Gone Before Thirty: A curse or an honour?
Did death create time? To grow the things that it could kill?
Certainly, if one were to talk about the music industry and its notoriously famous “gone before thirty”
The untimely deaths of famous musicians have often been connected with uneasy lives and psychological issues, with a lot of physical neglect in between, usually due to drink or drug abuse, or both. The phrase “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse”, emphasizes how unfulfilled promises have always been fascinating and intriguing for many of us. Here is a list of the talented musicians who died young before the age of thirty, not knowing what their genius might have given to the world, had they lived longer than time allowed.
1. Johnny Ace:
John Marshall Alexander, Jr.( Born:June 9, 1929 ), was an American rhythm and blues singer. After touring for a year, Ace had been performing in Houston,on Christmas Day,1954. During a break between sets, he was playing with a .22 caliber revolver. Members of his band said he did this often, sometimes shooting at roadside signs from their car. It was reported later that Ace killed himself playing Russian roulette. Curtis Tillman, however, who witnessed the event, said, “I will tell you exactly what happened! Johnny Ace had been drinking and he had this little pistol he was waving around the table and someone said ‘Be careful with that thing…’ and he said ‘It’s okay! Gun’s not loaded…see?’ and pointed it at himself with a smile on his face and ‘Bang!’—sad, sad thing. Big Mama ran out of the dressing room yelling ‘Johnny Ace just killed himself!”. Ace was aged 25.
2.Brian Jones :
Lewis Brian Hopkin Jones( Born: 28 February 1942) was the founder of “The Rolling Stones”. Considered as the creator of a narcissism that would become standard for pop stars and rock stars, this radiant, multi-talented musician who attempted – albeit disastrously – to mix heavy drug use with his musical devotion, died under debatable circumstances on the 3rd of July, 1969
Jones gained the admiration of many fellow musicians during his short career, including the Beatles. His drug and alcohol abuse, however, continued to spiral out of control. He became estranged from “The Rolling Stones” and ultimately, was no longer a member of the band he initially formed. On the 3rd of July, he was found face down in a swimming pool, drowning being the cause of his death. He was aged 27.
Jimi Hendrix ( Born: November 27, 1942) was an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. From his flashy outfits, to his left-handed guitar, nothing about Jimi Hendrix spelt “ordinary”. Hendrix was turned down by The Rolling Stones, but was introduced to Chas Chandler and they went on to form “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”, a rock band that would transform the genre unequivocally. Released in 1967, the group’s first single, “Hey Joe” was an immediate hit in Britain soon to be followed by other gems such as “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cried Mary.”
In 1969, Hendrix performed at the legendary musical event, “Woodstock”. His rock interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner” is still looked upon as a specimen of sheer genius and confirmed his status as a glorious musician. One year later, Jimi Hendrix was found dead after overdosing on pills and choking on his own vomit (asphyxiation). The full circumstances which led to his death, however, have never been fully uncovered. Hendrix was 27.
Janis Lyn Joplin, ( Born : January 19, 1943 ) was an American singer-songwriter who first rose to fame in the late 1960s as the lead vocalist of the psychedelic acid-rock band Big Brother. She was celebrated for her prevailing vocals during a male-dominated rock era and was a spellbinding contradiction, overriding and intensely vulnerable, loud yet shy, stylized and undeviating, unconquerable and masochistic.
Growing up, the “Me and Bobby McGee” hitmaker was , by her own account , “the most despondently unhappy high school female in Texas”. She enjoyed whiskey and heroin; the latter eventually leading to her premature death. Joplin performed at the Woodstock Festival after indulging in several shots of heroin. In 1970, she cleaned up her act and remained drug free for a short time, but her unshakeable habit reappeared. Janis Joplin died from an apparent heroin overdose in October 1970. Joplin was aged 27.
James Douglas Morrison, (Born: December 8, 1943) rose to fame as the lead vocalist of the rock band, “The Doors”. Morrison excelled throughout his education, having had an IQ of 149. He was a troubled soul though, eventually becoming so alienated from his parents that he would later state that they were dead.
