Recap: When pop music sensation Amy Winehouse died of an overdose a little more than three years ago, the world was stunned — and then it wasn’t. Yes, the British singer was a 27-year-old, whose music was just starting to gain popularity in the United States. But ultimately, it was clear that Winehouse had been down a destructive, drug-consuming and alcohol-consuming path for years. Her singing voice had gotten worse. Her body had become visibly weak. She was in the media often for doing crazy and bizarre things, and her substance abuse problem was no secret.
But it resulted in an outcome that could either be considered morbid or legendary: she entered “The 27 Club.” That is to say, she “joined the club” of other famous rock stars and musicians who have also died at 27. The other big names in the club include Brian Jones, of The Rolling Stones, Jim Morrison of The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Kurt Cobain. 27 explores the “club,” putting into perspective whether famous musicians are more likely to die at that age for some reason, and if so, why, or if it’s just coincidence.
The author’s point of view? Mostly coincidence. But he researched the backgrounds of each of these six most notable members of the “club,” examining their relationships with their parents, with drugs and alcohol, with sexuality, and with fame and success at a young age. He more or less explains that anyone who achieves such success so early in life may be more inclined to die young — especially when issues with confidence, substance abuse and family are at play.
Analysis: The research done for this nonfiction book is extensive, as one would expect from acclaimed biographer Howard Sounes, and that research proves how many things these celebrities had in common — aside from their innate musical talent.
As Sounes points out the similarities between these musicians, it’s less surprising their lives would lead to same ultimate outcome. Many of them had terrible relationships with their parents. All dabbled in drugs and alcohol at a young age, and were equally as experimental sexually. Most of that stemmed from self-esteem and confidence issues — not thinking they were good enough, scared to be alone, stage fright. Some even suffered from mental health problems, like Brian Jones, who was said to be bipolar. Most of them had already peaked professionally and had been kicked out of their bands, given horrible performances, and been arrested several times.
The book explores their deaths as much as it explores their lives. Brian Jones drowned in a pool after a night of drinking and drugs. Jim Morrison, after taking heroin and laying in a bathtub. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, overdoses. Amy Winehouse, alcohol. Kurt Cobain, the only suicide. But there are dozens of theories about how each of these people died — murder, being the primary suggestion.
The author suggests it’s no surprise they died so young because by 27, most of them had lived full lives, accomplishing and going through more than what most people achieve in a lifetime. Whether you’re a big music fan or not, 27 is more than worth a read, with its six true tales of life, success and death.