Club 27

Posted on 23/09/2011

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Have you ever met a person who was dead before they had physically died? Or watched the movie “The Walking Dead?” We all have. We all watched as Amy Winehouse died, before our very eyes – and nobody did anything about it! Or, maybe, there’s nothing we could do about it. Perhaps, just perhaps, it was a tragedy waiting its time. Or…it was destiny?

 

Few of Ms. Winehouse’s fans could have been surprised by the tragedy. Her on stage performances, which had once been so musically precise, had been in decline these past few years. Her last public appearance was just two days before she was found dead, at the iTunes Festival in London, where she had gone on stage to support her goddaughter, 15-year old Dionne Bromfield. Perhaps she was there to pass on the baton; perhaps Bromfield might someday become the person Amy could not be. Months earlier, Winehouse had been booed off the stage at her ‘coneback’ concert in Belgrade, Serbia – she had been too drunk to perform! By her death at 27 years old, Amy Winehouse automatically joins a rather ‘exclusive’ music club that groups a few other talented-yet-troubled musicians who died in mysterious circumstances at the same age. Here’s a roll call:

 

Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain changed the shape of the music industry. His April 5, 1994 suicide by self-inflicted gun wound left an indelible mark on music history. When Cobain died, his sister claimed that as a kid he would talk about how he wanted to join the 27 Club. Strange?

 

Years earlier on the 4th of October 1970, Janis Joplin had died of a heroin overdose. Joplin paved the way for women in rock music and leaves behind her distinct blues/psychedelic rock vocals. If you’ve never heard her name or music before, here are a few classics you can search for: ‘Me and Bobby McGee’, ‘Mercedes Benz’, and ‘Piece of My Heart.’

I grew up on the music of rock guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, who is still considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time. Hendrix died a couple of weeks before Joplin in 1970 at his girlfriend’s flat in London of an alleged sleeping pill overdose, asphyxiated on vomit. Although there has been a conspiracy theory that the pills were actually forced down his throat, by a conspiring manager, expecting to reap on insurance claims.

 

Robert Johnson, who was murdered on August 16, 1938, was also considered to be one of the best guitarists of all time and an early purveyor of rock ‘n’ roll. The Delta bluesman influenced everyone from Eric Clapton to the Rolling Stones. The details of his biography are fuzzy, but according to myth he made a deal with the devil at a crossroad in Mississippi in exchange for learning how to deftly play guitar. Known to be a ladies man, one night Johnson flirted with a married woman at a dance and allegedly the jealous husband slipped poison into a bottle of whiskey that Johnson drank.

Jim Morrison was icon. Remembered through six records, iconic photographs and the mercurial song,  ‘Light My Fire,’ Morrison made his band, the Doors, a household name. The circumstances of his death on July 3, 1971 remain uncertain – he died in a bathtub at his apartment in Paris, but some speculate he overdosed at a Parisian club prior and then was dumped into his tub. Other theories state he died of heart failure or as his death certificate read, “natural causes.” Since an autopsy wasn’t performed, his death remains a bit of a mystery. Ironically, three years later his girlfriend would also die of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.

 

Kristen Pfaff was a member of the American girl group, Hole. Death date: June 16, 1994. Cause of death: Heroin overdose. Pfaff had moved from Minneapolis to Seattle when she joined Hole and it was soon after moving there that she became hooked. She entered rehab for addiction in 1993, then took a hiatus from Hole a year later to tour with her other band, Janitor Joe. The night before she was to move back to Minneapolis to focus on Joe, she relapsed and died of a heroin overdose in her bathroom, just two months after her close friend Cobain had died.

Brian Jones was one of the founders of the most acclaimed groups of all time, the Rolling Stones. Jones left the band in 1969 and was replaced by Mick Taylor. Jones was found in his swimming pool having supposedly drowned because he was under the influence. The coroner pronounced it “death by misadventure,” but other reports suggest his builder murdered him. D.O.D: July 3, 1969.

 

Jacob Miller was a Jamaican reggae artist who became popular as the lead singer for the internationally acclaimed reggae group, Inner Circle. Miller died in a motor accident on Hope Road in Kingston, Jamaica on March 23, 1980 just before the group were about to embark on an American tour with Bob Marley. Age, 27. Miller was Maxi Priest’s uncle.

 

And then, you probably remember Freaky Tah, (Real name: Raymond Rogers) the rapper and member of the hip hop group, Lost Boyz who had some party-popping hits in the nineties like ‘Lifesyles of the Rich and Famous,’ ‘Renee’ and ‘I’m in Love with Two Women.’ Freaky Tah was shot in the back of the head at fellow Lost Boyz member Mr. Cheeks twenty-eighth birthday party on March 28, 1999. His twenty-eighth birthday was just one and a half months away.

 

As at the time of writing this column, forensics were still diagnosing Amy Winehouse’s death, but there are no awards for a correct guess. Internet blogs are already speculating a cocktail of ecstasy, cocaine and alcohol as the likely culprits. Her very supportive father had always feared for his daughter’s lifestyle and had often been quoted saying that she would die “a very slow and painful death.” The saddest thing about this tragedy is that Amy had to die to finally surprise us. In her short career she managed just two albums, her 2003 debut ‘Frank’ and 2006’s phenomenal ‘Back to Black.’ I’m listening to the tracks on ‘Back to Black’ as I write this, and I can’t but part with the lyrics from her tune ‘Alcoholic Logic.’

 

‘Although I enjoyed it

I should have tied up my loose ends

But I may have forgotten you

By the next time I’m in town.’

 

‘I can’t help it; I need to stop it

All that I put myself through

Everyone is so denying

Yeah, it’s nice to meet you too.’

 

Yeah, real nice to have met you, Miss Amy.

 

God guidance, as always.

 

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