Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The 27 Club

The 27 Club by Jared Woods
My obsession with The 27 Club began in the mid-90’s with the sudden passing of Kurt Cobain, who had recently and swiftly become my main inspiration for all of my existence. I wanted to grow my hair long, stop showering, and inject heroin into my cock - much like any pre-teenager of that era. Even more than that, it became my goal in life to get famous and die at 27, which at the age of 11, seemed achievable enough. Now, as a 26 year old a few months shy of the age in question, it does seem a little less smart and a lot more complicated. Mainly (or rather, exclusively) because I am not yet famous. But who knows, right? There is still time, and it is a fantastic way to go.

Last Saturday, the first properly recognizable figure in 17 years had joined the ranks among these legends. A group of exclusive individuals, in which the membership fee only entailed three things: (1) You had to create music; (2) A fair amount of people had to be aware of your music; and (3) You had to die at the age of 27. Many musicians have “achieved” this feat (the list actually much longer than most people realise), but there are definitely a select few who are consistently referred to when The Club comes up in conversation. And this new member could very well be one of the right calibre. In case you are struggling, I am talking, of course, about the smooth and sultry voice of one Amy Winehouse, who was announced dead less than a week ago. As one would expect, every single Trending Topic on Twitter was somehow related to the news. It seemed everyone on the Internet had something or other to say about it, as if anyone actually valued their opinion unless they had a verified account. That said, my own opinions are coming soon enough.

But for now, this whole media frenzy has resulted in a somewhat new global awareness of The 27 Club, and in turn, has inspired me to finally finish a piece that I started years ago. This very piece. I wasn’t even planning to write a blog this month at all to be honest. I had nothing to say and I had far too much work to do. But this event shot thoughts all over my brain and heart, and I felt I needed to pay homage to those talented souls who influenced us through their art, and left us alone before they were completely done.

So these are The Big Ones, and Amy, this is for you.

Brian Jones Died By Drowning


28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969

It is somewhat fitting that our story begins with a founding member of one of the biggest rock ‘n roll bands ever to exist, none other than Brian Jones from The Rolling Stones. Brian was a very fancy guy with his multi-instrumental wizardy, and contributed a lot to The Stones’ early recording career, including: the guitar, harmonica, sitar, marimba, keyboards, trumpets, mellotron, xylophone and banjo - to mention a few.

But while this band as a whole were famous for their raw and unique sound, they were just as well-known for their wild partying and problems with the law. This was not uncommon for musicians of the hippie era, but it was always their guitarist Keith Richards who was the prime candidate for complete self-destruction. And yet while Richards is still alive and kicking, it was Brian who took the punches the worst. His passion for all things alcohol, pot, pills, meth and LSD put him in hospital more than once, in jail once, and a hefty load of other serious drug-related law trouble on top of that. As it turns out, none of these things are very good for a person’s well-being, and Brian became introverted and anti-social. His behaviour was erratic and he was known to have terrible mood swings, which put a tense amount of strain on his relationship with the band. The world watched in pain as this once key songwriter had become almost incapable of doing anything - even his gums would bleed when he played harmonica. My favourite quote from this era was when The Rolling Stones were cutting their track You Can’t Always Get What You Want. While the members were finding their place in the song, Jones asked Mick Jagger “What can I play?”, to which Jagger responded "I don't know, Brian, what can you play?"

Due to his legal issues and his disintegrating mental and physical health, Brian was unable to go on tour, and the band felt they had no choice but to kick him out of the band on the 8th of June 1969.

Under a month later (midnight on the 2nd/3rd of July) Brian was found motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. Despite Anna Wohlin (his then girlfriend) attempting to resuscitate him, he was pronounced dead on arrival; the official cause as "death by misadventure" as his liver very swollen due to years of abuse. His girlfriend was quick to say that this was not the case, claiming a builder who was renovating the house had killed Brian. Some have even stated that the builder (Frank Thorogood) confessed to the murder on his deathbed, and many other anonymous eye-witnesses apparently exist yet never came forward. There was also a load of expensive items missing from the house, but none of this was ever really proven.

Two days later, The Stones played a free concert dedicated to him. Pete Townshend wrote a poem about him, as did Jim Morrison. Jimi Hendrix dedicated a song to him and reportedly Bob Dylan paid for his coffin. He was 27 years old, and at the time, this meant nothing more than yet another rockstar dying far too young. Little did anyone know, Brian was just the first domino to fall.

