The 27 Club: The Unfortunate Outcome of Drug Abuse
Drugs, overdose, and rock & roll are synonymous in the entertainment industry. Tragedy seems to strike too often in an business where people are expected to live up to their iconic status, with many famous figures overdosing on the same substances that helped them cope with the pressure of their larger than life image.
It is no wonder that many of the people that are in the public eye turn to drugs and alcohol when the pressures of success often turn overwhelming. The number of iconic figures that have died due to drug or alcohol abuse is staggering and spreads through the years, like a slow disease that slowly eats the souls of these people until there is no more life left at all. Tragedy often strikes young, and the number 27 is one that has become legendary in the entertainment world.
Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and most recent Amy Winehouse are all members of the mysterious 27 Club, a group of popular musicians that have died at the age of 27. More often than not these deaths are caused by drug overdose or alcoholism.
It wasn’t until Kurt Cobain died in 1994 that this “club” made its way into mainstream media, but the origins date back to 1892 when Alexandre Levy, a famous composer, conductor, and pianist died from unknown causes. Then, nine more famous people died at the age of 27–all of these before Jimi Hendrix died from asphyxiation due to an alcohol overdose in 1970. Others quickly followed and it began to seem that overdose at this age amongst rock stars was more than just a spooky coincidence.
With her soulful bluesy voice and immense personal presence, Janis Joplin died at the age of 27 of a heroin overdose. With a long history of drug and alcohol abuse, Joplin enveloped an insecure personality and turned to drugs and alcohol to mask both this insecurity and her distaste of being alone. She thrived only with attention and her soul was seemingly troubled without the numbing effects of drugs and alcohol.
Joplin was found dead with needle marks on her arms alone in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1970 less than one month after the overdose of Jimi Hendrix. She had just finished recording the cappella to her famous song “Mercedes Benz.” Three days prior to her overdose she was working on her solo album “Pearl” that was ironically released posthumously.
Found in a bathtub in Paris in 1971, Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors, died of an alleged heroin overdose at the age of 27. The legendary singer had a long history of alcohol abuse, inherently finding that as time went on the pressures of his status extremely overwhelming. Toward the end of his life, Morrison felt as if his world was becoming unraveled, and the singer struggled with the fact that he was beginning to experience a nervous breakdown. Moving to Paris with girlfriend, Pam Courson, he hoped to escape the pressure, yet continued to drink heavily and began resorting to heroin use that was ultimately responsible for taking his life.
As the lead singer of early 90s grunge band, Nirvana, Kurt Cobain had struggled with depression and drug abuse for years before he died at the age of 27 by a “self-inflicted” gunshot wound to the head. His troubled past catapulted Cobain into deep periods of withdrawal and suicide became an eminent priority in his life. His life spent with partner Courtney Love was one that was filled with heroin abuse and Cobain overdosed time and time again before finally taking his own life. On the day of his suicide Cobain wrote a suicide note, ingested himself with heroin, and shot himself in the head.
The most recent singer to experience death by overdose at the age of 27 is Amy Winehouse. The pressure that came with stardom was, for like many others, too much for this talented young woman to handle. She became notorious for drinking at her shows to the point where she could no longer perform. At her final concert she had become so mentally degraded that her band was concerned that she didn’t even know where she was. It was at this show that she simply stopped singing, hung her head, and cried onstage.
Just as the ones that came before her, the image she was expected to portray became too much for her and she helped cover up this unease with massive amounts of alcohol. When she was found unresponsive in her bed the morning of her death, there were three empty vodka bottles around her and the level of alcohol in her blood was five times over the legal limit of which to drink and drive. Her death in 2011 made her the “youngest” member of the 27 Club. With the enormous pressures evident amongst these people who are glamorized and idolized by the masses, she will certainly not be the last.
Death by drug or alcohol overdose happens every day. Fortunately, there is a way out. But, until you talk to someone it may never improve.