Skip to main content

Enter your email below to be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Please enter a valid email address
Please accept the terms
Who Is In The 27 Club? Every Musician Who Died Aged 27
List & Guides

Who Is In The 27 Club? Every Musician Who Died Aged 27

Reluctant members of the “27 Club”, these artists all died tragically young, leaving behind the “what if?” of unfulfilled potential.

Back

It’s a tragic fact that enough musicians have died at the young age of 27 for them to be known, collectively, as members of the “27 Club” or “Forever 27”. Whether through misadventure, foul play or the hard-living lifestyle that some artists embrace, their deaths have left huge gaps not just in the lives of their fans, but in the lives of the loved-ones they left behind. Some of the causes of death remain unresolved, but all of them have left a bigger question behind: the “what if?” of unfulfilled potential – of losing a tragically young artist while they’re still in their prime.

Who is in the 27 Club?

Reluctant “members” of a unique group, the 27 Club includes everyone from blues pioneers to countercultural 60s icons, blossoming hip-hop stars and remarkable singers who, despite their short time on this earth, became hailed as voices for their respective generations.

This chronological look at all 54 members of the 27 Club spans a century of music-making, reminding us of the much-loved artists we’ve lost, and the sheer talent it takes to create lasting, world-changing music.

Alexandre Levy (1864-1892)

Though history did not record the cause of Alexandre Levy’s death, enough biographical details about the São Paolo-born pianist have emerged, making it clear that he was one of Brazil’s most important composers. Born to the French immigrant Henrique Levy, owner of Casa Levy, a concert venue and sheet-music store, Alexandre made his first public appearance at the age of eight, and began to publish his own compositions at the age of 16. With a precocity that drew comparisons to Mozart, Alexandre studied in Europe before returning home a composer and music critic. One of his final compositions, Samba, from the four-part Suite Brésilienne, helped bring what was then considered a slave dance into the wider public consciousness.

Cause of death: Unknown

Must hear: Samba

Louis Chauvin (1881-1908)

Like many celebrated ragtime musicians from the turn of the century, Louis Chauvin was never given the opportunity to record his music or performances, though his contemporaries rated his skills highly: friend and bandmate Sam Patterson once claimed that Chauvin “only seemed to be living when he was at the piano”, and the “King Of Ragtime”, composer Scott Joplin, shared a writing credit with the younger pianist on 1907’s Heliotrope Banquet, one of only three known surviving Chauvin compositions. After being hospitalised in Illinois, Chicago, for three weeks, Chauvin died and was sent back to his hometown of St Louis, Missouri, where he was buried in Cavalry Cemetery.

Cause of death: Possible neurosyphilitic sclerosis, diagnosed as multiple sclerosis

Must hear: Heliotrope Banquet

Robert Johnson (1911-1938)

All blues myths lead back to Robert Johnson, the man who allegedly sold his soul to The Devil at a crossroads, in return for the ability to play guitar like no other musician before him. Pioneering the Delta blues, Johnson left behind 41 recordings that went on to influence every generation of blues musician since, from Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix and Jack White. The Devil called in the debt in 1938 – but no one knows quite how. Theories ranging from the onset of Marfan syndrome to contracting syphilis or murder by poison fuel the mythology behind one of the earliest entrants to the 27 Club.

Cause of death: Unknown

Must hear: Crossroad Blues

Nat Jaffe (1918-1945)

The classically trained pianist Nat Jaffe began playing swing jazz after returning to New York City from Berlin, and he quickly became an in-demand sideman, playing with Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, and recording some of his final sessions with Sarah Vaughan. Though many jazz artists have died tragically young from issues related to drug abuse, Jaffe became one of the scene’s 27 Club members after dying due to complications stemming from issues with high blood pressure.

Cause of death: Complications from high blood pressure

Must hear: Naturally (Natch-ra-ly) (with Louis Armstrong)

Jesse Belvin (1932-1960)

Singer-songwriter Jesse Belvin scored on the R&B charts both as a duo, with Marvin Phillips (Dream Girl, 1953), and as a solo artist (Goodnight My Love, 1957), though his best-known work is Earth Angel, a song that Belvin co-wrote and which doo-wop group The Penguins turned into a crossover hit at the height of the doo-wop era. Belvin never quite capitalised on his early promise, though he went on to influence soul music pioneer Sam Cooke, whose laidback style owed a small debt to the man they nicknamed “Mr Easy”. After sharing the bill with Cooke and Jackie Wilson, before the first ever integrated audience for a concert gathered in Little Rock, Arkansas, Belvin and his wife died in a car crash while en route to Belvin’s next performance. Though racist audience members were suspected of tampering with the car, Little Rock’s authorities never came to an official conclusion on the matter.