Jimi Hendrix Choked On His own Vomit


November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970

One year later, it happened again. This time it was the “best guitarist that ever existed”, a title Jimi has been given more times than anybody else in history. And for good reason, as Jimi blasted onto the psychedelic scene just in time, shoving insane riffs of feedback and wah-wah into heads filled with acid, setting the world and his guitar on fire wherever he went. His complex and innovative studio trickery was only second to his live shows, one of the most notable being at Woodstock ‘69, where it is often stated very matter-of-factly that he stole the entire legendary show. His name has been honoured in some of the biggest respects in the industry, namely: induction into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame; a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; induction of his album Are You Experienced into the United States National Recording Registry; and being named the number 1 best guitarist of all-time according to Rolling Stone magazine (and many other publications and myself and everyone else.)

But of course, Hendrix had a dark side. He was widely known as an avid LSD user, but he also loved the weed, and had been known to do amphetamines on tour. But alcohol was his real evil, becoming a very angry drunk at the best of times. One girlfriend named Kathy Etchingham claimed that Jimi had beaten her with a phone receiver because he thought she was talking to an ex-boyfriend. Another girlfriend named Carmen Borrero claimed she needed stitches after Jimi hit her with a bottle. I am sure there are other girlfriend stories like this, because Jimi had many, many girlfriends. He had also been arrested a few times, once for wrecking a hotel room under the influence, another when customs found some hash and heroin in his luggage. In his defense, Jimi claimed that he had no idea how it got there and a fan must have slipped it into his suitcase. He was acquitted because this was surely what happened. Surely.

And then one night, boom, niggah dead. The facts have never been entirely clear as to what happened that night, except that poor Jimi suffocated on his own vomit whilst sleeping. Beyond that, it’s purply hazy at best. John Bannister (the surgeon who attended to him) stated that it was red wine Jimi’s throat had regurgitated, but Bannister was already being investigated for another case of malpractice, and he eventually lost his licence in 1992 for fraud. The coroner report contradicts this finding too, claiming that very little alcohol was in Jimi’s system at the time, and none of it could be found in his vomit. For this reason, a more agreed upon story was the one from his then girlfriend Monika Dannemann, who claimed Jimi had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills unaware of their strength. However, she also claimed that when she found him, he was still breathing, and that she rode with him in the ambulance. The ambulance crew disagrees with this statement, saying that she wasn’t even present when they entered his flat. In fact, Monkia’s story changed so drastically from interview to interview, that it is very difficult to take anything she said seriously whatsoever. Her word has been even further question when, after being found guilty of continuously defaming the character of another one of Jimi’s ex-girlfriends, she committed suicide.

These kinds of circumstances can only spur rumours, and one such rumour was that some lyrics found next to Jimi’s body were in the form of a suicide note. Another even worse rumour was sparked by former Animals roadie James Wright, who wrote a book claiming that Hendrix's manager, Mike Jeffery, confessed to him about murdering Hendrix over a contract issue. While some considered this to be plausible, majority have brushed it off as a publicity stunt to sell the book, and it doesn’t really matter in the end. The world had lost a God.

Janis Joplin Died From A Heroin Overdose


January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970

The very following month, we have the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll and Psychedelic Soul, Ms. Janis Joplin. I didn’t even make those titles up, they are pretty much official, a point strengthened when Rolling Stone magazine ranked Joplin number 46 of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, not to mention number 28 of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. All this from someone who only released one real solo album in her short lifetime.

But Janis loved her substances as much as any good rockstar should. By the time she had gone solo, she was already injecting about $200 worth of heroin a day. When she was asked to perform at Woodstock ‘69, she got so nervous that she shot the smack, and played so badly that her show was never even included on the documentary or the soundtrack. This was not the only show like this. Besides the junk, Janis had also developed a taste for speed and a huge adoration for what became her signature drink: Southern Comfort. A lot of it.

Three days before her death, Janis recorded one of her best known tracks Mercedes Bends, along with a birthday greeting to John Lennon (which he hauntingly only received after her death). The former track was for her up-and-coming album Pearl, which she was very excited about, and scheduled a return to the studio the following Sunday to record some more of her distinct vocals. When the usually punctual Janis didn’t turn up for the session, producer Paul A. Rothchild grew concerned and went over to her place to check on her. It was there that her body was discovered, dead on the floor next to her bed. She had overdosed on heroin.

