The Twenty-seven Club

Rock chanteuse Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27.   That’s the same age that Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison died.  Also Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones.  Also Pigpen McKernan of the Grateful dead.  Also blues legend Robert Johnson.  And less famous rockers Chris Bell (of Big Star) and D. Boon (of the Minutemen).

Perhaps 27 is the age that the human body pays the toll for the untrammeled rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, especially when it involves hard drugs like heroin, used by a good number of the “27 club.”  There are, of course, geriatric rockers like Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler, but the death toll should be sobering.  Dying young from a dissolute lifestyle is not limited, of course, to rock stars.  Hank Williams was 29.  And the “in memoriam” tributes at the typical high school reunion will list those who never were famous at all.

At any rate, if you are older than 27, you have survived your youth.

via Amy Winehouse’s death at 27 highlights a troubled, young talent – The Washington Post.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    Don’t forget the actors: James Dean, 24 and River Phoenix, 23. Dean didn’t die of a drug overdose, but of the recklessness that leads to dying in car accidents, motorcycle crashes and heavy drug use.

    D. Boon was killed in a car accident in which he was a passenger, as was Cliff Burton of Metallica (24). Randy Rhoads (25) was killed in a plane crash as were Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines (both 28).

    But how did Bon Scott and Keith Moon survive their youths? They both carried on for 6 or 7 more years past their 27th birthdays.

  • SKPeterson

    Don’t forget the actors: James Dean, 24 and River Phoenix, 23. Dean didn’t die of a drug overdose, but of the recklessness that leads to dying in car accidents, motorcycle crashes and heavy drug use.

    D. Boon was killed in a car accident in which he was a passenger, as was Cliff Burton of Metallica (24). Randy Rhoads (25) was killed in a plane crash as were Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines (both 28).

    But how did Bon Scott and Keith Moon survive their youths? They both carried on for 6 or 7 more years past their 27th birthdays.

  • Matthew Surburg

    Mozart – just shy of his 36th birthday. George Gershwin – 38. Chopin – 39. Of course, it wasn’t a Hollywood lifestyle that did them in. For Gershwin, it was brain cancer (probably). Chopin, tuberculosis. Mozart, late complications of rheumatic fever. Still, it does make you wonder.

  • Matthew Surburg

    Mozart – just shy of his 36th birthday. George Gershwin – 38. Chopin – 39. Of course, it wasn’t a Hollywood lifestyle that did them in. For Gershwin, it was brain cancer (probably). Chopin, tuberculosis. Mozart, late complications of rheumatic fever. Still, it does make you wonder.

  • trotk

    Don’t forget Keats. Tuberculosis and bad medicine did him in at 25. Perhaps poetry is as detrimental to the human body as rock-and-roll.

  • trotk

    Don’t forget Keats. Tuberculosis and bad medicine did him in at 25. Perhaps poetry is as detrimental to the human body as rock-and-roll.

  • Tom Hering

    All the baptized are members of the Thirty-three Club. :-)

  • Tom Hering

    All the baptized are members of the Thirty-three Club. :-)

  • katy

    “Perhaps 27 is the age that the human body pays the toll for the untrammeled rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle”

    I thought the same thing, but more generally: my husband, 28 now, with diabetes/heart failure history on both sides, was warned by his doctor 4 years ago that he needs to eat and exercise now, BEFORE he hits 30. (His HS and college lifestyle was more like lots of carbs and pop and inactivity, not drugs and booze.) It may be the difference between being on insulin or not at 35. And We kind of think of “the 20′s” as an invincible decade, but maybe it’s more like 17-27. Or maybe our health choices in THAT decade even build up to bite us as we age.

    Also, why any parent would ever, ever encourage their children in showbiz is beyond me. I do not know Ms. Winehouse’s parents’ involvement in her career, but I would do everything I could early on to prevent artistic “success,” for my kids’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. What are/were the Olsons, Spears, Lohans, and Cyruses thinking!? Winehouse had an irregular heartbeat and emphysema already in 2008. I think her father tried to have her committed at some point (and I tend to believe she was insane, whether because of drugs or not, but that’s just gossipy speculation). It’s too bad she didn’t disappear for 10 years somewhere, and reemerge when she was less self-destructive.

  • katy

    “Perhaps 27 is the age that the human body pays the toll for the untrammeled rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle”

    I thought the same thing, but more generally: my husband, 28 now, with diabetes/heart failure history on both sides, was warned by his doctor 4 years ago that he needs to eat and exercise now, BEFORE he hits 30. (His HS and college lifestyle was more like lots of carbs and pop and inactivity, not drugs and booze.) It may be the difference between being on insulin or not at 35. And We kind of think of “the 20′s” as an invincible decade, but maybe it’s more like 17-27. Or maybe our health choices in THAT decade even build up to bite us as we age.

    Also, why any parent would ever, ever encourage their children in showbiz is beyond me. I do not know Ms. Winehouse’s parents’ involvement in her career, but I would do everything I could early on to prevent artistic “success,” for my kids’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. What are/were the Olsons, Spears, Lohans, and Cyruses thinking!? Winehouse had an irregular heartbeat and emphysema already in 2008. I think her father tried to have her committed at some point (and I tend to believe she was insane, whether because of drugs or not, but that’s just gossipy speculation). It’s too bad she didn’t disappear for 10 years somewhere, and reemerge when she was less self-destructive.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s a good thing no one ever offered me a bet on whether Dr. Veith would ever mention Big Star or the Minutemen on his blog. I would’ve lost today.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s a good thing no one ever offered me a bet on whether Dr. Veith would ever mention Big Star or the Minutemen on his blog. I would’ve lost today.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The age, 27, also is an interesting correlate to the peak of many artistic and athletic careers and accomplishments. Google your favorites and check how old they were when they did or produced some of their best stuff.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    The age, 27, also is an interesting correlate to the peak of many artistic and athletic careers and accomplishments. Google your favorites and check how old they were when they did or produced some of their best stuff.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Plane crashes seem to really get rock and rollers.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Plane crashes seem to really get rock and rollers.

  • Matthew Surburg

    The mention of plane crashes brings Glenn Miller (30) to mind …

  • Matthew Surburg

    The mention of plane crashes brings Glenn Miller (30) to mind …

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