Seven Rock Stars Who Died at the Age of 27
Where were you at age 27? I well remember where I was. In the year 2001, I was living in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina. The year before that I had rededicated my life to Christ and while living in North Carolina, I attended a very dynamic, all-black church. Professionally, I worked as Communications Coordinator for the North Carolina Automobile Dealers Association. I was only in North Carolina for a couple of years but I would not trade that experience for anything in the world.
As far as I'm concerned, 27 was a great age! As great as it was though, I'm glad it didn't end there. There were so many more experiences awaiting me. Sadly though, for these seven rock stars, 27 is where their adventures and life's experiences did end:
- Jim Morrison from the Doors
- Janis Joplin
- Kurt Cobain from Nirvana
- Jimi Hendrix
- Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones
- Alan Wilson of Canned Heat
- Gary Thain of the British rock band, Uriah Heep
Jim Morrison was born in Melbourne, Florida on December 8, 1943 and died in Paris, France on July 3, 1971.
Jim Morrison was the lead singer of The Doors. He was considered by some the most charismatic front man in rock music history. In 2008, he was ranked number 47 on Rolling Stone's 100 greatest singers of all time. Ironically, he could not even read music and he constantly doubted his singing ability.
The Doors formed in 1965 and two short years later, they attained popularity with the song, "Light My Fire." Besides music, Morrison also wrote poetry. He self-published two books of poetry in 1969.
Morrison continued to write music and poetry and become one of the most famous performers of the late 1960s. But his life as a rock star was not one of glamour. He was well-known for drug and alcohol abuse and for sleeping around on his long-time girlfriend, Pamela Courson. He did not have a good family life and considered them dead to him.
In 1971, with encouragement from his girlfriend, he moved to Paris to focus on his poetry. Four months later, she found him dead in the bathtub. There are still questions surrounding his death. Some say it was a heroin overdose, some say he had been sick for some time with a bad cough and died of a heart attack. No autopsy was ever performed. Three years later, Pamela Courson died at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose.
Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas on January 19, 1943. She died in Los Angeles, California on October 4, 1970.
Janis Joplin was the lead singer of the psychedelic rock band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. She was with the band for two years before going solo in 1969. In 2008 Rolling Stone ranked her number 28 on their list of Greatest Singers of All Time. Joplin was shunned in high school and referred to herself as a misfit. While in college at the University of Texas in Austin, her profile in the campus newspaper said, "She Dares to Be Different."
Throughout her life and singing career, she continued to cultivate her rebellious manner. This included drugs like heroin and speed. She also became a heavy drinker. After a stint of being drug-free, she became addicted to heroine in 1969 - the same year her Kozmic Blues album was released. Her drinking and drug use affected her performances at Woodstock and at Madison Square Garden that same year.
In 1970, during the recording of Pearl, her best-selling album of all-time, she became engaged to Seth Morgan. They never had the opportunity to marry as she was found dead on the floor in her room at the Landmark Motor Motel from a heroine overdose.
Jim Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942 and died in Kensington, Greater London, England on September 18, 1970.
Hendrix is considered the greatest electric guitarist in rock music history. He has been awarded some of the most prestigious awards during his lifetime and after his death.
As a boy, Hendrix was shy due to an unstable family life which included frequently getting moved around, his parents divorce when he was 9 and living in poverty. He received his first acoustic guitar at the age of 15. He did not graduate high school and enlisted in the army in 1961. Because of his low tolerance of authority, he was discharged from the military. After his discharge, he and his Army friend, Billy Wilcox tried to make a living as musicians.
In 1964, Hendrix moved from the Northwest to New York City where he won first prize in an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater. Three years later, his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience which was formed in London and released its first single, "Hey Joe." "Purple Haze" was also released that same year in 1967.
When the Jimi Hendrix Experience came to the United States, they toured with various music festivals and became the opening act for the Monkees but were later thrown off the tour. In 1969, the band broke up. Later that year, Jimi Hendrix played "The Star Spangled Banner" at Woodstock, a performance that has since been called a defining moment of the 1960s.
Hendrix was known for his perfectionism, unique fashion sense and sadly, drug and alcohol use as well. Some of his girlfriends claimed he became angry and violent when he drank and they suffered from physical abuse during his tirades.
In 1970, shortly after opening a recording studio in New York, he went on tour in Europe but seemed reluctant to perform. At one particular event, Hendrix left the stage after just two songs and told the crowd, "I've been dead a long time." He gave his final performance on September 6, 1970 and 12 days later was found dead at his girlfriend's flat at the Samarkand Hotel.
There has been much controversy surrounding his death. His girlfriend gave contradicting statements and there were also allegations that his manager had him killed. A premature statement on the BBC said Hendrix had killed himself. According to the doctor who had attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit and his airways were filled with red wine.
Brian Jones was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire on February 28, 1942 and died in Hartfield, Sussex, England on July 3, 1969.
Jones performed well academically in school but did not like to obey rules. He was suspended a couple of times for bad behavior. In 1959, he got his 14-year-old girlfriend pregnant and supposedly encouraged her to have an abortion. She put the baby up for adoption. Within the next two years, Jones quit school, traveled throughout Europe trying to play guitar for money and fathered two more children.
While living in London, Jones became friends with many rhythm and blues and jazz musicians. Jones co-founded a band called The Roosters and then in May of 1962, after inviting musicians to form a new R&B group, the Rollin' Stones were formed (the 'g' was later added to Rollin'). Jones served as the group's business manager and also played guitar and harmonica in the band. They gained popularity quickly in local blues and jazz clubs.
