My early teens were the rotten time for rock music. Between July 1969 and July 1971 [I was fourteen in ’69], my generation lost four of the brightest stars in the Rock and Roll firmament; Brian Jones [the original guitarist with The Rolling Stones], Jimi Hendrix [innovative guitarist and singer-songwriter], Janis Joplin [unique blues singer and songwriter] and Jim Morrison [singer songwriter with The Doors].
Although only two of these tragic deaths were ascribed to a mixture of drink and drugs, all were as a result of extreme and unsustainable lifestyles. In addition, they were all twenty-seven years old.
I remember thinking after the death of Janis Joplin “oh God, I wonder who’s going to be next?” A few months later we knew, it was Jim Morrison. Now Amy Winehouse has joined this group of astoundingly talented, but ultimately self-destructive artists [along with Kurt Cobain who killed himself in 1994] as an eternal member of the mythic 27 Club.
Back in 2009, Eric Segalstad and Josh Hunter published The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll, a history of rock & roll told through the lives and legacies of over thirty popular musicians all of whom died at the age of twenty-seven. The book went on to win a silver medal at the 2009 Independent Publisher Book Awards and no doubt, will now be reissued with an additional chapter…
It was clear for the world to see that the Brit and Grammy award-winning star was struggling with drink and drug addictions. On the first and last performance of her recent European tour in Serbia the crowd jeered her off stage, when she appeared to be too drunk to perform. Afterwards she did indeed attend a drink and drugs rehabilitation center where she was told in no uncertain terms to stop drinking immediately.
Maybe there is something in the human metabolism that causes self-destructive tendencies to come to a head when the person reaches the cusp of their late-twenties. Maybe twenty-seven is the point when human bodies abused by drink and drugs just give up. Maybe we are just looking for patterns in the deaths of talented people who die too young.
Whatever the case, Amy Winehouse will be remembered as a unique and talented singer-songwriter who gave us critically acclaimed albums like Frank and Back to Black.