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27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse Hardcover – November 12, 2013

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27: A History of the 27 Club through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse + The 27 Club: Why Age 27 Is Important
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rolling Stones cofounder Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool; Jimi Hendrix overdosed and choked on his own vomit in a London hotel; Janis Joplin overdosed on heroin; Jim Morrison died of heart failure while in the bathtub of a Paris hotel room; Kurt Cobain committed suicide by shooting himself; Amy Winehouse drank herself to death. All are members of the notorious 27 Club: they all died prematurely young at the age of 27. Their stories are fascinating pieces of music trivia, but Sounes (Fab, 2010) is interested in why they behaved the way they did. What specifically made them so self-destructive? (Sounes includes an appendix of an additional 44 members of the 27 Club, including the bluesman Robert Johnson.) Although only Cobain deliberately committed suicide, Sounes argues that all six killed themselves. All were intelligent and talented, he maintains, but most had personality problems of some sort, such as depression or bipolar disorder; in addition, many were the children of divorced parents and had low self-esteem. Fans of these musicians will be intrigued and saddened by this fascinating and tragic account. --June Sawyers

Review

Praise for 27



“This fine study looks at the tragic history of the 27 Club…. Much of the book's power lies in its refusal to pander to the romantic-melancholy notion of the tortured young artist who lives fast and dies young. Instead the squalor and chaos of their everyday existence is exposed in uncompromising detail…. This book is not about more rock star mythologizing. It's about skewering the mystery of the 27-connection, by exposing its all-too-tragic reality.”—Sunday Times (UK)



“In a multi-stranded biography, Howard Sounes has set himself the task of finding a link between the lives and deaths of these six rock stars…. Sounes's masterstroke is to unearth forensic levels of detail on his subjects…. He has pulled off what could have been a tasteless project with sensitivity.”—The Times (UK)



“This book is the first time that these committee members, as it were, of the 27 Club have been buried together under the same cover…a gruesomely enjoyable read.”—The Spectator (UK)



“The 27 Club is the exclusive members-only society that music stars don't want to join. Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Brian Jones all died aged 27 and the biographer Howard Sounes uses this unhappy coincidence [to look] at the rock-star trajectory that brought them all to a premature end…. Recommend[ed].”—New Statesman (UK)



“Sounes mixes biography with investigative journalism, social science, and rock history into a work that is as engrossing as it is depressing…Though he doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to sensitive information about his subjects, he does write with a care that is refreshing for a topic that could easily devolve into ambulance chasing. Sounes, a true crime writer, is especially incisive when it comes to dispatching conspiracy theories built around many of these deaths. He captures the sad truth behind a club for which a youthful death is the only entrée.”—Publishers Weekly, 9/23/13



“If you like reading about brilliant young people destroying themselves, this is your book…Hard living started early will take its toll, and it’s not a complete coincidence they all died when they did, but it’s not a mystic number either, and Sounes disposes easily with the conspiracy theories that have collected around the dead stars.”—The Age (Australia), 9/21/13



“[Sounes] is a tenacious researcher…[He] painstakingly demolishes conspiracy theories and other forms of magical thinking.”—The Observer (UK), 8/17/13



“Sounes offers a stern corrective to the adage that it’s better to burn out than to fade away. The author takes a refreshingly skeptical view of the belief that a conspiracy accounts for the deaths of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, dismissing urban legends and murder theories to reveal the similarities among them…A compelling examination of the effects of sudden fame on mentally fragile artists.”—Kirkus Reviews, 11/1/13



“As much as one may have hoped, Sounes dissects the conspiracy theories and puts to bed the lunacy that surrounds these idols deaths. He also succeeds in producing a highly detailed, expertly researched book, with both personal family and close friend interviews, making it a tour de force private biography that belongs on both the shelves of bio fans and anyone that may have been touched by any of the included artists music.”—Huffington Post UK, 10/13/13



“Sounes delves into the lives of the ‘Big Six’…sewing the common threads they share in life and death.”—USA Today, 11/13/13

BookNews.com, December 2013

“While the book begins and ends with the story of Amy Winehouse to appeal to the younger demographic, older readers will also enjoy the depth of research and insights from the author's original interviews with friends and family of those profiled.”


