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What is the 27 Club? A List of Singers and Musicians who Died at the Age of 27

the 27 club mural
This piece represents many artists, who died at the young age of 27 years old. Painted by artist Jonathon Kis-Lev in Israel. Image by Psychology Forever.

Have you ever heard of something called the 27 club, or 27 club musicians? Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison were among the first celebrities to become 27 Club members between 1969 and 1971.

However, the term “27 Club” was created in 1994 when Kurt Cobain joined. At that time people started to notice a consistency of how old many great musicians were when they passed.

What is the 27 Club?

The 27 club is a group of singers and musicians who coincidentally died at the age of 27.

Who is in the 27 Club?

Many of the 27 club musicians lived fast-paced lives, with the cause of death often caused by drug and alcohol abuse or suicide.

Here is a list of all of the 27 Club musicians who lost (or ended) their life at 27 years of age. 

Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall Hendrix, popular as Jimi Hendrix, was born on November 27, 1942, and he went on to be the greatest instrumentalist in rock music, according to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He died on September 18, 1970. How did Jimi Hendrix die? Based on the hospital report, Jimi Hendrix choked on his vomit and died of asphyxiation.

He was popular for his solo guitar performances and his songs, such as “Purple Haze,” and playing a standing ovation solo of the National Anthem at Woodstock.

Jimi Hendrix in 1971
Jimi Hendrix in 1971.

Gary Thain

Gary Mervin Thain was born on May 15, 1948, in Christchurch, New Zealand, and died on December 8, 1975, in London, United Kingdom.

He rose to fame as a rock bassist in New Zealand and also for his work in the band Uriah Heep in Britain.

Gary lost his position in Uriah Heep due to drug addiction in 1975, and he died of respiratory failure after overdosing on heroin months later.

Brian Jones

Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones, popular as Brian Jones, founded the Rolling Stones. He was born on February 28, 1942, and died on July 3, 1969.

He was discovered at the bottom of his swimming pool in his Cotchford Farm home and was pronounced dead by the time he got to the hospital.

His death, according to the coroner’s report, was caused by drowning, but his heart and liver were already enlarged from drug abuse.

Brian Jones 1965
Photograph of Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones during the band’s visit to Finland.

Allan Wilson

Allan “Blind Owl” Wilson was born on July 4, 1943, and died on September 3, 1970, from a drug overdose or a possible suicide.

He was popular as a singer and original composer of Canned Heat. He was a co-founder and leader of the band Canned Heat where he played guitar and harmonica during the group’s performances.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin was born in January 1943 and died on October 4, 1970. How did Janis Joplin die? As many rock stars tend to do, she died from a drug overdose.

Before her death, Janis was among the most successful rock stars of her time and was popular for her electric performances and mezzo-soprano vocals.

Some of her most famous songs include “Mercedes Benz” and her covers of the songs “Piece of My Heart”, “Down on Me”, and “Cry Baby.”

Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin: Days & Summers – Scrapbook 1966-1968.

Leslie Harvey

Lesley Cameron Harvey was a famous guitarist, playing for Stone the Crows, and was also the sister to the Scottish rock musician Alex Harvey.

She was born on September 13, 1944, and died on May 3, 1972, of electrocution when she touched a microphone that was not correctly earthed. She died from the injuries resulting from the accident.

Cecilia

Evangelina Sobredo Galanes, popularly known as Cecilia, was a Spanish singer and songwriter who lived between October 11, 1948, and August 2, 1976.

She was a member of the music group Expresión. Throughout her music career, she released nine singles and 3 LPs.

She died after an accident near Benavente and was buried in the Cementerio de la Almudena.

Jim Morrison

James “Jim” Douglas Morrison was born on December 8, 1943 and died on July 3, 1971. He was the lead vocalist of the band The Doors.

He had a wild personality and delivered electric performances with his poetic lyrics. Fans of rock considered him the most influential frontman in the history of rock.

How did Jim Morrison die? He died of heart failure in a bathtub in his apartment in Paris, but no autopsy was conducted as the French law does not require one.

Jim Morrison 1969
Publicity photo of Jim Morrison in 1969. Photo by Elektra Records.

Linda Jones

Linda Jones was born on December 14, 1944, and died on March 14, 1972, from complications related to diabetes.

She was famous for her soulful voice with a gospel music style and produced popular singles, such as “Hypnotized” and “What’ve I Done (To Make You Mad).”

