Forever 27: Moments from the 27 club

Plus 27 songs from the 27 club

Only the good die young, and for whatever reason, much of society is fascinated with damned youth. The “forever” 27 club, for those who don’t know, is the moniker for the strangely tragic phenomenon of great musicians, artists, and actors who have all died at the age of 27.

Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all died between 1969 to 1971. During that era, the coincidence was noted but it was not until Nirvana’s frontman Kurt Cobain’s death in the 1990s that the “27 club” was solidified in popular culture.

“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club,” Cobain’s mother, Wendy O’Connor, said after learning of her son’s suspected suicide. “I told him not to join that stupid club.”

Other notable “members” were visual artist Jean-Michel Basquiat as well as musician Amy Winehouse, who both died due to drug-related issues—as many of the 27 club members did. Regardless of how they died or why they died, their music and impact on history deserves to be remembered.

An iconic moment for 27 club member Jimi Hendrix was his song “Voodoo Child” recorded in 1968 on Electric Ladyland. The most fascinating and “electrifying” component of the song is the fact that Hendrix improvised the guitar score and vocals, backed by Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. “Voodoo Child” is one of the most iconic tracks attributed to Hendrix, and rightly so. The screeching, but alluring, guitar that is featured heavily on the track is contrarily stunning and even more so knowing that it was completely improvised.

Janis Joplin’s death in October of 1970 stunned her fans and peers in the music world—coupled with Hendrix’s death a mere 16 days before. Joplin was known for her vulnerability on the stage and off, as well as her devastatingly unique voice. Though very intuitive and talented, Joplin was plagued with insecurities throughout her life, turning to the needle and the bottle for comfort.

Jim Morrison, also known as “The Lizard King,” left his mark on musical history with his poetic and surreal lyrics, distinctive vocals, and unpredictable personality. Despite Morrison being pinned as the prototypical rock star—sexy, surly, mysterious, and erratic—his influence on lyricists and music is monumental.

Despite only releasing three full-length studio albums, Nirvana and Kurt Cobain are regarded as one of the most significant and imperative “alternative” bands in musical history. Cobain and Co. established the “grunge” style in Seattle in the late 1980s. Nirvana developed a sound that built on dynamic juxtapositions, often contrasting hushed verses with guttural yells and heavy choruses. 

Amy Winehouse was the most recent addition to the 27 Club in 2011. As tragic as the deaths were of the others, Winehouse’s came as a harrowing and somewhat anticipated shock. Winehouse was known for her heavy eyeliner and messy beehive hairstyle, bopping around Camdentown, London—in the early years no one expected the musical prowess that emanated from her. Winehouse had deep and expressive contralto vocals mimicking that of soul and R&B singers.

All conspiracy theories aside, all of the 27 club members were immensely influential within music history and exceedingly talented musicians. It’s important to understand music history and acknowledge those who have influenced the music that is popular today. Here are 27 great songs from the greats in the 27 club.

1.“All Along The Watchtower” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

2. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

3. “Piece Of My Heart” Janis Joplin

4. “Summertime” Janis Joplin

5. “Light My Fire” Jim Morrison & The Doors

6. “The End” Jim Morrison & The Doors

7. “Heart Shaped Box” Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

8. “Lithium” Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

9. “Back To Black”  Amy Winehouse

10. “You Know I’m No Good” Amy Winehouse

11. “Stronger Than Me” Amy Winehouse

12. “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” Jim Morrison & The Doors

13. “Valerie” Amy Winehouse

14. “Come As You Are” Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

15. “Don’t Want It All”  Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

16. “In Bloom” Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

17. “Hey Joe” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

18. “Band of Gypsys/Machine Gun” The Jimi Hendrix Experience

19. “Rehab” Amy Winehouse

20. “Me and Bobby McGee”  Janis Joplin

21. “Riders On The Storm”  Jim Morrison & The Doors

22. “L.A. Woman” Jim Morrison & The Doors

23. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”  Nirvana (Kurt Cobain)

24. “Hello, I Love You” Jim Morrison & The Doors

25. “People Are Strange”  Jim Morrison & The Doors

26. “Tears Dry On Their Own”  Amy Winehouse

27. “Mercedes Benz”  Janis Joplin

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