Word Bookstores (Tumblr), 1/2/2014

“[A] comprehensive (but not overwhelming) history of the members of The 27 Club. Sounes writes of their lives realistically, pointing out numerous similarities in their upbringings, relationships, and behaviors that link them in their tragically early deaths. Also, there’s no glorifying of the rock star life or the ones who lived it, which makes this an especially intriguing study…A great read for any music fan or curious mind.”


WomanAroundTown.com, 12/16/2013

“While some have credited a supernatural reason for the performers’ untimely demise, Sounes presents a clear-headed evaluation, and neither judges nor idolizes the lives and deaths of the performers about whom he has written.”


Houston Press Rocks Off blog, 1/7/14

“Sounes completed an impressive list of original interviews for this book, which shed further light on area like Jim Morrison's last days in Paris, Cobain's fragile mental state, and Winehouse's seemingly insane drinking bouts.”

MediaMikes.com, 1/4/14

“For the first time the information about these six people is available all in one place combined with one person’s perspective on the events which are surprisingly similar.”

January Magazine, “Best Books of 2013,” 1/3/14

“A tragically wonderful read.”


PopMatters.Com, 1/27/14

“Make no mistake, Sounes did heavy lifting to make this book as authoritative as possible…If you want exhaustive, at times exhausting detail regarding their collective debauchery, 27 may have that kind of perverse train wreck appeal…Sounes helpfully demolishes any/all conspiracy theories, ranging from the familiar (Morrison lives!) to the far-fetched (Hendrix was murdered)… 27 also serves as a corrective of sorts for the half-assed mythologizing, particularly of Morrison and Cobain.”


John Shelton Ivany Top 21, Issue #438

“Great read! Goes into detail of past music artists that passed away at age 27.”

Milwaukee Shepherd-Expres, 4/9/2014
“So what’s behind the curse of 27? Sounes explores the lives and deaths of the six most prominent casualties.”



“Fans of these musicians will be intrigued and saddened by this fascinating and tragic account.”—Booklist, 11/15/13

“Without falling into the trap of sentimentality, Sounes also looks at the aftermath of these tragic losses through new interviews with family, friends, and former bandmates…[Sounes is] a good researcher…Despite the morbid subject, this sharply written and insightful title should have a home in any public or music library, where it will likely yield high circ counts.”—Library Journal, STARRED Review, 11/15/13

“Sounes’ clear-eyed view of his subjects’ behavior is welcome in a rock biography…It would be easy to sensationalize the adherence of performers in this book to the creed of ‘sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll,’ but Sounes takes an even-handed approach to their exploits.”—Seattle Times (Soundposts music blog), 11/15/13

“The first time you heard Light My Fire or Me & Bobby McGee, it was probably from a scratchy record and cheap speakers. 27 brings those memories back—with a lot less static. This is, in fact, almost a read-in-one-sitting kind of book, so thoroughly fascinating is author Howard Sounes in his method of storytelling…If you’re a fan of classic rock or blues, or if you just want a good look at stardom gone wrong, 27 gets five stars.”—The Bookworm Sez

“The strength of 27 lies in the way Sounes weaves in and out of the dark underbelly of the last fifty years of pop culture, maintaining the connective tissues through each individual star’s unraveling and untimely exit…This is a book that examines tragic lives, it’s not selling conspiracies or cosmic hokum…Sounes is a great tour guide because he’s neither shocked, clutching his pearls at the collective behavior, nor is he excessively voyeuristic. He’s thorough. But 27 never feels like an exploitative recounting of every awful drug-induced escapade like so many tabloid-ready ‘exposes’ do.”—Biographile.com, 11/13/2013

