27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse

27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse

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by Howard Sounes
     
 

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When singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London home in 2011, the press inducted her into what Kurt Cobain’s mother named the 27 Club. “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club,” she said in 1994, after being told that her son, the front man of Nirvana, had committed suicide. “I told him not to….” Kurt’s mom

Overview

When singer Amy Winehouse was found dead at her London home in 2011, the press inducted her into what Kurt Cobain’s mother named the 27 Club. “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club,” she said in 1994, after being told that her son, the front man of Nirvana, had committed suicide. “I told him not to….” Kurt’s mom was referring to the extraordinary roll call of iconic stars who died at the same young age. The Big Six are Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison of the Doors, Kurt Cobain and, now, Amy Winehouse. All were talented. All were dissipated. All were 27.

Journalists write about “the curse of the 27 Club” as if there is a supernatural reason for this series of deaths. Others invoke astrology, numerology, and conspiracy theories to explain what has become a modern mystery. In this haunting book, author Howard Sounes conducts the definitive forensic investigation into the lives and deaths of the six most iconic members of the Club, plus another forty-four music industry figures who died at 27, to discover what, apart from coincidence, this phenomenon signifies.

In a grimly fascinating journey through the dark side of the music business over six decades, Sounes uncovers a common story of excess, madness, and self-destruction. The fantasies, half-truths, and mythologies that have become associated with Jones, Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain, and Winehouse are debunked. Instead a clear and compelling narrative emerges, one based on hard facts, that unites these lost souls in both life and death.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
09/23/2013
The “27 Club” is a term that designates the group of popular musicians (and those associated with the music industry) who have died at the age of 27. Focusing on the key six members of this group of musicians (the appendix names a total of 50), Sounes mixes biography with investigative journalism, social science, and rock history into a work that is as engrossing as it is depressing. With Winehouse’s death being the most recent and therefore the least examined, the author rightfully spends the most time exploring her backstory and the events surrounding her death. In doing so he uncovers a host of tell-tale signs—rocky parental relationships, substance abuse, self-doubt, addiction, distrust of celebrity, suicidal/fearless behavior—that he uses to connect her life and untimely death with those of the other tortured stars that preceded her to the grave. Though he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to sensitive information about his subjects, he does write with a care that is refreshing for a topic that could easily devolve into ambulance chasing. Sounes, a true crime writer, is especially incisive when it comes to dispatching conspiracy theories built around many of these deaths. He captures the sad truth behind a club for which a youthful death is the only entrée. (b&w photos not seen by PW) (Nov.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-10-21
In his latest pop-cultural study, Sounes (Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney, 2011, etc.) offers a stern corrective to the adage that it's better to burn out than to fade away. The author takes a refreshingly skeptical view of the belief that a conspiracy accounts for the deaths of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, dismissing urban legends and murder theories to reveal the similarities among them. All six struggled with parental divorce and/or disapproval, began abusing substances in adolescence, and held conflicting, ambivalent views about fame. By the time they each died, Sounes argues, they had been pursuing self-destructive paths for so many years that they essentially all committed suicide, although Cobain is the only one whose death is officially designated as such. Indeed, the levels of degradation to which each performer sunk is truly alarming, especially Winehouse, who regularly drank herself into seizures and blackouts and whose legendarily addled performances were captured for posterity on YouTube. Perhaps the most unsettling information that Sounes reveals, however, is the lack of interest that all six had in recovering and moving on with their careers. Media outlets and fans alike have traditionally lamented these deaths as tragic due not only to the performers' youth, but also to the promising paths that lay ahead of them. Not so, according to the author: They had all peaked at the ripe age of 27 and were suffering from such intense psychological pain that their early deaths were inevitable. In the case of Winehouse, writes Sounes, she "made a big impact on popular music in a short career without doing very much or going very far." Equally depressing, they all spent their last days surrounded by hangers-on who seldom had their best interests at heart or who denied the magnitude of their addictions. A compelling examination of the effects of sudden fame on mentally fragile artists.
From the Publisher
"Sounes, a true crime writer, is especially incisive when it comes to dispatching conspiracy theories built around many of these deaths. He captures the sad truth behind a club for which a youthful death is the only entrée." —Publishers Weekly

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306821684
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
11/12/2013
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.34(d)

Meet the Author

Howard Sounes is known for writing detailed and revelatory biographies of a wide range of extraordinary personalities, including author Charles Bukowski (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life) and musicians Bob Dylan (Down the Highway) and Paul McCartney (Fab). Each book is based on extensive original research. Sounes lives in London.

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27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author Howard Sounes is a good writer - excellent books about Bob Dylan and Charles Bukowski - and this is a cracker. Really deep and dark stuff, about brilliant but self destructive people who seemingly wanted to die. They weren't getting high to have fn They were getting high to forget their inner demons. The parents in many cases don't come out well. Unfortunately, you can choose your friends, but not Mom and Dad.