John Belushi and Chris Farley passed away too young at the age of 33, but they seem like old men in comparison to the members of the 27 Club. The inauspicious society is made up of musicians who tragically died at the tender age of 27. Amy Winehouse is just the latest addition to the sad society of musical talents, but she’s far from the biggest name on the list. Of the over 40 musicians who are included in the master list of the prematurely deceased, these are the most prominent members of the heartbreaking group:
Robert Johnson (May 8, 1911 — August 16, 1938)
Despite the fact that he recorded only 29 songs, Robert Johnson is considered one of the greatest blues musicians of all time. But the mythology surrounding his death is a dark mark on a shining musical legacy. One theory suggests that Johnson had been flirting with a woman at a gig and her husband poisoned Johnson’s drink.
Brian Jones (February 28, 1942 — July 3, 1969)
Brian Jones was one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones but due to long building tensions in the band, he was let go in 1969. Jones had been living at Cotchford Farm in East Sussex, where he ultimately met his dire end. Just around midnight on July 3, he was found barely still alive at the bottom of his swimming pool. He died before help arrived and so began decades of speculation over whether he died of an accidental death due to drug use or was murdered by Frank Thorogood, a contractor who had been working on the house. Thorogood allegedly confessed to the murder on his deathbed but this rumor was later dismissed as untrue.
Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942 — September 18, 1970)
The guitar god was found dead in the apartment of his girlfriend Monika Dannemann on September 18, 1970. The attending physician, John Bannister, observed that Hendrix died of asphyxiation from chocking on vomit. Lots of confusion swirls around Hendrix death. There are conflicting reports about whether or not Dannemann was present when he was taken away in an ambulance. Bannister was charged with two counts of medical malpractice and his findings related to Hendrix have long been disputed. Some say the legendary electric-guitarist had committed suicide, while The Animals’ roadie James "Tappy" Wright alleged that Hendrix manager had confessed to killing the musician when he wanted to terminate his contract.
Janis Joplin (January 19, 1943 — October 4, 1970)
Janis Joplin’s is a far more straightforward, but no less depressing tale. Supposedly saddened that two of her friends had stood her up the night before, Joplin left a recording session and went to the Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, California. Official reports state that the “Me and Bobby McGee” singer died of a heroin overdose. Some believe that the smack in question was stronger than was Joplin was used to because several of her drug dealers other clients also overdosed the same week.
Jim Morrison (December 8, 1943 — July 3, 1971)
True to his poetic nature, Jim Morrison met his untimely demise of an alleged accidental overdose in a bathtub in an apartment in Paris, France. Due to the fact that there were so signs of fowl play, no autopsy was performed. There has been endless debate over the role of Morrison’s girlfriend, Pamela Courson, who was there that night. But she took the real story to her grave when she died of a heroin overdose three years later.
Pete Ham (April 27, 1947 — April 24, 1975)
Everyone knows that working in the dog-eat-dog music business can take it’s toll on even the toughest of characters. But when Badfinger’s problems with labels and managers escalated, it was too much for keyboardist and guitarist Pete Ham to take. He was found hanging in the garage of his home in Surrey, England. He had left a note with an accusatory nod to his reportedly corrupt manager, "P.S. Stan Polley is a soulless bastard. I will take him with me.” Most tragically of all, Ham’s daughter was born one month later.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 — August 12, 1988)
Jean-Michel Basquiat made his name as a brilliant young modern painter, but he was also the founder of the noise rock band Gray. Despite collaborations with legends like Andy Warhol and David Bowie, Basquiat was not living a happy existence. As the story goes, after Warhol’s death Basquiat became more and more depressed culminating in a heroin overdose at his art studio on Great Jones Street in New York City.
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 — April 5, 1994)
In the spring of 1994 Generation X lost their hero when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Considered by many to be one of the most important songwriters of all time, Cobain had long struggled with inner demons. After at least one alleged failed suicide attempt and an intervention by friends, Cobain checked into Exodus Recovery Center in Los Angeles, California, in March of ’94 but he jumped a fence and left the facility the following day. Less than a week later he was found dead at his home in Seattle. His death was declared a suicide by self-inflicted shotgun wound. He had left a suicide note addressed to his imaginary childhood friend Boddah.
Kristen Pfaff (May 26, 1967 — June 16, 1994)
Kurt Cobain was not the only tragic suicide that his wife Courtney Love has had to contend with in early 1994. On June 16, 1994 the bass player for her band Hole, Kristen Pfaff, was found dead in Seattle, Washington. The cause of death was declared to be “acute opiate intoxication” and was considered to be accidental.
Amy Winehouse (September 14, 1983 — July 23, 2011)
When you make your mark on the world singing a song about how you don’t want to go to rehab, no one’s really surprised when you are found dead of a suspected drug overdose. But despite a troubled past the tragic passing of Winehouse will go down as one of the most shocking celebrity death announcements in history.