Glamorising of rock star death and the ‘27 club’

AMY WINEHOUSE released only two albums in her life, which, combined, sold in excess of 12 million copies, won countless awards and sparked a retro soul movement.

The small output, in inverse relation to her talent, makes her death all the more tragic. Fans will only be able to imagine the unrecorded singles, the never-to-be concerts, the comeback album that didn’t come.

It’s a sadly familiar script in pop music, the history of which is chequered with greats and would-be greats who went too early.

Almost as soon as news of Winehouse’s death broke, fans were noting that Winehouse, 27, shared the same age at death as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison.

British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg, though, realised that a meaningful commonality was being mistaken for coincidence.

“It’s not age that Hendrix, Jones, Joplin, Morrison, Cobain and Amy have in common,” Bragg tweeted, “It’s drug abuse, sadly.”

Those names are touted as the “27 Club”, a ghoulish glamorising of rock star death that makes it sound as though even in death, VIPs remain behind a velvet rope.

It’s a term, sometimes called the Forever 27 Club, that has spawned a Wikipedia entry, an independent 2008 movie, numerous websites and at least one book&.

In death, Winehouse’s famous boast of “no, no, no” to rehab only sounds empty. The hard truths of addiction don’t fit neatly into pop tunes — or morbid 27 clubs — but play out over years of toil.

The posthumous releases from Winehouse will surely follow, and her legacy will grow. But hopefully mythologising will be resisted.

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