chauvin March 26, 1908 syphilis Ragtime pianist and composer
Robert Johnson August 16, 1938 unexplained Blues musician
Nat Jaffe 0August 5, 1945 high blood pressure Swing pianist
Jesse Belvin 0February 6, 1960 traffic accident R&B singer, pianist and songwriter
Doug Watkins 05th February 1962 traffic accident Hardbop bassist, founding member of the Jazz Messengers
Rudy Lewis May 20, 1964 unexplained , possibly drug overdose Member of the R&B band The Drifters
Joe Henderson October 24, 1964 Heart attack Gospel singer
Malcolm Hale October 30, 1968 Carbon monoxide intoxication from defective gas oven Member of the folk - pop group Spanky and Our Gang
Alexandra July 31, 1969 traffic accident Schlager and chanson singer, guitarist and composer
Alan Wilson 03rd September 1970 Barbiturate overdose Founding member of the blues rock band Canned Heat
Arlester "Dyke" Christian March 13, 1971 shot Member of the funk band Dyke & the Blazers
Linda Jones March 14, 1972 diabetes Soul singer
Leslie Harvey 0May 3, 1972 Electric shock from the microphone Member of the blues rock band Stone the Crows
Ron McKernan 0March 8, 1973 Gastrointestinal bleeding Founding member of the rock band Grateful Dead
Roger Lee Durham July 27, 1973 Riding accident Member of the radio band Bloodstone
Wallace Yohn August 12, 1974 Plane crash Member of the rock band Chase
Dave Alexander February 10, 1975 Pulmonary edema as a result of alcohol abuse Bass player for the rock band The Stooges
Pete Ham April 23, 1975 suicide Member of the rock band Badfinger
Gary Thain 08th December 1975 Drug overdose Member of the hard rock band Uriah Heep
Helmut Köllen 0May 3, 1977 Carbon monoxide poisoning from running car engine Member of the rock band Triumvirate
Debbie Weems February 22, 1978 Drug overdose, likely suicide Actress and singer in the children's show Captain Kangaroo
Chris Bell December 27, 1978 traffic accident Singer, guitarist and songwriter for the rock 'n' roll band Big Star
Jacob Miller March 23, 1980 traffic accident Lead singer of the reggae band Inner Circle
D. Boon December 22, 1985 traffic accident Lead singer and guitarist of the punk rock band Minutemen
Alexander Bashlatov 17th February 1988 Fall out of the window, unexplained, possibly suicide influential representative of Russian rock music
Pete de Freitas June 14, 1989 traffic accident Drummer for the rock band Echo & the Bunnymen
Mia Zapata 0July 7, 1993 strangled Lead singer of the punk rock band The Gits
Kristen Pfaff June 16, 1994 Drug overdose Bass player of the grunge band Hole
Randy Walker November 30, 1995 shot Rapper known as "Stretch"
Patrick "Fat Pat" Hawkins 0February 3, 1998 shot rapper
Freaky Tah March 28, 1999 shot Rapper with the hip-hop group The Lost Boyz
Sean McCabe August 28, 2000 choked on vomit after an alcohol overdose Member of the punk band Ink & Dagger
Rodrigo Alejandro Bueno June 24, 2000 traffic accident Argentine cuarteto singer
Maria Serrano Serrano November 24, 2001 Plane crash Member of the pop group Passion Fruit
Jeremy Ward May 25, 2003 Drug overdose Member of the rock band The Mars Volta
Bryan Ottoson April 19, 2005 Drug overdose Guitarist of the metal band American Head Charge
Valentín Elizalde November 25, 2006 shot mexican singer
Damien Morris December 19, 2007 traffic accident Lead singer of the Australian death metal band The Red Shore
Orish Grinstead April 20, 2008 Cancer and other diseases Soul singer and founding member of the band 702
Elizabeth Amirian February 12, 2009 raped and murdered by her fiancé Singer-songwriter
Lily Tembo September 14, 2009 gastritis Zambian singer and radio host
Nate niec 0October 6, 2009 Motorcycle accident Bass player in the punk bands No Holds Barred and Das Maniacs, among others
Richard Turner August 11, 2011 Swimming accident British jazz trumpeter
Nicole Bogner 5th January 2012 illness Austrian former singer of the symphonic metal band Visions of Atlantis
Kim Jong-hyun 18th December 2017 Suicide by carbon monoxide intoxication South Korean singer of the K-pop band SHINee
Fredo Santana 19th January 2018 Cirrhosis of the liver from drug abuse american rapper
Samson Wieland November 9, 2018 unknown Member of the hip-hop duo SAM and songwriter for Matthias Schweighöfer
Ron McKernan was found dead on March 8, 1973. Various sources date death to the days before.