The Doors were unstoppable in the late 60’s. But this was short lived as Morrison’s drug and alcohol abuse started taking a toll on him. He was frequently drugged or drunk, regularly showing up late for live performances. Morrison’s drinking, shenanigans and drug-taking severely hampered his ability to hit the high notes. On 3 July 1971, Morrison was found dead under mysterious circumstances, drug overdose being the most likely cause.
Another version of this story has him waking up, coughing up blood, taking a bath, and then having the heart attack. Other rumors included him faking his death and his death happening at a Paris night club, and his body being taken to the apartment. But the information surrounding his death is still a mystery as an autopsy was never performed. Morrison was aged 27.
6. Cliff Burton:
Clifford Lee “Cliff” Burton ( Born: February 10, 1962) is best known as the bass guitarist for thrash metal band Metallica. During the European leg of the band’s tour in 1986, the band complained that the sleeping cubicles on their tour bus were unsatisfactory and uncomfortable. To decide who received pick of the bunks, band member Kirk Hammett and Burton drew cards. On the evening of September 26, 1986, Burton won the game, thereby getting the first choice of bunk and pointed at Hammett and exclaimed “I want your bunk!” Hammett replied “Fine, take my bunk, I’ll sleep up front, it’s probably better up there anyway”. Burton was sleeping on his bunk,on September 27 ,when, according to the driver, the bus skidded off the road and flipped onto the grass in Kronoberg County. Burton was thrown through the window of the bus, which fell on top of him, resulting in his death. Burton was aged 24.
Kurt Donald Cobain (Born: February 20, 1967) was an American musician, best known as the lead singer, guitarist, and primary songwriter of the rock band Nirvana. In an era where rock music was all about long hair and leather jackets, Cobain opted for sport short hair and shaggy clothing.
Nirvana attracted critical acclaim when they took Michael Jackson off the number one slot in the Billboard music charts with their renowned hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.
Despite the stellar success that followed suit, frontman Cobain battled with deep depression and extreme cynicism. Cobain’s mother even reportedly once said to her son, “Don’t join that stupid club.” (referring to the league of musicians who died at the age of twenty seven).
After repeated suicide attempts, Cobain agreed to undergo a detox program at the behest of an intervention called for by his wife, Courtney Love. The first night of his stay, however, Cobain walked outside to have a cigarette, and climbed over a six-foot-high fence to leave the facility. Cobain went missing for a few days and on 8 April 1994 , he was found dead at his home with a shotgun wound to the head. He was aged 27. A note was found, that stated that Cobain had not “felt the excitement of listening to as well as creating music, along with really writing … for too many years now”. A high concentration of heroin and traces of diazepam were also found in his body. Cobain’s body had been lying there for days; the coroner’s report estimated Cobain to have died on April 5, 1994
Amy Jade Winehouse (Born:14 September 1983) was an English singer and songwriter known for her deep vocals and soul singing. Amy Winehouse joined the unfortunate “club” of famous musicians who died at age 27. As paradox would have it, Amy shot to fame owing to her hit single Rehab which included the lyrics “They tried to make me go to rehab but I said ‘no, no, no.’” Winehouse continuously struggled with drug addiction, finally going against her famous words and checking into rehab in 2011. After a brief stint, Amy checked herself out and began a new European tour. Unfortunately, sobriety was short lived for Amy. During her first show after rehab, the Serbian audience booed her because she was too drunk to continue her concert with a video of the same going viral on the internet. Subsequently, her tour was cancelled to give her time to recuperate. Just a few weeks later, however, Winehouse was discovered dead at her home in London, alcohol poisoning suspected to be the cause of her death. In 2008, her assistant exposed a worrisome revelation, “Amy reckoned she would join the 27 Club of rock stars who died at that age. She told me, ‘I have a feeling I’m gonna die young.’”
Neil Young once said , “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, a quote that would later be found in a suicide note written by Kurt Cobain. Fame seems to be momentary, but for these musicians it seems so unjust their time was cut far too short. Think of the music they would have created if they’d been granted only a few more years. Many people find it particularly strange how many of these cases are still unanswered, can these tragedies ever be fully explained, understood, or fully accepted?
Is the “gone before thirty” tag a badge of honour or a curse? Or is it a mere coincidence? We may never know. But the music is in you , my friend. The music is in you.