The 27 Club
Even if you’ve never heard of the 27 Club, there’s a good chance you’re familiar with some of its members. The 27 Club is the name given to a group of musicians who died at the age of 27. The causes of death are as manifold as the types of music they played, but a recurring theme in the lives of these 50+ musicians is a tendency to abuse alcohol and other drugs.
While the lives of our favorite musicians can serve as inspiration in our own lives – lessons on what it takes to make something of yourself in this world, a reminder of the importance of self-determination, and a reminder that music really is a universal language – the unfortunate members of the 27 Club also provide us with lessons of a different sort.
Live Hard, Die Young?
The demands of the rockstar lifestyle can have a dramatic impact on life expectancy. To put it simply, musicians tend to have a much higher death rate than non-famous people of the same age.
To put it in perspective, let’s break down the average lifespan of the population by profession. Entertainers and members of the sporting community tend to reach an average age of about 77.2 years, while professionals and academics have a slight edge, with an average of 78.5 years.
The careers with the best longevity tend to be creative in nature or business-related; creatives live an average of 81.7 years, while businessmen and politicians live to about the age of 83.
In stark contrast, the average life expectancy of American musicians sits at 42 years of age.
How They Died
Of the more than 50 members of the 27 Club, some are more famous than others. Arguably the most recognizable name on the list is Jimi Hendrix, the celebrated and self-taught guitar player. He died in 1970 from a drug overdose.
The music community said another sad goodbye in 1970 to Janis Joplin, who also died as a result of drug complications.
Just one year later, in 1971, the frontman of psychedelic rock band The Doors, Jim Morrison, died from an apparent heart attack. Morrison was known throughout his life for his erratic behavior, both onstage and off. His death was later attributed to drugs.
Kurt Cobain was a relatively more recent addition to the Club; he shot and killed himself in 1994. Cobain had struggled for most of his life with drug dependency problems and had made a previous attempt on his life by overdosing on drugs.
Cobain’s legacy is a troubled one, but it can shed some light on an unfortunate statistic: death-by-suicide is 6.5x more likely in women and 2.3x more likely in men if the individual has struggled with a substance abuse problem.
Amy Winehouse, who passed away in 2011, is one of the most recent additions to the 27 Club. As with many of these musicians, Winehouse had been struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and even self-harm in the years leading up to her death. In fact, four years before she died, Winehouse lapsed into a coma after mixing heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine, whiskey, and vodka
What Can We Learn from Them?
If there’s a trend here, it’s a pattern of people failing to seek help for their substance abuse problems. Since 1999, there has been a 250% increase in prescription drug overdoses. In 2010 alone, 3,000 teens overdosed on prescription drugs, while millions of people every year are treated for alcohol abuse.
If we can learn anything from the legacy of the 27 Club, it’s to seek help for ourselves or for our friends or loved ones who may be struggling with an addiction.