Brian Jones and the Curse of 27
In Greg Kihn's latest novel, The Rolling Stones bandleader attempts to solve his untimely death before it happens. In real life, it didn't work out that way.
As a musician and writer, Greg Kihn is no stranger to rock ‘n roll’s legendary curse of 27 – the early age when many great performers have died.
In his latest novel, Painted Black, Kihn puts a new spin on the superstition by trying to solve Brian Jone’s death before it happens. At the beginning of the story, The Rolling Stone’s bandleader heads to Morocco, where he buys an antique mirror. When he looks at his reflection, Jones sees his impending death looking back at him. He teams up with a secondhand record shop owner from London, Dust Bin Bob, to try to stop this supposed murder before he becomes a victim of the curse.
Unfortunately, in real life, Jones’s body was discovered in the early hours of July 3, 1969, at the bottom of his swimming pool in the English countryside. Although the coroner ruled the death was caused by “misadventure” from drug and alcohol abuse, some still find the circumstances mysterious and maintain that he was in fact murdered.
Of course, there are other stories like Jones’s – immense talents that have been taken away from us too soon. Here are five such musicians, who went to their graves at a mere 27 years old.
Once called “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music” by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Hendrix passed away in mysterious circumstances in a London apartment on September 18, 1970. The coroner concluded the “Purple Haze” singer died of asphyxiation after taking too many sleeping pills. And although those close to Hendrix have tried to get his death investigated, the inquiries into his case have always proved inconclusive.
The first lady of rock ‘n roll died from an accidental heroin overdose at Hollywood’s Landmark Hotel on October 4, 1970. At the time, the bluesy vocalist was recording her album Pearl. Sadly, she died before it was finished, but her band and producer Paul A. Rothchild completed the album, which became most popular, bestselling record of Joplin’s career.
The Lizard King met the same fate as Joplin, dying of an alleged heroine overdose in Paris on July 3, 1971. Morrison, the surly lead singer of The Doors, was not only famous for his poetic lyrics – but also his ability to rock leather pants, creating the stereotypical rockstar uniform. Before he joined The Doors, Morrison graduated from the UCLA film school and lived the bohemian life in Venice, writing hit songs, like “Hello, I Love You.”
The Nirvana singer and lead guitarist died after committing suicide in his Seattle home on April 5, 1994. After the band’s single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” became a national sensation – and an anthem for the grunge movement, Cobain was quickly catapulted to fame. Before hitting it big though, Cobain lived a nomadic lifestyle, crashing on friends’ couches – and when he couldn’t do that, in hospital waiting rooms – just like any respecting King of Grunge would do.
The most recent member of the 27 club, Winehouse was found in her apartment in London on July 23, 2011, dead from alcohol poisoning. The bouffant-sporting singer was first discovered after a classmate showed her demo to music label A&R, and she eventually became known for her soulful jazz vocals – as well as her extensive drug use. Although many saw her as a troubled woman, she’ll always be remembered for her powerful voice and five-time Grammy Award-winning album Back to Black.
Photos: Brian Jones Courtesy of Getty Images; Jimi Hendrix Courtesy of Francisca / Flickr; Janis Joplin Courtesy of Ian Burt / Flickr; Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse Courtesy of Getty Images