The 27 Club: 12 Celebrities Who Died At 27
The 27 Club is a pop culture phenomenon that has been around for many decades. The notorious club is made up of celebrities who died at 27. This includes actors and actresses, singers, artists, and a wide range of famous faces in the entertainment industry. It was a term first used after the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison, who both died tragically at the age of 27. The majority of those in the club also died in tragic circumstances, such as suicide, drugs and alcohol, or homicide.
Several celebrities passed away at 27 between 1967 – 1971, causing music biographer Charles R. Cross to write; “The number of musicians who died at 27 is truly remarkable by any standard. [Although] humans die regularly at all ages, there is a statistical spike for musicians who die at 27.”
Unsurprisingly, despite so many famous people passing away at the age of 27, the 27 Club has been debunked. Research found just 1.3% of musicians died at age 27, with the highest death rate coming for those aged 56 (2.3%). Despite these facts, the 27 Club still exists and gives people something to talk about. The likes of Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, and Brian Jones are some of the most famous people who died at age 27 and are part of the club.
If you’ve wanted to know all the biggest celebrities that make up the 27 Club, read on.
The 27 Club: 12 Celebrities Who Died At 27
1. Robert Johnson (1911-1938)
The first official member of the 27 Club, Robert Johnson was a famous blues singer from the 30s. Although his career only lasted seven years, the recordings he made during that period are considered some of the greatest of all time. He is often cited as one of the main instigators of the Delta blues style and has been described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “the first-ever rock star.”
Johnson played as a traveling musician but had little success during his life. Due to a lack of reporting, there isn’t a great deal known about Johnson, but one rumor that persists is that he sold his soul to the devil for success. Unfortunately for Johnson, he didn’t specify when the success would come and he died decades before people took notice.
Johnson passed away on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27. Although there was no cause given for his death, many suspected he had been poisoned by the husband of a woman he had an affair with.
2. Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)
Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain changed music forever when he and his band released the alternative hit “Teen Spirit.” The forefathers of grunge created a movement that appealed to the disenfranchised youth of the 90s. But Cobain was no savior. He despised fame and wished he could just play music with his friends without all the pressure and media scrutiny.
During the final years of the lead singer’s life, Cobain suffered from depression, illness, and drug abuse. He also had a tumultuous relationship with the media, fans, and his wife, Courtney Love. His friends and family hosted an intervention and got him into rehab, but a few days later he jumped the fence and disappeared.
His body was found eight days later with a shotgun blast to the head. A suicide note left at the scene of the murder explained Cobain’s reasons for taking his life and ended with the phrase, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” lyrics taken from the Neil Young song “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).”
Although his time at the top was short (three years from the release of Nevermind to his death), Cobain’s legacy is everlasting and his contribution to the music industry will never be matched.
3. Heath Ledger (1979 – 2008)
One of Australia’s greatest actors passed at 27 from an accidental drug overdose. Only a few months before his tragic passing, Ledger had finished filming his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight. Once released, the film gained rave reviews and was a critical and commercial success, with Ledger praised by all for his haunting take on the Joker. He ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor posthumously.
While he wasn’t on the earth long, Ledger’s impact was huge. He starred in some fantastic films, such as Two Hands, The Patriot, Monster’s Ball, Brokeback Moutain, and Candy, and will be forever missed by movie fans.
4. Janis Joplin (1943-1970)
Nobody had a voice like Janis Joplin. Possessed with a powerful mezzo-soprano vocal (which basically means she’s a shit-hot singer), Joplin had plenty of hits during her short time in the spotlight, including her cover of Kris Kristofferson’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Piece of My Heart,” “Cry Baby,” and original “Mercedes Benz.”
A dynamic permeance at Woodstock received wide praise and her sophomore album Pearl was a massive hit, although sadly, it came three months after her death. Joplin, a notorious drug user, died from a heroin overdose at the Landmark Motor Hotel in October 1970.
5. Jimi Hendrix (1942 – 1970)
A guitar virtuoso, Jimi Hendrix wowed audiences with his brand of psychedelic rock. There was nothing Hendrix couldn’t do with a guitar, becoming a much-in-demand artist throughout the 60s. His life was also cut short at 27 when he died of a drug overdose.
Staying in the UK with his lady, Hendrix died of an accidental overdose after digesting her prescribed Vesparax sleeping tablets. One is enough to knock you out for eight hours. Hendrix swallowed nine. When his body was found by his girlfriend, Hendrix was still breathing but unresponsive. An ambulance was called and Hendrix was taken to the nearest hospital where he died less than an hour later, cutting short one of the great music careers.
6. Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)
The story of Amy Winehouse is another tragic tale of a talented entertainer whose battle with drugs and alcohol could not be won. Winehouse died of an alcohol overdose in 2011, just a few months before her third album was set to be released.
Winehouse signed a deal with EMI at a young age and released her debut album, Frank, in 2003. A jazz-influenced soul release, it didn’t really make much of a hit on the charts, but that all changed with the release of Back in Black.
Produced by Mark Ronson, the album injected Winehouse’s jazzy style with hints of pop, R&B, and soul, going on to become a massive hit. It spawned the hits “Rehab,” “Back To Black,” and “Love Is a Losing Game” and turned Winehouse into a modern-day pop star until her passing.
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7. Brian Jones (1942 – 1969)
If you’re only a casual fan of the Rolling Stones or a young one, you might not be aware of Brian Jones. He was a co-founder of the band and a major part of their early years. But like many musicians in similar situations, as the Stones started to get big, so did Jones’ addiction to drugs and alcohol.
As Jones became more unreliable, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards slowly took over the writing of the songs and forced Jones out of the band. Mick Taylor ended up replacing him and just a month later Jones was dead.
Brian Jones died after falling into his pool and drowning. Rumors persist that he was murdered, but there is no proof to this theory.
8. Jim Morrison (1943 – 1971)
The 60s were responsible for some of the greatest rock and roll bands of all time. The Doors certainly fit that bill. The foursome from LA crafted melodic, organ-driven pop tunes that captured music lovers’ attention. It didn’t hurt that lead singer Jim Morrison oozed sex appeal and possessed a distinct voice that could be seductive one moment and terrifying the next.
Morrison was one of the great frontmen despite being an alcoholic who dabbled in drugs. But his dependency on illicit substances would be his downfall. After recording what would be the band’s final album, L.A. Woman, Morrison decamped for Paris where his band hoped he would sort himself out.
It seemed to be working, with Morrison shaving off his homeless-style beard and dropping a stack of weight. But on July 3, 1971, Morrison was found dead in a bathtub. The official cause of death was heart failure, but no autopsy was performed, leading many to believe he had actually died from a heroin overdose. While we will never know the exact cause of Morrison’s death, he will forever remain a musical legend.
9. Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Highly revered by many celebrities today, Jean Michel Basquiat was a New York graffiti artist who rose to fame in the 80s. His art often discussed themes surrounding wealth, class, sexuality, race, politics, and the power struggles between whites and blacks. Today his artwork sells for millions of dollars, with his painting, In This Case, selling for an incredible $93.1 million in 2021.
Sadly Basquiat joined the forever 27 Club in 1988 after overdosing on heroin. Despite several attempts at kicking the habit by attending rehab facilities, Basquiat couldn’t quite do it, leaving behind a fantastic legacy as one of the art world’s most promising artists.
10. Fredo Santana (1990 – 2018)
One of the most recent additions to the 27 Club, Fredo Santana was a Chicago rapper known for his album Trappin Ain’t Dead. But unlike many young rappers who have died in recent years, the older cousin of Chief Keef wasn’t murdered. Santana was a heavy drug user who had been addicted to Xanax and lean during his early 20s.
In March of 2017, Santana suffered from a seizure and was soon diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. Despite taking medication, the seizures continued and at one point he was found mid-seizure with blood oozing from his mouth. Doctors diagnosed him with liver and kidney failure, due to his excessive drug use.
While he wanted to get help, the famous musician didn’t live long enough to get it. His girlfriend found Santana unresponsive on January 18, 2018, and although medics tried to revive him, it was too late. The autopsy revealed he had developed a cardiovascular disease, that coupled with the damage to his liver and kidneys, resulted in a fatal seizure.
11. Jonathan Brandis (1976-2003)
Best known for his role in One Life to Live, American actor Jonathan Brandis was a child actor who gained international fame for his roles in Stephen King’s It, The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter, and seaQuest DSV. He became somewhat of a teen heartthrob but his star started to wane as the 90s came to an end.
He scored a role in the Bruce Willis flick Hart’s War, but when his scenes were heavily cut, friends say Brandis became depressed and started drinking. On November 11, 2003, Brandis was found hanging in the hallway of his LA home. He was rushed to hospital but died from his injuries.
12. Anton Yelchin (1989 – 2016)
Getting his start as a child actor, Anton Yelchin soon wowed audiences with his adult performances in movies such as Star Trek (the reboot), Odd Thomas, Fright Night, and Green Room. The Russian-born American was not only a talented actor but had a deep love of photography and music.
His passing on June 19, 2016, has been described as a freak accident. Getting out of his Jeep Cherokee to check his gate was closed and pick up his mail, the 4×4 rolled back down the steep incline and crushed Yelchin, killing him instantly.
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