Musicians die at age 27: Coincidence or not?
December 20th, 2011
06:31 PM ET

Musicians die at age 27: Coincidence or not?

Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain are only a handful of well-known musicians who died at the age of 27.

Were these deaths at age 27 just a freaky coincidence or something more? A group of scientists decided to investigate.

The results of their study were published in the BMJ. The researchers found the deaths have nothing to do with age, but more to do with fame. After all, the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle is one that is often associated with unhealthy influences like booze and drugs.

Every year around Christmas time, the BMJ publishes various quirky studies, but the articles have been through the journal's peer review process. The author, Adrian Barnett, said he conducted the study and that the data had been validated during the review process.

Although fame may increase the risk of death among musicians, this risk is not limited to age 27, according to the authors, led by Barnett from Queensland University of Technology in Australia.

Using mathematical analysis, the authors discovered that the 10 years  between the 20s and 30s are dangerous for musicians.  They were almost three times more likely to die compared with the general United Kingdom population.  The data showed no peak in the risk of death at age 27.

The authors concluded that the “27 club” is quite an unusual phenomenon but one that is unlikely to be real, although this particular age brought death for several music icons such as Winehouse, founding member of the Rolling Stones Brian Jones, and blues musician Robert Johnson.  While these deaths have spooked fans worldwide, the study authors write that the lifestyle of these celebrities created risks that reached a peak at age 27 and resulted in death.

Researchers say the “27 club” is a myth and the young rock stars who passed away three years short of their 30th birthday probably participated in excess drinking and psychedelic drugs that increased the risk of an accident or overdose.

Investigations back this up in many cases.  An inquest found that Winehouse died from excessive consumption of alcohol. Final reports attributed Joplin’s death to acute heroin and morphine intoxication.

Another hypothesis from the article suggests the “27 club” lures musicians who want to become more famous - whether consciously or subconsciously - and take greater risks at this age, perhaps even committing suicide.

The study concluded that death was a result of the greater risks of  fame during the young adult years.

soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Susan

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    December 20, 2011 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jose

      You must be one of the reasons America has an idiot in the White House.

      December 21, 2011 at 08:38 | Report abuse |
    • Josey

      Jose must have just woke up from a come and thinks its 2007. George Bush isn't in the white house anymore Jose, you can calm down.

      December 21, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      Jose: What has this got to do with politics, pendejo?

      December 21, 2011 at 10:18 | Report abuse |
    • StevieGyrl

      No. Jose is wide awake!!! Two quick points: more interesting study would be rockers who are still ALIVE re: Keith Richards, Scott Weiland, Ozzy Osbourne, just to name a few. And secondly, Janis Joplin really was no better or worse than Janis Joplin. Give Amy some credit.

      December 21, 2011 at 10:46 | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      Well, I certainly can't disagree that Janis Joplin was no better or worse than Janis Joplin.

      December 21, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
    • stiggy

      @jose- loser says 'what'?

      December 21, 2011 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
    • Tedstriker

      Wow, strong SEO spam, I hope Google starts marking stupid spam/fraud posts like this down in search rankings.

      December 22, 2011 at 00:11 | Report abuse |
  2. Terilyn

    It took a study to tell us the 27 club doesn't exist? People die at age 27 all the time, you don't to make a conspiracy out of everything.

    December 21, 2011 at 07:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SAM

      I so agree Terilyn.

      December 21, 2011 at 08:27 | Report abuse |
    • stiggy

      i think the point is you would have a hard time collecting so many important musicians who have died at any other age than 27....seems weird..... but there is no 'conspiracy' (look up the word in a dictionary for f's sake – illiterate f#@ks) and agree that for some or no reason that can be determined, 27 is a big year for deaths amongst musicians....

      December 21, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      The point is the article is British tongue-in-cheel humour and people have fallen for it. 🙂

      December 22, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse |
  3. Joe

    I know what it's like to be dead.............