She died in her mom’s house after doing a nationwide tour in support of her album. She may have slipped into a coma or went into an insulin shock while she was sleeping.

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan

Famously known as Pigpen, Ronald Charles McKernan was born on September 8, 1945, and died on March 8, 1973.

He founded the Grateful Dead band, who he played for between 1965 and 1972.

Although he stayed away from drugs, Pigpen was so addicted to alcohol that he suffered severe liver damage and was advised to rest from tours. He died of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage and was buried in Palo Alto.

Ron Pigpen McKernan
Ron “Pigpen” McKernan c. 1968.

Dave Alexander

David Michael Alexander was born on June 3, 1947, and died on February 10, 1975, of pulmonary edema after suffering from pancreatitis.

He was a famous bassist for the band The Stooges with popular songs such as “Little Doll,” “Dirt,” and “1970.”

Before his death, Zander, as he was known, had been fired from The Stooges after showing up for a show too drunk.

Amy Winehouse

Amy Jade Winehouse was born on September 14, 1983, and died on July 23, 2011, aged 27 years from fatal levels of alcohol in her body.

Amy broke two Guinness World Records for “the most Grammy awards won by a female artist in a year” and “the most songs by a woman to appear on the UK singles chart.”

She was buried in the Edgwarebury Lane Cemetery and after her death several musicians released songs to pay tribute to her.

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse performing in 2007. Photo by Rama.

Pete Ham

Peter William Ham was a Welsh musician who lived between April 27, 1947 and April 24, 1975.

He was a lead vocalist and composed songs for the band Badfinger. The band released popular songs such as “No Matter What,” “Baby Blue,” and “Day After Day.”

He committed suicide after battling depression from band-related problems. His former bandmate Tom Evans also committed suicide in 1983.

Helmut Köllen

Helmut Köllen (March 2, 1950 – May 3, 1977) was a German guitarist and bassist who played and sang for the band Triumvirat.

He released a solo album in 1976, You Won’t See Me Again, which made him popular but was his only album.

Helmut died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his car while listening to music.

Chris Bell

Christopher Branford Bell was in the band Big Star, but he also pursued a solo career.

He was born on January 12, 1951, and died on December 27, 1978, from a car accident when driving home from a band rehearsal.

His music and that of Big Star started gaining popularity in the 1980s after his death.

Chris Bell
Chris Bell, year unknown. Photo by GroovinDays.

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller was a Jamaican reggae musician and a member of the religion Rastafari. He was born on May 4, 1952, and died on March 23, 1980, in a car accident in Kingston, Jamaica, with one of his sons.

He was popular for his association with the legendary Bob Marley and the Wailers and for the Album Mixed Up Moods, which he recorded just before his death.

Pete de Freitas

Peter Louis Vincent de Freitas was born on August 2, 1961, and died on June 14, 1989.

He was an English musician who doubled as a producer and a drummer for Echo and the Bunnymen. Pete de Freitas died in a motorcycle accident when riding from London to Liverpool.

D. Boon

Dennes Dale “D.” Boon lived between April 1, 1958, and December 22, 1985.

He was popular for his unique guitar style and for composing most of the popular songs by minutemen, including “This Ain’t No Picnic” and “Corona.” He died in a van crash in the Arizona desert.

D Boon in 1982
D Boon 1982. Photo by UCLA Library Special Collections.

Amar Singh Chamkila

Amar Singh Chamkila was assassinated on March 8, 1988, along with his wife and two members of his band.

Born on July 21, 1960, Chamkila rose to fame after partnering with Surinder Sonia, a famous female vocalist. The Punjabi artist’s assassination has never been solved.

Alexander Bashlachev

Alexander Nikolaevich Bashlachev was a famous poet, singer, songwriter, performer, and guitarist from Russia.

He was born on May 7, 1960, and died on February 17, 1988, after falling from the window of his apartment on the ninth floor. Although not verified, he may have committed suicide.

Alexander Bashlachev in Moscow, 1987
Alexander Bashlachev in Moscow, 1987.

Lil Marlo

Lil Marlo is one of the 27 Club rappers most well known for his song “9+Z6one=1’5.” The up-and-coming Atlanta rapper was found dead in his car at 27 years old in July 2020.

Officials believe it was a drive-by shooting, but this remains an open case with no suspects. Lil Marlo’s real name was Rudolph Johnson.

Finbarr Donnelly

Finbarr Donnelly found success as a singer and songwriter at a young age, but that fame was cut short after his death on June 18, 1989.