Cause of death: Car crash

Must hear: Goodnight My Love

Rudy Lewis (1936-1964)

Gospel-trained singer Rudy Lewis replaced Ben E King in The Drifters, scoring the group early-60s chart success as the lead voice on signature hits such as Up On The Roof and On Broadway. The night before The Drifters were due to record Under The Boardwalk, a future smash-hit penned specifically for Lewis, he was found dead in his hotel room in Harlem, New York City. A “probable drug overdose” was the official cause of death, though an autopsy was never performed on Lewis’ body.

Cause of death: Probable drug overdose

Must hear: On Broadway

Joe Henderson (1937-1964)

Not to be confused with the San Franciscan jazz saxophonist of Blue Note Records fame – who died aged 64, happily missing the 27 Club by 37 years – the Como, Mississippi-born Joe Henderson was a gospel singer who scored a pop/R&B crossover hit in 1962, with Snap Your Fingers, a finger-clicking slice of horn-heavy R&B issued on the Nashville indie label Todd. Several more singles followed, with Henderson earning himself the nickname “Mr Voice” from Todd’s founder, Paul Cohen, but they weren’t enough to bring the singer back into serious contention, or to stop Cohen from calling time on Todd in 1964. That October, Henderson was found dead of a surprise heart attack his Nashville hotel room,

Cause of death: Heart attack

Must hear: Snap Your Fingers

Malcolm Hale (1941-1968)

Short-lived Chicagoan outfit Spanky And Our Gang remain a cult concern among sunshine-pop aficionados, with songs such as Sunday Will Never Be The Same exemplifying the harmony-laden subgenre’s brightest moments. The group called it a day after just three years, however, following lead guitarist Michael Hale’s death, in October 1968. The official cause given at the time was bronchial pneumonia, though later research has led to claims that a faulty heating system cause Hale to die from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Cause of death: Carbon monoxide poisoning

Must hear: Sunshine Will Never Be The Same

Dickie Pride (1941-1968)

A lesser-known signing among impresario Larry Parnes’ roster of British rock’n’rollers, Dickie Pride may not have the name recognition of Marty Wilde, Billy Fury or Tommy Steele, but his stage performances ensured him repeat bookings on the groundbreaking music TV show Oh Boy! Despite releasing a string of singles throughout 1959 and 1960 – and being praised by Parnes’ other signings as the most talented of the group – the teenage Pride struggled to convert his live energy into record sales, and called his music career a day after releasing his sole album, Pride Without Prejudice. Drug abuse followed, exacerbating an underlying mental-health issue, and Pride eventually died of an overdose of sleeping pills.

Cause of death: Accidental overdose

Must hear: Slippin’ And Slidin’

Brian Jones (1942-1969)

A committed blues acolyte, multi-instrumentalist Brian Jones worshipped at the feet of the original bluesmen like Robert Johnson. After forming The Rolling Stones, he added an array of instrumentation to their patented blues style, and the group covered Johnson’s Love In Vain on Let It Bleed, Jones’ final album with the band. In an eerie symmetry with his blues idol, Jones’ death is also shrouded in mystery. Drowning “by misadventure” in his own swimming pool, rumours of more sinister foul play have since left a question mark over the official verdict.

Cause of death: Drowning

Must hear: Paint It, Black

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson (1943-1970)

Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson received his nickname from American primitive guitar pioneer John Fahey, on account of his extreme short-sightedness. The Canned Heat co-founder was a visionary guitarist, however, responsible for arranging many of the group’s early, blues-infused boogie-rock recordings. He had the voice to match, too, singing on the 1968 classics On The Road Again and Going Up The Country. A conservationist who loved sleeping outdoors, Wilson entered the 27 Club after dying of accidental acute barbiturate intoxication while bedding down for the night on a Topanga Canyon hillside.