    December 21, 2011 at 08:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • markula

      i know what its like to be sad, and you're making me feel like i've never been born

      December 21, 2011 at 09:08 | Report abuse |
  4. thizz

    Amy Winehouse should never be mentioned with the likes of Morrison, Joplin, Hendrix, Cobain, and Jones. They are legends. Winehouse not even close.

    December 21, 2011 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      how about al (blind owl) wilson? the singer from Canned Heat died at 27

      December 21, 2011 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • Anthony

      None of them were considered legends while alive. Talented, revered and respected? Yes. Legends? No. Not a fan of Amy, but only time will tell if she becomes a "legend".

      December 21, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse |
    • Flooby

      Thizz – I was going to say the exact same thing. The name Winehouse should never be mentioned in the same breath as Cobain, Morrison, Joplin and Hendrix. So if Adele died right now would she be a 'legend'?? NO. Winehouse had one decent record; that DOESN'T make her a legend.

      December 22, 2011 at 10:17 | Report abuse |
  5. Portland tony

    CNN, your report on this topic simply reinforces the idea that frigging idiots run these blogs. I can't believe that your interns are responsible for such unabashed rubbish!

    December 21, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply

      Its obvious they took a bunch of you tube videos, YOU TUBE PEOPLE, and decided to fund a study on this crap. What a colossal waste of time and money. Just goes to show that worshiping 'scientists' just because they call themselves that is idiotic.

      December 21, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
  6. luv2toot

    A group of scientists hahahahahah

    December 21, 2011 at 09:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Sophie

    This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read. Seriously? Someone actually "studied" this? And then it was published?

    December 21, 2011 at 10:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff W

      You read it.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
    • A scientist

      Sadly, CNN does not seem aware of the fact that the British Medical Journal puts out a joke issue at the end of each year. This was one of the "studies" included in the joke Christmas issue.

      For example, my favorite "research article" in this issue is "How fast does the Grim Reaper walk?" It has long been known that walking speed for elderly people is a reasonable predictor of how long they are likely to live (because a drop in walking speed usually reflects a decline in overall health). Therefore, the authors used data from a real study to estimate the speed that the Grim Reaper walks. Because no one in the study with a walking speed above 1.36 m/s died, the authors concluded that "this seems to be the Grim Reaper’s most likely maximum speed; for those wishing to avoid their allotted fate, this would be the advised walking speed."

      December 21, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • situationalawareness

      @Jeff W
      Yes, that is how the information was transferred. Just because it was read in no way validates it.

      December 22, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • mac

      yes, and YOU read it, so what

      December 22, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
  8. toddflanders

    More hard hitting "health" reporting by CNN. Just missing some pithy analysis from everyone's favourite patient Elizabeth Cohen.

    December 21, 2011 at 10:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. nochules

    The study has an unsound methodology in my opinion. It only included artists with a #1 album in the UK, so Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison were not included in the data. 7 Muppets were included though, and none of which died at 27.

    December 21, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. RF

    Blind Owl was the guitar played for Canned Heat. Bob (the bear ) Hite was the singer

    December 21, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rick

      Thank you. Like the man with the orthopedic stockings, I stand corrected.

      December 21, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      RF: Wilson was lead singer on Going Up The Country and (I think) On The Road Again

      December 21, 2011 at 15:35 | Report abuse |
  11. Marc

    What? Ages 20-30 are a particularly dangerous time of life for young popular musicians? Surely you jest!

    I wonder how the money used for this study could have been better spent. It's not as if we have bigger problems to solve.

    December 21, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jon


      If CNN wastes money doing a study on better ways to spend money, its your fault.

