Forever Club 27: Another Look
The 27 Club is a notional roll of remembrance, celebrating popular musicians who died at the age of twenty-seven. “It originated with an unsupported claim of a ‘statistical spike’ for the death of musicians at that age, but this has been repeatedly disproved by research.”
Common knowledge among rock fans and non-rock fans is who died young, tragically young, a potential not fully realized. Alas, what might have been?
This list I assert can probably be recited by a supermajority of people on the planet (well at least the music and popular culture fans). Here they are: Brian Jones, Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis, Kurt, and Winehouse. Each and every one never blew out 28 candles. All dead at the age of 27. Part of the ‘never trust anyone over the age of 30’ ethos – an anthem or motto these musical genius' took to heart.
Forever Club 27 got me thinking about more recent deaths among less widely known popular musicians. I looked back 7 years from 2017, if for no other reason than to stick to the 7 in 27. As an avid Obit reader I look forward with some perversion to the NY Times daily Obituaries and somewhat defiantly, with a slight dose of panache and elitism, I read my print NY Times in the NYC subway. Showing off my ability to fold the paper and get a good read even though the subway is packed with riders. Secretly I envy the IPad and IPhone readers, but nothing replaces the tactile quality of newsprint and yeah, I like vinyl too!
But the internet does have its uses. Here’s an example of what the internet does best, Google a theme and viola there’s the information.
Achik Spin - April 17, 2010 - Road accident - Member of Spin - 27 years, 290 days
Amy Winehouse - July 23, 2011 - Alcohol poisoning - Singer-songwriter - 27 years, 312 days
Richard Turner - August 11, 2011 - Cardiac arrest - Trumpet player, collaborator with Friendly Fires - 27 years, 12 days
Nicole Bogner - January 6, 2012 - Undisclosed illness - Singer for Visions of Atlantis - 27 years, 290 days
Sahara Davenport - October 1, 2012 - Heart failure - Drag queen, singer, television personality, and classically trained dancer - 27 years, 289 days
Soroush "Looloosh" Farazmand - November 11, 2013 - Murdered - Guitarist for the Yellow Dogs - 27 years, 11 days
Slađa Guduraš - December 10, 2014 - Road accident - Bosnian pop singer and actress - 27 years, 213 days
Tomas Lowe - February 13, 2016 - Road accident - Bassist for Viola Beach - 27 years, 70 days
Thomas Fekete - May 31, 2016 - Cancer - Guitarist for Surfer Blood - 27 years, 335 days
James Laurence - January 30, 2017 - Unknown - Record producer, one-half of Friendzone - 27 years
My Musical Discovery – I hear dead people.
Other than Ms. Winehouse, I had never heard of these musical artists. Do you know them? Their music?
And so I begin a musical journey of discovery to find out, and to listen to a couple of these dead at 27 recording and performing musical artists. My journey now takes me on the Spotify caravan.
And to my surprise I discovered new artists, and other than the fact they are dead, they have made a new fan.
Visions of Atlantis – An Austrian band whose concept is inspired by the lost city of Atlantis and a whole lot of Richard Wagner. Their vision marries symphonic power with metal – it smacks more of a rock opera, with male and female voices dueling for primacy. Hello Der Ring des Nibelungen! Mezzo-soprano Nicole Bogner joined soon after the band’s inception in 2000 and departed this mortal plane in late 2005.
Her soulful operatic voice definitely provided the band’s classical operatic tone. Over the years this band has had a revolving door of talent, with members leaving citing internal differences, health problems, etc. And these line-up changes even meant welcoming back some of the previous members. A constant theme was employing sopranos. Look out Robert Plant and Freddy Mercury. I learned a new subgenre term “symphonic metal”.
Wikipedia has pages and pages on symphonic metal worth a look. Check out bands like Therion “Secret of the Runes” (2001), one of the best and most original symphonic metal bands from Sweden. From Germany we have Haggard with “Awaking the Centuries” (2000). And to round out my trilogy Rhapsody “Symphony of Enchanted Lands” (1998)
Viola Beach – this band hits a quadfecta – formed in 2013 in Warrington, Cheshire, UK this indie rock quartet released their single “Boys That Sing”, a week after all four founding members, including bassist Tomas Lowe, and their manager Craig Tarry, all died when their car fell from a bridge in Södertälje, Sweden. A Richie Valens moment if there ever was one. Their discography is a short one, with their album and singles all posthumously released. Viola Beach’s premature exit surely make them a curiosity. The band’s Facebook page is a curiosity as well. It is as if time stood still - check out their ‘Tour Dates’-
No upcoming events.
Track Viola Beach on Bandsintown and never miss a show.
Surfer Blood, Another indie rock band, this one from West Palm Beach, Florida. Surfer Blood released a critically acclaimed debut single, “Swim” which was named the Number 37 best track on Pitchfork’s 100 Best Songs of 2009. Surfer Blood jumped off to a promising start with standout live performances at SXSW 2010 and the ATP music festival later that year. Original guitarist, Thomas Fekete left the band in 2015 after the band’s third album, 1000 Palms. Fekete played on their first album, Astro Coast (2010) and its follow-up, Pythons (2013) as well. Diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, Thomas died on May 31, 2016.
Swim reminds me of the Beach Boys, harmonizing vocals, a crisp guitar and that quirky indie melodic phrasing. The band continues to make news and I enjoyed their LP of Covers – while not Jack, nor Ginger nor Eric, they do justice to World of Pain and the vocal harmonies of the Chad & Jeremy classic “A Summer Song” is a surprisingly jaunty cover. Thomas will be missed, but this band will be around for this fan to enjoy.
James Laurence, one half of California hip-hop duo Friendzone, died earlier this year. As a producer and performer his legacy is extensive and is heard everyday on the radio, in recordings and in the musical notes and lyrics of a growing musical movement.
Pitchfork sizes up the groups musical output, “Friendzone released their first mixtapes in 2010. The duo went on to produce A$AP Rocky’s “Fashion Killa” (from his major label debut LONG.LIVE.A$AP), as well as tracks for Main Attrakionz, Antwon, Yung Lean, and others. Their lone studio LP, DX, arrived in 2013. In addition to his production, Laurence made the artwork for Clams Casino’s 2011 Rainforest EP.”
Laurence left behind a discography whose influence has rippled across hip-hop and electronic music. Hip Hop and Electronic music is a genre I am unfamiliar with. So Laurence ensnared my interest and using him as a jumping off point, I set about my musical education in the music he influenced and the music he made. I encourage the reader to discover Laurence, the man, the music and the influencer. Maybe it is my age and biases but the softness and lyrical quality of this cloud rap finds me listening more than once. I think I can finally begin to understand the Hip Hop rap world. After all, the Grammy’s this year celebrate this universe – this genre has dominated the musical scene, surpassing Rock and Roll as the most listened to musical genre – I better start to get with it man, the train has left the station and I better meet in down the tracks. I, for one, am excited to shoot the dice and jump on board.
Winding down and excited to expand my Obituary Playlist, I have to say, the discovery of music, old familiar music and new artists with new genres is exciting and necessary to keep music alive and relevant.
After all it is not about dying at 27, but about finding old artists, the Jimi’s, the Kurt’s, the Amy’s, and new ones too. The Laurence’s’, the Fekete’s, you get the point. And just to make your head spin, it ain’t 27 but 56, the age when most pop stars and rockers take their dirt naps. Take a look, this statistician will make your head spin. Age 56 had the highest frequency of deaths. So to you rockers between the age of 27 and 56! Look out if you are getting close to your fifties. Father time is waiting for you mid-way.