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Monday, 22 September 2008

Happy Deathday

Even before writing this I can feel that I could end up rambling, so I'll try to be succinct.

There's a theory in rock that 27 is a pivotal year in the life of a rockstar. As an idea, it's been around for years - I remember reading an interview as a teenager in the early 90s where my then-hero, Axl Rose, said that 27 was the hardest year of his life (I think he'd just turned 28), and I think I'm accurate in saying that his quote also made reference to Prince saying the same thing to him.

There's tangible proof that he wasn't lying - remarkably, Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain all died at 27. This pantheon of fallen heroes is now referred to as the 27 Club (Cobain's sister claims that he would talk as a child of wanting to join the 27 Club. Idiot.).

Ignoring all of the conspiracy theories that this has thrown up, it's darkly amusing to check out the wikipedia page on this subject, here. I nearly burst out laughing when I saw the section entitled Just Missed It, on musicians who died at 26 or 28. Yes, they must have been gutted to be denied access to the 27 Club. Still, it is yet more interesting reading, as the list of those dying at 26 or 28 includes Tim Buckley, Nick Drake, Otis Redding and Gram Parsons, to name a few.

I'd like to suggest that all of this only serves for proof that when you give young talented people lots of money, sometimes too much time, and a whole load of unhealthy press, they're prone to doing crazy things. They can hold on for a few years before it all gets a little too much, and either deliberately or accidentally, the curtain comes down. Some of the names above are just bad luck - Otis Redding's plane crash for instance.

But then there was a letter in Word magazine this month that made me think further. The writer, one Richard Raftery, suggested that there was another age that had an uncanny knack of claiming musical lives - 64. He lists those that haven't seen 65 as Waylon Jennings, Desmond Dekker, Gene Pitney, Wilson Pickett, Thelonius Monk, Floyd Cramer, Ben Webster, Long John Baldry and a few others.

Isn't it curious? As he prompted this post, I'll leave the last word for letter-writer Richard Raftery, as he neatly sums it up: "It makes you think, does it not? About what exactly may be less clear".

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