The Northern Irelander moved to Cork City when he was young and found fame with the band Five Go Down to the Sea as the vocalist.

Born on April 25, 1962, Donnelly drowned in 1989 while swimming in Hyde Park.

Finbarr Donnelly in the 1980's
Photograph of Finbarr Donnelly, taken in the late 1980s by Ricky Dineen.

Chris Austin

Christopher Clay Austin released three hot singles after signing with Warner Bros Records in 1988, including “Blues Stay Away from Me” and “Same Ol’ Love,” which he co-wrote with Ricky Skaggs.

The country music star was born on February 24, 1964, and died on March 16, 1991. He died in an airplane crash in San Diego, California.

Mia Zapata

Born on August 25, 1965, Mia Katherine Zapata was the lead singer in the band The Gits before she was murdered on July 7, 1993.

She was brutally beaten, raped, and then strangled to death when walking home shortly after 2.15 a.m.

When working with The Grits, they released their first studio album Frenching the Bully, which had popular songs such as “Another Shot of Whiskey” and “Here’s to Your Fuck.”

Kurt Cobain

Kurt Donald Cobain was born on February 20, 1967, and died on April 5, 1994. Cobain had attempted to commit suicide several times before he successfully shot himself dead.

He was famous as the frontman of the rock band Nirvana with famous songs such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Kurt Cobain 1991
Kurt Cobain, WFNX, 1991. Photo by Julie Kramer.

Kristen Pfaff

Born on May 26, 1967, Kristen Marie Pfaff was bassist for the rock band Hole before she died of acute opiate intoxication on June 16, 1994.

Hole released their first internationally acclaimed album, Pretty on the Inside, in 1991.

Her time in Seattle made her a moderate addict since “everyone was doing it” and that is how she found her death.

Richey Edwards

Born Richard James “Richey” Edwards on December 22, 1967, Richey rose to fame after joining the band Manic Street Preachers where he was a lyricist and guitarist.

He disappeared on February 1, 1995, and was never seen and was presumed dead on or a few days after that date. His disappearance was presumed as suicide on the famous suicide site The Severn Bridge.

Kim Jong-hyun

Popularly known as Jonghyun, Kim Jong-hyun was a South Korean singer, songwriter, producer, radio host, and author.

He was born on April 8, 1990, and died on December 18, 2017, from a possible suicide inside a rented apartment.

Before his death, he was with the boy band Shinee in South Korea, where they released twelve albums.

Kim Jong Hyun 2013
Kim Jong-hyun performing during at SMTown Week on December 21, 2013. Photo by Sperospera for Jonghyun.

Sahara Davenport

Born Antoine Ashley, Sahara Davenport was a drag queen, reality TV personality, singer, and a classic dancer.

She was born on December 17, 1984, and died of heart failure on October 1, 2012, after battling drug addiction for a long time. During her music career, she released two popular singles, “Pump with Me” and “Go Off.”

Fredo Santana

Derrick Coleman, popularly known as Fredo Santana, lived between July 4, 1990 and October 31, 2013. A cousin of the popular Chicago rapper Chief Keef, he was popular for his album Trappin Ain’t Dead, which he released on October 31, 2013.

Santana suffered from cardiovascular disease and suffered a fatal seizure that led to his death.

Other People in the 27 Club

The 27 Club has more members, including Arlester “Dyke” Christian, Henri Evenepoel, Louis Chauvin, Rupert Brooke, Robert Johnson, Nat Jaffee, Jesse Belvin, Rudy Lewis, Joe Henderson, Malcolm Hale, Alexandra, Roger Lee Durham, Wallace “Wally” Yohn, Zenon De Fleur, Dimitar Voev, and Fat Pat among others.

The growing club continues to gain talented rappers, singers, and songwriters.

A few notable celebrities have passed away just outside of the 27 Club by a whisker, such as Mac Miller (26) and Avicii (28).

27 Club Theory

Like everything in life, people have created a theory as to why the 27 Club exists. Some people believe these musicians made a deal with the devil in order to procure their talent, and in return, they would only have that talent until 27, when their life would be taken as payment. Others believe that musicians are simply more likely to die at 27.

In 2011, the British Medical Journal conducted a study to find that the 27 Club truly is a coincidence, as in there is no science why so many musicians die at this age. 

Is there someone missing from the 27 club list that needs to be added? Let us know in the comments below.

Now you know about the 27 Club. What about the musicians who made it after 30?

Written by Bo Weber

Supporting artists since 2014

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