The 56 Club Just Doesn’t Sound As Sad

Brace yourselves, music fans: 27 is not the age at which a majority of musicians die.

Someone has gone through and done the math and made a graph examining the age a musician was when he or she died and found the average age to be 56, with 239 musicians out of more than 11,000 named taking their final bow at that age.

There are notable names that died before or after attaining membership in the so-called 27 Club, including Otis Redding, Gram Parsons and Nick Drake, who all died at 26, and Tim Buckley, Shannon Hoon and the awesomely named Zenon de Fleur, who died at 28.

Dianna Theadora Kenny, a professor of psychology and music at the University of Sydney, recently took the time to examine the age of musicians who died between 1950 and 2010 and determined that only 144, or 1.3 percent of the 11,054 musicians included in the data, died at 27. By comparison, 1.2 percent or 128, died at the age of 26, while 1.4 percent, or 153, died at the age of 28.

 

Among those in the largest bucket, aged 56 at their demise, include Tammy Wynette, Johnny Ramone, Mimi Farina and Chris LeDoux.

“So why isn’t there a 56 Club or a 28 Club,” she asks. “Is it because Brian Jones (drowning), Jimi Hendrix (aspirated vomitus from barbiturate overdose), Janis Joplin (heroin overdose), Jim Morrison (drug-induced heart attack), Kurt Cobain (suicide by gunshot) and Amy Winehouse (alcohol poisoning) all died aged 27? All were tortured souls who reached pop stardom and died tragically at their zenith. Perhaps we need to consider a change of name for this group — from the 27 Club to ‘The Tragic Six’ or ‘The Tragic Seven’ if we include Robert Johnson?”

She also asked how many musicians would have to see the curtain drop at the age of 27 to justify the concept of a 27 Club and determined that “a minimum of 1.5 percent to 1.6 percent of deaths in the population need to occur at age 27” for the club to represent a statistically significant portion of the population. “In other words, the actual number of deaths is significantly less than the number that would need to die at 27 if the 27 Club hypothesis were correct based on numbers alone.”

 

Kenny’s making a name for herself in the world of musician deaths: she’s also examined whether pop musicians die at a younger age than their non-musician contemporaries.

 

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