Home / Arts / Books / 27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse (Da Capo), by Howard Sounes
Wednesday, April 9, 2014

27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse (Da Capo), by Howard Sounes

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With Kurt Cobain’s death came media chatter on the “27 Club,” the propensity for rock stars to die at age 27. The passing of Amy Winehouse at that same age stimulated renewed scuttlebutt. British rock biographer Howard Sounes came to his investigation with skeptical eyes, but found that statisticians who dismissed the 27 Club as “chance and cherry picking” were also guilty of choosing the facts according to their own preconceptions. Sounes found no less than 50 musicians of some prominence who died at 27, a statistically significant group in the obits of pop culture.

So what’s behind the curse of 27? Sounes explores the lives and deaths of the six most prominent casualties. All had addictive personalities in a business fueled by alcohol and tolerant of the harder stuff. The six were brilliant but troubled, living recklessly within the extremes of the bi-polar syndrome that drove their creativity. All had unhappy or disrupted childhoods, credited by Sounes for their meteoric rise and fall. Had they issued from happy homes, perhaps this would have been otherwise. Who would ever have heard of Brian Jones had he become an optometrist, Janis Joplin a housewife or Kurt Cobain a school janitor? Pain and depression can be the sand in the oyster that creates the pearl.