The 27 Club, An Investigation


Written by Mary Woodcock

15 October 2014

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When I walked over to my library last week requesting resources pertaining to the 27 Club, the librarian I was querying looked at me as though I was insane.  He had NEVER heard of the 27 Club prior to my mention of it, he did not know what it was or whom it included.  One thing for sure, not everyone is going to be obsessed about music or these exquisite beings that had departed too soon. This article focuses not only on the 27 Club, which is a collection of various genre musical artists who have died at the age of 27 but, also explores various theories on why and how, the effects mental health and addiction had on their lives, while considering the sample size of this group versus how many artists died at other varying ages. I am genuinely looking forward to heavily researching the 27 Club in the future and reporting my findings for the sister to this piece. 

27 is a number, which can measure a plethora of sand crystals: seconds, minutes, hours, days, months and of course years. There is something immensely intriguing about how all of these tremendous talents have passed, no rhyme or reason: murders, suicides, asphyxiation, accidental overdoses… the list is infinite.

Upon researching individual artists, there was one theme that seemed to be recurring amongst all of them — mental health! A myriad of these exquisite creatures would have been diagnosed with the criteria of modern day Bi-Polar, Depression or Anxiety Disorder.  Fortunately, for those who suffer from mental illness, our contemporary world has traded a profound stigma for a significant amount of empathy.

Still, I think about Jim Morrison’s remarkable poetry/lyrics pure emotion, Janis Joplin’s sultry organic voice, Jimmy Hendrix with his killer axe, Amy Winehouse the wicked songstress who suffered in the extremely public eye like multiple artists before her. Kurt Cobain who wrote compellingly honest lyrics and lastly, Jean-Michel Basquiat a multi-media artist who combined visual and music arts with his band Gray. This 27 Club consists of approximately 50 artists that we know of — the first acknowledged recipient was Alexandre Levy in 1892 who was a: composer, pianist and conductor. I could go on FOREVER, listing all of the distinguishing characteristics of each one of these artists. Even though they were on this earth for a short time, regardless of the age of death at 27 years of age, the impact they’ve had on the music industry has been quite noticeable. 

There is an abundance of unexplored theories with a side order of speculation about the 27 Club. I must allow my imagination to meander as to where all of the current residents of the 27 Club would be had they not met their fate as the months or days approached their 28th year. There are so many motivations for murder, that part I can comprehend especially if someone has something financial to gain from an artist’s death — however, at their own hands what would be the motivation there? It is common, to have addictions of sorts including: alcoholism and drugs within any field relating specifically to the arts.

With immeasurable pressure to succeed by writing/composing a killer song, entertaining a crowd properly, it’s not easy to create something that the whole world is going to relish. I understand why they would have turned to receive a little bit of comfort from a cold world, which the majority of them did suffer from also – accidental overdoses had no idea what was coming that night when they feel asleep or passed out in whatever copious place they were in at the time.

The funny thing is that I am beginning to wonder if the 27 Club is financially or emotionally driven. We all know what they say about an artists work… how the value of the masterpiece increases after death; now I’m starting to genuinely ponder the verity of that statement.  Did these artists want to be immortalized, those that committed suicide at least?  I know it may seem quite far-fetched but we will never know what any of them were thinking before they drew their last breath – we only know that the world of music has tragically lost yet another contributor.

The saturation of the 27 Club is society born; this is only a small cross section of the artists who have died.  What about all of the other artists who have died before their 27th birthday? The sample size is basically too small to have an accurate reading. Has there ever been an accurate reading or larger sample size to genuinely compare the facts to?  It really does not seem fair to all of the other incredible artists who have died so young, regardless of the cause of their deaths. Artists who have died either side of 27 and hence are not in this club almost in essence feel cheated by not receiving attention.  Curiosity compels me to take a larger sample size from artist deaths in general; would that make a difference to those who are in the 27 Club? 

There may end up being a 16 or 21 club.  The entire concept to be of wasted talent is beyond tragic. Don’t be too surprised after seriously researching this topic for 6 months that I do not come back with one of those mentioned in the previous sentences.

RIP to those members of the 27 Club and all artists who have come before and after them! 

 

                                                                                                                                                                     

This article was written by Rania M M Watts – you can also read here personal blog here!


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