27 is rock and roll's most hazardous number.
It is the age at which a number of pop stars have died from overdoses, suicides, murders, or in some cases, just plain accidents. The short list begins with Robert Johnson who was poisoned in 1938. Brian Jones died in 1969 and was joined soon after by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, both dead in the fall of 1970. Jim Morrison died during the summer of 1971. Add to the 27 Club these names: Kurt Cobain, D.Boon of the Minutemen, Hole's Kristen Pfaff, David Alexander of the Stooges, Pete Ham from Badfinger, and Ron McKernan (otherwise known as Pigpen) from the Grateful Dead. There are more.
But consider that there is an even larger list of musicians whose deaths barely missed the grim 27 milestone. Gram Parsons was 26; Sublime's Bradley Nowell had recently turned 28. Shannon Hoon was 28. Nick Drake and Randy Rhodes both died at the age of 26. Tim Buckley, father of Jeff Buckley, was 28 and country singer Hank Williams missed it by two. He was 29 when they found him in the back seat of his baby-blue Cadillac.
Eric Segalstad, author of "The 27s - The Greatest Myth of Rock and Roll," told Vermont Public Radio that the high rate of mortality among young rock stars prompted a study of over 1,000 such deaths by the University of Liverpool. Their findings, published in 2007 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health represented the first scientific verification that at least some rock stars are indeed too fast to live but not too young to die. Drugs and alcohol were said to account for 25 percent of the deaths in the study.
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Amy Winehouse was pronounced dead in her London flat by first responders. While the cause of death is not known, the Brit-soul phenomenon had sought treatment in recent months for health problems related to drug and alcohol abuse. Two albums into a career that may be remembered more for the public train wrecks that savaged what were otherwise electric performances, Winehouse, (as did Robert Johnson,) leaves behind a tiny legacy - a handful of songs -- as remembrance.
Artists such as Rome Ramirez and M.I.A. have paid tribute to Winehouse; Ramirez redid "Rehab," while M.I.A. recorded a new song called "27":