Kurt Cobain once quoted Neil Young who said “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” and then he (allegedly) shot himself in the face. Kurt, who would have turned 42 this coming Friday, is part of the unlucky group of musicians who died at the tender age of 27 when their careers were still in bloom (oh, bad pun). As homage to the Nirvana frontman, we take a scroll through memory lane and honor the five greatest musicians who are part of the cursed 27 club; May they rest in peace.
Jimi Hendrix – The Jimi Hendrix Experience (died 1970)
There was nothing about Jimi Hendrix that didn’t stick out; from his flamboyant outfits, to his left-handed guitar or his use of amp overdrive. After being turned down by The Rolling Stones, Jimi was introduced to Chas Chandler via Keith Richard’s girlfriend. They went on to form The Jimi Hendrix Experience a rock band that would revolutionize the genre forever. In 1969, he headlined the biggest music festival of all time, Woodstock. One year later, Jimi Hendrix was found dead after overdosing on pills and drowning in his own vomit (Asphyxiation).
Brian Jones – The Rolling Stones (died 1969)
Brian Jones was the founder of a little known band named The Rolling Stones. While on the phone to secure a gig with a venue owner, Brian came up with the name “Rollin(g) Stones” by reading it off an album that was laying around. Their music consisted mostly of R&B covers and it wasn’t until Andrew Loog Oldham joined that they began shifting their focus to newer, more original material. This transition reduced Jones' role in the band which was further accelerated with his drug habit and alcohol abuse. He became alienated from The Rolling Stones and eventually, he was no longer a member of the band he helped form. One month later, he was found face down in his swimming pool.
Janis Joplin – Big Brother and The Holding Company (died 1970)
Janis’ big break came in 1966 when she became the lead vocalist of the psychedelic hippie rock band, Big Brother and The Holding Company. She was renowned for her strong powerful vocals during a male dominated rock era. Janis Joplin performed at Woodstock after having several shots of heroin and being highly inebriated. In 1970, she flew to Brazil where she cleaned up her act and remained sober for a while. She would later return to the US where her drug habits would resurface and ultimately, get the better of her as she died from an apparent heroin overdose in October 1970.
Jim Morrison – The Doors (died 1971)
Jim Morrison was a poet, a writer, a filmmaker and of course, the lead singer for the rock band, The Doors. Controversy surrounded The Doos when they were asked to perform on the Ed Sullivan show. Fearing that the lyric “Girl We Couldn’t Get Higher” was too risqué for television, Ed Sullivan requested that the band modify the sentence to be more TV friendly to which they agreed. When they played, Jim proceeded with original wording which infuriated Ed Sullivan. The Doors had great success in the late 60s but Jim Morrison started to get out of control. He was constantly drugged or drunk and would oftentimes show up late for live performances. In 1971, he moved to Paris and a few months later, Jim Morrison was found dead in his apartment. The circumstances surrounding his death are still unclear as an autopsy was never performed.
Kurt Cobain – Nirvana (died 1994)
We began with a left-handed guitarist, so it’s only fitting that we end with one as well. In an era where rock music was all about long hair and leather jackets, Kurt Cobain sported short hair and wore flannel clothing. Nirvana became an overnight success when they took Michael Jackson off the number one slot in the Billboard music charts with their smash hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit. Grunge music would go on to flood the radio airwaves throughout the early nineties. In 1992, Cobain wed the equally unorthodox Courtney Love with whom they had daughter Frances Bean Cobain. In 1993, Nirvana, known for their grungy loud music, were approached by MTV and asked to perform a quieter, more intimate acoustic set. Kurt Cobain’s emotional performance in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” still sends chills down our spines.