The Year Rock Dies

If your age is 28 or older and you are reading this then you are probably not a rock star.

So you are obviously not dead.

I am going to be the umpteenth person to write about this subject: The Long List of Musicians Who Die At The Age of 27. I do so because there was a time when I thought to myself: “If you ever ‘make it’ in music then you will die at the age of 27.”

Janis Joplin

It was because of the Hendrix/Joplin/Morrison triage that I actually thought like this, like it was somehow an honor, or a rite of passage into rock legend status. You should die a young, usually substance abuse related, death.

At the age of 27 of course.

Then came along ol Kurt and his suicide which brought a more modern member to the list. It had been a while since any rock star that famous had died the 27 death. Almost 20 years later Amy Winehouse joins the group. What each have in common is obvious, but it does make you wonder if these artists were thinking something similar themselves? Like, man, I gotta take advantage of everything all of the time. Full indulgence. Because it’s either expected from me, available, part of the lifestyle, or a serious issue I have to deal with in the public eye. I’m not saying this isn’t pressure that 98% of musicians trying to make it wouldn’t want to have. It’s like a baseball fan saying how much they would love an athletes lifestyle, to get paid that much for just playing a game.

Nick Cave

Writes many songs about death. But isn't dead.

I will have another post where I discuss sports and music but let me just throw in one anecdote: in baseball it is often said that a player enters his peak years at the age of 27. Were other musicians such as Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, Robert Johnson, or Brian Jones “peaking” when they died? Safe to say Hendrix was, Cobain perhaps as well. We don’t often see athletes dying off at 27, the reasons there too obvious to even state. But don’t both groups face similar pressures in many ways?

So what musician today looks at these events and thinks to themselves: it’s cool to die young and leave a good-looking corpse. Some, but probably not many. I would certainly hope that the myth has died down enough to enable todays artists to try and emulate the long successful careers that some modern bands like Radiohead or U2 have enjoyed vs. following the clichéd trajectory of rock legends of the past.

In order to do so, simply listen to the recent releases from a band like Sonic Youth to see how well a band can age. Nick Cave is into his 50’s and still making incredible music–and he survived the perils of rock stardom.

Aren’t we better for that?


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