      December 21, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      It's a joke survey article (a real joke) – British tongue-in-cheek humor. CNN took it seriously. 🙂

      December 22, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
  12. Dan

    Maybe 27 wasn't soon enough. Some of us musicians who have to listen to, learn, and play their crap to make a living think they lived way too long. I know there are a lot of folks who idolize these three chord, substance abusers, but a lot of what the wrote and performed was crap. Sorry if I offended some of you, but as a musician I have a very low opinion of the a fore mentioned 27 and out club. I personally like the jazz substance abusers and most of them were. They lived longer, actually had a way higher degree of musical proficiency, did better drugs, used all the notes, and wrote better stuff. Just because your ears are only capable of understanding basic three chord crap, doesn't make it great, only popular and that attests to the fact that most listeners are musically stupid. Remember, a lot of that popularity is because of their rebel lifestyle. If you wanna hear some real rebels, listen to Parker or Coltrane, if you neophytes know who that is. By the way, the Big Bopper, Croce, Denver plane didn't crash soon enough either.

    December 21, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • stiggy

      blah blah blah...i get it....you're smarter than the rest of us...i too was raised on the jazz great AND the rock greats....you however don't get ROCK and how these 27 dead end kids spoke to millions with incredible emotion and real guts that a lot of note picking 'well trained' jazz musicians cannot do b/c they have no soul...just notes...of course if you bring up names like coltrane, then you are right on...but it doesn't speak to the masses as does rock....music for the proletariat, not the well trained and schooled.....face it, you DON'T GET (feel) ROCK!!!!!

      December 21, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse |
    • stiggy

      BTW, i'm sure your songs are great and reach millions like the dead guys you dismiss.....i bet your mom likes your music!

      December 21, 2011 at 12:31 | Report abuse |
    • Steve


      Somebody's bitter about having to play cover tunes for a living........get over yourself. Obviously you are waaaaay more talented than the A-E-D-E folks; which is why you've achieved your dream of world musical domination. Oh, wait.......not so much, huh?

      December 21, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • setnommarih

      Two words-Electric Ladyland

      December 22, 2011 at 11:14 | Report abuse |
  13. Stephen

    I guess the editors of CNN on-line are not familiar with the British Medical Journal's long standing tradition of publishing pseudoscientific humorous articles at Christmas. This article was one of 3 that were published. The other 2 are "Should the skeleton of "the Irish giant" be buried at sea? and "High salt meals in staff canteens of salt policy makers."

    December 21, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stephen

      Wait there's more:
      "N of 1, two contemporary arm, randomised controlled clinical trial for bilateral epicondylitis: a new study design."
      "Relevance of the expression “obs stable” in nursing observations: retrospective study"
      "How fast does the Grim Reaper walk? Receiver operating characteristics curve analysis in healthy men aged 70 and over"

      December 21, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      And let's not forget:
      "Orthopaedic surgeons: as strong as an ox and almost twice as clever? Multicentre prospective comparative study"

      December 21, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
    • Stephen

      I think the editorss at CNN would benefit from this page at the BMJ's site:

      December 21, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse |
    • A scientist

      Thanks for pointing this out. There is already so much disdain for science in the US; the last thing we need is for CNN to make scientists look absurd by reporting joke articles as legitimate scientific studies (just look at how many scientist-bashing comments there are in response to this article).

      December 21, 2011 at 13:15 | Report abuse |
    • madisoncnn

      Hi, Stephen. Thanks for your input. See clarification on paragraph 4.

      December 21, 2011 at 17:20 | Report abuse |

    this is an insult to all the great musicians that died at age 27, how dare they put amy whinehouse first

    December 21, 2011 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Minorkle

      I am concerned for my own safety. I just turned 26 and released my first cd "Minny Comes Alive". If it is as successful as my mother says it will be, my next work will be "Minny is Dead". I am worried.

      December 21, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      she is the most recent. how does the order these dead folks are mentioned effect you in any way?

      December 22, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • situationalawareness

      Because she doesn't deserve to be even mentioned in the same genre as the rest.
      It's like talking about top 10 great presidents of the united states of america, and mentioning Jimmy Carter.
      Sure, he's a great guy, but definitely not in the category... as with Amy Winehouse.

