The 27 Club

While exactly who counts as a member of the 27 Club tends to change depending on where you read about it, but the idea is the same, that a disproportionate amount of famous musicians die at 27, and that it first came to light through the death of 4 of the biggest pop stars of the time starting with Brian Jones on the 3rd July 1969 and ending with Jim Morrison exactly 2 years later. Enough to get the idea rolling that dying at 27 would make you a part of music history, but mainstream fame for this group can probably by laid at the door of a later addition, in 1994, at the height of grunge’s popularity, Nirvana frontman and posterboy for the genre, Kurt Cobain died, his mother’s response on hearing of his death ,”Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.”, making his connection with the earlier stars in pop culture a standard.[1]

However a common age of death and fame from their musical talents are not their only connection, their fondness for the hard living lifestyle, well recorded drug or alcohol addictions, possible inability to cope mentally with life in the spotlight, and the suspicious circumstances of their deaths are all fairly well documented, even if after years of research only Janis Joplin’s overdose seems to have escaped the conspiracy buffs.

Brian Jones
Rolling Stones founder member, Brian Jones’ death on the 3rd July 1969 began the club when he drowned in his swimming pool at his estate in Cotchford Farm, formerly the residence of Winnie the Pooh author A.A Milne, that Jones was reportedly an extremely strong swimmer[2](Crime Library) makes this accidental drowning seem strange. The most common explaination is that a man doing building work for Jones, Frank Thoroughgood, drowned the former Rolling Stone on the night when the two men, joined by Anna Wohlin, Brian’s girlfriend, and a nurse Janet Lawson who was accompanying Thoroughgood, were drinking and relaxing on the summer’s night by the pool, Jones’ idea to clear the air over an arguement about the labourer’s work earlier that day[2].

“Anna Wohlin believes that Frank Thoroughgood killed Brian Jones, but by her own account, she did not actually witness the murder. She was in the house on the telephone when it happened. She claims that Thoroughgood threatened her twice afterward—at the police station on the night of the incident and five days later at the coroner’s inquest—urging her strongly not to implicate him” [3]

It is also commonly thought that Thoroughgood signed a deathbed confession on the urging of Tom Keylock,the Rolling Stones chaffuer, though this has never come to be released publicly, often giving rise to the idea that his death was originally hushed up by the Stones members, or their management.[3]

Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix death on the 18th September 1970 became the second of the original 4 members of the club, the coroner’s report stating death by inhalation of vomit after barbituate intoxication, though the exact details are still disputed by those close to Hendrix at the time. Monika Danneman testified that he had unknown to her taken 9 of her sleeping pills, and claims that he was alive when placed in the ambulance, however the ambulance reports he had been alone in the flat and dead for some time when they had found him[4]. Danneman’s testimony has been called into doubt by his ex-girlfriend Kathy Etchingham, and Eric Burden of The Animals, who thought that Danneman may have avoided calling an ambulance until it was too late because of fear that drugs would be found in her apartment [5], though when Scotland Yard reopened the case in 1993 no further evidence was found and the matter was dropped.[6]

A photo taken of Hendrix by Monica Danneman on the day of his death.

Janis Joplin
Dying of a dose of unusally pure heroin(and to a lesser extent alcohol) on October 3rd 1970, Janis Joplin’s death appears to be much more straight forward than the other members of the club, the only real interesting point being a connection with the other members in the person that sold her the fatal dose, Frenchman Jean De Breteuil, who at the time was in a relationship with Jim Morrison’s on off girlfriend Pamela Courson[7]

Jim Morrison
Exactly two years passed from the start of the club till it’s fourth member joining on the 3rd of July 1971, The Doors frontman Jim Morrison becoming the latest in the line. Found in a bathtub in his Paris hotel, his actual cause of death is still unknown due to the fact that no autopsy was ever performed, the medical examiner claiming to have found no sign of foul play [8], which has led to many theories about the night of his death. The most common is that Jim died after snorting heroin, thinking it was cocaine, and his on off partner Pamela Courson nodded off instead of getting help, leaving him to bleed to death[8], though another claims that he actually overdosed at the Rock and Roll Circus, a Paris nightclub, and that the people that sold him the drugs moved him after his death to his apartment[9], and there’s even talk of a faked death and Jim still roaming the States as some cowboy figure, but that sounds a little too much like the Elvis myth for me.

Kurt Cobain
Almost 33 years after the death of Jim Morrison, on the 5th of April 1994, Kurt Cobain brought the infamous club back to the spotlight with his death. Dying of a shotgun wound to the head, rumours that his death wasn’t self inflicted weren’t long surfacing. The commonly accepted conspiracy is that Cobain’s wife, Hole member Courtney Love, was responsible for his death, evidence collected by Tom Grant after he found Cobain’s apparent suicide suspicious forming the theory. Grant, who was employed by Love to find Cobain when he disappeared in a fragile mental state from a drug rehab centre, cites many things among the evidence for murder, the couples impending divorce, idea that the suicide note may have actually been about retirement and possibility of another note hiden by Love. The most compelling evidence though is the amount of heroin injected by Kurt before he was meant to take his own life,apparently 3 times the lethal dose, and the idea that this would have rendered him unable to shoot himself, not that the gunshot then would have been needed in order for him to commit suicide. [10]

While the threat of conspiracy marks these deaths individually, no great plan to murder rock stars at 27 seems all that evident, and the idea that it is only the hugely famous or talented that die is pretty hard to believe, given a list of others to die at the age. With the possible exception of Brian Jones, accidental death brought about by long term drug use and a fragile mental state seem most likely, member Jim Morrison says it quite well talking after the deaths of Jimi and Janis Joplin:

I think the great creative burst of energy that happened 3 or 4 years ago was hard to sustain for sensitive artists. You know? I guess they might be dissatisfied with anything but ‘the heights’. When reality stops fulfilling their inner visions,they get depressed. But that’s…not my theory of why people die. Sometimes, it could be an accident. Sometimes, it could be suicide. Sometimes it could be…murder. There are a lot of ways people die. I don’t know.[11]


  1. ^ P-I’s Writer in Residence … Charles R. Cross, Seattle, 23rd Febuary 2007. Retrieved 20th May 2008.
  2. a bAll About Brian JonesAnthony Bruno, The Crime Library. Retrieved 20th May 2008.
  3. a bAll About Brian JonesAnthony Bruno, The Crime Library. Retrieved 20th May 2008
  4. <^ Jimi Hendrix Wikipedia. Retrieved 20th May 2008
  5. ^ BBC Rock and Roll Conspiracy Documentary You Tube. Retrieved 15 May 2008.
  6. ^ Hendrix Classic Retrieved 20th May 2008
  7. ^ Observer GroupThe Nation, Observer 17 October. Retrieved 20th May 2008
  8. a bJim Morrison Wikipedia. Retrieved 20th May 2008
  9. ^ How Jim Morrison Died Vivienne Walt, Time Magazine 16th July 2007. Retrieved 20th May 2008
  10. ^ Cobain Case Retrieved 20th May 2008
  11. “Jim Morrison:Life Death Legend” by Stephen Davis (2004), pg 301

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