27 Club - Rock Stars That Didn't Live to Be 28
Dying Young, the morbid circle
Quite a lot of things fascinate us about rock stars of all generations. Just what is it about them that keeps us enthralled? I'm pretty sure that a big part of the whole mystery comes directly from the genius of their works and their commercial packaging. For most everyone, the first connection happens when they hear a rock star's song. Then there's the whole marketing mill; recordings, performances, interviews, specials. And then there's the overall coolness factor exuded by the rock star who is always in the A list of everything, who amasses great wealth at a very young age, who is able to get intimate with throngs of people through their music, people they do not even know, who worship them.
Another thing that enthralls us about them apart from their bizarre lives is their equally bizarre deaths. Of major curiosity to me is the 27 club, also referred to as the forever 27 club. Rock stars who bowed out of life at their prime all in the age of 27. While there are a good number of them if one is looking for the connection, only 5 comes to mind quickly, due mainly to their star status and the strange circumstances surrounding their early departure.
Lead man for one of the major rock bands of all times, The Doors. Morrisson's poetry and sex appeal was the big factor in catapulting his band to super-stardom within the year of releasing their first and eponymous studio album in 1967. Six more huge album releases would follow leading up to Morrisson's death in July 1971. Morrisson was discovered lifeless in his Paris apartment bathtub by his live in partner Pamela Courson. His death was ruled as heart failure, which did not necessitate an autopsy. His death did not make the news until after he was buried in the simplest of fashions.
The circumstances of his death and his hasty and hushed burial triggered numerous conspiracy theories about the whole affair, that ranged from the believable to the outlandish. Much of the confusion stemmed from the differing accounts of Courson, who first claimed that she found Morrisson dead in the bathtub after a night of watching a film and listening to records. A band insider claims that upon her return to the U.S. Courson confessed that Morrisson died of heroin overdose as he inhaled the substance mistaking it for cocaine. Another story is that he died after choking on his vomit. Yet another theory tells of Morrisson staging his supposed death to be able to live his life as a normal human being.
As late as 2007, a new spin to Morrisson's death surfaced more along the lines of heroin overdose, this time a Paris club owner claimed that Morrisson actually died in his club after purchasing heroin for Courson. This story went further to say that his drug dealers carried his body out of the club and dumped it at the bathtub of his home.
Joplin rose to fame in 1967 as the lead singer for the band Big Brother and the Holding Company. The band's album “Cheap Thrills” sold millions of copies. It should be noted though that Joplin started making the rounds in the California music scene as early as 1961 and developed close ties with heroin and 80 proof alcohol in the ensuing years. Way before all this, she has been a complete misfit saddled with deep insecurities due mainly to her painfully plain looks, which turned her to a cussing, beer-chugging young woman who was shunned by her classmates but embraced by the older set. By the time she became famous, she has been fighting a losing battle with her preferred poisons; drugs, alcohol with the addition of sex that led to her contracting and spreading the clap.
The details of her October 4, 1970 demise are sketchy at best. After listening to the tracks for her new album with her third band “Full Tilt Boogie”, she was reported to have had a drink or two at the Barney's Beanery on Santa Monica Boulevard before returning to her hotel and shooting up heroin using a method called skin popping which delivered the substance a whole lot slower than when its shot through the veins. She was also seen buying a pack of cigarettes at the hotel lobby presumably after taking the drugs. What happened later are all speculations. Investigators ruled that she was caught off guard when the heroin kicked in and lost consciousness hitting her head on her dresser as she fell down. The official cause of death is acute heroin morphine intoxication.
The investigation revealed that her dealer sold Joplin and other patrons a lethal dose of the heroin, carelessly cutting his own batch as his chemist was out of town. Eight other patrons perished using heroin from the same batch.
Named by the Rolling Stones magazine as the most important guitarist of all times, Jimi Hendrix was born in the U.S. but actually made his mark in Great Britain first with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience and their debut “Are You Experienced?”, which spawned the hits “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze”. Hendrix is the pioneer in turning guitar feedback and distortion into a legitimate electronic sound. He's also the consummate performer using various stunts like playing the guitar with his teeth, behind his back and between his legs.
