Not The Club You Want To Join
Why do we love conspiracy theories? Probably for the same reasons why we are enthralled by celebrity gossip, ghost stories, or scary movies that keep us up at night; they are entertaining tales and conversation starters that preoccupy and spice up our mundane lives. Connecting two dots no matter how far-removed or absurd the path, gives people a thrill and can oftentimes lead to an obsession.
Think about one of the most notorious conspiracies in American History: the assassination of our president John F. Kennedy. We are still talking and theorizing about his untimely death fifty-five years later. Gathering evidence from multiple sources, coming up with observations or clues, and pondering over what really happened are all motivating factors to keep conspiracy theorists busy. Are they true? Some might be while others are just muddled versions passed over millions of individuals and many years equaling a misconstrued “truth” like a massive game of telephone.
In the spirit of appeasing all you avid conspiracy theorists out there, we are offering a multi-part series on some of the most compelling and talked about theories in music. With how outrageous many of the rock stars are or were (especially in the 60s and 70s) there are plenty of equally crazy stories that have surfaced and many that have been distorted into entertaining theories.
Let’s start with one that is essentially a strange coincidence and is tied to several notable figures in music: the 27 Club.
The 27 Club and White Lighter Myth
Aside from occupying a spot on our list of heroes and creating some of our favorite songs, many musicians are the main subjects of some though-provoking conspiracies. One of the most popular one that includes a substantial list of notable musicians is the 27 Club. This is not the kind of exclusive group you want to join or a private club you have to wait outside for hours to get into.
Over the years, multiple high-profile musicians have coincidentally all passed away at the age of twenty-seven. Now, I say coincidentally, but many fans over the years have attributed this to 27 being a cursed age for musicians and state an “unsupported claim of a “statistical spike” for the death of musicians at that age, but this has been repeatedly disproved by research.” In reality it is just generally inexplicable and “one of the most elusive and remarkably tragic coincidences in rock & roll history.”
But how do we explain this phenomenon? That is exactly the question that sparked this and many other conspiracies. We like to ignore scientific or medical facts in lieu of fanciful and ‘juicy’ rhetoric, it’s more captivating and fun that way.
Let’s unpack some facts surrounding the members of the infamous 27 Club. Many of our favorite rockers are notorious for being fervid partiers and for their carefree and high-risk lifestyles. Naturally, this behavior often includes excessive and detrimental drug and alcohol abuse.
Also, sometimes the high-profile and glamorous life is too much for an individual, leading them to take his or her own life or to behave so carelessly that their lives end in a tragic accident. It makes sense and is even proven that large quantities of drugs or amounts of alcohol taken in a short period of time causes various vital organs in the body to deteriorate or cease functioning. If the individual begins taking drugs even at the age of 17 or 18 that is 9-10 years of constant abuse that can become irreversible and life-threatening.
If that doesn’t spark your interest enough or make you want to put on your Sherlock Holmes detective hat, let’s go one step further with the classic white lighter myth that is attached to some of the members of the club. Essentially, the myth goes that the pivotal musicians of the 27 Club all died with a white lighter in their pocket. This doesn’t seem too far-fetched as all of them were avid drug users. The theory has been running wild for many years, with the flame being fanned by the cannabis culture and anyone who avoids black cats and walking under ladders. But, several sources have since debunked this theory noting that Bic did not create their many colored disposable lighters until most of our members were long gone. However, this fact hasn’t stopped people from staying away from the cursed white lighter and passing on the superstition to their friends.
Members of the 27 Club
This one shouldn’t be too much of a surprise given his glowing reputation. Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest guitarists to ever live and his music continues to inspire new generations of players, and he was only 27 when he died! It is hard to imagine that he was able to accomplish everything he did in such a short life span: he popularized a guitar, effect pedal, and way of playing. Hendrix was also a habitual drug and alcohol user, which often sent him into fits of rage. Sadly, this lifestyle eventually caught up to him ending in his death on September 18, 1970. The night before, Hendrix and his girlfriend Monika Dannermann were taking handfuls of pills and drinking heavily which led Hendrix to throw up and asphyxiate. His sudden death came as a shock to the whole world and fans still grieve at the loss of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived.
The Pearl of classic rock with one of the most beautiful voices ever recorded. Less than one month after the tragic loss of Jimi Hendrix, the blues-rock world got hit hard again when Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose at the age of … yes, 27. It is reported that Joplin had been feeling lonely and depressed in her hotel room after a performance, leading her to haphazardly inject herself with the drug while consuming copious amounts of alcohol.
The great grandfather of the blues is often absent from conversations about the 27 club. It might be because he never became as famous as the other members or because he died over thirty years before the first notable musician of the club. It seems fitting that the death of a man who is connected with folklore that he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for talent would be equally perplexing. Supposedly, Johnson was given a bottle of alcohol that was poisoned by the husband of a woman he was flirting with. Of course, there are multiple accounts of this story and his life as well as his death remain a compelling mystery.
Feeling superstitious yet? Our next 27 Club member was the talented poet and gifted front man of the psychedelic rock band The Doors. Jim Morrison was found dead in a Paris hotel on July 3, 1971. Since autopsies were not required by law in France, the actual cause of death is not definite but was ruled as congestive heart failure. Morrison was a major drug abuser and partier and these choices unfortunately caught up to him. Since there was no preliminary autopsy, the conspiracy theorists were invited to run rampant and ideas surrounding Jim Morrison’s death seem to have no bounds.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Nirvana was a pivotal part of the later 80’s and 90’s music scene and defined grunge music as well as the subculture. Lead singer and guitarist Kurt Cobain was known for his gritty and out of tune vocals and for his outrageous antics. Like many other names on our list, Cobain got heavily into drugs and was said to have been battling with depression. On April 5, 1994, at the age of 27, Kurt Cobain was found dead in his Seattle home due to a self-inflicted shotgun wound. The circumstances surrounding his apparent suicide have caused years of heavy debate, including the involvement of Cobain’s wife Courtney Love. Cobain’s death was so pivotal that it even gave life to the term “27 Club” and plunged the conspiracy into the mainstream.
More musicians we lost at 27:
Brian Jones – The Rolling Stones (Drowned)
Alan Wilson – Canned Heat (Drug Overdose)
Ron McKernan – Grateful Dead (Hemorrhage)
Jeremy Michael Ward – The Mars Volta (Overdose)
Amy Winehouse (Alcohol Poisoning)
Kristen Pfaff – Hole (Heroin Overdose)