Cause of death: Accidental overdose

Must hear: On The Road Again

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970)

If Robert Johnson sold his soul to The Devil, Jimi Hendrix cane on like an alien lifeform. Revolutionising the very notion of what the electric guitar could do, Hendrix’s psychedelicised blues still sounds light years ahead of anything else. No less of a sonic inventor in the studio, with his final studio album, Electric Ladyland, Hendrix came closer than anyone else to approximating an acid trip with sound. Two years after its release, he was found unresponsive in bed, having ingested barbiturates before falling asleep and aspirating on his own vomit.

Cause of death: Asphyxiation

Must hear: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

Janis Joplin (1943-1970)

Experimentation with mind-expanding substances was actively encouraged in the 60s, but for so many 27 Club members synonymous with the decade, those same narcotics also led to their downfall – particularly when it came to those hard-living adherents of the blues. With a voice could destroy anything in its path, Janis Joplin was one of the hardest-living; pouring her pain into every emotion-drenched performance – on record and on stage – the outlet wasn’t enough to stop her from seeking further release in psychedelics, alcohol and heroin, of which the latter two contributed to her death in a hotel room.

Cause of death: Drug overdose

Must hear: Ball And Chain

Arlester “Dyke” Christian (1943-1971)

Frontman of the proto-funk outfit Dyke And The Blazers, Arlester “Dyke” Christian even caught James Brown’s attention with the heavy strut of his 1966 smash Funky Broadway – a song soul belter Wilson Pickett later tackled. The Blazers’ music took a more socially-conscious turn at the end of the 70s, perhaps reflecting the grittier lifestyle their frontman had fallen into. Shot to death in Phoenix, Arizona, Christian is often said to have been murdered as part of a drug-dealing operation. He is not the only 27 Club member to die at the hands of criminals.

Cause of death: Murdered

Must hear: Funky Broadway

Jim Morrison (1943-1971)

Inspired by the consciousness-expanding poetry of Arthur Rimbaud and the brain-rewiring of a good acid trip, the self-professed Lizard King’s lysergics-laced lyrics explored the dark underbelly of the 60s. Goading authorities and bringing a sense of danger and theatrics to his frontman’s role in The Doors, Morrison pushed the envelope for rock frontmen of his era. The legend overtook the life in Paris, where a burned-out Morrison, seeking solitude and recuperation away from Los Angeles, was found dead in a bathtub.

Cause of death: Heart failure

Must hear: The End

Linda Jones (1944-1972)

Linda Jones was just six when she began her singing career, as part of her family’s gospel group, The Jones Singers. Seventeen years later, after several false starts, she gave the Loma Records imprint its biggest-selling hit, the R&B ballad Hypnotized. Never quite settling with one label perhaps made it difficult for Jones to gain traction, though her final single, a cover of Jerry Butler’s For Your Precious Love, brought her back into contention in 1972 when it reached No.15 on the R&B chart. Any potential comeback was stalled, however, when Jones fell into a diabetic coma while resting at her mother’s house in between matinee and evening shows.

Cause of death: Complications from diabetes

Must hear: Hypnotized

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (1945-1973)

Seemingly in a state of permanent disarray, Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was allegedly nicknamed after the Peanuts character of the same name, who always appeared surrounded by a cloud of dust. Co-founder and original frontman of Grateful Dead, the blues-loving organist found himself at odds with the band’s increasing psychedelic leanings – both in terms of their music and choice of intoxicants. The hard booze he favoured took a toll on his health, which was exacerbated by the onset of primary biliary cholangitis, a rare autoimmune disease. After being hospitalised in 1971, McKernan was advised to stop touring. Holding out as long as he could, he quit the Dead in June 1972 and was found dead at home the following March.

Cause of death: Gastrointestinal haemorrhage

Must hear: That’s It For The Other One

Roger Lee Durham (1946-1973)

Long-running funk and soul outfit Bloodstone made a name for themselves on the Kansas City live circuit in the 60s before heading west to Los Angeles, where they booked studio time and began scoring chart hits from their second album, 1972’s Natural High, onwards. Founding drummer Roger Lee Durham lived long enough to share in the group’s early success, though he died in the summer of 1973, after being thrown off a horse, his entry into the 27 Club casting a tragic shadow over Bloodstone’s breakthrough year.

Cause of death: Horse-riding accident

Must hear: Natural High

Wallace “Wally” Yohn (1947-1974)

Arizona-born keyboardist Wallace “Wally” Yohn left little music behind, though he was an integral part of the jazz-rock outfit Chase, led by trumpeter Bill Chase. The group’s second album, Ennea – Yohn’s first with the band – failed to capitalise on the success of their self-titled debut, but their third, Pure Music, comfortably mastered the contemporary fusion sound thanks to Chase’s road-hardened performances. Yohn was one of four Chase musicians – including guitarist John Emma, drummer Walter Clark and Bill Chase himself – to perish in a plane crash en route to Minnesota for a show at the 1974 Jackson Country Fair.

