The Four Original Members Of The 27 Club Are Among The Most Influential Artists In The History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll

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November 18, 2015 — The 27 Club is one that virtually no one wants to belong to.

Although its roster has expanded through the years, the origin of the 27 Club — the singers and  musicians who died within a year of their 27th birthdays — were several artists from the seminal years of rock ‘n’ roll. These stars made the indelible marks on the form, only to die much too soon.

There are four charter members. Their deaths all took place between July of 1969 and July of 1971.

The first was Brian Jones. Jones was one of the founding members of the Rolling Stones. A multi-talented musician, who could play the guitar, keyboards. harmonica and sitar, Jones was an essential part of the Stones’ original sound.  But as his role in the band became less important, with both Keith Richards and Mick Jagger overshadowing him, he grew depressed and began seriously using drugs. When his drug use grew out of control, he was asked by the pother band members to leave the group.

That was in June of 1969.

Jones would be found dead in his swimming pool on July 3, 1969. Technically Jones died of drowning, but it is believed that he was drunk and drugged at the time.

Bill Wyman would later explain, “He formed the band. He chose the members. He named the band. He chose the music we played. He got us gigs. … he was very influential, very important, and then slowly lost it – highly intelligent – and just kind of wasted it and blew it all away.” Technically Jones died of drowning, but it is believed that he was drunk and drugged at the time.

Slightly over two months later, Jimi Hendrix, the explosive and immensely influential guitarist and singer, would die.

Despite having an extremely short mainstream career, there is no question that he is considered to be one of the greatest musicians and influences in rock ‘n’ roll. From the  time he moved to England in 1966, which coincided with his release of 3 Top Ten hits, Hendrix was a phenomenon. He would headline at the Monterey Pop Festival and at Woodstock and would become the  world’s highest paid performer.

He was a virtuoso guitarist (he was left-handed, and would sometimes turn his guitar upside down to play it). Rolling Stone Magazine has named him the greatest guitarist of all time.

Barbiturate-related asphyxia would claim his life on September 18, 1970.

The next to die would be Janis Joplin, the electrifying singer who toured and recorded with Big Brother and the Holding Company,  The Kozmic Blues Band and The Full Tilt Boogie Band.
Joplin’s stage performances were legendary. when she took the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, many people still did not know what she, and her vocals, were capable of. She would become a legend with that one performance.

Her vocals would propel the groups she worked with — none of them was quite her equal in talent or the ability to perform. 

Cheap Thrills, the album she made with Big Brother (which feature Piece of My Heart and Summertime) would reach the number one spot on the Billboard Top 200 chart.

She would also perform at Woodstock, although she was high on heroin at the time. Nonetheless, her performances were considered memorable by the people who witnessed the show.

But her career was tragically short. Despite her serious effort to get clean, Joplin relapsed after recording her song Mercedes Benz for the album Pearl. She was staying at the  Landmark Motor Hotel in Hollywood, and when she did not show up for a recording session, the producer, Paul Rothschild, went to look for her. He found her in her room, dead by the side of the bed on October 4, 1970, just two weeks after Jimi Hendrix would die.

Pearl would be released posthumously. It contains some of her greatest hits and some of her best work.

The last of the original 27 Club, Jim Morrison was the frontman for The Doors. He was also a poet, a hippie, a dropout and a legendary performer.

He would write most of the songs recorded by the Doors. His presence sometimes overshadowed the band, the music, the songs. And his stage antics — including allegedly exposing himself to an audience and getting arrested for it — made him an icon of rebellious youth.The band was asked to perform their signature song, Light My Fire on The Ed Sullivan Show, with a couple of ;lyrics (“Girl, we couldn’t get much higher”) changed because of the assumption that it referred to drug use. Morrison promised, then sang the original lyrics on live television.

The Doors would begin as a group in 1965; by 1967 they were one of the most popular groups in the country.  However, by 1968. Morrison’s heavy drinking and drug use were seriously affecting his ability to perform. The band would take a break during 1969-1970 and would reconvene for another album — L.A. Woman — which would be Morrison’s last.

He would travel to Paris in 1971, where he had a rented apartment. He would be found dead in  his bathtub on July 3; the cause of death would officially be called heart failure. It is believed that he accidentally snorted heroin, believing it to be cocaine. No autopsy would ever be performed.

Morrison would be buried in Paris’ famed Père Lachaise cemetery. To this day his grave remains one of the most visited in a cemetery filled with celebrities.

Numerous other stars have joined the 27 Club since then. However, it is probable that none has ever had the influence that these four did on the history of rock ‘n’ roll. No one will ever be able to assess what they would have added to the history had they lived. That these talented people died so young leave a legacy of “what if” questions that will never be answered.
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