Researchers Say Musician’s 27 Club Just A Myth
December 22, 2011

Researchers Say Musician’s 27 Club Just A Myth

The tragic death of Amy Winehouse earlier this year has reignited discussions about the so-called ℠27 Club´, an infamous popular reference to the group of iconic musicians who all died at the age of 27. And the one question that repeatedly resurfaces is, ℠why 27?´

The answer, say researchers at the Queensland University of Technology, is coincidence.

Other high-profile luminaries of the 27 Club include famous 1960s legends Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones as well as such the revolutionary 1990s grunge crooner Kurt Cobain. This large and famous list of ill-fated 27-year-old rockers has led many to speculate that there must be something about the age itself that predisposed these brilliant young musicians to tragedy.

But Professor Adrian Barnett at Queensland University´s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovations, says ℠not so´.

In order to test the ℠27 Club´ hypothesis, his researchers studied the lives and careers of over a thousand British musicians. Their results, Barnett says, indicated that although young rockers in their twenties and thirties are, in fact, generally two to three times more death-prone than members of the average population, there was nothing unusual about the age 27.

“We included 1,046 musicians who had a number one album in the UK charts between 1956 and 2007,” explained Barnett. “During this period 71 (7%) of the musicians died.”

While this rate is frighteningly high compared to other young adults, the researchers observed no unusual spikes at age 27.

“We found no peak in the risk of death at this age,” said Barnett.

“Our research also found some evidence of a cluster of deaths in those aged 20 to 40 in the 1970s and early 1980s,” he said, pointing to another, unexpected statistical trend. “Interestingly, there were no deaths in this age group in the late 1980s and we speculate that this could be due to better treatments for heroin overdose, or the change in the music scene from the hard rock 1970s to the pop dominated 1980s.”

In general, the research team concluded, there appears to be a large liability that comes with playing music professionally. However, there´s nothing special about age 27. The myth, says Barnett, arose simply because a number of extremely famous rockers happened to die in their 27th year. Tragic, but mere coincidence.

Results are published in the British Medical Journal.


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