Cause of death: Plane crash

Must hear: Weird Song #1

Dave Alexander (1947-1975)

High-school dropout Dave Alexander was already hanging with sibling musicians Ron (guitar) and Scott (drums) Asheton when they fell in with Iggy Pop. Forming The Stooges in 1967, the group blitzed audiences with their confrontational live shows, essentially inventing punk a decade ahead of schedule. Even against Pop’s legendarily excess-fuelled antics, however, Alexander was a force of his own; he was sacked from the band in 1970, after getting too drunk to play their slot at Michigan’s Goose Lake International Music Festival. Five years later, having developed pancreatitis related to alcoholism, he was admitted to hospital, where he died of pulmonary edema – the accumulation of fluid in the lungs.

Cause of death: Pulmonary edema

Must hear: Dirt

Peter Ham (1947-1975)

Thanks in no small part to the Paul McCartney-penned hit Come And Get It, Badfinger had already made a name for themselves a late-60s power-poppers when they moved from The Beatles’ ailing Apple Records imprint to Warner Bros. Having penned earlier hits such as No Matter What and Day After Day, and co-written Nilsson’s chart-topping Without You, lead singer Peter Ham’s full potential was left unrealised when he hanged himself after the group’s manager absconded with their money, making him the rare 27 Club member that purposely died by his own hand.

Cause of death: Suicide

Must hear: I Miss You

Gary Thain (1948-1975)

New Zealand-born Gary Thain was an integral part of the British music scene as the 60s tipped over into the 70s, first as bassist with blues-rock outfit Keef Hartley Band, and then with prog-metal stormtroopers Uriah Heep. After suffering an on-stage electric shock, Thain lost the ability to play properly and, increasingly dependent on heroin, he was fired from Uriah Heep in 1975. He died in December that year, of respiratory failure brought on from a heroin overdose.

Cause of death: Respiratory failure

Must hear: The Magician’s Birthday

Cecilia (1948-1976)

Born Evangelina Sobredo Galanes, Cecilia took her name from Simon And Garfunkel’s hit 1970 single of the same name. Like that duo, the Spanish singer-songwriter and 27 Club member crafted her own blend of folk-rock pop, fusing it with Spanish folk and Middle Eastern influences. Though risking censorship at the hands of General Franco’s government, Cecilia sang songs that addressed the Spanish Civil War, challenged the dictatorship and promoted a feminist world view. Her death in a car accident on the way home to Madrid after a gig brought her blossoming, courageous career to a premature close.

Cause of death: Car accident

Must hear: Dama Dama

Helmut Köllen (1950-1977)

German prog-rockers Triumvirat formed as a guitar-less three-piece in the Emerson, Lake And Palmer vein (keyboards, bass, drums) before broadening their sound in 1974, when they brought guitarist and bassist Helmut Köllen in to replace departing founder member Hans-Georg Pape. Over the next 12 months, Triumvirat released their high-water mark albums, Illusions On A Double Dimple and Spartacus, and scored profile-raising US support slots with Fleetwood Mac and Grand Funk Railroad. After leaving the group to pursue a solo career, Köllen died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning after he left the engine running in his car while listening to some of his latest recordings.

Cause of death: Carbon monoxide poisoning

Must hear: Mister Ten Percent

Chris Bell (1951-1978)

After forming power-pop legends Big Star with Alex Chilton in Memphis, the failure of the group’s optimistically titled debut album, #1 Record, led a depressed Bell to seek success as a solo artist. Despite working with local bands and recording a slew of his own material, it took until 1978 for Bell to release his debut single, I Am The Cosmos/You And Your Sister. In December that year, following a late-night band rehearsal, Bell died on impact when his car span out of control and hit a lamppost. It took another decade and a half before his solo recordings emerged as the posthumous album I Am The Cosmos.

