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Dec 11, 2013

There are a number of ways to approach Howard Sounes’ new book, 27: A History of the 27 Club, which investigates the deaths of rock ‘n’ roll music legends Brian Jones, founder of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison of The Doors, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse.

What they all shared in common is the age at which they died, more or less at their own hands: 27.

You could say they were all artistic geniuses who were either misunderstood by their contemporaries or ill-equipped to handle the sudden fame and fortune thrust upon them at a young age.

HOWARD SOUNES podcast excerpt: "The primary reason I wrote the book '27' is Amy Winehouse, who died two years ago here in London. I admired her. The fact she died at 27 gave a tragic end to her story. But it was in the coverage of her death that the idea of the book came about. Everybody referred to 'The 27 Club,' all around the world. The implication was that there was a curse or something supernatural that explained why Amy died at the same age as this list of other famous people. I thought, 'That's gonna be nonsense; we don't believe in witchcraft.' But maybe there is some sort of link between these people."

Or you could say, less sympathetically, that they were all weak-minded, pathetic human beings who should have sucked up their misery, shown some backbone and enjoyed their gifts.

Either way, British journalist Sounes says, there is something about these six, collectively, that bears examination and consideration.

We can argue about the relative talents of the group; personally, I’m not sure Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse are equivalent in influence or creativity to Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison or Kurt Cobain.

And once the pattern was established by the first four – Jones, Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison – did Cobain and Winehouse simply aspire to be considered as great as them by dying at the same age?

I assume the author of 27 — returning to the show for the first time since he was here to talk about his Paul McCartney bio, Fab — has some strong opinions on this.


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