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13 things you need to know about the 27 Club

iStock_000021834892XSmallAs of 1 January 2014, 27 years have passed since the first edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music was published. In those 27 years, The Beatles sold two billion albums, Michael Jackson died, and Simon Cowell had the excellent foresight to create One Direction. While many notable music events have transpired over the past 27 years, the number ‘27’ holds an eerie identity within the music industry. The term ‘27 club’ was coined to recognize the alarming number of musicians who have died at 27 years of age. To honor both the number of years that have passed between editions as well as bring light to this strange phenomenon amongst musicians, here are 13 things you need to know about the American members in the 27 Club.

  1. Never one to conform, Jimi Hendrix learned to play the guitar upside down because he was left handed. He would continue to play the instrument this way throughout his career.
  2. In 1969, one year before his death, Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid musician at Woodstock.
  3. Jimi Hendrix died of asphyxiation 18 September 1970. Hendrix’s autopsy revealed that the singer had ingested nine Vesparax sleeping pills, 18 times the recommended dose.
  4. Even though revered blues artist, Robert Leroy Johnson, did not sell much music before his untimely death on the 8 May 1911, a two-set CD released of his music in 1990 sold over 500,000 copies.
  5. The cause of death for Robert Johnson still remains unknown, but his sudden and mysterious death at 27 has been rumored to have been caused by a poisoned drink!
  6. Janis Joplin, lead singer of the Kozmic Blues Band and Full Tilt Boogie Band, once smashed a bottle of Southern Comfort over fellow 27 club member Jim Morrisson’s head.
  7. Janis Joplin drove a 356C Porsche which she paid $3,500 for in 1965. Unlike other porsches on the road, Joplin’s was completely covered in psychedelic design.
  8. While it is generally accepted that Janis Joplin died of an overdose on 4 October 1970, some maintain that her death is attributed to a tainted batch of heroin as many other of her dealer’s clients also overdosed that week.
  9. Instead of a traditional funeral, Janis Joplin’s will allotted $2,500 to be spent on a party in her honor. The party was held at the Lion’s Share club in San Anselmo California on 26 October 1971. The Grateful Dead played for most of the party while guests were treated to an open bar in honor of Janis.
  10. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of punk-rock band Nirvana, was wed to Courtney Love on 14 February 1992. Cobain donned green checkered pajamas in favor of a traditional tuxedo.
  11. Kurt Cobain’s body was found in his home on 5 April 1994. Cobain’s suicide note quoted a Neil Young lyric saying “It’s better to burn out than fade away”.
  12. Choosing not to pursue his film degree from UCLA, Jim Morrison teamed up with Ray Manzarek to form The Doors, a title inspired by Aldous Huxley’s book The Doors of Perception.
  13. There was never an autopsy for The Doors singer-songwriter Jim Morrison after he was found dead in a bathtub in Paris on 3 July 1971. French Law did not require autopsies for deaths free from foul-play.

For more information about these famed members, consult the Grove Dictionary of American Music 2 ed.

The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Second Edition is the largest, most comprehensive reference publication on American Music. Twenty-five years ago, the four volumes of the first edition of the dictionary initiated a great expansion in American music scholarship. This second edition reflects the growth in scholarship the first edition initiated.

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Image credit: Los Angeles, United States – October 1, 2011: The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a long walkway with two sidewalks That run along the Hollywood Boulevard, there are over two thousand five-pointed stars in a brass bearing the names of celebrities including the famous guitarist Jimi Hendrix. © martaland via iStockphoto.

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