Cause of death: Car crash

Must hear: I Am The Cosmos

Zenon De Fleur (1951-1979)

Part of London’s pub-rock circuit, The Count Bishops ultimately transcended that short-lived scene to find kindred spirits in the punk movement and score support slots with heavy metal pioneers Motörhead and art-rock dissident John Cale. Guitarist Zenon “De Fleur” Hierowski (reportedly earning his nickname after passing out on the studio floor during the group’s first recording session) was The Count Bishops’ driving force but, despite a raucous live reputation and a growing buzz around their long-gestating debut album, Cross Cuts, the group never made it to the next level. Their career effectively came to an end after a car accident left De Fleur severely injured and suffering with breathing difficulties. Days later, he entered the 27 Club after dying of a heart attack.

Cause of death: Heart attack following a car accident

Must hear: I Take What I Want

D Boon (1958-1985)

Singer and guitarist with California hardcore trio Minutemen, Dennis “D” Boon’s lean playing style was about as no-frills as it got – even in punk’s DIY world. The group’s angular Gang Of Four- and Wire-influenced music fuelled a frenetic discography that swiftly grew to four albums and six EPs before the band split following Boon’s death. He’d been suffering from a fever and lying in the back of a traveling van when the vehicle’s rear axle broke; thrown from the back door, his broke his neck on impact and died immediately.

Cause of death: Traffic accident

Must hear: Corona

Alexander Bashlachev (1960-1988)

A poet, songwriter and one-time staffer for the Cold War-era publication The Communist, Alexander Bashlachev was among a coterie of musicians who circumvented Soviet Russia’s ban on rock music by playing “kvartirniks” – shows held in flats occupied by friends and other musicians. Though he eventually graduated to performing at Leningrad Rock Festival, held at Leningrad Veterinary Institute, a prolonged bout of writer’s block exacerbated feelings of depression, and Bashlachev died, an apparent suicide, in February 1988 after falling from the ninth-floor window of an apartment.

Cause of death: Falling from a building

Must hear: Vremja Kolokol’chikov

Amar Singh Chamkila (1960-1988)

An icon among Punjabi musicians, Amar Singh Chamkila was as notorious as he was beloved for singing songs that dealt openly with drinking, drug abuse and infidelity within the Punjab community, though devotional material also made up part of his prolific outpouring of songs – over 100 original numbers written in ten years. Hailed as the “Elvis of Punjab”, Chamkila sent young audiences into a frenzy over his live performances, which were often staged as a duo with his second wife and singing partner, Amarjot Kaur. In March 1988, as the couple arrived for a concert in the village of Mehsampur, they were killed by a gang of motorcycle assassins, though no one was ever arrested for the murder. The mystery has since inspired a “docu-fiction” film, Mehsampur, and given rise a number of conspiracy theories surrounding Chamkila’s forced entry into the 27 Club, among them that the murder was an honour killing, or a rival singer’s fatal attempt to silence his competition.

Cause of death: Murder

Must hear: Pehle Lalkare Naal Main Dar Gai

Pete De Freitas (1961-1989)

Before Pete De Freitas joined Echo And The Bunnymen, the group were an esoteric post-punk three-piece reliant on a drum machine for timekeeping. Afterwards, however, they had a drummer who “could drop it down to zero and then back up to 10,000”, Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant told Dig! in an interview about the band’s legend-enshrining breakthrough years. The propulsive force behind the best Echo And The Bunnymen songs, De Freitas died in a motorcycle accident along the A51 while returning home to Liverpool from London.

Cause of death: Motorcycle accident

Must hear: The Back Of Love

Finbarr Donnelly (1962-1989)

Thanks to Finbarr Donnelly’s songs – and his unpredictable live performances – the Cork-based post-punk group Five Go Down To The Sea? looked set to become the most exciting thing in Irish punk music since The Pogues. A string of early EPs resulted in a Single Of The Week pick in the NME in the summer of 1989, thanks in part to the group’s “kidnapping, tarring and feathering, mugging, shagging and destruction” of The Beatles’ Day Tripper. Still spoken of in reverential tones, Five Go Down To The Sea? disbanded after Donnelly accidentally drowned while swimming in the Serpentine lake in London’s Hyde Park.

Cause of death: Accidental drowning

Must hear: Day Tripper

Chris Austin (1964-1991)

Multi-instrumentalist Chris Austin had all the skills needed to become a key member of both bluegrass revivalist Ricky Skaggs and country siren Reba McEntire’s bands in the 80s. Self-taught as a teenager, Austin was adept at guitar, banjo, mandolin and fiddle, and even made a dent on the US country charts under his own name, with the singles Lonesome For You and Blues Stay Away From Me. His burgeoning career came to a halt, however, after he died in a plane crash that killed six other members of Reba McEntire’s band, plus her road manager.