Other musicians from Club 27 who died at a different or uncertain age

According to various sources, Frederick Heath, better known under the pseudonym "Johnny Kidd", front man of the rock 'n' roll band Johnny Kidd & the Pirates , is counted to the wider circle of Club 27. However, Heath died in a traffic accident on October 7, 1966, almost three months before his 27th birthday. According to other sources, Heath had reached the age of 30 by the time he died.

Rolling Stone music magazine published a list that also included Don Drummond of The Skatalites , singer-songwriter Tim Buckley and Pennywise bassist Jason Thirsk . However, none of them died at the age of 27: Drummond committed suicide at 37, Buckley was 28 when he died of a drug overdose, and Thirsk was fatally drugged when he was shot.

Richey James Edwards , guitarist and lyricist for the rock band Manic Street Preachers , disappeared without a trace on February 1, 1995 and was also 27 years old. Although there are many indications of a suicide, Edwards could not be found to this day. On 23 November 2008, he was for " presumed dead (German:" presumed dead ")," explains . Based on the day of his disappearance, he is also regularly assigned to "Club 27".


Some non-musicians from other artistic fields who died at the age of 27 are also counted by certain sources as "Club 27" or at least named in parallel to those who died there.

Similarities between the musicians

After Cobain's death in 1994, “Klub 27” in the narrower sense of the word - consisting of Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and Cobain - was often portrayed as a group of musicians who had a number of things in common. In addition to the age of death, the sources often mention the excessive lifestyle of the artists, their extraordinary musical influence and the causes and circumstances of the respective deaths. After Winehouse's death, she too was included in the analysis of similarities, particularly with regard to intoxicant abuse.

Special musical meaning

The musicians and their respective bands are among the most influential in rock history. Jones was the lead guitarist for the Rolling Stones , one of the most commercially successful rock bands ever. Hendrix's guitar playing had a lasting influence on the development of rock history. Joplin is one of the central figures of the hippie era. Morrison's band The Doors was style-defining for the 1960s. Cobain helped with Nirvana the grunge to its peak period and brought the indie rock to mainstream . The music magazine Rock Hard therefore called the band the "most important rock band of the 90s". Jeremy Simmonds, the author of Number One in Heaven: The heroes who died for Rock 'n' Roll , counts these musicians among the US-American heritage artists because of their importance : “ Someone who's made a real difference to rock'n'roll. Hendrix, Joplin, The Doors, Nirvana, The Stones - these are all bands and individuals whose music was truly great. "(German:" Someone who changed rock 'n' roll very decisively. Hendrix, Joplin, The Doors, Nirvana, The Stones - all bands and individuals whose music was outstanding. ")

Intoxicants as a common cause of death

As a common feature of these deaths, it is pointed out again and again in presentations by “Club 27” that they can all be traced back to the abuse of alcohol or other addictive substances. At Hendrix, harder drugs were initially suspected to be the cause of death ; however, it was later discovered that he had consumed alcohol and sleeping pills and had choked on his vomit. At Joplin, an overdose of heroin and alcohol was certified as the official cause of death. Cobain had killed himself with a shot in the head. However, the autopsy found sedatives and heroin in his body in such a high dose that it would also have led to his death quickly. The deaths of Jones and Morrison have not been conclusively clarified, but it can be assumed that drugs were involved in them too. Jones was known for his drug use and is believed to have taken alcohol and sedatives the night of his death as well. His drowning could be due to an asthma attack under the influence of these intoxicants. Morrison also used heroin regularly. His body was not autopsied only because the investigators were certain that an autopsy would confirm the suspicion of an overdose. Such an investigation was only required in the case of suspected murder. Instead, “heart failure” was succinctly recorded as the cause of death.

Murder theories and other speculations

Another connection that is regularly drawn between these musicians is death "under mysterious circumstances". While the officially established cause of Joplin's death is widely recognized, at least Jones, Hendrix, Morrison, and Cobain are openly discussing other possibilities. It is said that Brian Jones was murdered by contractor Frank Thorogood . According to Stephen Wolley's film Stoned , Thorogood stood on his deathbed in the 1993 murder. The case was then re-examined by the police, but the official cause of death was not changed. With regard to Hendrix, it is speculated, among other things, that he was murdered by his manager . In addition, Scotland Yard investigated again in 1993 with no result against the woman in whose hotel room Hendrix had died. There are several theories about Jim Morrison's death . The common starting point is the lack of an autopsy. Biographers, for example, raise the possibility that Morrison was the victim of a conspiracy or just faked his death. Various theories of murder were also developed on the death of Kurt Cobain . According to the most famous one - presented for example by Nick Broomfield's documentary Kurt & Courtney - Cobain's wife Courtney Love is said to be responsible for the death of the musician. In addition, the theory mentioned at the beginning is sometimes put forward that Cobain killed himself with the intention of getting into "Club 27". Indeed, Cobain knew that Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison were all only 27 years old and, as a child, had mistakenly believed that they had all died of suicide. As a 14-year-old, he told school friends that he wanted to become a famous musician and then kill himself like Jimi Hendrix. He later also stated that he did not want to turn thirty. These statements are used to support the theory. However, according to Cross, such statements are not uncommon for boys of this age and neither Cobain's suicide note nor his behavior shortly before the suicide point to Club 27. In addition, Cobain had made several suicide attempts before he turned 27.

