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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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, ...
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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

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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.

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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.)
From the Publisher

Praise for 27

“This fine study looks at the tragic history of the 27 Club…. Much of the book's power lies in its refusal to pander to the romantic-melancholy notion of the tortured young artist who lives fast and dies young. Instead the squalor and chaos of their everyday existence is exposed in uncompromising detail…. This book is not about more rock star mythologizing. It's about skewering the mystery of the 27-connection, by exposing its all-too-tragic reality.”—Sunday Times (UK)

“In a multi-stranded biography, Howard Sounes has set himself the task of finding a link between the lives and deaths of these six rock stars…. Sounes's masterstroke is to unearth forensic levels of detail on his subjects…. He has pulled off what could have been a tasteless project with sensitivity.”—The Times (UK)

“This book is the first time that these committee members, as it were, of the 27 Club have been buried together under the same cover…a gruesomely enjoyable read.”—The Spectator (UK)

“The 27 Club is the exclusive members-only society that music stars don't want to join. Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Brian Jones all died aged 27 and the biographer Howard Sounes uses this unhappy coincidence [to look] at the rock-star trajectory that brought them all to a premature end…. Recommend[ed].”—New Statesman (UK)

“Sounes mixes biography with investigative journalism, social science, and rock history into a work that is as engrossing as it is depressing…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.”—Publishers Weekly, 9/23/13

“If you like reading about brilliant young people destroying themselves, this is your book…Hard living started early will take its toll, and it’s not a complete coincidence they all died when they did, but it’s not a mystic number either, and Sounes disposes easily with the conspiracy theories that have collected around the dead stars.”—The Age (Australia), 9/21/13

“[Sounes] is a tenacious researcher…[He] painstakingly demolishes conspiracy theories and other forms of magical thinking.”—The Observer (UK), 8/17/13

“Sounes 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…A compelling examination of the effects of sudden fame on mentally fragile artists.”—Kirkus Reviews, 11/1/13

“As much as one may have hoped, Sounes dissects the conspiracy theories and puts to bed the lunacy that surrounds these idols deaths. He also succeeds in producing a highly detailed, expertly researched book, with both personal family and close friend interviews, making it a tour de force private biography that belongs on both the shelves of bio fans and anyone that may have been touched by any of the included artists music.”—Huffington Post UK, 10/13/13

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
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306821684
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/12/2013
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 517,259
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.22 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author


Howard Sounes is the bestselling author of nonfiction books on a range of subjects, including biographies of Charles Bukowski, Paul McCartney, and Bob Dylan; the true crime bestseller Fred & Rose; and a history of the arts in the 1970s.

Former radio broadcaster Todd McLaren has been heard on more than 5,000 TV and radio commercials; narrations for documentaries on such networks as A&E and the History Channel; and films. His book narrations have earned him a prestigious Audie Award as well as a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2013

    The author Howard Sounes is a good writer - excellent books abou

    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. 

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