The 27 Club, also occasionally known as the Forever 27 Club, Club 27 or the Curse of 27, is the concept that many popular musicians have died at the age of 27, often as a result of “precipitous lifestyles that made them candidates for early self-destruction.” The deaths of some prominent musicians at age 27, such as Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan and Kurt Cobain have been linked to this idea. Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse.
Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died between 1969 and 1971, although a possible connection between their same death-age was not reported in the public press. Although some relations were occasionally noticed, those rather remained a side note. It was not until the death of Kurt Cobain, about two and a half decades after the last occurred, that the first idea of a “27 Club” was spread in the public perception.
According to Hendrix and Cobain biographer Charles R. Cross, the growing importance of the media — internet, television and magazines — and the response to an interview of Cobain’s mother were jointly responsible for such theories. An excerpt from a statement that Cobain’s mother, Wendy Fradenburg Cobain O’Connor, made in the Aberdeen, Washington newspaper The Daily World — “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.” — referred to Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison dying at the same age, according to Cross.
“Prayer is more
Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.
And what the dead had no speech for, when living,
They can tell you, being dead: the communication
Of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.” T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets, Little Gidding, I.
Original Stones bassist Bill Wyman stated about Jones: “…he formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs … Jones came up with the name the “Rollin’ Stones” (later with the ‘g’) while on the phone with a venue owner. “The voice on the other end of the line obviously said, ‘What are you called?’ Panic. The Best of Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor—and track one was ‘Rollin’ Stone Blues’. In June 1967, Jones attended the Monterey Pop Festival with singer Nico, with whom he had a brief relationship. There he met Frank Zappa and Dennis Hopper, and went on stage to introduce the Jimi Hendrix Experience, not well known yet in the USA. One review referred to Jones as “the unofficial ‘king’ of the festival”.
The Stones’ “Shine a Light” was written by Jagger after his death and depicts Jones’s behaviour and remoteness from the band, and asks God to shine a light on his soul. Several other songs have been written about Jones: The Doors’ song “Tightrope Ride” was originally written for Jones by Morrison, but after Morrison’s death Ray Manzarek rewrote some of the lyrics so that they apply to both musicians. The Psychic TV song “Godstar” is about Jones’s death, as are Robyn Hitchcock‘s “Trash”, The Drovers‘ “She’s as Pretty as Brian Jones Was”, Ted Nugent‘s “Death by Misadventure” and Salmonblaster’s “Brian Jones”. Toy Love‘s song “Swimming Pool” lists several dead rock icons including Jones (the others are Morrison, Hendrix, and Marc Bolan); he is also mentioned in De Phazz‘s song “Something Special”. The Master Musicians of Joujouka song “Brian Jones Joujouka Very Stoned” was released in 1974 and 1996.
Wilson was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in the Boston suburb of Arlington. He majored in music at Boston University and often played the Cambridge coffeehouse folk-blues circuit. He acquired the nickname “Blind Owl” owing to his extreme nearsightedness; in one instance when he was playing at a wedding, he laid his guitar on the wedding cake because he did not see it. As Canned Heat’s drummer, Fito de la Parra, wrote in his book: “Without the glasses, Alan literally could not recognize the people he played with at two feet, that’s how blind the ‘Blind Owl’ was.”
With Canned Heat, Wilson performed at two prominent concerts of the 1960s era, the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. Canned Heat appeared in the film Woodstock, and the band’s “Going Up the Country,” which Wilson sang, has been referred to as the festival’s unofficial theme song. Wilson also wrote “On the Road Again,” arguably Canned Heat’s second-most familiar song.
Wilson was a passionate conservationist who loved reading books on botany and ecology. He often slept outdoors to be closer to nature. In 1969, he wrote and recorded a song, “Poor Moon”, which expressed concern over potential pollution of the moon. He wrote an essay called ‘Grim Harvest’, about the coastal redwood forests of California, which was printed as the liner notes to the Future Blues album by Canned Heat.
“The redwoods of California are the tallest living things on earth, nearly the oldest, and among the most beautiful to boot. They dominated the woods of the northern hemi-sphere in the time of the dinosaurs, a time when no mammal, flower, or blade of grass had yet appeared on earth. The Ice Age nearly exterminated them – of the once vast redwood forest only a remnant was spared by the immense glaciers which covered most of Europe, Asia, and North America in the not-too-distant evolutionary past.
Walking through this forest is an experience unique on earth. Here the sun’s rays are intercepted three hundred feet and more above the ground and are broken into tiny shimmering beams which descend among the towering pillars to play, at length, on the forest floor. Fern and wildflower bathe in the soft glow of a thousand muted spotlights which flicker on and off as the trees’ upper boughs sway majestically in a gentle wind.
2.000.000 acres of virgin redwood forest greeted the white man’s civilization as he completed his sweep of North America. In the last 100 years 1,800,000 acres of these have been logged, and of the remaining 200,000 only 75,000 are presently safe from devastation in state and national parks. At a time when these parks campsites must be reserved months in advance, the remaining 125,000 acres are being “harvested” (as the lumber-men put it), for uses which other trees could fulfill.
At the current rate of “harvest,” these remaining acres will be cleared within the next ten years.”
– Alan C. Wilson, 1970
Wilson died in Topanga Canyon, California of a drug overdose at age 27. Although Wilson had reportedly attempted suicide twice before and his death is sometimes reported as a suicide, this is not clearly established and he left no note.
In July 2007, Wilson’s biography, Blind Owl Blues, by music journalist Rebecca Davis, was published. In May 2010, Wilson fans from around the United States gathered in Colorado to discuss his music; this event was called the First Annual Alanological Conference.
On December 21, 2010, the website AlanWilsonCannedHeat.com was launched by some of Wilson’s family members. Pages include Wilson’s biography, information on instruments, interviews, videos, merchandise, and information on saving the redwood trees.
Wilson was interested in preserving the natural world, particularly the redwood trees. When he died so too did the Music Mountain organization he had initiated dedicated to this purpose. In order to support his dream, Wilson’s family has purchased a “grove naming” in his memory through the Save the Redwood League of California. The money gifted to create this memorial will be used by the League to support redwood reforestation, research, education, and land acquisition of both new and old growth redwoods. Fans interested in making a donation can visit the site at AlanWilsonCannedHeat.com for information.
McKernan was a participant in the predecessor groups leading to the formation of the Grateful Dead, beginning with the Zodiacs and Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champions. Bob Weir and Bill Kreutzmann were added and the band evolved into The Warlocks. Around 1965, McKernan urged the rest of the Warlocks to switch to electric instruments. Around this time Phil Lesh joined, and they became the Grateful Dead. McKernan would achieve a new prominence throughout 1969, with versions of “Turn On Your Lovelight” (now the band’s show-stopping finale) regularly taking fifteen to twenty minutes. When the Grateful Dead appeared at Woodstock, the band’s set (which was marred by technical problems and general chaos) consisted mostly of a 48-minute version of the song. McKernan had a short relationship and longer friendship with Janis Joplin — a poster from the early 1970s featured them together. Joplin joined McKernan onstage at the Fillmore West in June 1969 with the Grateful Dead to sing his signature “Turn On Your Lovelight,” despite her dislike of the band’s jamming style. The two reprised this duet July 16, 1970 at the Euphoria Ballroom in San Rafael, California. On March 8, 1973, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage at his home in Corte Madera, California.
The 27 Club Graphic: a birthday cake with twenty seven candles, in three rows of nine, with the names of nine musicians on the candles in the first row. Maybe.