Unlike her fellow 27 Club Members, there is very little conspiracy surrounding her passing. However, it's well known that Janis was a very lonely girl, once stating that “On stage I make love to twenty five thousand people; and then I go home alone.” This weekend had been especially emotional for her as she found out that her coke-dealer boyfriend had been entertaining some ladies at her house that he had just met, which upset her even more because he had broken a promise to spend the previous night with her. One of her best friends Peggy Caserta regrettably admitted that she too had blown off Janis the same night before. These two friends abandoning her coupled with her drug dealer giving her a much higher quality gear than usual (a few of his other clients had overdosed that week) was probably the reason why she put just a little bit too much into her veins that time. Peggy Caserta blamed the dealer very publicly in a book she wrote, which angered the guy so much that he sent someone to kill Casterta. The intruder got the wrong girl though, and ended up stabbing Caserta’s friend instead, who luckily did make a full recovery.

All these things aside, the music world shook, especially because it was such a high profile death only 16 days after Mr. Hendrix had kicked it. Her inspiration ran thick, being the main influence on people like Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks and Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler. Leonard Cohen and The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia each wrote a song about her. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. But her greatest legacy came in the form of the posthumously released album Pearl, considered her greatest, ranking number 122 on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time. It also went straight to number 1 on the Billboard 200, where it stayed FOREVER. I might be thinking about something else though.

Jim Morrison Had A Heart-Attack Or Something


December 8, 1943 – July 3, 1971

Less than a year later, a true shooting star tore the sky in two, completely on fire and leaving a trail of destruction behind it, only to disappear as fast as it had come. It was a bright light, blinding and then leaving you before you even registered it existed. But you would never forget it. I’m talking, of course, of one of the greatest, most charismatic, influential, iconic, and pioneering performers and poets in history: The Lizard King himself, Mr. Mojo Rising, the one, the only, the Jim Morrison.

Morrison rose to superstardom as the frontman and lead lyricist of The Doors, who by the end of 1967 were one of the biggest bands in the USA, and impressively released 6 (generally) critically acclaimed albums in only 4 years. What have you done in that time? Nothing.

But as one would expect (it was imperative to the nature of Jim’s character) the guy had an ego of note. He saw himself as somewhat of a prophet (or shaman, rather), and was known to take loads of acid, reportedly living on canned beans and LSD for years before The Doors had even grouped together. Which I’m sure didn’t help the personality complex in the slightest. But who can blame him really? He was super good looking, and said things of such a deep nature that one could only assume he was Jesus, or something equally as blasphemous.

It didn’t take long until Jim started to show up to recording sessions and gigs completely wasted, and often very late. Bored of his sex-symbol status (which he felt devalued his urgent message), he had started to gain a lot of weight, grew a beard and dressed more casually. His performances became more erratic, as he attempted to spark riots, harassed the security and allegedly exposed himself once too. That particular incident lead to many legal issues with the man, which were never officially resolved.

Because before they could be, Morrison was found dead in his bathtub, in Paris 1971. There was no evidence of foul play, resulting in no autopsy being performed, which in hindsight was a mistake as it left many questions unanswered. Generally believed to be a heart-attack brought on by a mix of heroin and cocaine, Pamela Courson (his girlfriend) became the main source of information on the situation, and yet her account varies each time she tells it. She has often claimed she killed Jim, having taken the same drugs and nodding out whilst Morrison was puking up blood (which he was known to do anyway), resulting in his death. Another rumour was that Jim actually overdosed in a bathroom at the Rock 'n' Roll Circus nightclub, causing his dealers to panic, hastily dumping his body in his apartment and then swearing to secrecy. But the most delicious rumour of all stemmed from Jim’s fascination with faking his own death, which is something he had expressed interest in for many years. These ideas were fuelled further when nobody could attest to actually seeing the corpse, and when The Doors' own drummer John Densmore publicly exclaimed that "the grave is too short!" at the funeral. Even their keyboardist May Manzarek said that if anyone could pull it off - Jim could. It was also a little strange that the news only hit the media 6 days after he had died, which would be the right amount of time to sort out all the finer details. Of course, these notions sent the public into a bit of a mass-hysteria, and Jim was sighted many times all over the world almost immediately. We are still awaiting his official return.