Explanatory approaches for the number 27

Especially if “Klub 27” is understood according to the broader definition, which includes all famous musicians who died at the age of 27, the question arises why the age of death should be the decisive criterion for defining the group. This question is treated differently: On the one hand, it is claimed that it occurs particularly frequently with successful musicians; various theories try to explain this supposed peculiarity. On the other hand, the number 27 is interpreted as a coincidence; it is also possible to put together "clubs" with other death ages. In scientific studies, a statistically significant accumulation of deaths in 27-year-old musicians could not be proven. Club 27 is therefore a term mainly coined by the media.

Age of death theories

In descriptions of Club 27 it is regularly suggested that an exceptionally high number of important musicians died at this age. For example, Charles R. Cross said: “ [The] number of musicians who passed away at 27 is truly remarkable by any standard. Though humans die regularly at all ages, there is a statistical spike for musicians who die at 27. ”(German:“ [The] number of musicians who died at 27 is really amazing in comparison. Although people die equally at all ages , there is a statistical peak for musicians who die at 27. ”) There is no such statistical increase in the general population, only among musicians. And Michael Pilz wrote for Die Welt that Club 27 was not a myth, scientists had looked into it and found that pop stars would often die at 27 “purely statistically”. However, both authors do not give any figures or the statistics they rely on. A study by Liverpool John Moores University published in the British Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2007 found that rock stars die earlier than the rest of the population and that the probability of death is particularly high in the first five years of fame. In the 1960s and 1970s the difference was even greater than at the beginning of the 21st century.

Various assumptions have already been made about the cause of the death of many 27-year-old music stars. For example, the reason given is their excessive lifestyle, which is often associated with phrases such as " Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young " (German: "Live fast, love intensely, die young") or " Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll " (German: "Sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll") is circumscribed. World author Pilz concludes from this that musicians “either die at 27 of their occupational diseases or say goodbye to deadly habits” and then live significantly longer. The Rolling Stone supports this theory by stating that the causes of death of the musicians who died at the age of 27 are mostly "tragic": "Heroin, alcohol, sleeping pills or a crude combination of them."

Borwin Bandelow , a specialist in neurology and psychiatry, suspects that the borderline syndrome is the cause of the excessive lifestyle of many Klub 27 artists. This syndrome manifests itself primarily through impulse control disorders and often occurs together with self-harming behavior and suicidality . In addition, he sees a connection between this personality disorder and the age of death, as he observed in a study that borderline disorders reach their severest severity at an average age of 26.9 years.

In search of an explanation, Christian Koch consults the so-called Quarterlife Crisis for the British lifestyle magazine Stylist . With reference to a neuroscientist and psychiatrist as well as a quarter-life crisis specialist, he comes to the conclusion that this crisis of meaning that overtakes people in their mid-twenties has more of an impact on rock stars because they are less known to be outdoors. This leads to a low vitamin D level in the body, which makes musicians more susceptible to depression and thus to suicide and alcohol or drug abuse. Alternatively, according to Koch, it could also be a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy : Even the knowledge of Club 27 leads to fears and self-destructive behavior. The suicide rate is therefore increasing in people who receive special media attention.

Doubts about a statistical abnormality

To the same extent that explanations for the phenomenon of club 27 are sought, it is questioned whether there is any statistical peculiarity at death age 27. Ultimately, according to Cross, Club 27 could also be explained as a coincidence or, if you believe in it, as a curse . Hunter and Segalstad make it even clearer that, in their opinion, Club 27 is a case of legendary formation : In contradiction to statements such as Pilz's that Club 27 is not a myth, they called their book on the subject The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll (German: Die 27er: The greatest myth of Rock 'n' Roll ). In the introduction to this work they write: “ The 27 Club is a pop culture enigma, and for those who believe in it, it is a curse that ends the lives of extremely talented musicians once they hit the age of 27. ” (German : "Club 27 is a pop culture mystery, and for those who believe in it, it is a curse that ends the lives of extremely talented musicians as soon as they turn 27.")