      December 22, 2011 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
    • BillBrasky

      Winehouse was a mediocre president at best.

      January 2, 2012 at 21:35 | Report abuse |
  15. Jon

    Uggh. Terrible proofreading. "Heroin" is a drug, a "heroine" is a female protagonist. Also, typically only hallucinogenic drugs are referred to as "psychedelic," and as a class it is almost impossible to overdose on them. The author should have used the word "opiate" or "narcotic."

    Next time you do a story that is mostly about drugs, perhaps consult someone that knows the first thing about them. It might also be nice, next time you do a story about a scientific study, to actually discuss the science. The appearance of what seems to be patterns in random data is something not enough people grasp, and this would have been a great time to educate people about that.

    December 21, 2011 at 16:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • madisoncnn

      Hi, Jon.
      The typo has been fixed. Thanks.

      December 21, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse |
    • tokencode

      How about the inaccurate reference to "psychedlic" drugs. If you do your research you would find that drugs typically classified as "psychedlic" were not directly responsble for any of these deaths. In fact they many are extremely difficult to overdose on. Misinformation like this represents a danger in that it leads people to believe that all illegal substances have a simliar risk profile. This is absolutely not the case.

      December 21, 2011 at 21:40 | Report abuse |
  16. Sharon

    It's Janis Joplin, not "Janice" !!!!!

    December 21, 2011 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Joe

    Too many of you are total kill joys, they did a quirky study the article clearly says that, not to be taken seriously. If you are so concerned where money that is not yours is going go fund your own important study if it'll make you feel better.

    Funny article overall.

    I totally agree Not My Chair (not my problem, I assume) winehouse was hardly a musician.

    December 21, 2011 at 19:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Leaf on the Wind

    Did someone get paid for this "scientific study"? Where can I get a gig like that? I'm just as good as the next person at making something out of nothing.

    December 21, 2011 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. That Guy

    Music is a waste of time. There are more productive things that can be done for society with that kind of money.

    December 21, 2011 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tokencode

      Music is a universal language and means of expression. Music is only a waste of time to those who are not intelligent enough to appreciate it.

      December 21, 2011 at 21:46 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      You spend your money your way, and let others spend theirs their way

      December 22, 2011 at 09:44 | Report abuse |
    • situationalawareness

      Music is by far not a waste of time, it is an expression of human emotions/ambitions/aspirations along with political distress/unrest. It's essentially the only way to push human spirit to many and energize others the same. It may not dig a ditch nor cure cancer, but it powers those that do and creates the next president/doctor.

      December 22, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  20. John

    Of course it had to do with drugs and alcohol. HELLO!!!!!!!!!

    December 22, 2011 at 00:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. hodad_mcrasta

    I have a hard time with the idea that their deaths occurred because they "probably participated in excess drinking and psychedelic drugs." Even in combination with alcohol, psychedelics are astronomically unlikely to cause death. Opiates, sure. Barbiturates, sure. Quaaludes, sure. Acid, no.

    December 22, 2011 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hodad_mcrasta

      Is this an example of poor reporting or are the scientists that conducted the study actually just dumb?

      December 22, 2011 at 03:49 | Report abuse |
  22. topspin

    @StevieGyrl. StevieGyrl, I think you and StevieGyrl are wrong. Janis Joplins was WAY worse than Janis Joplin.

    December 22, 2011 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Gene Brockhoff

    "Researchers say the “27 club” is a myth and the young rock stars who passed away three years short of their 30th birthday probably participated in excess drinking and psychedelic drugs that increased the risk of an accident or overdose."

    Psychedelic drugs have absolutely nothing to do with these deaths. Almost always, it is alcohol, or opiates.

    January 11, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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  24. Al

    Twenty-seven years (plus a little) is 10,000 days. Maybe that's the key numeralogical factor. ;P

    January 11, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. oneSTARman

    EVERYONE Dies at 27 – MOST of US Just Dont KNOW It.

    January 11, 2012 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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