Tuesday, August 25, 2020

27 Club

 Ahhhhh....the infamous "27 Club"! Also known as "Curse of 27" (with related concepts such as "The White Lighter Myth" and, in the classical world, the "Curse of the 9th").

It should be noted that, whatever you've heard about rock stars dying more at this age than any other, the concept is patently false. But never let facts get in the way of a good story - hahaha! It should also be noted that, while the original use of the term was limited to musicians, it has for quite some time been a catch for any famous person (usually musicians, actors, artists, & athletes) who dies at the age of 27.
The term originates, so far as I can tell, from the early 1970s after the world lost Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones (July 3, 1969), Jimi Hendrix (September 18, 1970), Janis Joplin (October 4, 1970), and Jim Morrison of The Doors (July 3, 1971)....all at the age of 27.

When Kurt Cobain died in April of '94, the term really caught traction in the media, though several other high profile artists died several years prior to Kurt (from artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1988 to Mia Zapata in 1993).

That said, I still have been unable to find who first used the term "27 Club" or "Curse of 27". If you have the answer to that, please let me know (comments or direct contact, and please have sources).

At any rate, once the term was in full-swing, many a journalist revisited the morgues, as it were, and established a list. Most of them began with arguably the most famous and influential of blues players ever: Robert Johnson.

I'll speak more about Johnson later, but in a nutshell, this is the man who wrote "Crossroads Blues" (later covered by Eric Clapton as simply "Crossroads"), "Love in Vain" (later covered by the Rolling Stones), "Sweet Home Chicago" (featured on the movie & soundtrack for "The Blues Brothers" and also performed at the White House in 2012 for the "Red, White, & Blues" show featuring Buddy Guy, BB King, with a verse sung by then-president Barack Obama), and many others, and is cited by everyone from Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix to the members of Led Zeppelin as the most important blues musician who ever lived.

Then, in 2011, the world lost the hugely famous & talented Amy Winehouse, and the term washed through the media yet again.

There were many more - from jazz pianist Nat Jaffe to Rudy Lewis of the Drifters to "Blind Owl" Wilson of the rock band Canned Heat to actor Anton Yelchin to rapper Fredo Santana - and, unfortunately, there will be many more. Larger lists can be found via many on-line resources, from Rolling Stone to Wikipedia....but its also worth remembering that the notion of a this club is nothing but popular myth. Entertaining perhaps, if in a morbid and macabre way, but myth nonetheless.


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