You don’t want to belong to The 27 Club. It’s very exclusive and its members are all dead. They all died at the age of 27, usually from unnatural causes, most from drug or alcohol abuse.
The club is much larger than the members mentioned in this article. However, these are arguably its most famous associates. Each was a master of his or her art, and each achieved a good measure of fame while alive. After death, fame became legend.
It’s something to think about if you’re not yet 27 and searching for those 15 minutes of fame. If you made it past 27, take a deep breath and be thankful.
Our short list is in date order, beginning in 1938, and just looks at musical artists.
Robert Johnson died on August 16, 1938, a master of the blues guitar. He was poisoned. Johnson is generally considered the first member of The 27 Club.
Nat Jaffe, one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time, died on August 5, 1945, from complications of high blood pressure. His was one of the few “natural deaths” in The 27 Club.
Jesse Belvin was an R&B vocalist, songwriter and pianist. He died on February 6, 1960, in an auto accident.
Rudy Lewis, vocalist for The Drifters, died on May 20, 1964, from a drug overdose.
Brian Jones, a founder of the Rolling Stones and guitarist, died from drowning on July 3, 1969. He had been pushed out of the band the previous month.
Alan Wilson was the lead singer and songwriter for Canned Heat. He died on September 3, 1970, of an overdose.
Jimi Hendrix, possibly the greatest guitarist in history, died on September 18, 1970. He succumbed to a combination of too much wine and sleeping pills.
Janis Joplin, one of the greatest blues singers of all time, died of heroin poisoning on October 4, 1970.
Jim Morrison was the lead singer and songwriter for The Doors. He died on July 3, 1971, from a heart attack, probably brought on by a lifetime of alcohol and drug use.
Pigpen McKernan, one of the founders of the Grateful Dead, died of complications from alcohol poisoning on March 8, 1973.
Dave Alexander was the bass player for The Stooges. He died on February 10, 1975, from complications after a lifetime of alcohol abuse.
Pete Ham played keyboards and guitar for Badfinger. He hung himself on April 24, 1975.
Chris Bell was the founder of Big Star and its chief songwriter. He died in an automobile crash on December 27, 1978.
D. Boon was a leader in the punk rock movement, singer, and guitarist for the Minutemen. He died in a car crash on December 22, 1985.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a cohort of Andy Warhol and the founder of Gray. He died of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988.
Kurt Cobain, singer and songwriter for Nirvana, died by an apparent suicide on April 5, 1994.
Kristen Pfaff was one of the few female bass players to achieve individual fame. She played with Hole and died from an overdose on June 16, 1994.
Richey Edwards, a founder of the Manic Street Preachers and songwriter, died on February 1, 1995. It was thought to be a suicide.
Bryan Ottoson was guitarist for American Head Charge. He died from an overdose on April 19, 2005.
Amy Winehouse, singer and songwriter, died on July 23, 2011, from alcohol poisoning.