Amy Winehouse Latest Musician to Die at 27 – What Does It Mean? Anything??

“Winehouse’s death is as yet unexplained but she has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction. Last month, the audience booed her in Serbia after she was too drunk to continue her concert. A video of the incident made the rounds on YouTube.”, July 23, 2011, Amy Winehouse Joins Unfortunate “27 Club”

Between July 3, 1969 and July 3, 1971 something strange happened in rock n’ roll: four of its most iconic personalities -Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison- all died at age 27.  The similarities of their public images, the coincidence of their same age at death and the quirk of them dying within exactly two years prompted one of the most enduring urban legends in rock n’ roll folklore, “the 27 club”.  According to myth, there’s a curse set on musicians that kills them when they are 27, making them members of a “club” that ranges from the legendary (the above four) to the obscure (Murray Shiffrin of cult ‘60s psych band Morgen)…
   …and now – as was speculated to happen for years – Amy Winhouse…

In 2008 Winehouse’s former personal assistant Alex Haines told Britain’s News of the World, “It was my job to look after her. But it was impossible. I thought she wouldn’t survive the year with all the drugs and self-harming. Cutting herself was her favorite pastime… She’d keep taking drugs until she passed out. I reckon she spent $5,000 a week on them... She reckoned she would join the 27 Club of rock stars who died at that age. She told me, ‘I have a feeling I’m gonna die young’.”

“The 27 club” is a grand example of plausible, rational explanations being ignored in favor of half-baked theories connecting coincidences and misapprehensions.  Yet no rock n’ roll myth persists quite like the “club”.  It’s the greatest rock n’ roll myth because none other involves so many musicians crossing so many styles and is continually updated.  It’s versatile enough to include many causes of death, not just self-induced substance abuse rock cliché – from Helmut Kollen’s carbon monoxide poisoning to Mia Zapata’s tragic rape and murder.  Finally, it feeds into the other rock myths: “Mama” Cass choked on a ham sandwich in bed and died – while carrying John Lennon’s baby – in the same flat Jimi had choked to death on his vomit; or was it that Hendrix was killed by his manager, Michael Jeffrey, in the same flat Keith Moon later died in… just like Kurt Cobain was murdered – and your donations can prove it… Or is it that Kurt is still alive?  Or maybe it’s Jim Morrison who lives…

Dying at 27 advances the notoriety of musicians.  Of course death at any age makes a “legend” out of the famous, but the myth of the “club” exaggerates the phenomena and guarantees you are namechecked every time another musician dies at that age or the topic is discussed.

As examiner/austin pointed out (within an hour of Winehouse’s death breaking on the web), “At the time before Kurt Cobain’s death, Peal Jam’s Vs was outselling In Utero and recording was tumultuous for Hendix’s follow up to Electric Ladyland, but these facts don’t come into mention in assessing the legacy of these two.   Furthermore, we can only wonder if we would have the same perceptions of people like Cobain and Hendrix and Morrison, if we had the access to celebrities’ personal lives we have now.  What would TMZ make of Cobain’s heroin use, or Morrison’s acid binges?  Is it fair, I don’t know.  What we should keep in mind is that while Winehouse may be specifically remembered for her reckless behavior and drug addiction, one can’t forget that she was a talented singer with at least one of the better albums of the last decade.” 

“She should get her act together.  Apart from that, I have got nothing to say to the bitch….When we were experimenting with drugs, little was known about the effects. In our time there were no rehab centers like today. Anyway, I did not know about them.”

-Keith Richards’ advice for Amy Winehouse, February 8, 2008, The Berlin International Film Festival

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