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27 Club

March 11, 2007

Having just turned 27 last Friday, I decided that it would be fitting to write about the infamous 27 club.

The 27 club is not something that anyone wants to be a part of. Its members include some of the best musicians to ever grace our ears, who tragically died at age 27, while they were wildly popular.

What is it about 27? It’s that time when 30 really starts to loom, where youthfulness gives way to adulthood. It’s when the experimentation ends and addiction begins. It’s enough time to get famous and get really uncomfortable with it.

So let’s light some candles and make a playlist for these artists whose lives were cut short. Think of all of the great tunes they could have created.

Jimi Hendrix: 1970, asphyxiation on vomit after an sleeping pill overdose. He lit his guitar on fire. And he played left-handed. Not only did he write some great music, but he made Dylan’s All Along the Watchtower and the Star Spangled Banner his own. A biopic on his life has been in the works for years, rumored to star Andre Benjamin of Outkast, but apparently they can’t get the rights to the music.

Janis Joplin: 1970, heroin overdose. Janis, from Port Arthur, Texas. So much emotion in that music. With trademark Southern Comfort in hand, I see her barefoot in that dress stomping around not so ladylike, pouring her soul into the microphone. Take Another Little Piece of My Heart. Mercedes Benz. Brilliant.

Jim Morrison: 1971, heart failure, drug related. Jim Morrison oozed sexuality in the way that only a beat poet rock star could. Intelligent, philosophical, drug-addled prose set to minimalist, almost elevator music was the signature combination that was The Doors. I’ve been to his grave in Paris, and left him a little gift. Hopefully he’s trekking around the desert with the Indian, knowing the meaning of life on an eternal peyote trip.

Kurt Cobain: 1994, “self inflicted” gunshot after a heroin overdose. This one is personal. I credit Nirvana with being one of the bands that really changed me. When Kurt died, I fasted for 3 days. I was too young to ever get to see them live, and it kills me to this day. I go and see the Foo Fighters and just imagine what it might have been like. For me, listening to Nirvana had that great effect on me- I feel depressed, I pop in a Nirvana tape (yeah, I said tape), and immediately feel in the company of kindred spirits, and feel better. I won’t even try to touch on the controversial death of Kurt, just go and watch Kurt and Courtney yourself.

Other members include:
Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Drowned in his swimming pool in 1969. Guitarist and fashion icon.
– Dave Alexander of The Stooges. Pneumonia from pancreatic inflammation in 1975. Bassist.
-Kristen Pfaff of Hole. Heroin overdose. Bassist.
There are many more you can find in this wikipedia article.

It’s interesting to note that several musicians missed the 27 club by a month in either direction:
-Gram Parsons, overdose in 1973 at age 26. Member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
-Steve Gaines, plane crash in 1977, at 28. Guitarist for Lynyrd Skynyrd.
-Hillel Slovak, heroin overdose in 1988, at 26. Original guitarist (I think they’ve had about a hundred now) for Red Hot Chili Peppers.
-Shannon Hoon, cocaine overdose in 1995, barely 28. Lead singer for Blind Melon.
-Bradley Nowell, heroin overdose in 1996, at 28. Lead singer and guitarist for Sublime.

So, watch out rockers who are 27 (Aaron North, Conor Oberst, and Pete Wentz). Take it easy with the vices, stay away from airplanes, and hire a driver. We want you to stick around and make more beautiful music.

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