As the tributes start to pour in from around the world after the troubled British musician Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London flat at the age of 27, a further twist emerged: Winehouse is but the latest singer to join the so-called 27 Club.
Some of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest ever talents have passed away at this relatively young age. Winehouse is the newest member of a super-group, if you will, that contains Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones. But one wonders if Winehouse herself would have been aware of the Forever 27 Club? There’s so much about them online that it would surely have been difficult for any singer, let alone someone of Winehouse’s stature, to have not known.
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Of course, it’s impossible to know what was in her mind during these final days (indeed, what with stints in rehab, court appearances, a troubled marriage and a recently canceled tour due to a shambolic performance in Serbia, where she appeared too drunk to perform, she clearly had problems that were there for all to see) but her passing does seem somewhat post-modern (which isn’t intended to come across as trite). Not only was her death disclosed on Twitter before the news networks or traditional websites reported it (that was certainly the case in Britain) but the hashtag #27Club is trending worldwide.
The last major member of Forever 27 was Nirvana’s lead singer Kurt Cobain, who took his own life at his Lake Washington home in 1994. His mother, Wendy O’Conner, would refer to it as “that stupid club.” Jim Morrison was also the lead singer of another seminal U.S. band, The Doors, and he passed away in Paris in 1971. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died within weeks of each during the previous year, 1970, whereas Brian Jones, a founding member of the Rolling Stones, drowned in a swimming pool in 1969. And going back even further, Blues legend Robert Johnson (whose cause of death has been disputed) passed away in 1938.
Winehouse, as with all the names in this most unfortunate of lists, had talent to burn, but, tragically, won’t be able to put it to any further use. As my colleague Catherine Mayer tweeted, “there were already enough rock casualties. It’s better to fade away than burn out.” Amen to that — and RIP Amy Winehouse. If the Forever 27 club never admits another member, that would be one of Winehouse’s most notable legacies.
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CORRECTION APPENDED: A previous version of this article stated an incorrect cause of death for Jim Morrison. He died of reported heart failure.