Better to Burn Out Than to Fade Away



Haley Yarber, Staff Writer

When you picture yourself at the age of 27, what do you see? A white picket fence and a minivan in the driveway? Sitting in your mom’s basement playing video games? How about lying in a casket six feet underground?

Dying at the age of 27 almost seems surreal. At that time in your life, you should be settling down with your partner or finally getting that promotion at work.

Several famous musicians have died at the age of 27, including Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, and many more. These artists make up what is better known as “The 27 Club.” The phrase itself garnered widespread popularity after Cobain’s death in 1994. Fans quickly linked his age to other famous musicians—Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, who passed away at this age as well. The aftermath of their deaths greatly affected not only their friends and families but their fans as well. The knowledge of their passing came as a great tragedy to all of us.

What is “The 27 Club”? The term began being used around the deaths of Joplin and Hendrix, who were both near their peak of popularity when they died. Some people believe that the number 27 isn’t unlucky, but rather a time in these musicians’ lives where their risk-taking steadily increased. Many musicians tend to become famous in their early twenties, the age where reckless behavior is at its highest. Subsequently, many of their irresponsible decisions have lead to their death.

What’s that smell? It Smells Like Teen Spirit. Kurt Cobain is one of the most well-known singers from the 90’s. While the band’s records were soaring to the top of the charts, Cobain’s personal life was in turmoil.

His depression started at the age of nine when his parents divorced. Shortly after, he began experimenting with harmful substances. Unfortunately, things only got worse.

On April 8th, 1994, Cobain was found with a self-inflicted bullet wound to the mouth as well as enough heroin in his system to kill three people. His body had been lying there for days; he was believed to have died 3 days prior. He was 27 years of age.

Amy Winehouse stepped onto the scene as a soulful singer out of the United Kingdom. She was a Grammy Award-winning English singer-songwriter. Her 2006 track “Rehab” discussed her refusal to receive treatment for substance abuse.

Winehouse began to spiral out of control as she had multiple episodes of public intoxication. Ironically, Winehouse was hospitalized several times for drug rehabilitation.

On July 23rd, 2011, Winehouse died of alcohol poisoning. She had a blood alcohol level five times the legal limit, which proved to be fatal. She was 27 years of age.

The eeriness of 27 has inspired decades of theorizing in music circles. Is it the age of the psychic anomaly? The age your body no longer tolerates your addictive habits? The age that fate decides to do you in, strike you down with an illness or wrap your car around a telephone pole? We only really know what happens to the 27s after 27. Neil Young once said, “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.” Later, this same sentence was found in a suicide note written by Kurt Cobain. Many of these artists were young visionaries who left bold marks on the world, but didn’t live long enough to fade into mediocrity. There’s no telling what they could’ve done, but now, all we can do is be grateful for what we’ve got.