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Rockers Who Died at Age 27

The number of rockers who were taken from us too early in life — whether by accident, violence or misadventure — is obviously far too large. The fact that so many of the biggest and most influential talents in rock history died at the age of 27 is even more bizarre, and when you think about it, downright creepy. Over the years, the stories behind the deaths of the members of this so called “27 club” have grown more and more inflated and outrageous, with everything from legal cover-ups to elaborate hoaxes and even deals with the devil trotted out to try and make some sense of these tragic losses. Together with our friends at Loudwire, we try to distinguish fact from fiction regarding these sad stories on the following list of Rockers Who Died at Age 27.

Jimi Hendrix – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Of all the rockers who died at age 27, perhaps none left the world with such a gaping sense of “what could have been” than Jimi Hendrix, who died of asphyxiation in his girlfriend’s London apartment on Sept. 18, 1970. His unparalleled ability to express and innovate on the guitar, as well as his endless desire to redefine everything about what rock music could be and how it was presented, make it all but certain that the four original albums we got to hear from Hendrix were only the tip of what he could have accomplished with more time. Sadly, a combination of red wine and sleeping pills (reportedly, stronger than expected) took that all away from us.


Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

On July 3, 1969, just a month after being kicked out of the famous group he had helped form — the Rolling Stones — guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones drowned in his own swimming pool. Jones, a slide guitar genius who intended to be the Stones’ leader as they performed more traditional blues-based music, was slowly pushed to the side in favor of the impressive songwriting abilities (and charismatic on-stage presences) of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. After he contributed to just two songs on 1969′s ‘Let it Bleed’ album, Jones’ substance abuse problems — including an arrest that threatened his ability to tour overseas — became too much for his bandmates. Those same abuse problems are also believed to have contributed to his drowning death.



Jim Morrison – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

The sense of mystery created by the music of the Doors, specifically their charismatic frontman Jim Morrison, has helped make it hard for some people to believe that he’s truly dead. Of course, the fact that an autopsy was never performed doesn’t help, either. The singer reportedly died on July 3, 1971 — again, at the age of 27 — of heart failure in the bathtub of his Paris apartment. In accordance with French law, since there was no sign of foul play, no further investigation was performed. However many people suspect that Morrison in fact died of a heroin overdose, possibly in the bathroom stall of a nearby club. Or… maybe he faked the whole thing and is raising horses in Oregon.



Pigpen of the Grateful Dead – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Keyboardist and vocalist Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan of the Grateful Dead died at age 27 on March 8, 1973 from internal hemorrhaging caused by excessive drinking. Pigpen, who apparently earned his nickname as you might suspect, from a lack of personal hygiene and a generally unkempt approach to life, is credited with pulling the Dead together in the mid-’60s, and served as their first frontman. After touring with the band for years and performing on several of their important early albums, failing health brought on by his addiction forced him to leave the Dead in 1972. Less than a year later, he passed away.




Janis Joplin – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Janis Joplin, solo star and singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company, died at age 27 on Oct. 4, 1970 of a heroin overdose. The distinctive vocalist had endured a long history of drug and alcohol problems. According to Rolling Stone’s account, Joplin was found dead in L.A.’s Landmark Hotel, with fresh needle marks on her arm and $4.50 clutched in her hand. It has been suggested that her dealer accidentally sold her and several other clients an overly strong dose of the drug. She was in the process of finishing up what would turn out to be the her posthumously-released 1971 solo album ‘Pearl,’ having just completed the a cappella track ‘Mercedes Benz‘ three days earlier.



Robert Johnson – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Robert JohnsonLegendary bluesman Robert Johnson, whose songs have been recorded by the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, the Allman Brothers Band and many other classic rockers, died at age 27 in 1938. Since so little is known about Johnson — who recorded barely more than two dozen songs, including ‘Dust My Broom’ and ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ in his unnaturally short life — some pretty crazy myths and rumors about him have taken hold in many people’s minds. He’s rumored to have sold his soul to the Devil, and to have died after being poisoned by the jealous boyfriend of a woman he was talking to, just as famed talent scout John Hammond was trying to hand him a one-way ticket to fame and fortune.



Pete Ham of Badfinger – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

On April 24, 1975, just three days shy of his 28th birthday, Badfinger singer and guitarist Pete Ham killed himself, reportedly because he was despondent over his poor financial situation and an ongoing battle with the band’s manager, Stan Polley. According to Rolling Stone, Ham left a note near his body declaring, ‘Stan Polley is a soulless bastard.’ His bandmates said the manager had withheld financial information from them. Despite writing several of the band’s hit singles, including ‘Day After Day‘ and ‘No Matter What,’ Ham apparently found himself broke and concerned as to how to help support his about-to-be born child, which apparently led to his tragic decision.




Alan Wilson of Canned Heat – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Alan Wilson, guitarist, singer, harmonica player and primary songwriter in Canned Heat, died on Sept. 3, 1970 due to an overdose of barbiturates. It has never been determined whether or not Wilson, who suffered from depression and had reportedly attempted suicide before, took his own life. Known as “Blind Owl” due to his poor eyesight, Wilson founded the quintessential boogie group in 1965 in Los Angeles with other blues lovers. He wrote and sang lead on the group’s two biggest hits, ‘On the Road Again’ and ‘Going Up the Country.’ They had just finished recording an album with one of their idols, John Lee Hooker, when Wilson died.






Gary Thain of Uriah Heep – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

On Dec. 8, 1975, Gary Thain, the former bassist for Uriah Heep, died at the age of 27. The official cause of death was respiratory failure as a result of an overdose of heroin. He had been fired earlier in the year due to his increasing drug problem and replaced by John Wetton, who had previously been the bassist for King Crimson. Thain joined the kings of British progressive hard rock in 1972 and was with them for five albums, four of which went Gold in the United States. Before that, the New Zealand-born Thain had spent four years in the Keef Hartley Band, who opened up for Uriah Heep in 1971.









Helmut Kollen of Triumvirat – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Helmut Kollen, the former bassist and singer for the German progressive rock group Triumvirat died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his garage at the age of 27. He was listening to tracks from the album he was working on while in his car with the engine running. Kollen joined Triumvirat, considered to be Germany’s equivalent of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, in 1974. He was on their two most successful albums, ‘Illusions on a Double Dimple’ and ‘Spartacus,’ which reached No. 27 on the Billboard Top 200 before leaving for a solo career in 1975. In Oct. 1977, his solo album was released under the title ‘You Won’t See Me.’







Amy Winehouse – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Amy Winehouse was already considered a tragic figure when she passed away from alcohol poisoning on July 23, 2011. Winehouse had very publicly suffered from serious drug and alcohol abuse issues, all-the-while thumbing her nose at them with her breakout hit, ‘Rehab’ (“They tried to make me go to rehab, I said no, no, no.”) Nobody seemed too surprised by her untimely passing — which, in a way, made everybody feel guilty about it. Our celebrity culture loves to see stars fall hard, then recover gracefully, but Winehouse sadly just fell.





Chris Bell of Big Star – Rockers Who Died at Age 27

Chris Bell earned a spot in the infamous 27 Club when, on Dec. 27, 1978, he lost control of the compact Triumph TR-7 sports car he was driving home from a late-night visit to his father’s restaurant in Memphis, Tenn., smashing it into a light pole on the side of the road and killing him instantly. Bell (far left in the picture) was a founding member of influential power pop band Big Star, but bowed out in 1972 after their debut album, ‘#1 Album,’ failed to find success.

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