Top 10 Musicians Who Died at Age 27

Though the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle may sound appealing, it doesn’t always lead to a happy and long-lasting life. Unfortunately, the world has lost many talented musicians from this lifestyle as well as for other reasons. Fortunately, we still have their music to remember them by. For this list, we chose to focus on solo artists and musicians who were founding members, leaders or vocalists of their respective bands. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 musicians who died at age 27.
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They’re part of the 27 Club. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 musicians who died at age 27.

For this list, we chose to focus on solo artists and musicians who were founding members, leaders or vocalists of their respective bands.

#10 - Pete Ham (Badfinger) – Death: April 24. 1975


As Badfinger’s original singer and guitarist, Pete Ham composed some of the rock group’s highest charting singles. However, he found even more mainstream recognition when Harry Nilsson took “Without You” to the top of the charts. Despite this success, Badfinger’s luck took a turn for the worse; label issues, manager problems and lack of funds ultimately left Ham so hopeless that he hung himself.

#9 - Chris Bell (Solo and Big Star) – Death: December 27, 1978


After forming power pop outfit Big Star, Chris Bell took on singing and guitar duties and shared the majority of songwriting with Alex Chilton. Though he also contributed production work to the critically acclaimed #1 Record, the album’s lackluster commercial success spurred Bell’s departure. While his depression and heroin habit continued to torment him during his solo career, it was actually a car crash that took his life.

#8 - Ron 'Pigpen' McKernan (Grateful Dead) – Death: March 8, 1973

Though the Grateful Dead were active between 1965-1995, they never would’ve been the band we know today without founding member Ron McKernan’s skills on multiple instruments. His vocals and blues expertise helped shape much of the band’s early work and gave them several live staples. But his heavy drinking and poor health finally got in the way; even though he stopped touring, Pigpen died from internal bleeding of his digestive system.

#7 - Amy Winehouse (Solo) – Death: July 23, 2011


Few were surprised to learn alcohol poisoning caused Amy Winehouse’s death. Though the multiple Grammy winner was a promising young diva with an extremely unique voice, she was also plagued early on with personal demons. Her drug addictions, violent tendencies and health issues were constantly splashed across the tabloids. Despite her problems, we remember her as a one-of-a-kind talent.

#6 - Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) – Death: July 3, 1969


Though he formed The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones eventually saw Mick Jagger and Keith Richards take over. And while he was a multi-talented musician, he soon found himself being squeezed out. As his use of drugs and alcohol increased, he distanced himself more and more and was eventually dismissed. So when the guitarist was found dead in his swimming pool a month later, people believed his substance abuse might have been a factor.

#5 - Janis Joplin (Solo and Big Brother and the Holding Company) – Death: October 4, 1970


The Queen of Psychedelic Soul was an electric and provocative performer whose colorful fashion sense and flashy hairstyles helped her remain etched in our memories. Her success with Big Brother and Holding Company as well as her solo work weren’t enough to help her overcome her long battle with drugs and alcohol though, as it was mostly likely a mix of these that caused her untimely death.

#4 - Robert Johnson (Solo) – Death: August 16, 1938


Robert Johnson’s complex style made him a legend. But what’s also legendary is how the King of Mississippi Delta Blues allegedly got his skills: by selling his soul to the Devil. Since his official cause of death is unknown, some think Satan came to collect; but the most popular theory is that an envious husband poisoned him after Johnson made the moves on his wife.

#3 - Jim Morrison (The Doors) – July 3, 1971


Thanks to the magnetic and impulsive Jim Morrison, The Doors lit the fire of controversy wherever they went. His deep voice, charisma and on-and-off stage persona helped the band fashion a provocative and cutting-edge sound that still resonates today. Unfortunately, Morrison’s wild lifestyle took its toll when the young psychedelic rocker was found dead in a bathtub. Since no autopsy was performed, different theories exist for his death, ranging from a heart attack to a drug overdose.

#2 - Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) – Death: April 5, 1994


Alternative rock and music in general were never the same after Nirvana burst onto the scene with their adolescent indifference. Led by Kurt Cobain, the band introduced the Seattle sound to the masses and became leaders of grunge’s “Big Four.” Though Cobain’s drug dependence and personal issues led him to take his own life, there’s no denying that few musicians spoke to a generation quite like he did.

#1 - Jimi Hendrix (Solo and The Jimi Hendrix Experience) – Death: September 18, 1970


As the original Seattle rocker, Jimi Hendrix wasn’t only a musical innovator with avant-garde ideas – he was also an incomparable guitarist. But Jimi was also famous for his drug use. Sadly, it was a mix of such substances and asphyxiation that took him away in 1970. Though he left an incredible body of work, we can only imagine what further greatness he could have given us should he have lived past 27.

Though the sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle may sound appealing, it doesn’t always lead to a happy and long-lasting life. It’s important to learn from our past so we don’t repeat it. Be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more entertaining/informative top 10s.
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