“If Howard Sounes’ 27 covers a subject that might seem uncomfortable or even a bit morbid to some, the author can at least be forgiven for doing so in a mostly even-handed, and tasteful manner…To his credit, Sounes treats his subjects with respect, mostly avoiding the more sensational and ghoulish stories that have already been done to death elsewhere…An entertaining, breezy read and an often fascinating addition to the wealth of material already out there on these famous rock star deaths.”—Blogcritics.org, 11/16/13

“Plainly aimed at readers fascinated by specific pop-music artists whose careers burned both brightly and briefly…Meaningful to people who celebrate, even idolize these performers.”—InfoDad.com, 11/14/13

“Does a superb job of showing the connective-ness between the unfortunate members of the infamous ‘27’ club…Sounes lays the facts out bare taking the superstition and mysteries out of this club. While also touching on the mysteries of a few of the twenty seven clubs deaths, the author keeps it logical and stays away from the excitable thoughts and conspiracies…Sounes does a wonderful job at giving little known information about the artist and a very well rounded biography before flowing into another artist’s story…A well articulated map of how these artists are connected, and stars are crossed.”—Groovey.tv, 11/12/13

“By using the 27 phenomenon as its starting point, the book manages to create a study of fame, damaged people and the occasionally disastrous results when you mix the two. And, naturally, when you mix drugs into the bargain…While this is not a biography, it serves as a more than adequate one for anyone wishing to learn about the real people behind the canonized music…when it comes to the story of talent, fame, and excess—and the volatile combination these things make for in an already wounded young life—Howard Sounes has produced a gold record.”—A


“The book brings readers up to date with new findings, rumors and conspiracy theories. It could also serve as a primer for young musicians of what not to do if they achieve massive success.”—Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/1/13

“Sounes’s even-handed approach is that of a crime reporter searching for the truth and insight into what connected these individuals in life and in death…It’s a compelling read.”—Curled Up with a Good Book, 11/26/13

“Sounes furthers our understanding of what happened to these talented, young people…A provocative and persuasive read that goes further than any other publication on this particular topic.”—Sacramento Book Review, December 2013

“For anyone with an interest in the music scene, this has to be ‘must’ reading…A fascinating book.”—Bookviews blog, December 2013

“Sounes does an admirable job of cutting through a lot of the drama without claiming to have definitive answers for some of the speculation…27 is thoroughly researched and features many new interviews with the principals who were in the inner circle of the six featured individuals.”—My Big Honkin Blog, 11/24/13

“[Sounes] makes a strong case that ‘behind the coincidence is a common narrative’ for all six of the most notable members of the club. All were as troubled as they were talented, supremely vulnerable to exploitation and addiction, too young to know how much time they should have had left.”—Boston Globe, 12/15/13

“Sounes succeeds by moving well beyond that coincidental data into a hard look at the darkly powerful effects of sudden fame on relatively young, and generally fragile artists ill-prepared to deal with such pressures.”—Metroland, 12/12/13

“[Sounes] debunks the mythologies surrounding each in a refreshingly detached, matter-of-fact way…Sounes peels back the dense layers of the celebrity psyche and scrutinizes the underlying family problems, emotional issues, and mental illness that drove the stars to self-medicate with drugs or numb themselves with booze...It’s an intriguing probe into whether certain personalities—particularly those in the public eye—are more at risk of a premature demise.”—Examiner.com, 11/12/13

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Thus edition (November 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306821680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306821684
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #872,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Howard Sounes is known for writing detailed and revelatory biographies of a wide range of extraordinary personalities, including the Californian author Charles Bukowski (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life), the murderers Fred and Rosemary West (Fred & Rose) and the musicians Bob Dylan (Down the Highway) and Paul McCartney (Fab). His new book is 27 - a study of the 27 Club.

More information at www.howardsounes.com

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By David Wineberg TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Howard Sounes has found 50 musicians who died at 27. They are listed at the end of the book, but just the most famous six are actually profiled. He did it in a parallel style rather than profile each of them at a time. This way, you can see the deterioration as it happened in each of them. You can pick out where they went wrong and where someone should have taken charge and clopped them up the side of the head.