Cause of death: Plane Crash

Must hear: Blues Stay Away From Me

Dimitar Voev (1965-1992)

Bulgarian new wave group Nova Generacia retain a certain cachet at home, though a slight discography and scant biographical information has kept them under the radar in the West. What is known is that founder and frontman Dimitar Voev became a member of the 27 Club after succumbing to cancer in 1992. The group had continued to play in various line-ups, supporting Depeche Mode in 2006 and staging a tribute concert in Voev’s honour, in order to mark the 20th anniversary of the singer’s death.

Cause of death: Cancer

Must hear: Confession

Mia Zapata (1965-1993)

Forming in Ohio before moving to in Seattle in 1989, punk four-piece The Gits took their name from a Monty Python sketch, and approached their music with the same anarchic energy that fuelled much of Monty Python’s best work (their two albums were titled Frenching The Bully and Enter: The Conquering Chicken). With Mia Zapata as their magnetic frontwoman, The Gits gained traction in Seattle’s grunge scene – a tight-knight community which was shaken to its core after Zapata was raped and strangled while walking home early hours of the morning. The crime went unsolved for a decade until a DNA test identified her murderer, a man named Jesus Mezquia. In her memory, Zapata’s bandmates and devoted friends formed the non-profit self-defence group Home Alive, which ran until 2010.

Cause of death: Murder

Must hear: Second Skin

Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

A viscerally honest songwriter, the fact that Kurt Cobain struggled with demons was evident from his lyrics. Seemingly channelling an entire generation’s pre-millennial anxieties, the Nirvana frontman’s raw, confessional songwriting charted his own insecurities and conflicted feelings about being thrust into the limelight with grunge’s most successful band. A heroin addiction helped obliterate some of the pain, but using a shotgun to take his own life left countless others struggling to reconcile theirs – not least wife Courtney Love and daughter Francis Bean Cobain.

Cause of death: Suicide

Must hear: Smells Like Teen Spirit

Kristen Pfaff (1967-1994)

A little over a month after losing her husband to suicide, Courtney Love lost another 27 Club member, former Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff, to heroin. Seattle may have been the centre of rock music in the 90s, but it was also known for the scene’s heavy heroin use. As bass player for the Minneapolis group Janitor Joe, Pfaff brought some of the music world’s focus back to the Twin Cities, but fell into addiction after moving to Seattle and joining Hole for a brief spell. Reuniting with Janitor Joe she planned to return home, but was found dead of a heroin overdose before being able to turn her life around.

Cause of death: Drug overdose

Must hear: Limited Edition

Richey Edwards (1967-1995)

As Manic Street Preachers’ original lyricist, Richey Edwards dealt fearlessly with his own afflictions in song, allowing fans who suffered from similar issues to feel as though they weren’t alone (he infamously carved “4 REAL” into his arm after Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq asked how serious he was about his music). Another mysterious 27 Club death, Edwards went missing in 1995; though his body was never found, he is believed to have drowned himself in the River Severn. He was officially pronounced dead on 23 November 2008

Cause of death: Disappeared

Must hear: 4st 7lb

Stretch (1968-1995)

Queens-born rapper Stretch (aka Randy Walker) was part of the East Coast group Live Squad when he fell in with Bay Area icons Digital Underground. Soon becoming one of Tupac Shakur’s closest friends and collaborators, Stretch began backing Shakur on live performances and contributing vocals and production to his records, though the pair fell out after Shakur was shot in the lobby of a recording studio, on 30 November 1994. Shakur survived, but Stretch himself was murdered a year to the day later, a drive-by shooting in Queens claiming the life of another 27 Club member.

Cause of death: Murder

Must hear: Murderahh

Fat Pat (1970-1998)

Screwed Up Click coalesced around DJ Screw, the Houston-based innovator behind the “chopped and screwed” sound that would gain a greater hold on Southern hip-hop in the years after his own death, in 2000. Screwed Up Click rapper Fat Pat was murdered outside a promoter’s apartment. His killer was never identified.

Cause of death: Murdered

Must hear: Tops Drop

Freaky Tah (1971-1999)

Lost Boyz gained recognition after contributing the song Renee to the soundtrack of the 1996 spoof movie Don’t Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood. A collaboration with Redman (Beasts From The East) and appearance on the America Is Dying Slowly charity album further raised the group’s profile, but their progress was cut short after Freaky Tah was shot to death in a case of mistaken identity while leaving the birthday party of bandmate Mr Cheeks.

