What is the 27 Club and who is in it? Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and more remembered

21 July 2021, 17:03

Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain are in the 27 Club
Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain are in the 27 Club. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The 27 Club has fascinated music fans for decades, charting the history of talented artists who sadly passed away at the age of 27.

While the claim of a so-called "statistical spike" for the death of musicians at 27 years old has been disproven by research, it still remains something of a phenomenon, especially as most of the members died through various tragic circumstances.

Although there were several high profile deaths aged 27 from 1969 to 1971, it wasn't until Kurt Cobain's passing in 1994 that the notion of the '27 Club' gained notoriety.

But who are the most famous 'members' of this tragic group?

  1. Robert Johnson

    Sweet Home Chicago

    American blues singer Robert Johnson is one of the earliest examples of the 27 Club.

    Although he was largely ignored during his lifetime, Johnson's life and death have produced many urban legends, such as that he sold his soul to the devil at a local crossroads to achieve his musical success.

    Johnson died on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27, of unknown causes. His death was not reported publicly at the time, and he sadly disappeared from the historical record.

    It wasn't until almost 30 years later, when musicologist Gayle Dean Wardlow found his death certificate, which listed only the date and location.

  2. Brian Jones

    Brian Jones
    Brian Jones. Picture: Getty

    Brian Jones was the founder and original leader of the Rolling Stones, giving the band its name.

    A month after Jones was ousted from the group, largely due to his drug addiction, on July 3, 1969, he was discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool, aged 27.

    The coroner's report stated he died from drowning, and later clarified it as "death by misadventure", noting that his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by past drug and alcohol abuse.

    In 2010, following a review into rumours that Jones was murdered, Sussex Police said it would not be reopening the case, asserting that "there is no new evidence to suggest that the coroner's original verdict of 'death by misadventure' was incorrect."

  3. Alan Wilson

    Canned Heat Live At Royal Albert Hall
    Canned Heat Live At Royal Albert Hall. Picture: Getty

    Alan Wilson was the co-founder, leader, co-lead singer, and main songwriter of the legendary blues band Canned Heat.

    On September 3, 1970, Wilson was found dead on a hillside behind bandmate Bob Hite's home, aged 27.

    An autopsy identified his cause of death as accidental acute barbiturate intoxication

    He had reportedly attempted suicide a few months earlier, trying to drive his car off a freeway in Los Angeles.

  4. Jimi Hendrix

    Jimi Hendrix
    Jimi Hendrix. Picture: Getty

    Although his career only lasted less than half a decade, Jimi Hendrix is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in history.

    There is some dispute regarding the details of Hendrix's death. On September 17, 1970, he spent the day with Monika Dannemann in London, the only witness to his final few hours.

    Dannemann said that after sharing a meal and a bottle of wine, she drove him to the home of an acquaintance in the early hours, where he remained for about an hour before she picked him up and drove them back to her flat at 3am.

    After going to sleep, she awoke around 11am and found Hendrix breathing but unconscious. She called for an ambulance, but he was pronounced dead just under two hours later on September 18.

    A coroner stated that Hendrix has choked on his vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with drugs.

  5. Janis Joplin

    Janis Joplin
    Janis Joplin. Picture: Getty

    American singer-songwriter Janis Joplin sang a mix of rock, soul and blues, and was one of the most well-known stars of her era in the late 1960s.

    On October 4, 1970, Joplin was found dead on the floor of her hotel room by her road manager and close friend John Byrne Cooke.

    She passed away due to an accidental heroin overdose, with Cooke claiming that Joplin had been given heroin that was much more potent than what she and other users had received on previous occasions.

  6. Jim Morrison

    Jim Morrison
    Jim Morrison. Picture: Getty

    The lead singer of rock band The Doors, Jim Morrison was known for his wild personality, poetic lyrics, distinctive low voice, and unpredictable performances.

    He had developed an alcohol dependency in the 1960s, and he died unexpectedly in Paris at the age of 27.

    As no autopsy was performed, the cause of Morrison's death remains disputed by many.

    It was claimed by several individuals who say they were eyewitnesses, that his death was due to an accidental heroin overdose.

  7. Pete Ham

    Pete Ham
    Pete Ham. Picture: Getty

    Pete Ham was the lead singer and songwriter of rock band Badfinger, the group behind the classic song 'Without You'.

    Ham committed suicide in 1975 at the age of 27, after becoming depressed while being stuck in band-related issues, such as label and management problems, and a lack of finances.

    The fallout from his death led to the suicide of former bandmate Tom Evans in 1983.

  8. Kurt Cobain

    Kurt Cobain
    Kurt Cobain. Picture: Getty

    The lead singer and songwriter of grunge icons Nirvana, Kurt Cobain became an idol for youth in the early 1990s.

    Cobain struggled with heroin addiction and other health problems such as depression, as well as the personal pressures of fame, and his tumultuous relationship with wife Courtney Love.

    After a stint in rehab, on April 8, 1994, Cobain was found dead at his home in Seattle at the age of 27, from a self-inflicted shotgun wound to the head.

  9. Amy Winehouse

    Amy Winehouse
    Amy Winehouse. Picture: Getty

    Jazz and soul artist Amy Winehouse had become of the UK's best known singers of her generation.

    She was plagued by drug and alcohol addiction throughout her life, and she died of alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011, at the age of 27.

    Read more: The tragic story of Amy Winehouse's death aged 27

    Three years earlier, she had expressed a fear of dying at that age. Former assistant Alex Haines said in 2008: “She reckoned she would join the 27 Club of rock stars who died at that age. She told me, ‘I have a feeling I’m gonna die young’.”