The 27 Club: What Would They Have Done?

September 25, 2013 9:56 am

Like any highly-exclusive members only club, those who want in have to fit a particularly strict criteria – in this case, it involves talent, fame, sex, excess and death.

27 clubMany musical enigmas have been inducted into the legendarily infamous ’27 Club’ over the past five decades, including the likes of The Rolling Stones’ self-destructive son Brian Jones, gravelly Southern wailer Janis Joplin, the soulfully raw Jeff Buckley and most recently, Britain’s very own Amy Winehouse, to name a few.

In the words of Jim Morrison “no one here, gets out alive…” and although this pretty sizable list of rock and roll superstars passing on at the age of 27 is most likely a massive coincidence, these occurrences certainly do provide an air of mysticism, especially when considering the unusual circumstances surrounding some of these high-profile deaths.

Although extremely tragic, for the majority of the 27 Club, getting cut down in their prime has served to give them an immortal God-like status, therefore, preserving an everlasting image of youth, vitality and perpetual relevance. By expiring prematurely, each of these undeniably charismatic characters has left behind a musical legacy that cannot be tarnished or tampered with and as Neil Young said – “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”.

With that being said, it is often wondered what some of these exclusive club members would have achieved if they remained on this earth until a riper age. Would they have changed the world, or simply faded into the background?

Jim MorrisonJim Morrison

After fronting The Doors for six years, poet and rock crooner Jim Morrison died in Paris on 3rd July 1971 of an alleged heroin overdose.

During his time with The Doors, Jim really made a mark on the world with his insightful lyrics, haunting tones and unpredictable stage antics. At the end of his time with the band, Jim grew weary of the whole rock scene and purposely gained weight to forge a new image (supposedly based on ‘The Bear’ from rhythm and blues band, Canned Heat).

As Jim always wanted to be taken seriously as a poet I believe that given the chance, he would have permanently severed his ties with the music industry and focused solely on writing, releasing a series of self-published anthologies under various pseudonyms to remain elusive. As a result, I think ‘Mr. Mojo Risin’ would have retained his mysterious and legendary status even if he’d have lived to be 100 years old.

Kurt Cobain

Kurt-Cobain

This troubled genius found fame with Seattle based Grunge band Nirvana and after a long personal struggle, was found dead at his Lake Washington home on 8th April 1994 after committing suicide.

Along with Pearl Jam, Nirvana was arguably the most widely successful group of the Seattle Grunge movement and the popularity of their second album, Nevermind, propelled the hard playing trio to super-stardom.

Kurt was a true pioneer of his time and helped to craft the sound of a generation. His vision, drive and talent could not be questioned but the further he got from his roots, the more uneasy he became with being in the spotlight.

I think if he had the strength to continue on his journey, he’d have perused a solo career and created a couple of hauntingly brilliant acoustic studio gems. It’s hard to say whether his musical offerings would have ended up becoming tiresome to his fans, but I believe he is best remembered as he is.

Jimi Hendrix

jimi-hendrixStill regarded by many as the world’s most influential guitarist, this virtuoso of the six stringed electric was found dead at a flat in Notting Hill on 18th September 1970, supposedly of asphyxiation.

Jimi was best-known for the songs he performed/recorded with The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies, however, his incredible and inimitable guitar style was the thing that left many of his very talented peers (including Eric Clapton) in a state of awe and envy.

Hendrix was an artist dedicated to sonic experimentation and pushing musical boundaries, never wishing to stew on an idea or set list for too long. I believe, if he’d have lived for even a few more decades, he would have spawned a brand new musical movement and created soundscapes the likes of which the world has never heard before, and as a result, would have left behind an even greater legacy.

We can only really guess what any member of the 27 Club would have accomplished if they stuck around for a bit longer; after all, life’s unpredictable. But just like many of these fallen musical legends, perhaps we’re all better off not knowing for sure…

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  • Gary Hallow

    I think the “excess” bit answers the “death” bit. All great musicians but when you live so hard, dying young becomes rather easy.

    The 27 club, it is slightly mysterious I have to admit, but as you say, it certainly adds to the legend of these people and perhaps if they had lived on they would have done great things or they would have ruined their careers…

    Excellent article Dan.

    • Dan

      Thanks for your kind words Gary.

  • CHrisRobinson

    Good article, and just think, they could all be forming a super(natural)group wherever they are together. Brian Jones was in the throes of starting a new blues group just before he died having been sacked by the Stones (the band he had been instrumental in forming, and whose distinctive sound in the ’60s he made very much his own as a multi-instrumentalist – sitar, flute, sax, dulcimer etc). Perhaps one of his less known contributions to music in general was he was one of the first to pioneer what we know today as ‘world music’. He recorded the Morocco tribesmen and their ‘Pipes of Joujouka’ (which is still available). The thing is, poor Brian, as fine a stylist and musician he was, he just couldn’t write a song to save his life, especially alongside the stiff competition of Jagger/Richards. Nevertheless, he remains one of the greats.

    • Dan

      I agree Chris, definitely one of the legends!

      Thanks,
      Dan

  • Jonathan J Lindsell

    Hi Dan, I think this was a good, interesting article. This is a link to the Samaritan’s website ‘media guidelines – suicide’ which has a few do/donts. I don’t think you were a big sinner at all, but it’s useful to have in mind with such a sensitive topic:

    http://www.samaritans.org/media-centre/media-guidelines/reporting-suicide-tips-journalists Best, J.

    • Dan

      Hello J,

      I definitely didn’t intend to offend, but thanks for the information – it’s much appreciated.

      Cheers,
      Dan

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