Traverse City Record-Eagle

Generation Why

September 6, 2011

'27 Club' has too many members

What would have become of Jimi, Janis, Amy?

“... Cos Life Is Faster Than Sound.”

It’s always tragic when a young life is stolen, especially when the life is that of a famous individual. Five iconic musicians never even had the chance to reach the age of 30, for their lives were taken much earlier, at the age of 27, forever immortalizing them as the “27 Club.”

These musicians did more than just create music; they masterfully embodied the presence and spirit of their generations in their musical recordings.

“... I’ll meet you in the next one.” — Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix first emerged as a great electric guitar player at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 with his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix defined the era of the African-American dreamer; he became the greatest African-American electric guitar player during the time when African-Americans were barely considered citizens. He died Sept. 18, 1970. Sadly, he was only 27 years and 295 days old when he passed.

“... Catch your dreams before they slip away.”— Brian Jones.

When someone mentions The Rolling Stones, one’s mind automatically depicts images of Mick Jagger or Keith Richards. It’s rare that you find someone who recalls Brian Jones, the founder of the iconic rock group that plastered the European invasion generations into American history. Jones struggled with the pressures of fame all throughout his career, and he took out his frustrations with drugs and alcohol. His life came to an abrupt halt when he drowned at the age of 27 years and 125 days, on July 3, 1969.

Janis Joplin is said to be the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation, and in 1966 those strong vocals caught the attention of the psychedelic rock group, Big Brother and The Holding Company. Joplin represented a strong, independent, free-spirited woman during her short lifetime, and was the first member of a long timeline of great female rockers. Janis was in the process of recording an album with her new band, Full Tilt Boogie Band, when she collapsed from a heroin overdose on the night of Oct. 4, 1970. She was 27 years and 258 days old when her life ended.

“... Your ballroom days are over baby.” — Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison, the lead singer of The Doors, defined a generation of experimentation, and pushed the boundaries of what was recordable and acceptable in the 1960s. Morrison’s controversial lyrics, accompanied with Robby Krieger’s composition, created the short-lived soundtrack of the baby boomer generation. Morrison passed away on July 3, 1971, from “heart failure” despite no actual autopsy. He was 27 years and 207 days old.

“... I can’t wait to meet you there.” — Kurt Cobain

Nearly a quarter century after the deaths of Jimi, Janis, Jim and Brian, Kurt Cobain and his band, Nirvana, very quickly rose to fame in the early ’90s, and became the voice of angsty punk-rock teens across the world. Fame caught up to Cobain quickly, and he realized it was all too much to handle. Cobain took his own life with a gunshot to the head on April 5, 1994. He was 27 years and 44 days old.

Janis Joplin was once quoted saying, “... cos life is faster than sound.” The eerie phrase makes you wonder what would have become of Brian, Jimi, Janis, Jim or Kurt, if they were still around today. I think we all would like to believe they would still be around immortalizing today’s generation, generation Y, in their musical expressions.

Nick Travis is starting his junior year at Bellaire High School.

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