The most coverage clearly goes to Amy Winehouse who is both the most recent and the closest to home - Sounes' home, London. She seemed to have been the brightest and possibly the most talented, but also the weakest.

None of the protagonists comes off very well. They all seem to be spoiled brats who don't get along with others. Some of them were justly famous for trashing a stage or a hotel room or a house, like little kids not getting their way, stomping their little feet. Except they were bigger and had business managers who would take care of the charges.

They have several traits in common: boredom, loneliness, inability to co-operate with other bandmembers, fed up with their chosen careers, and of course, chemical abuse in the form of alcohol, cocaine, heroin and marijuana, along with a litany of prescription pills.

Except for Amy Winehouse, none of them died rich. They were only just coming into their own, with maybe a fancy car to their name. Most of them hated what they did for a living, showing up drunk and stoned, and cursing the paying public when it booed them for doing so (and performing badly). They flirted with suicide, what with things going so rottenly for them.

What is strange is that no one but themselves was holding a gun to their heads.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tim Niland on February 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It has become engraved in urban legend and folklore that many prominent entertainers, particularly musicians, die during the 27th year of their lives. The author of this book, Howard Sounes, examines this phenomena through the lens of six of the most prominent members of the "27 Club," musicians Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. What results is a mix of dogged journalism and TMZ-like gossip mongering. A sordid path of addiction runs through the six musicians examined here, hard drugs: heroin and heavy pills washed down with copious amounts of booze led them down the road to ruin. The book becomes a series of cautionary tales as we watch musician after musician squander their talent and then their lives. To Sounes credit, he does not try to mythologize the musicians he writes about, and he tries to bring a well rounded portrait of each. It does get to be a bummer after a while, the stories are very similar: musician rockets to fame, takes to alcohol and drugs to alleviate the grind of touring and the hangers-on and sycophants that surround them. Addiction takes its toll and the musicians begin to crumble, felled by suicide, overdose and accident. Alas, some of those very toadies that caused the stress are the ones supplying many of the quotes for this book. It's a sad story, but captivating at times.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Kyle R. Fisher on November 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An interesting and accurate take on the alleged 27 Club and its members. Clear, concise writing that kept me interested.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Job L. King on June 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a very well researched and written account of rock's main stars who died at the age of 27. I have read many books about all of them and I thought I knew just about everything there is to know about each of them, but I was wrong. I was pleased to read the many details in this book that I had never known before. I think this book is one of the more truthful books you will find. The author really did his homework and provides his sources at the end of the book, along with a long list of other musicians who also died at the age of 27! If you're into rock star biographies, this book is for you!
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Format: Hardcover
Death didn't come calling, these musicians ran headlong toward it.
I wouldn't recommend this book to young or sensitive readers. And I am sure many readers, having started the book, will wish they had not. It is such a frustrating depressing depleting waste of young beautiful intelligent charismatic talented lives. We witness a total disrespect for the gift of living for its own beautiful sake.
I see Amazon has at least 3 books on the Myth of 27. And I'll bet someone could write a book on the "25's", especially among the rappers. The fact is they lived drug and alcohol filled lives and embraced dying and predicted their deaths. Which is astounding when almost anyone out here in the real world considers what they were doing at 26: maybe working two jobs, having completed their educations, striving, but happy. (Well, that's my story.)
Whew! I could not spend more than one hour with any of these wonderful artists. And they were TRUE artists. But to be their friend is to be their babysitter, which would be WAY too consuming of anyone's limited psychological resources, I guarantee you. They lucked out on talent, but were unlucky, usually, with parents and partners and some of the drugged hangers-on who many would label their "friends". This is not to say they were not loved, especially when the money started pouring in "like oil".
If you read the book, stop every now and then, go to YouTube and take a look at their pure artistry. That level of art you can't fake. You can't buy it. I am partial to Amy (what an astounding singer!) and Jim Morrison. But they were all sick and tired of having to turn it on, on demand. I heard someone say on the Academy Awards: Artists GIVE. And a few of these guys could give no more to their demanding audiences.
Jimi Hendrix said in an interview (p.
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