As Jagger and Richards became center stage, Jones slowly became estranged from the band and often felt like an outsider. He began using drugs and drinking alcohol. He suffered from asthma since childhood and was often hospitalized. He was arrested in 1967 for possession of drugs. His increased drug use and erratic behavior caused further alienation from the band. He was arrested again in 1968.
In 1969, The Rolling Stones were getting ready to tour the United States but because of his legal troubles, Jones was not able to get a visa. On June 8, 1969 he was told by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Charlie Watts that they were going to continue without him.
Around midnight on July 3, 1969, Jones' girlfriend, Anna Wohlin, found him at the bottom of his swimming pool where he lived at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. When the doctor arrived, he was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed heavy damage to his liver and heart due to drug and alcohol abuse. The coroner's report stated "death by misadventure" but there are still questions surrounding his death, including questions of murder.
Alan Wilson was born in Boston Massachusetts on July 4, 1943 and died in Los Angeles, California on September 3, 1970.
Wilson was legally blind, hence his nickname, Blind Owl. He was a music major at Boston University and often played in the folk-blues circuit. Wilson played the sliding guitar and was a vocalist but was also known as a phenomenal harmonica player. John Lee Hooker called him “the greatest harmonica player ever.” All of his musical talents were compiled on one song, "On the Road Again" when Wilson played three tamboura parts, harmonica, vocal and guitar, all recorded at separate times.
In 1965, Wilson along with his bandmates formed Canned Heat. After disbanding for about three months, Canned Heat got back together and produced their self-titled album in 1967, which received great reviews. While on their first national tour, all but Wilson were arrested for marijuana possession. In 1969, they performed at Woodstock. The band became known as blues innovators.
As a sensitive ecologist and environmentalist, he was often distraught over issues like smog and the destruction of forests. He had always suffered from depression and those issues along with struggles in personal relationships caused him to attempt suicide several times. At one point, he was in psychiatric care.
In July of 1970, the band cut "Human Condition" which was Wilson's last studio recording. On September 3, 1970 Wilson was found dead on a hillside behind the home of his band mate, Bob Hite. He died of a barbiturate overdose. It has not been established that he committed suicide since he left no note.
Gary Thain was born in Christchurch, New Zealand on May 15, 1948 and died on December 8, 1975 in London, England.
As a member of the rock band, The New Nadir, Thain traveled from New Zealand to London where he once jammed with Jimi Hendrix. In 1972 he joined the British rock band, Uriah Heep. The band was performing in the United States at that time and his first gig with them was at the infamous Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles.
Within the next three years, Thain performed in over 140 live performances all around the world. During this short span of time, he also got married and divorced twice and had a daughter. While on tour in Dallas, Texas in September, 1974, Thain received an electrical shock while playing on stage. Thain was known to have a heavy drug dependency. Because of that and never fully recovering from being electrocuted, he left the band three months after his accident.
He continued to struggle with his drug addiction and health problems after leaving the band. In December, 1975 he was found dead in his home from a heroin overdose.
Kurt Cobain was born in Aberdeen Washington on February 20, 1967 and died on April 5, 1994 in Seattle, Washington.
Cobain was a product of divorce of which he was affected greatly. His father remarried after promising Cobain he wouldn't and his mother dated someone who physically abused her. His family problems poured over into school where he was considered a bully and was put into therapy.
Cobain continued in his teenage rebellion until his father placed him in the home of some friends who were devout Christians. Cobain converted to Christianity but later renounced his faith. In his last years of high school, he lived with his mother. He dropped out of school his senior year and left home, living with friends.
In 1985 at the age of 18, Cobain formed the beginnings of the band, Nirvana. Cobain often became disheartened as they weren't able to draw large crowds. Finally in 1991, the album Nevermind was released. After their success with the song, "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the band became "the flagship band" of Generation X. The band helped to create the sub-genre of alternative rock called grunge and helped pave the way for bands such as Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam.
Throughout his life, Cobain struggled with many physical and emotional issues. He had chronic bronchitis as well as an undiagnosed chronic stomach condition which left him in much pain. He also had ADHD as a child and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as an adult. He also struggled with drugs and alcohol. His first experience with drugs was at the age of 13. He had a heroine addiction by 1990.
In 1994, his wife, Courtney Love, arranged an intervention. He agreed to enter a detox program in Los Angeles. The next night he left the recovery center and wandered about without his friends and family knowing where he'd gone. On April 3rd his wife hired a private investigator to find him. On April 8, his body was discovered at home by an electrician. The coroner's report said he had died on April 5th, there was a gun at the scene, and his body was filled with heroin and Valium.
Recently Courtney Love has stated that her desire to cheat on Kurt Cobain may have played a part in his suicide.
The 27 Club
It saddens me greatly what each of these rock stars have gone through and that their lives ended so prematurely. Each of them had such wonderful gifts, unique in their own way. Along with the gifts they had though, they seemed to suffer greatly. Most of them had struggles since they were children and most of them were quite rebellious at a young age.
Instead of being fulfilled by their popularity, their success fanned the flames of destruction in each of their lives. It would seem that others in the music industry would learn from their mistakes - especially since more rockers have died at 27 than any other age. If they do not learn from history, it really begs the question, who will be next?
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