Excess and tragedy are the stuff of music legend, and the history of popular music is riddled with legends who were taken from us before their time, especially at the age of 27. There’s something about that time in life where the number 30 looms on the horizon like a deadline. Mortality becomes undeniable, even to those who may be holding on to excesses of youth longer than most. Untreated depression or other emotional afflictions begin to have greater affects, and for those with a history of abuse or addictions to alcohol or drugs, recovery seems less attainable.
In the 60′s, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Alan Wilson, Janis Joplin and Brian Jones all died at that exact age. Further back, legendary Blues guitarist Robert Johnson and more recently Kurt Cobain both died at 27. Last weekend, British soul singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London apartment after struggling publicly with drinking and drug addiction. The cause of her death has yet to be explained. She was 27.
“I Hope I Die Before I Get Old“
The phenomenon that more famous musicians have died at the age of 27 than any other age has been widely discussed for years and whether you attribute it to a weird curse, a statistical anomaly or a result of excess, what has been called “the greatest myth of Rock and Roll” is back in both the public eye and water cooler talk after the recent loss of Winehouse.
There are numerous websites that discuss these losses and their odd connections, but the most comprehensive documentation can be found in author Eric Segalstad’s book “The 27s”. Segalstad weaves the stories of 34 artists together through the course of music history as their stories cross and affect one another in surprising connections of varying degrees. To lighten the fairly morose subject matter, the text is accompanied by graphics, portraits and illustrations by artist John Hunter and throughout the majority of the book, a timeline is presented providing quick pop cultural, historic, political, and musical placeholders that work in tandem with the narrative.
Segalstad and Hunter have done an excellent job here of telling these great stories in an entertaining and lighthearted fashion without trying to decipher or explain the phenomenon, leaving any assumptions or conclusions up to the reader. Bordering on being a graphic novel, “The 27s” is a quick read, but one that proves insightful and thought provoking for any fans of music history, pop culture or urban legends & myths.