27 Facts About The 27 Club
On July 3, 1969, Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones died at age 27, a fact that would become more surprising with each passing decade, as several other Stones would reveal themselves to be immortal. Two years later, to the day, Jim Morrison died at 27, which made for a bit of a coincidence. And between those two deaths, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix both died at 27, within 16 days of each other in 1970.
That was enough of a streak to have lots of people talking about the "27 Club" a supposed statistical spike in deaths among musicians at that exact age. Should people be weirded out about that spike? We'll answer that in a moment, but not before telling you a bunch of other stuff about the club, such as how ...
1. Guitarist Les Harvey died in the most rock 'n' roll way possible. He was playing a show with Stone the Crows in Wales, and he grabbed a mic that had not been wired properly. He was electrocuted on stage in front of a cheering audience. He was 27.
3. Punk musician Mia Zapata was murdered in Seattle in 1993. It took a decade to match DNA from saliva found on her body with a Florida man who'd been in town around that time. He'd strangled her with the cord of her sweatshirt, which bore the logo of her band, The Gits.
5. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan from The Grateful Dead was good friends with Janis Joplin; the two both really liked drinking, and they sang a duet together two months before she died. Unlike many in the band, Pigpen was no fan of weed or acid, but the alcohol proved worse. He died from his guts bleeding, and it was two days before his body was found.
6. Remember that episode of Breaking Bad that started with a Spanish music video? That's song was a narcocorrido, a Mexican drug ballad, and those things exist outside of TV. Valentin Elizalde was one Mexican singer known for narcocorridos. Until he was 27, and Los Zetas gunned him down for mocking them. The Grammys nominated him for an award at their next ceremony.
8. The Yellow Dogs were an Iranian band that faced a lot of trouble back home before making it to Brooklyn. Then in 2013, a gunman killed two members, one other person, and then himself. This gunman was himself a member of a different Iranian rock band, but he'd been kicked out after embezzling. Of the two Yellow Dogs who died, one, Soroush Farazmand, had turned 27 just 11 days earlier.
10. Helmut Kollen, from the German band Triumvirat, also died at 27 thanks to carbon monoxide, but he used a method slightly more familiar. He shut the door of his garage, turned on his car, and let it run. He died listening to tapes of his own band, the band he'd left for a failed solo career.
11. The Welsh band Badfinger seemed to be doing well for a bit. But their manager was Stan Polley. a crooked, Mafia-aligned lawyer. He collected the band's advances from the label and fled with the money. Lead vocalist Pete Ham named Polley in his suicide note. He hanged himself three days before he would have turned 28.
13. Here's one possible cause for the 27 curse: Blues artist Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil in exchange for success, and in return, the devil took his life early -- and took a bunch of other artists' lives early too. We can't confirm the soul-selling part of the story, but Johnson did die at 27, and there's no record of how it happened. Maybe syphilis killed him. Maybe he was poisoned by a jealous husband.
15. Slash from Guns N'Roses is not a member of the 27 Club, as scientists believe he is currently alive. But he almost was. When he was 27, he overdosed in San Francisco. "The one where I died" is how he recalls the incident. Lucky for him, he collapsed in front of a hotel maid instead of dying alone in his room.
17. Jonathan Brandis played main kid Bill in the It miniseries, along with plenty of less memorable roles (he was in the original pilot for Saved By The Bell and also somehow guest-starred as himself on the show years later). He hanged himself at 27, allegedly after many of the scenes he'd done for a Bruce Willis movie ended up on the cutting room floor.
18. A few different 27-year-old rappers were murdered in the '90s -- Tupac-ally Stretch in 1995, Fat Pat from the Screwed Up Click in 1998 -- but the 1999 shooting of Freaky Tah was especially tragic because the murderer didn't even have a reason to kill him. Kelvin Jones was trying to get revenge for his own brother's murder. When he didn't see the guy he sought, he shot Freaky Tah, thinking he was the guy's cousin. He wasn't.
20. Other artists speak about the 27 Club without actually dying at 27, though. In "Legends," released in 2018, Juice Wrld sang, "What's the 27 Club? We ain't making it past 21." Juice Wrld later died at 21. He hadn't been trying to warn us about his own death -- his overdose was accidental, and the song was about the deaths of rappers Lil Peep and XXXTentacion at 21 and 20.
21. Manic Street Preachers guitarist Richey Edwards may well be a member of the 27 Club because he was 27 the last time anyone saw him. He walked out of his hotel one day and no one has definitely seen him in the 25 years since. But people have claimed to have seen him, so maybe he just took up a totally new identity,
23. That picture at the top of the page is a piece of street art from Tel Aviv. Along with all the recognizable musicians, there's one guy who appears to be the artist behind the mural, Jonathan Kis-Lev. Which sounds a bit like the artist announcing that he'll die at 27, but he's alive and well in his thirties, so we guess the guy just really likes his face.
24. According to one theory, this curse isn't so much about musicians who are 27 but musicians who are 27 and are somehow connected with Courtney Love. Kurt Cobain of course dated Love, who found his body, and two months later, 27-year-old Kristen Pfaff from Love's band Hole died. Love claimed to be the unidentified girl next to Pigpen McKernan on the back cover of the Grateful Dead album Aoxomoxoa. She raised money to investigate Mia Zapata's murder, and she briefly lived with Pete De Freitas, a Liverpool drummer who crashed his motorcycle at 27.
25. Wondering about whether this superstition around the 27 Club is real, a professor did an analysis of every musician she could find with a recorded death from 1950 to 2014, adding up to over 11,000 musicians. The most common age for musicians to die is 56, not 27. As a musician, you're more likely to die during any single year in your fifties or sixties than at 27.
26. Of course, middle-aged deaths aren't as notable as the extremely premature death of someone in their twenties. And it's true that musicians are more likely to die young than those in the general population. But as for year 27 being uniquely dangerous ... about as many musicians die at 25 as 27. Nearly as many die at 26 -- for example, Otis Redding, who finished recording his famous "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay" just three days before dying in a plane crash at 26, much like Janis Joplin recording "Me and Bobby McGee" just a week before her death.
27. More musicians die at 30 than at 27 (for example, Jim Croce, whose "Time In A Bottle" only became popular after he died). More musicians die at 28 than at 27 (for example, Tim Buckley, dead from a heroin overdose the day after playing a sold-out show). So, there is no actual statistical spike at 27. But hey, that doesn't mean the 27 Club isn't real, if you want it to be. There's no statistical spike that says an unexpectedly high number of people live in Belgium, but Belgium still exists, right? Probably exists.