Tuesday, August 23, 2011


 Amy Winehouse's death at age 27, while dolorous, was not a surprise to everyone. Winehouse had publicly struggled with substance abuse for years and appeared extremely intoxicated at recent performances.
 Her 2006 album Back to Black netted five Grammy Awards including Best Pop Vocal Album. The tragically named track Rehab won Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In addition Winehouse picked up the award for Best New Artist and Back to Black's producer Mark Ronson received the Producer of the Year honor. Reports say Winehouse was working on a follow up album, which will no doubt become a chart topper upon release.
 The singer's father claims his daughter was the happiest she had been in years in the weeks leading up to her death. Some experts say happiness before a planned suicide is common.
 Toxicology reports indicate there were no illegal drugs in Winehouse's system at the time of her death, but alcohol was present. It is unknown if alcohol played a factor in her death.
 “I think Amy Winehouse may have secretly wanted to be part of the 27 Club,” Pax Prentiss, co-founder of the Malibu rehabilitation center Passages, said in an interview with The Wrap. “Amy was on a dark path and she may have glamorized the idea of being part of that group.”
 All but three of the artists I have chosen for this list (there are many more 27 club members) died from circumstances relating to drugs and alcohol.  
 “I do know from experience that artists have a tendency to be sensitive,” Prentiss said. “they’re talented yes, but  the outside world effects them differently and they’re prone to turn to drugs in order to cope with the pressures put upon them."
Amy Winehouse

Kurt Cobain
 After many years of drug abuse, illness and depression Nirvana leader Kurt Cobain took his own life in April 1994. It was reported Cobain had high levels of heroin in his system, as well as traces of Valium. His long, poorly punctuated suicide note was addressed to his imaginary boyhood friend "Boddah" and revealed Cobain had lost his passion for making music.
 "...when we're back stage and the lights go out and the manic roar of the crowds begins, it doesn't affect me the way in which it did for Freddie Mercury, who seemed to love, relish in the the love and adoration from the crowd which is something I totally admire and envy. The fact is, I can't fool you, any one of you. It simply isn't fair to you or me," Cobain wrote.


Jimi Hendrix
 Hendrix was easily one of the most talented guitar players to ever grasp a pick. His death in 1970 from asphyxiation after ingesting sleeping pills and wine has been labeled a conspiracy by some. Animals roadie James White published a book in 2009 claiming Hendrix's manager Mike Jeffery admitted to murdering the musician because the performer wanted to change management. There were also conflicting reports by Hendrix's girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, as to what actually occurred on the night of September 18 1970. Dannemann committed suicide in 1996 after being found guilty of contempt of court for repeating libel against another of Hendrix's girlfriends.

Crosstown Traffic
Jimi Hendrix

Jim Morrison
 As lead singer of the Doors, Morrison was known for improvising potent prose and his biting personality. After years of success with the Doors, Morrison moved to Paris in 1971 and spent his last days wandering the city's impressive streets. His body was found in the bathtub of his Paris apartment on July 3 1971. Morrison had snorted his girlfriend Pamela Courson's heroin, thinking it was cocaine. Courson would overdose on heroin three years later. She was also 27 at the time of her death.  
Morrison's grave site in Paris' Père Lachaise Cemetery is one of the city's most popular tourist attractions.

Touch Me
The Doors

Janis Joplin
 Joplin's powerful, divisive voice hid the pain of a woman who always felt like an outcast. Her childhood in the christian conformist town of Port Arthur, Texas was rough. Joplin didn't act as most thought a lady of that time should. Burdened with an on again, off again relationship with heroin, Joplin would eventually find success with Big Brother and the Holding Company. On the night of October 3 1970, feeling rejected by friends who had stood her up the previous night, Joplin overdosed on heroin at Los Angeles' Landmark Motor Hotel.

Piece of My Heart
Big Brother and the Holding Company

Kristen Pfaff
 Pfaff is best known for her work as Hole's bassist on Live Through This. Born in Buffalo New York, she studied piano and cello before teaching herself how to play bass. After graduating from high school, Pfaff moved to Minneapolis and was a founding member of Janitor Joe. While on tour with Janitor Joe, Pfaff was scouted by Courtney Love and Eric Erlandson for Hole as a replacement for Jill Emery. Pfaff was reluctant to join Love's band and returned to Minneapolis. It was her father who convinced her to join, citing that Hole was already signed to a major label and had a rabid British following. 
 "That's when we took off," her former boyfriend Erlandson said of Pfaff joining Hole. "That's when we became a real band."
While recording Live Through This in Seattle in 1993, Pfaff began dabbling in heroin. Something Erlandson had warned her about.
 "She moved to Seattle and felt disconnected from everything, and she made friends, drug connections, which I told her not to do," Erlandson told Spin. "The only way you can survive in this town is if you don't make those connections." 
After a stint in rehab, she decided to leave Hole and rejoin Janitor Joe permanently.
 The day Pfaff was scheduled to return to Minneapolis a friend, some sources say it was Erlandson himself,  found her lifeless body. Next to Pfaff was a bag containing syringes and heroin-related paraphernalia. 
The bassist has since been inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and the University of Minnesota's KUOM awards a $1000 memorial scholarship in her honour.

