The 27 Club gets a new member; Amy Winehouse

The 27 Club gets a new member; Amy Winehouse David Wissel ‘12 Rock music has always had its myths and legends, such as Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off a bat, Elvis still being alive and of course, Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” being a satanic message when played backwards. Most of these stories are exaggerated tall tales, but one long standing myth shows some basis in reality; the infamous 27 Club. The 27 Club refers to the unusually high amount of influential musicians who died at the age of 27. Generally included in this group are: Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and most recently, Amy Winehouse. These musicians are not only linked by the age of their death, but by how they epitomized “Sex, drugs, and rock n roll”, the great impact they had on music, and the mysterious circumstances regarding their death. The causes of death of all the members of the 27 Club are still up for debate as far as many are concerned. Perhaps the most disputed case is the death of Kurt Cobain, the front man of the Seattle grunge band, Nirvana. The original explanation is that Kurt escaped from the rehab center he was at due to a previous suicide attempt, broke in to his Seattle home, shot up a lethal dose of heroin and shot himself in the head with a shotgun. This was the generally accepted cause of death until Tom Grant, a private investigator hired by Courtney Love (Cobain’s Wife) to find Cobain after his escape from rehab, disputed the police explanation of what had happened. Grant argued that Cobain did not commit suicide, but was in fact murdered. Several reasons for this accusation are how Cobain’s toxicology report showed had a lethal dose of heroin in his system, which would have made him unable to pick up a shotgun and pull the trigger. No finger prints were found on the trigger according to a police report. Additionally, after grant had studied the suicide note left at the scene, he determined it was not a suicide note, but in fact a letter explaining his intentions to leave Courtney Love, Nirvana and Seattle. Some believe Tom Grants accusations, while most believe that Cobain did in fact commit suicide. Those included in the 27 club forever changed music as we know it today. Jimi Hendrix had the biggest influence on rock music today, influencing every genre from funk to metal, and is cited by many guitar players and critics as the greatest guitar player of all time. In fact, Hendrix was ranked number one in the Rolling Stone’s 100 greatest guitarists of all time. He is known for changing the style of electric guitar playing from that of an essentially an amplified acoustic guitar to a separate and distinct instrument. Hendrix’s influence can be heard in the guitar solos of today’s metal guitarists such as Kirk Hammett or even the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kurt Cobain was coined as the leader of “Generation X”, or the generation after the baby boomers, even though he denied this during his life. Nirvana and Cobain brought alternative rock out of the underground and into the mainstream, bringing on the grunge movement and stealing the popularity from metal bands such as Metallica and Pantera of the early 90’s. Soon after the death of Amy Winehouse, controversy began to surround the praise she was receiving for her musical career and life. Many were critical of Winehouse’s status as a role model, and believed that she should be condemned for her drug use and reckless behavior. The same was true for other members such as Cobain, Hendrix or Morrison. They were all seen as leaders of their various generations by the youth, but by adults they were seen as a corrupting influence, bringing drug use and other social ills to society. Whether you see these various musicians as great radical leaders challenging the social norms of their time, or as mere drug addicts who corrupted the youths of America, there is no denying that these people forever changed music as we know it and even the culture of this country.