Regardless, his legacy is massive, becoming the biggest influence on many superstars, to the likes of Iggy Pop from The Stooges, Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam, Layne Staley from Alice in Chains and Julian Casablancas from The Strokes. He was also ranked 47 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, and 22 on Classic Rock Magazine's 50 Greatest Singers In Rock. The Doors as a unit were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, and 3 of their albums were included on the Rolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time (their debut at number 42). He was also once the face of some German stamps, which is a pretty cool place to be, so I guess it all turned out alright or something?

Anyway, at this point of our story, The 27 Club was in full public consciousness. Within 2 years (exactly, to the date!) 4 champions of 60’s rock had passed tragically at the same age, and the phenomenon was forever cemented into rock history. Some believe that it ends here too, as their strict definition of The Club includes the short time between these occurrences. And, to their credit, it did seem like it was over as fast as it had begun. Because, besides many minor characters joining the ranks, no one was at the level of The Big Four, and the story was somewhat forgotten in later generations. This is because the more modern day heroes are pussies, too afraid to indulge in the excessive nature a rockstar should experience by default, as it was in the late 60's/early 70's. That was, of course, until


February 20, 1967 – April 5, 1994

Born merely 2 years before the death of Brian Jones, we have the most recognizable member of recent decades. So much so, I hardly feel it’s necessary to relay his story to you, but I will anyway. He was the singer/primary songwriter for Nirvana, a band who has been known for changing the alternative scene permanently, by inventing grunge, popularizing depression, and single handedly leading the 90’s by its throat. The album Nevermind, just for example, topped almost every critics’ top list of the decade; it has been placed in the National Recording Registry; and was at number 17 on Rolling Stone's list The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

None of this sat well with Kurt, because he was a bit of a miserable cunt, and he didn’t want to be the voice of the generation because he didn’t have all that much to say. This, coupled with terrible stomach pains, lead Kurt into a deep depression. He was diagnosed with ADD at a very early age, and bi-polar at a later age, not to mention mental illness ran in the family as two of his uncles had committed suicide by shotgun. Kurt battled these demons with drugs, having a big taste for alcohol, pot, and LSD, but eventually settled on his lifelong romance with heroin.

In the meantime, Nirvana continued to thrive, Cobain continued to struggle, and in 1994 (after a stint in rehab) Cobain’s dead body was found in his green house, head blown off with a shotgun which lay on his chest. There was a mess, there was a note, and there was REM’s Automatic For The People in the stereo. I remember this day. It shook almost every teenager and young adult in the world, and the pain felt in the music industry was undeniable, comparable only to the likes of Presley or Lennon. Some people were next-level distraught, and they committed suicide themselves, which is as sad and pathetic as it is touching and even a little beautiful. But who didn’t see it all coming? He was a self loathing junkie with a chronic illness, shoved into a height of fame without any coping tools, and so a suicide like this was predictable and a black-and-white open-and-shut case. Right?

Well, depends on who you speak to. The conspiracy theories surrounding this 27 Club Member are possibly the strongest of them all, a menacing story revolving around the theory that Courtney Love had hired someone to kill her husband, who was looking to divorce her. The “evidence” is intriguing to say the least, and some of the highlights are as follows: he was on so much heroin at the time that it might have been difficult for him to operate the weapon; the “suicide note” had very little reference to an actual suicide; parts of the handwriting were “inconclusive” to Kurt’s own handwriting; the brisk process in which the incident was ruled as a suicide left for very little investigation; there were no fingerprints on the shotgun; many of his friends said he was in good spirits in his last days; Courtney Love had reportedly tried to hire someone to kill Kurt before the episode; and much much more. The list of people who believe it was a homicide is extensive, and include Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, Kurt’s godfather and Courtney’s ex-husband James Moreland from The Leaving Trains, who said Courtney had threatened him with the same fate before. For more information, check this site out: Justice For Kurt

What do I think? Nothing. I don’t think. It’s not healthy to give too much belief into these conspiracy things - it will drive you crazy. And like, what you gonna do? You gonna solve the fucking thing? No. But I will admit, it is very plausible, and much like those who came before Kurt in this tale, it is a very interesting little twist on his premature death. But suicide or not, one thing that always stood out for me was a quote from his sister, Kimberly Cobain, who claimed that Kurt had always admired The 27 Club, and expressed interest in joining it.

And he did. And that was that. Over 20 years later, and without argument, The Big 4 had become The Big 5. And since then, there has never been anyone to remotely scratch the surface or even cause a debate amongst The 27 Club experts. That is, until last Saturday.


