Forever 27

Cashbox Canada Forever 27.jpg

Submitted by Don Graham

The latest show at the Queen West rock photography hub, The Analogue Gallery, is an exhibit featuring the “Forever 27 Club”. The exhibit is part of the Scotia Bank Contact Festival, showcasing members of the famous or infamous 27 Club, artists who died at that young age. Forever 27 runs until May 30, 2013 at the Analogue Gallery 673 Queen Street West in Toronto, Ontario.

There are a fair number of tragic figures that belong to this group, spawning some questions. Coincidence? Trend? Myth?  Doesn’t much matter as the 'Forever 27 Club' has become more than a legend. As it turns out, some of music's most influential artists who were taken from us much too soon all passed on at the age 27. Is it a coincidence or a curse? We can’t deny the fact that a fair number of rock ‘n’ rollers have passed away at this tender age. It probably all started with blues legend Robert Johnson who sang of having a hellhound on his trail and allegedly made a deal with the devil; his soul in exchange for extrodanary guitar and songwriting skills. He died mysteriously in 1938 at the age of.....27.

Amy WinehouseAmy Winehouse
Photo Credit Jll Furmanovsky
Amy Winehouse was the latest “member” to join ‘the club’, passing away in July of 2011 at, yep, 27 years old. She died of alcohol poisoning. Basically she drank so much she stopped breathing. She was online watching videos of herself when she passed away. Winehouse's former personal assistant, Alex Haines, claims the soul-singer spent upwards of $5,000 a week on her drug habit at its height. But in 2008, the former aide said of Winehouse, "She reckoned she would join the 27 Club of rock stars who died at that age. She said, 'I have a feeling I'm gonna die young.'" Amy Winehouse was 27 years old.

Janis Joplin Photo Credit Ray StevensonJanis Joplin
Photo Credit Ray Stevenson
On October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin died of an overdose of heroin, morphine and alcohol at the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, California. She suffered another heroin overdose earlier in the same year of her death. On October 4, 1970, producer Paul A. Rothchild became concerned when Joplin failed to show up at Sunset Sound Recorders for a recording session. Full Tilt Boogie's road manager, John Cooke, drove to Joplin’s house. He saw her psychedelically painted Porsche 356C Cabriolet in the parking lot. Upon entering Joplin's room (room 105) he found her dead on the floor beside her bed. The official cause of death was an overdose of heroin, possibly combined with the effects of alcohol. Janis Joplin was 27 years old.

Brian Jones and Jimi HendrixPhoto Credit Mouthful of PenniesBrian Jones and Jimi Hendrix
Photo Credit Mouthful of Pennies
Jim Morrison, the drug-using  lead singer of The Doors moved to Paris, France with girlfriend Pamela Courson, shaved off  his beard, lost a little weight and started to clean himself up, until Courson found him dead in the bathtub of their apartment on July 3, 1971.No autopsy was done because foul play was ruled out and the French don't care how you died if foul play wasn't involved. The cause of Morrison’s death is listed as heart failure; however there are accounts that claim that Morrison found Courson's heroin stash, thought it was cocaine and then snorted it until he started hemorrhaging. Instead of calling the police, Courson allegedly felt a nap was more important than finding out what happened to her heroin and why her boyfriend was bleeding and unresponsive. Jim Morrison was 27 years old.

And wouldn’t you know it?  Three years later, Courson died of a heroin overdose herself. She was... wait for it... 27.

Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan founding member and first keyboardist for the Grateful Dead suffered a gastrointestinal hemorrhage as a result of his alcoholism and died on March 8, 1973. Ron McKernan was 27 years old.

Kurt CobainPhoto Credit Ed SirrsKurt Cobain
Photo Credit Ed Sirrs
Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain's struggles with hard drugs (heroin was his drug of choice) are well known and well documented, and on April 5, 1994, after mixing the drug with some valium, he turned a gun on himself. He was 27 years old.

The following is a list of some other well known, though not as famous musicians who also died at 27 years old.

Robert Leroy JohnsonRobert Leroy JohnsonEcho & the Bunnymen drummer Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident on June 14, 1989. Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died of a heroin overdose on June 16, 1994. Founder of the band Gray and artist Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a Speedball overdose on August 12, 1988.Jamaican reggae band Inner Circle's lead singer Jacob Miller was killed in a car crash on Marcy 23, 1980. Stooges bassist Dave Alexander died of a pulmonary edema on February 10, 1975. Badfinger keyboardist/guitarist Pete Ham hanged himself on April 24, 1975. Uriah Heep bassist Gary Thain died of a drug overdose on December 8, 1975.Canned Heat singer/songwriter Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson died of a drug overdose on September 3, 1970. The Drifters front man Rudy Lewis, an alleged binge-eater, died either by a drug overdose or by choking to death in his sleep on May 20, 1964.

Jimi HendrixPhoto Credit Barrie WentzellJimi Hendrix
Photo Credit Barrie Wentzell
Let’s hope that this trend doesn’t continue and we see our young artists thrive and grow old, like the rest of us!! Rock on!!! But not too hard boys and girls. Neil Young didn’t really mean it when he said it’s better to burn out than fade away. Want proof? Neil Young has not faded away and is still here and 67 years old.

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