Cause of death: Murdered

Must hear: Renee

Kami (1972-1999)

As the drummer with Japanese visual kei group MALICE MIZER, Ukyō “Kami” Kamimura made for an arresting presence – he once wore his hair long enough to be able to sit on it. After joining the group in 1993, he became such an integral part of their sound that his bandmates refused to officially replace him following his death from a subarachnoid haemorrhage which killed him in his sleep. Future MALICE MIZER releases, such the Shinwa EP, featured songs that Kami had recorded before his death (Unmei No Deai, Mori No Naka No Tenshi), and the drummer continues to receive credit as the group’s “eternal blood relative”.

Cause of death: Subarachnoid haemorrhage

Must hear: Unmei No Deai

Rodrigo Bueno (1973-2000)

Beginning his solo career in 1990, following a stint with the local band Manto Negro, the Córdoba, Argentina-born singer Rodrigo Bueno scored phenomenal nationwide success, releasing an album a year until his death, in 2000. Despite entering the 27 Club over two decades ago, Bueno remains the country’s most successful cuarteto singer, with songs such as La Mano De Dios – a celebration of Diego Maradona’s “Hand Of God” goal in the 1986 FIFA World Cup – remaining one of Argentina’s most popular dance songs. He died in a car crash, in contested circumstances; an estimated 20,000 mourners visited Bueno’s remains after they had been brought to Lanús, a city where the singer had been scheduled to perform.

Cause of death: Car crash

Must hear: La Mano De Dios

Sean Patrick McCabe (1972-2000)

Hardcore punks with a penchant for face paint and shock theatrics – the legend includes fake blood, band members emerging from coffins, and vomiting on Christmas trees – Ink & Dagger lived too intensely to survive much beyond their four-year lifespan (1995-1999), though they remain legends in the Philadelphia rock scene. Shortly after calling time on the group, lead singer Sean Patrick McCabe was found dead in a motel room, having chocked on his own vomit after drinking too much.

Cause of death: Asphyxiation

Must hear: The Fine Art Of Original Sin

María Serrano Serrano (1973-2001)

The short-lived Europop group Passion Fruit had already been through one line-up by the time two members of their second, which lasted for a little over a year, perished in a plane crash while making their approach to Zurich International Airport. Singers María Serrano Serrano and Nathaly Van Het Ende were among the passengers who died in the accident, while the third bandmate, Debby St Maarten, survived with serious injuries. Passion Fruit’s second album was given a posthumous release, with all the proceeds from the single I’m Dreaming Of… A Winter Wonderland going to victims and survivors of the crash.

Cause of death: Plane crash

Must hear: I’m Dreaming Of… A Winter Wonderland

Jeremy Ward (1976-2003)

Cousin of At The Drive-In guitarist Jim Ward, sound technician Jeremy Ward was invited to join The Mars Volta as a contributor of sound effects and audio manipulation. A month before the release of the group’s debut album, De-Loused In The Comatorium, Ward was found dead of an apparent heroin overdose.

Cause of death: Drug overdose

Must hear: Cicatriz ESP

Bryan Ottoson (1978-2005)

Defecting from Black Flood Diesel to join industrial metallers American Head Charge for their third album, 2005’s The Feeding, Bryan Ottoson seemed set to help the group follow a new course. While on the road in April that year, however, he died in his sleep on the band’s tour bus.

Cause of death: Presumed accidental drug overdose

Must hear: Just So You Know

Valentín Elizalde (1979-2006)

Nicknamed “The Golden Rooster”, Mexican singer Valentín Elizalde had a repertoire that included narcocorridos – “drug ballads” that eulogise Mexico’s drug cartels. Elizalde was shot to death after a performance in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, allegedly in retaliation from Los Zetas, a cartel that had taken exception to the lyrics in his song A Mis Enemigos.

Cause of death: Murder

Must hear: Vete Ya

Damien “Damo” Morris (1980-2007)

Australian deathcore band The Red Shore had yet to release their debut album, Unconsecrated, when a bus accident while on tour claimed the lives of the driver and the band’s singer Damien Morris. The group continued, with bassist Jamie Hope taking on lead vocal duties; Morris can be heard on three of Unconsecrated’s songs, recorded before he became a 27 Club member: The Garden Of Impunity, The Architects Of Repulsion and The Forefront Of Failure.