14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011

As far as being synonymous with modern train-wrecks go, no celebrity has shit on two young Brits, namely Pete Doherty (who just got out of jail) and Amy Winehouse. But while both of these stars were immensely popular tabloid material due to their reckless everyday decision making, Amy reached a height of recognition that Doherty could only dream of. Her awards include (but are not limited to): 1 Brit Award, 2 Echo Awards, 3 Ivor Novello Awards; 1 MOJO Award; 1 MTV Europe Award; 2 NME Awards; 1 Q Award; 1 World Music Award; and 5 Grammy Awards. This alone places her in a very different sort of league than all the entries before her, at very least when alive.

But even if you wish to disagree with that, you cannot deny that she was in the same league as all of them as far as her personal life was concerned. Her domestic violence issues with ex-husband and current convict Blake Fielder-Civil were well documented, the two often shown in the press covered in cuts and bruises. She attributed her appearance to self-harm (which she was known to do) as well as an eating disorder, but she also admitted to becoming very violent when drunk. And of course, there were the drugs, and she knew them all. According to her father, she had smoked so much crack that she had developed emphysema. In 2007 she was hospitalized for an overdose of heroin, ecstasy, cocaine, ketamine and alcohol. That same year she was arrested on a marijuana charge, and again the next year for slapping a man in the face. In 2009 she was accused of punching a woman, spitting on another, and then was arrested later again for a separate incident of assault. All the while she was in and out of rehab, her final attempt being one week at the Priory Clinic on the 25th of May, 2011.

And then on the 23rd of July, Winehouse was found dead at her Camden home by her security guards. I purposefully held out writing this blog for as long as I could, hoping that some clarity on the reasons for her death would surface, but the first autopsy proved inconclusive. However (and it would be nice to be wrong), it seems fairly obvious this was a drug related death, and statements released by Russel Brand among many others seemed pretty convinced that this was the case. While we wait for an official verdict, some even more interesting stories have been released by the press, including some from her former stylist and flatmate Alex Foden. He was quick to point out Amy's generous nature (having paid for Alex to go to rehab himself), but also shared details on her £1000 a day habit (which he did say had improved in recent times). He also told of a time when Amy swallowed £300 worth of heroin wraps just to smuggle them into the Caribbean. But most interesting of all was when Alex explained to reporters that "Amy always told me she thought she would die young and that she knew she'd become a part of the 27 Club,” much like Kurt had.

So far (as with her female 27 counterpart) there are no insane conspiracy theories just yet, but suicide has been pondered by a few.

Jared Woods Outside Amy Whinehouse's House
Already U2 have dedicated a song to Amy in concert, and MIA released an entire new song devoted to the star. Almost every celebrity on Twitter has paid their digital respects, including George Michael, Katy Perry, Ashton Kutcher, Eva Longoria, Rihanna, Moby, and of course, her producer Mark Ronson who said “she was my musical soulmate & like a sister to me. this is one of the saddest days of my life.” Microsoft were a little less sensitive, urging fans to download her Back to Black album for free on their website. People didn’t like that. But the greatest tribute of all was at Amy’s house, where fans wrote on the road signs, posted notes on trees, left guitars and filled the road with portraits, flowers, cigarettes and alcohol - which (like it or not) was so Amy in the true spirit of Amy. I was “lucky” enough to be outside her house only 2 days after her passing, and the somber mood was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. So many people; candles flickering in silence; sadness all around; and yet a touching aura surrounded these fans who recognized her as the broken angel she was. Now get ready for the record label to rape her reportedly massive catalogue of unreleased material. Meh.

Of course, one common thought that seemed strewn across my social feeds (and no one can really disagree with this) is that there was some degree of inevitably surrounding the death of someone who built a reputation of being off the rails (especially when watching her recent painful performances at Belgrade). But as an optimist (and due to the general fairy tale hope most of us have when looking up at the stars) I had the best hopes for poor Amy. I mean, she had literally just come out of The Priory rehab, she had almost finished her third record, and her recovery seemed somewhat promising on paper. Unfortunately, this was not the case, and I for one have been heartbroken these last few days. I had such a soft spot for her which seems to have amplified in her absence, which is understandable. She was inspirational to many female artists well before her death, who (by their own admission) include Adele, Duffy and Lady Gaga. Jay-Z himself stated years ago that Amy had managed to almost exclusively revitalise British music. So despite the sadness most of us feel now, we can pin-point some pride in the fact that she is now officially cemented as a legend, forever. Only time will tell to what extent, but all of this is out of our hands, and hers.