On the night prior to Hendrix' death he ate his last meal of tuna sandwich, took nine of her girlfriend Monika Danneman's Vesperax sleeping pills with red wine and turned in. By Danneman's account, she woke up at around 10:20 am of September 18, 1970 and saw that the sleeping Hendrix had vomit all over him. He was unresponsive and so an ambulance was called.
An insider's description of Hendirx' final moments are on David Henderson's book " 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky", it reads:
"Instead of laying him down in the ambulance, they sat him in a chair and strapped him upright. He tried to bend over so he could vomit, but one of the attendants quickly pushed his head back and strapped him in tighter. Jimi's head lolled back as the ambulance driver took off. The speeding ambulance pressed his body back in the chair and made it even more difficult for him to get his head down. He felt bile and vomit near his Adam's apple. Jimi was unable to speak. Even if he could, the ball of vomit in his throat prevented him. The vomit massed in his vocal chords. His lungs became congested. His heart began to pump harder, and the right ventricle dilated. Fluid began to seep into his lungs. He was rushed from the ambulance into St. Mary Abbots Hospital. The doctors work on him for over an hour, to no avail." -- The official cause of death was inhalation of vomit after barbiturate intoxication.
Dropping Like Flies
Founder of the most enduring rock band in history, the Rolling Stones in 1962 but booted out less than a month before his death on July 2, 1969 by his own band mates. Jones is the sparkling example of what parents would warn their children about against rock and roll. He was an accomplished musician though, playing several instruments and carrying out his vision for his band that still tours around the world to packed arenas until now. Predictably, the debauchery did him in He also did not like the direction the band was taking in his final months and so he distanced himself from the rest and was reported to have ongoing rows with band mates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.
People close to Jones claim that he was just fine about the band's decision to replace him and was actually in the process of forming a new band and crystallizing the new material he recorded on a trip to Morocco. His problems were closer to his Cotchford Farm home in Sussex, England, which was under renovation and where a group of builders led by Frank Thorogood (employed by the band's management) weren't keeping to his standards. He accused Thorogood and his men of being lazy and stealing from him then withheld the workers' wages.
On July 2, 1969 in an attempt to clear the air, Jones and his partner Anna Wohlin invited Thorogood for a drink and a swim in the pool. By 11:15 he was dead at the bottom of the pool. The coroner's ruling was death by misadventure, saying that Jones was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Facts did not add up however as Jones was known by friends to be a proficient swimmer and drinker, and on the night in question his postmortem yielded only about 3 to 4 pints of beer and hardly any drugs. In 1994 Thorogood gave a deathbed confession to murdering Jones claiming he snapped and it just happened. A reopening of the case in 1995 did not prosper though, as no one came forward with new information.
Whether its the fan's lukewarm reaction to Guns n' Roses' album “The Spaghetti Incident” or the huge success of Nirvana's “Nevermind” album that gave birth to grunge (a sub-genre of alternative rock that lorded over the music industry during the 1990s), Kurt Cobain will always be the poster boy of the genre. The soiled flannel shirts and the unkempt hair is his signature look, but more importantly, the apathetic and angst-ridden music set to wildly distorted electric guitar sounds defined Cobain and his band Nirvana.
Cobain was a classic case for having too much too soon. Being a virtual nobody in the mid-80s, his supersonic ascend to stardom was just too much for him to come to terms with. He nursed this discomfort with alcohol and painkillers, which he stated he need to take for a recurring stomach problem. On April 8, 1994, Cobain's body was found in a spare room above the garage of his Lake Washington home by an electrician, but examiners placed the time of death at around April 5. His whereabouts were unknown some days prior to the discovery and his wife Courtney Love had already contracted a private investigator to find him.
His death was clearly a suicide from a single head shot but conspiracy theorists would say differently and claim he was actually murdered. To date, there has been no strong evidence to the murder theory and a whole lot of strong indications of Cobain's suicidal tendencies. He suffered from attention deficit disorder as a child, bipolar disorder growing up and depression as an adult. He was quoted to have said that he dreamed of joining the 27 club and was oftentimes heard complaining about the severe stomach pain which he suffered from, claiming he self medicated with heroin because it was the only thing that kept him from blowing his head off. In his suicide note, he quoted from Neil Young's “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black) song with the phrase “It's better to burn out than fade away”.