Boys in Blue
Janitor Joe

Janitor Joe

Richey Edwards
 Although he began as a Manic Street Preachers roadie, Edwards soon moved up the ranks to become the band's rhythm guitarist and main spokesperson. What he lacked in musical ability he made up for with his brilliant lyrics. By the band's third album, the Holy Bible, Edwards' struggles with drugs and alcohol had become well known, which only added to the band's counterculture notoriety. Shortly after that album's release, Edwards checked himself into a psychiatric hospital.
On February 1 1995, Edwards and James Dean Bradfield were due in the US for a promotional tour; however Edwards had disappeared. He was officially presumed dead in 2008. Edwards was 27 at the time of his disappearance. Many claim to have spotted Edwards over the years and point to a quote directly from Richey. 
 "In terms of the 'S' word, that does not enter my mind and it never has, in terms of an attempt. Because I am stronger than that. I might be a weak person, but I can take pain," Edwards said in 1994.

Manic Street Preachers

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
 A founding member of the Grateful Dead, McKernan was the typical rebellious teenager. Named after the similarly dirty Peanuts character, this biker boy from California would grow up to play various instruments for the Dead, including harmonica and the organ. McKernan would have a romantic relationship with another 27 Club member, Janis Joplin. While those around him did hard drugs, McKernan stuck to Thunderbird Wine and Southern Comfort, which was also Joplin's favourite beverage. His love of alcohol would eventually do him in as he began showing signs of cirrhosis in 1970. Then on March 8 1973, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. His grave marker reads that he is now and forever will be one of the grateful dead.

Box of Rain
Grateful Dead

Leslie Harvey
 While perhaps one of the least known musicians on this list, Les Harvey was no stranger to big time tragedy. Hailing form Scotland, Harvey was asked to join the Animals in the 1960s but chose to stay with his brother Alex Harvey's Soul Band. In 1965, while a member of the Blues Council, Harvey would be involved in a fatal tour bus crash which killed two Blues Council members. 
 Harvey rebounded from the misfortune and founded Stone the Crows with his brother and Maggie Bell in 1969. At a 1972 performance with Stone the Crows, Harvey was electrocuted by a microphone that wasn't grounded correctly.

Good Time Girl
Stone the Crows

Jeremy Michael Ward
 In addition to being Mars Volta's sound technician and vocal operator, Ward also worked with dub outfit De Facto. As a behind the scenes genius, he was critically lauded for creating the unique soundscapes heard on Mars Volta's debut De-Loused in the Crematorium. He was also an accomplished guitarist and artist and his work influenced many of Mars Volta's later albums. 
 Ward was found dead of a heroin overdose in 2003 and his death inspired the remaining members of Mars Volta to quit using opiates.

Mars Volta

Mia Zapata
 While all of the deaths included on this list are tragic, Zapata stands out as the only entry who was murdered.
 Born in Kentucky, Zapata picked up guitar and piano at an early age and was heavily influenced by blues and jazz. In the mid '80s, Zapata moved to Ohio to attend college and it was there that she formed the Gits. The band moved to Seattle just as the '90s broke and released the well received Frenching the Bully in 1992. The band's stage presence, specifically Zapata's off-the-wall antics, led to the Gits becoming one of the hottest grunge acts in town.
 Just before their second album, Enter the Conquering Chicken, dropped, Zapata was raped and murdered while walking home through the Capitol Hill area of Seattle. Her body was discovered in the early morning hours of July 7 1993. Sources say Zapata was last seen listening to her walkman and perhaps didn't hear her attacker approaching.
Zapata's murder inspired the founding of Home Alive, a group that, in addition to organizing concerts, taught women self defense.  
 Joan Jett and Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hannah would co-write the song Go Home in response to the crime committed against their punk compatriot. The video (below) features Jett as a woman triumphing over her would-be attacker.
 DNA evidence would eventually link Florida fisherman Jesus Mezquia to Zapata's murder. After his first conviction was overturned, Mezquia was sentenced to 36 years in prison in 2009.

Second Skin
The Gits

Go Home
Joan Jett