The debate now screaming throughout the Internets is the question: Why should Amy be included in The Big 5, complicating it to The Big 6 (a much less of a rounded number)? What makes Amy deserving of such a legendary title when her musical weight is still not as obvious as those who came before her? The argument stands strong from both sides, and the main point against her inclusion is that, yeah, she was by no means as influential as any of the other artists we have already spoken about here. But my vote is a definite “yes, let’s put her in”. I feel strongly about this because she is a much bigger and more popular star than any of the lesser 27 members who missed The Big List, and she doesn’t deserve to be lost among them. And while The Big Stars may seem bigger, you have to remember how much of this stardom escalated after their deaths, the consequence of Amy’s still being uncertain. And when you compare her to the likes of, say, Kurt Cobain, it isn’t that far off. Nirvana’s peak was 1991, Kurt died 3 years later. Amy’s peak was 2006, dying 5 years later. It's not that different. Further more, both of these artists technically only had 2 successful studio albums (Bleach wasn't commercially successful, Incesticide was a b-side album, Unplugged was live) and yet it was Amy’s final album which gained her the most recognition, which proves her time was far from up. Another interesting point was that Spin magazine’s music editor Charles Aaron was quoted years ago as saying "Amy Winehouse was the Nirvana moment for all these women”, which is extremely interesting in context of recent events. And then if you compare her to, say, Brian Jones, who’s peak had most definitely come and gone, you might even say she deserves it more than him. And finally, by very definition, you cannot deny the pure rockstar power Amy embodied. Not by genre, given, but by her lifestyle, as she was as insane and as self-dangerous as all of them - if not then more so.

There are no official rules to The Big Members of The 27 Club, only a public debate that doesn’t turn into a voting system but rather gets decided after time. But seeing as most publications including The Guardian; TIME and Forbes have already placed her at the top, I feel I can say with all clarity: Amy Winehouse, welcome as The 6th Big Member of The 27 Club. You are now a legend among legends, my girl, and you will be missed greatly.

The 27 Club Conclusion

In times of a big celebrity death, I am always reminded of the insensitivity a large portion of the human race has. While the majority of Tweets and Facebook posts I have read were saddened by the musical loss, there will always be those who feel a need to poke fun at the situation. Almost immediately, I heard Amy being labeled an idiot: a junkie who brought it upon herself and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The jokes about “Re-hab” this and “No, no, no” that were as tasteless as they were far too obvious, and not really funny if you think about it. I mean, I did hear some funny ones, but I hardly feel like this is the place.

I am reminded of the recent passing of one Ryan Dunn, that crazy guy from Jackass. Everyone was quick to point fingers at his drunk driving, calling him a fool as if he deserved his early passing at age 34. It is here where I must remind you that dying from addiction, suicide or any type of misbehaviour is a no less tragic than your usual ways to go. People who loved, and people who were loved, are left behind. Families and friends still mourn and feel the pain without the need of heartless kids who have no idea what or who they are talking about. I have lost a friend to cocaine overdose, and I have come to realise there are just certain people in the world who are special. People we should envy more than frown upon, who lived fast and died young. These people are in many ways better than you. While you play it safe and make sure you don’t misstep onto something that might hurt you, you end up dying anyway, even if it is considered a “safe” way to die. But the minority of whom run with flailing arms and voices screaming, unafraid of death and willing to take it head-on, truly understand the thrill and blessing we have with this life. And that is nothing to look down upon. Particularly in the entertainment business, this is even more important, as their whole lives become a source of interest to us. And I for one believe that the entertainment industry is the most important industry in the world. Whilst it's overrated in the way we place these normal human beings on pedestals, it is underrated in the way that we forget how much we NEED these people to escape the 9-5 mundane life we otherwise experience. And the truth is: you know who they are, they don’t know who you are, and they have achieved more than you ever will. So who is the real loser here? The known who dies? Or the unknown who has a weightless opinion just like everyone else?

