Forever 27, a club many musicians are dying to get into, quite literally, is famed for its iconic members, all of whom died at the age of 27. Here, rather briefly, we will examine the untimely death of three artists. Tales often associated with drink and drug abuse, each musician lived one hell of a life, albeit a very short one.
1. Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, was a poet, a novelist, a filmmaker, and the self-proclaimed lizard king. Born on December 8, 1943, the Melbourne, Florida native academically excelled throughout his youth. With an IQ of 149, Morrison found himself easily bored by mundane curriculums and archaic teaching methods.
Deeply dissatisfied, Morrison’s troubled youth reflected heavily in his work with The Doors. Without a bassist, Ray Manzarek, The Door’s co-founder and keyboardist, provided the bass parts on his Fender Rhodes piano. Furthermore, Manzarek also played a Vox Continental organ, most notably on the famous intro to “Light My Fire.” Last year, Manzarek, aged 74, passed away in Rosenheim, Germany, after a long battle with cancer.
By employing cutting edge technology, The Doors managed to effectively produce a unique sound. Drawing inspiration largely from his poetry and pseudo-philosophical ramblings, Morrison’s lyrics focused on ominous and consciousness-expanding subjects. From death and rebirth to murder and masochism, no topic was off the proverbial table, and this approach helped the band ignite the 60s. Signing with Elektra record label in 1967, the group released “Break On Through,” their first single, however it was their follow-up, the aforementioned “Light My Fire,” that set pulses racing and secured their first number one hit.
“L.A. Woman,” their fifth and final album featuring Morrison, was overflowing with mainstream, commercially driven songs, although the inclusion of the utterly brilliant “Riders On The Storm” ensured a level of creative credibility remained.
As we are all too aware, right throughout his musical career, Morrison was renowned for his insatiable appetite, especially when sex, drugs and alcohol were involved. Promiscuous and quite pompous, Morrison was a huge Aldous Huxley fan, regularly experimenting with numerous hallucinogenic substances. Unsurprisingly, his eccentric lifestyle eventually caught up with him, and Morrison went on to grow a beard and pack on 20 lbs, trading in revealing attire for sweatpants and baggy T-shirts.
In July of 1971, shortly after moving to Paris, Pamela Courson, Morrison’s long time partner, found the singer dead in their bathtub.
The Doors released two more albums after Morrison’s death.
2. Kurt Cobain
Neil Young once sang, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away,” a quote that would later appear on Kurt Cobain’s suicide note. With his rasping vocals and shaggy clothing, Cobain’s influence on 90’s rock music cannot be overstated.
“Smells Like Teen Spirit,” the group’s 1991 smash-hit, saw the group capture the hearts and minds of the young and disillusioned.
A schismatic craftsman, Cobain had a real knack of marrying effortless melodies with ferocious feedback and deafening distortion. Communicating his inner turmoil, Cobain’s wail influenced a generation of alt-rock singers, while his lyrics, many of which tackled the discomforts of adolescence, captured the imagination of the grunge community.
A quarter of a century ago, with Chad Channing on drums, Nirvana released “Bleach,” the group’s very first album. In 1990, when Nirvana replaced Channing with Dave Grohl, they began recording “Nevermind,” an album that thrust Cobain into the mainstream media spotlight. Although he was utterly uncomfortable with being labelled “the voice of a generation,” Cobain used his celebrity status to support women’s rights. In addition, the Seattle native regularly defended the gay community and other minorities, while transferring all his deep-lying anger and despondency into Nirvana’s lyrical progression.
Struggling to cope with fame, Cobain’s demise was all too swift, and the frontman’s admission of heavy drug use in a 1993 interview resulted in a legal battle over the custody of his daughter, Frances Bean.
The following year, during a European tour, Cobain overdosed, and less than a month later, after returning to his Seattle home, tragedy struck. On April 8th, 1994, with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his head, Cobain was found dead. Leaving behind a magical musical catalogue, let us not forget some of the songs that helped shape an incredible legacy: “Lithium,” “In Bloom,” “Sliver,” “Come As You Are” and “About a Girl,” all timeless classics, each track telling its own very intimate tale.
3. Amy Winehouse
With her rasping, almost pulverous vocals and eclectic style, Amy Winehouse regularly won comparisons to Nina Simone, one of the most illustrious female singers in history. However, her self-destructive talents also resulted in comparisons with another influential singer: Janis Joplin.
Co-writing all but two of the songs on her 2003 debut album “Frank,” Winehouse won praise for her cool, critical gaze. The album’s blend of jazz, soul and hip-hop further prompted comparisons with Macy Gray and Lauryn Hill. A year on, after being nominated for the Mercury Music Prize, Winehouse won the Ivor Novello songwriting award for “Stronger Than Me,” an unconventional love song
But “Back to Black,” her 2006 follow-up album, propelled the singer into the realms of international stardom. Representing a very deliberate move away from jazz, this album delivered soulful harmonies and 1950s infused rock ‘n’ roll. In addition to grabbing the number one spot on the UK charts, “Back to Black” debuted at number seven on the US Billboard 200. “Rehab,” the first song released, focused on her refusal to accept assistance from an alcohol rehabilitation centre and the infamous words, “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no.’”
In June 2007, four months after being awarded best British female at the Brit Awards, Winehouse won song of the year at the Mojo Awards. As her artistic appeal broadened, her physical and mental wellbeing greatly suffered. If 2007 was a memorable year for all the right reasons, 2008 was unforgettable for all the wrong ones. With her behaviour becoming more erratic, Winehouse suffered further breakdowns, prompting attempts at an intervention by her family. A disastrous domino effect ensued, and her turbulent marriage to Fielder-Civil soon ended through divorce.
Irreversible damage to her career had been inflicted, and in June 2011, even more controversy awaited Winehouse. On the opening night of what was supposed to be a 12-date European, the singer appeared on stage in Belgrade and looked a mere shadow of her former self. Jeered off stage, Amy’s shambolic performance would prove to be her final one.
On the 23rd of July, 2011, Winehouse was found dead in her Camden home by a member of her security team.