A few months ago, my wife and I were talking to Ben Prestage, during a break between one of his mega one and a half hour sets (normal length for Ben). Ben is a local guitar player, banjo player, cigar box guitar player and violin player, and his own drummer, a one man band, highly talented is an understatement. Ben is a gifted Blues finger picker and plays the type of old blues that gets the women shaking their booties and the guys looking at the women. He has a beautiful voice, I highly encourage you to check out Ben Prestage on MySpace, and maybe buy a record. Read my post first, you might find his MySpace site too interesting. You won’t be disappointed. We see Ben every few months live when he is in town and not touring.
Anyway, I was joking around with Ben and trying to ask him how old he was, as he talked to his fans. I wanted to give him a hard time about living past 27 years old and the Crossroads theory. Fortunately he was 28 years old at the time. But it had crossed his mind too! Is there something about the age of 27? Something that has cursed so many musicians to die at that age? Perhaps not but one thing is for sure, it is very surprising to consider how many have. Lets take a look at some of them and the stories behind their demises.
The following seven people all had two things in common. Firstly, they were all famous musicians. Secondly, something took them from this world, in their prime, at the age of 27. They were not the only ones, but they are some of the most famous.
I will start with the greatest musician, guitar player, composer, singer the world has ever known, since I know a lot about him. I’m not as familiar with the rest of them, I’ll give you what I know and add information about them and their deaths in future posts.
Jimi Hendrix. Died: September 18th, 1970
After doing the circuit in America for a number of years, it wasn’t until he came to London that Hendrix began to gain the recognition his music deserved. It was the ex-Animals bass player, Chas Chandler, who first brought Jimi Hendrix over to the United Kingdom. It was a move that would work out well, in the short term at least. Hendrix soon had a few hit records behind him. His band ‘the Experience’ consisted of two English musicians, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell . The trio toured and recorded extensively for the next couple of years, knocking out hit after hit, both singles and albums.
All the success ended in one foul-swoop on the 18th of September 1970. The evening before, Hendrix had been at a party, returning shortly after midnight to his then girlfriends flat. Her name was Monika Dannemann. It was very soon after arriving at the flat near Notting Hill, that Hendrix died. The official cause of death asphyxiation of his own vomit. The real question was how it had happened. Dannemann originally claimed that Hendrix had taken nine sleeping pills the evening before. It was actually mainly red-wine they had found, not in his stomach, but actually in his lungs. She claimed, in interviews, that Hendrix was still alive when they came to take him away in an ambulance. The ambulance report stated that not only was Hendrix alone when they came to take him away but he was not breathing. There is also a rumor going round that one of Hendrix’s roadies was told by his manager that he had Hendrix murdered because of fears his management contract would not be renewed.
Whatever really happened that fateful night, the world lost one of its most gifted and talented musicians. The greatest, dead at the age of 27.
Brian Jones. Died: July 3rd, 1969
Founder member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was a multi-instrumentalist and a recreational drug user.
One thing that is for sure though, Brian Jones, a famous musician, was dead at the age of 27.
Robert Johnson. Died August 16th 1938
The tale of Robert Johnson is a fascinating one. A forerunner of the Blues movement in the 1930’s, his music was to influence everyone from Muddy Waters to Led Zeppelin. Perhaps his alleged deal with the devil at the crossroads helped more. The story goes that one day, as Johnson was traveling, he came across a set of crossroads where the Devil appeared to him. A deal was struck whereby Johnson sold his soul and in return would be given the talent of playing the guitar masterfully. The story did form the basis of a song called ‘Crossroads’; a Johnson song later revived by Eric Clapton.
Janis Joplin. Died: October 4th, 1970
Janis Joplin was the lead singer of the band the ‘Big Brother and the Holding Company’ and latterly in the 1960’s a successful solo artist. The rock music scene at that time was a male-dominated one but here was one woman who stood shoulder to shoulder with the big players of the time. Her career could have gone stellar but it was taken away from her in the autumn of 1970.
It wasn’t long before some conspiracy theories arose about her death. But here was another musician dead at the tender age of 27.
Jim Morrison. Died July 3rd, 1971
Lead singer of the band ‘the Doors’, Jim Morrison was also a poet and filmmaker. Throughout the late 1960s his band fast became one of the most talked about bands ever but as success grew for the band so did the problems for Morrison. Before long he was turning up for recording sessions heavily under the influence of alcohol. In 1969 Morrison was charged with indecent exposure; as a result many of the bands later concerts were canceled. Before too long he moved to Paris.
Even still, Morrison was dead. It was exactly two years from the day that Brian Jones had died, they had been the same age at their death.
Kurt Cobain. Died April 5th, 1994
The lead singer of grunge band Nirvana, Cobain was found dead by an electrician who had come to install a security system. The official verdict given was death by self-inflicted gunshot wound. Suicide.
According to his wife Courtney Love, Cobain always claimed he wanted to join the ‘Club 27′ (the group of musicians that died age 27).
One thing for sure though is that Cobain was dead, another musician dead at the age of 27.
Richey James Edwards. Died (presumed) 1st February 1995
As stories go, that of Richey James Edwards is one that could easily be made into a movie. Guitarist and lyricist of the Welsh rock band the Manic Street Preachers, Edwards disappeared and has never been found, alive or dead.
Richey James Edwards suffered from severe bouts of depression throughout his life. He also suffered from drug and alcohol abuse. On the 1st of February he disappeared. It wasn’t until 2008 that Edwards was officially declared ‘dead’.
Enjoy. Return to GuitarPlayersCenter to read more about the other six guitar players and musicians who met their death at 27 years old too. Enjoy.