“Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to …”
– Kurt Cobain’s mother upon hearing of the death of her son
What do Otis Redding, Gram Parsons, Nick Drake, Jimmy McCulloch, James Ramey (aka Baby Huey), Bryan Osper, and Jon Guthrie have in common?
What about Tim Buckley, Gregory Herbert, Zenon de Fleur, Nick Babeu, Shannon Hoon, Beverly Kenney, and Bobby Bloom?
And Alan Wilson, Jesse Belvin, Rudy Lewis, Gary Thain, Kristen Pfaff, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Pete de Freitas, Raymond “Freaky Tah” Rogers, Helmut Köllen, and Linda Jones?
They are all dead pop musicians. The first group died aged 26; the second group died aged 28; and the third group died aged 27.
In a population of dead musicians spanning seven decades from 1950 to 2010 for which an accurate age of death could be identified (n=11,054), 1.2% (n=128) died at 26, 1.4% (n=153) died at 28 and 1.3% (n=144) died at 27.
Age 56 had the highest frequency of deaths (2.2%; n=239). Notables dying at this age include Eddie Rabbitt, Tammy Wynette, Mimi Farina, Johnny Ramone, Chris LeDoux, Vandy “Smokey” Hampton, and Charles “Baby” Tate. Below is a visual representation of the percentages of deaths at each age.
So why isn’t there a 56 Club or a 28 Club? Is it because Brian Jones (drowning), Jimi Hendrix (aspirated vomitus from barbiturate overdose), Janis Joplin (heroin overdose), Jim Morrison (drug-induced heart attack), Kurt Cobain (suicide by gunshot) and Amy Winehouse (alcohol poisoning) all died aged 27?