However, there was one more intelligent remark that was less frequent but still floating around in the air of this news. It was the fact that the attention on the star’s death overshadowed the mass murdering by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway. The day before Amy died, this man placed a bomb in Oslo which killed 7 people, and then 2 hours later (disguised in a police uniform), he traveled to the Utøya island and opened fire on a youth summer camp, killing up to 80 people, mostly teenagers. This is horrific by any opinion, and one could never say that Amy’s death was anywhere near this magnitude. However, I am reminded of the quote “The Death Of One Is A Tragedy, The Death Of Millions Is Just A Statistic” which is very applicable here. It all depends on what is more important to you: Politics or Entertainment. Neither choice is more right or wrong, but I personally lean towards the latter. My reasoning is as follows: while more deaths had occurred in Norway, I never think of Norway and have only given them a thought now due to this terrible massacre. I had never even heard of Oslo or Utøya, had you? Amy Winehouse, on the other hand, crossed my mind fairly often, I’d say at least every month when I visited Camden; when her face was in the newspaper; when her song came on the radio; or just when I felt like some great Soul Pop. She was in my brain, as she was in yours

I think if we wish to focus on those terrible acts of violence in Norway, it is only fair to then spare a thought for those millions who have lost their lives in war in recent times, all over the world, even right now. And these deaths were not from the hands of “mad men” but our nations’ leaders. What is the fucking difference? I don’t like thinking about these things. Because while politics or religion is hardly ever filled with good news, entertainment is designed to give us hope and make us smile, allowing us to latch onto a feeling someone created for us, showing us the beauty in life the newspapers choose not to. Think of all the people who fell in love with their partner for the first time while listening to Amy; the people who fucked each other for the first time while listening to Amy; the couples who use Amy’s music to represent their relationship; or even to dance to at their wedding. I mean, the last thing I want to do is undermine the Norway murders, as they will certainly be placed in history somewhere, much like those High School shoot-ups, terrible diseases or natural disasters that have left scars in our psyche. But another incident just like this will take place very soon (mark my words) while a death like Amy's only happens once every 17 years or so, as we have just discussed. Think about it: music has the potential to touch millions in a much more positive way; to bring people together in song and dance; or yes, even save a life which had nowhere else to turn. What it comes down to is that we have lost an artist who gave us joy and distractions, and for this reason we cannot place an incident that will be lost among all the other mass tragedies, above the death of one artist who will forever be remembered for her contribution to music. We must mourn both, for both are a loss for the world.

But I guess all of this opposition, questioning, and even the nastiness and cruel joking, is human nature. People like to think they are funny when, in time of a famous death, they are shocking and blunt, brushing off a troubled individual as someone less than human. And I guess that is your right as a contributor to the global consciousness. Nobody can stop you, and there are many more just like you. But know this: if you have disregarded Amy Winehouse’s death as a joke, I hope your entire family and future kids die as crackheads as soon as possible, all the while the whole fucking world laughs at your misfortune. And believe me, they will. Goodbye.

Some Lesser Known 27 Club Members Like Robert Johnson and Richey James Edwards

Robert Johnson
May 8, 1911 – August 16, 1938
One of the most criminally overlooked members who influenced almost every blues songwriter ever, murdered by strychnine poison. Often considered the very first member as well as one of the best cases of someone selling their soul to Satan.

Ron "Pigpen" McKernan
September 8, 1945 – March 8, 1973
One of the founding members of The Grateful Dead, playing keyboard and dying of gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

Dave Alexander
June 3, 1947 – February 10, 1975
Bassist for The Stooges, dying from pancreatitis due to excessive drinking.

Pete Ham
27 April 1947 – 24 April 1975
Good friends of The Beatles and prime songwriter for Badfinger, Pete hung himself due to personal and financial issues.

D. Boon
April 1, 1958 – December 23, 1985
Guitarist and vocalist for Minutemen, dying from a broken neck in a car accdient.

Pete de Freitas
2 August 1961–14 June 1989
Drummer for Echo & the Bunnymen, died due to motorcycle accident.

Richey James Edwards
22 December 1967 - 1 February 1995 (presumed deceased)
One of the highly debated should-be-shouln’t-be members of The Big 27’s, Richey was the guitarist and lyricist from The Manic Street Preahcers. The main reason for his exclusion was that he just went missing, and was never found again. I wrote more about Richey on my blog The Top 20 Naughtiest Musicians, Ever.

Jeremy Michael Ward
May 5, 1976 – May 25, 2003
Sound technician and vocal operator for The Mars Volta, dying from heroin overdose less than a month before their debut was released.

Bryan Ottoson
1978 - 2005 (not famous or talented enough to have his own wikipedia article)
Guitarist from American Head Charge, died from an accidental prescription drug overdose.

There are many more, most of which have been noted here.

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