To make it clear that the concentration on the number 27 could also be the result of coincidence, it is argued again and again that deceased music stars with a different common death age can also be grouped. Cross mentions Lester Bangs , Bon Scott from AC / DC and Blind Lemon Jefferson , who all died at the age of 33, as well as DJ Alan Freed , Richard Manuel from the rock group The Band , Peter Tosh and Elvis Presley , all of whom are called “Klub 42 ”could sum up. Near misses are also often presented for Club 27, i.e. musicians who just missed the age of 27. In an article for the British daily newspaper The Times , Francesca Steele named Otis Redding , Paul Kossoff , Gram Parsons and Nick Drake , among others , who were only 26 years old. However, none of these groups received the attention that Club 27 receives.

A study at the University of Queensland in Australia , the results of which were published in late 2011, could not demonstrate statistical significance . There is a two to three times higher probability for musicians to die between the ages of 20 and 40, but for the exact age 27 there is no statistically conspicuous accumulation. Over 1000 musicians were examined who had at least one number one album in Great Britain between 1956 and 2007 . For each age, the number of musicians was initially determined as a basic amount, who on the one hand had already had a number 1 hit by this age at the latest, and on the other hand reached this age at all. Those musicians who died at precisely this age were determined from the respective base quantity. For the age of 27, this resulted in a base set of 522 musicians, of which 3 musicians or 0.57% deaths (namely Jones, Cobain and Winehouse). The analogous calculation showed - with 3 deaths in each case - a death rate of 0.56% at the age of 25 and of 0.54% at the age of 32, so no recognizable accumulation in 27. The authors of the study, however, show themselves the severely limited data material. Since Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison in particular did not have number one albums in the UK, their data was not part of the study.

Reception and commercialization

At Jim Morrison's grave in the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, there are flowers, photos and letters among other things.

While the five key people in the club were already extremely successful artists during their lifetime, they became music legends posthumously at the latest. But not only the individual members, also the club itself achieved cult status over time . It is referenced in media and culture and commercialized for merchandising products such as T-shirts, posters or non-fiction books . In a paper published in 2010 hit list of the 50 worst things that can happen to the music of the American music magazine Blender took The age of 27 (German: The age of 27 ) eighth one. Fans dedicate websites to the club . Various exhibitions made the club their subject, for example the photo exhibition Forever 27 , which opened in 2008 in the London gallery Proud Camden, or the special exhibition of 2009 The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore - death and dying in rock music in Gronauer rock'n 'popmuseum .

Several fictional works take up the topic. The film The 27 Club premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2008 . It revolves around a musician whose bandmate committed suicide shortly after his 27th birthday. Paul McComas' novel Unplugged from 2002 tells the story of the crisis of a rock musician who disappears at the age of 27 at the peak of her career. In May 2011, the debut novel was published 27 of Kim Frank , the singer of real , not to experience that portrays the anguish of a rock musician his 28th birthday. The cover of the book is adorned with likenesses of Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and Cobain. Ian Halperin's off-Broadway -Stück 27 Heaven shows how Kurt Cobain meets after his suicide in heaven Hendrix, Morrison and Joplin.

Club 27 was also a theme in rock music itself. For example, the single Out of Control by the Australian rock trio Tin Alley deals with the topic, as Jim Siourthas, singer and guitarist of the group, explained in an interview. The reason for writing the song was that Tin Alley drummer Peter Hofbauer almost died in a traffic accident at the age of 27.

In addition, various music stars have been reported to have voiced fears of dying at the age of 27. For example, country singer Gretchen Wilson said of the club that she was particularly happy to see more than 27 birthdays. The pop singer Britney Spears is also said to have expressed her fear to journalist Ian Halperin about dying like Joplin and Cobain at the age of 27. The British soul singer Amy Winehouse , who later actually died at the age of 27, is said to have confessed to her former personal assistant Alex Haines.

Club 27 was even used for advertising purposes. For example, the Term Life Insurance website advertises life insurances with reference to the deaths of the club.


  • Josh Hunter, Eric Segalstad: The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll . Samadhi Creations, Berkeley Lake 2008, ISBN 978-0-615-18964-2 ( website for the book [accessed September 20, 2010]).
  • R. Gary Patterson: Take a Walk on the Dark Side: Rock and Roll Myths, Legends, and Curses . Simon and Schuster, 2004, ISBN 978-0-7432-4423-7 , Chapter 10: The Club, pp. 217 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book Search [accessed October 10, 2010]).

Web links

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This article was added to the list of articles worth reading on February 12, 2011 in this version .