Dead Stars Club – 50s is the New 27

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Dead Stars Club – 50s is the New 27
by Temerity Forthright

The “27 Club” is a group of music stars and actors who died tragically at the age of 27. The sheer number of people on this list staggering.

The infamous club had an influx of inductees in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the height of the drug and alcohol fueled rock and roll era. But the list goes back to the 1890s and has added several new members in 2016.

The term “27 Club” was coined after the death of Nirvana’s 27-year-old lead singer Curt Cobain in 1994. The first person generally recognized as part of the 27 Club was composer, pianist, and conductor Alexandre Levy, who died at age 27 of unknown causes in 1892. The most recent member of the 27 Club is “Star Trek” actor Anton Yelchin, who died in June of 2016 when he was crushed by his own car.

The trifecta of famous singers who died at age 27 was Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin in 1970 and Jim Morrison in 1971. Their deaths were all were related to drug overdoses.

A study published in the December 2011 British Medical Journal concluded that there was not an increased risk for musicians dying at the age of 27. They did, however, conclude that there was an increased risk of musicians dying in their 20s and 30s, presumably because of their lifestyles, but that the age of 27 had no particular significance.

Tell that to the following well-known “27 Club” alums:
 Joseph Merrick – the real-life Elephant Man (self-inflicted gunshot – 1890)
 Alexandre Levy – composer, pianist, and conductor (cause unknown – 1892)
 Nat Jaffe – swing jazz pianist (high blood pressure – 1945)
 Rudy Lewis – vocalist for “The Drifters” (drug overdose – 1964)
 Brian Jones – “Rolling Stones” co-founder (accidental drowning – 1969)
 Ron “Pigpen” McKernan – “Grateful Dead” founder (gastrointestinal hemorrhage – 1973)
 Pete Ham – lead singer of “Badfinger” (suicide by hanging – 1975)
 Chris Bell – singer/songwriter for “Big Star” (car accident – 1978)
 Jean-Michael Basquait – painter and graffiti artist (drug overdose – 1988)
 Pete de Freitas – “Echo & the Bunnymen” drummer (motorcycle accident – 1989)
 Chris Austin and Joey Cigainero – members of Reba McEntire’s band (plane crash – 1991)
 Mia Zapata – lead singer of the “Gits” (murdered – 1993)
 Kristen Pfaff – guitarist for “Hole” and “Janitor Joe” (drug overdose – 1994)
 Freaky Tah – member of “Lost Boyz” (murdered – 1999)
 Sean Patrick McCabe – lead singer of “Ink & Dagger” (asphyxiation – 2000)
 Jonathan Brandis – film and TV actor (suicide by hanging – 2003)
 Amy Winehouse – jazz singer/songwriter (alcohol poisoning – 2011)
 Thomas Fekete – guitarist for “Surfer Blood” (cancer – 2016)

Now there seems to be a new club forming. Look at the following list of famous people who died in their fifties. The recent death of 80’s rock icon George Michael at age 53 seems to have sealed the tomb on my theory that the “Fatal 50s” is the new “27 Club.”

Here are the members of the new “Fatal Fifties” club:
 Herman “Babe” Ruth – major league baseball player (cancer – 1948)
 Humphrey Bogart – actor (cancer – 1957)
 Errol Flynn – actor (heart attack – 1959)
 Clark Gable – actor (coronary blood clot – 1960)
 Jackie Robinson – major league baseball player (heart attack – 1972)
 Steve McQueen – actor (cardiac arrest – 1980)
 Grace Kelly – actress/princess (car crash – 1982)
 Andy Warhol – Pop Art pioneer (complications following surgery – 1987)
 Roy Orbison – singer/songwriter (heart attack – 1988)
 Jim Henson – Muppet creator (heart failure – 1990)
 Michael Landon – actor (cancer – 1991)
 Bill Bixby – actor (cancer – 1993)
 Frank Zappa – musician (cancer – 1993)
 Raul Julia – actor (stroke – 1994)
 Jerry Garcia – “Grateful Dead” guitarist (heart attack – 1995)
 John Denver – folk singer/songwriter (plane crash – 1997)
 Tammy Wynette – country singer (blood clot – 1998)
 Linda McCartney – photographer/Paul McCartney’s wife (cancer – 1998)
 Gene Siskel – movie critic (complications from brain cancer surgery – 1999)
 Madeline Kahn – actress (cancer – 1999)
 George Harrison – former Beatle (lung cancer – 2001)
 Robert Kardashian – OJ Simpson’s lawyer (cancer – 2003)
 Barry White – soul singer (kidney disease – 2003)
 Rick James – punk funk singer (pulmonary & cardiac failure – 2004)
 John Ritter – actor (aortic dissection – 2003)
 Christopher Reeve – “Superman” actor (cardiac arrest – 2004)
 Luther Vandross – singer/songwriter (heart attack – 2005)
 Bernie Mac – comedian/actor (lung disease – 2008)
 Tim Russert – TV journalist (heart attack – 2008)
 Michael Jackson – King of Pop (sleeping medication overdose – 2009)
 Patrick Swayze – “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” actor (cancer – 2009)
 Randy “Macho Man” Savage – WWF wrestler (heart disease – 2011)
 Steve Jobs – Apple CEO (cancer – 2011)
 James Gandolfini – “Sopranos” actor (heart attack – 2013)
 Sam Simon – “Simpsons” co-creator (cancer – 2015)
 Prince – singer/songwriter (drug overdose – 2016)
 George Michael – singer/songwriter (heart failure – 2016)

The average age of the people on this list is 53, the same age George Michael was when he died on Christmas Day.

These famous icons all died too soon. But they say only the good die young.

So what is it about being in your fifties that is so fatal while life expectancy has increased? How could all these people have survived their risky twenties and thirties, only to succumb to an untimely death in their fifties? The two most common causes of death are cancer and heart disease – both treatable, and in some cases, curable.

Many people thought they had escaped the “27 Club” only to find out they were caught up in the “Fatal Fifties” curse.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. It wouldn’t surprise me to see His Obamaness added to this list since he’s 55 years old and will probably be getting blow….uh, snorting blow as soon as he leaves the WH. Although I must add, I don’t consider him a star (but you know he is in his own mind)!

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