Cause of death: Bus crash

Must hear: The Garden Of Impurity

Orish Grinstead (1980-2008)

Formed around identical twin sisters Irish and Orish Grinstead, plus older sister LeMisha and cousin Amelia Childs, Las Vegas R&B group 702 took their name from the city’s area code, and it was in the heart of the Strip where the sisters were spotted, singing in the lobby of Caesars Palace. Orish was part of the line-up when the group made their debut appearance, on Subway’s This Lil’ Game We Play, but she was relegated to background vocals by the time they came to record their first album, 1996’s No Doubt, and left the band shortly after. She died of kidney failure in 2008.

Cause of death: Kidney failure

Must hear: This Lil’ Game We Play

Amy Winehouse (1983-2011)

As adept singing soul and blues as she was jazz and pop music, Amy Winehouse quickly became one of the greatest voices of her generation. While she poured her life into her songs, she also struggled in the glare of the spotlight, increasingly turning to alcohol and drugs to ease the pressure she felt. Winehouse died in her apartment after drinking and listening to music until the early hours of the morning. Her blood alcohol levels were five time the legal limit.

Cause of death: Alcohol poisoning

Must hear: Back To Black

Richard Turner (1984-2011)

2011 should have been a time of celebration for Richard Turner. A versatile musician as comfortable playing Friendly Fires’ disco-pop as he was fronting his own London-based jazz quartet, Round Trip, his breakthrough tour with the former was beset with problems relating to singer Ed Macfarlane’s “ongoing illness”. The serious tragedy came in the summer, however, when Turner suffered a ruptured aortic aneurysm while swimming.

Cause of death: Cardiac arrest

Thomas Fekete (1988-2016)

Floridian indie-rockers Surfer Blood broke through with their debut single, Swim, and its parent album, Astro Coast, which took them into the Top 20 of Billboard’s Independent Albums chart. Guitarist Thomas Fekete was a guiding hand through their first half decade together but, after being diagnosed with sarcoma, a rare form of cancer, he was forced to retire after recording the group’s third album, 1000 Palms. He died of the disease a little over a year later.

Cause of death: Cancer

Must hear: Swim

Kim Jong-hyun (1990-2017)

Part of Korea’s hugely successful SM Entertainment stable, Kim Jong-hyun was boy band SHINee’s main singer from their formation, in 2008, until his suicide, in 2017. Performing under the name Jonghyun, he wrote songs for SHINee and other K-pop stars, and also scored hits as a solo artist, paving the way for other K-pop singers to write their own material. However, the pressures of keeping up with the fast-paced industry contributed to a “depression that has slowly eaten away at me”, as he wrote in a suicide note to friend and singer Nine9, before killing himself via carbon monoxide poisoning in a rented apartment in Seoul.

Cause of death: Suicide

Must hear: Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)

Fredo Santana (1990-2018)

Intimidatingly prolific in his early years – the Chicago-born rapper released three mixtapes and a full-length album, Trappin’ Ain’t Dead, in 2013 alone – Fredo Santana also counted Drake and Kendrick Lamar among his fans (he appeared in the video for Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home and snagged Kendrick for a guest spot on the Trappin’ Ain’t Dead cut Jealous). The latest entry to the 27 Club, Santana’s heavy use of Xanax and the homemade drug-drink cocktail lean exacerbated both a known epileptic condition and an undiagnosed cardiovascular disease, the latter of which killed him in January 2018.

Cause of death: Cardiovascular disease

Must hear: Jealous

You’ve seen all 54 musicians in the 27 Club. Now find out the strangest rock deaths of all time.

More Like This

Here We Go Again: 10 Whitesnake Facts You Need To Know
List & Guides

Here We Go Again: 10 Whitesnake Facts You Need To Know

Think you know everything there is to know about David Coverdale’s reptilian rockers? These Whitesnake facts may prove you wrong…

Best 2000s Albums: 20 Classics That Shaped The Noughties
List & Guides

Best 2000s Albums: 20 Classics That Shaped The Noughties

Emerging from a troubled decade, the best 2000s albums gifted us a melting pot of pop, rock, and hip-hop to transcend our worldly worries.

Sign up to our newsletter

Be the first to hear about new releases, upcoming events, and more from Dig!

Sign Up