Being a rock musician is a lifelong dream for many people. Fame, influence and careless lifestyle are high on a wish list, especially among adolescents. But this is only one side of the rock and roll medal. The other, not so exposed, includes anxiety, depression, alcohol and drug abuse. This is most probably the reason why rock artists often die young and under unusual circumstances. Striking coincidence is that many of them died at the age of 27. This gave rise to popular myths about »Rock Musicians' Club 27« and »white lighter« that victims supposedly had with them at the time of their death. The most famous and most mentioned members of »27 Club« are Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Rock musicians are often a role model for many young people who are trying to identify themselves with someone famous, powerful and confident at a very delicate time of their lives - adolescence. It should be carefully considered when a publically exposed rock star is enrolled in promoting health related messages, if his/her image among young population is linked with substance abuse.
Keywords: rock musicians; Club 27; drug abuse; premature death
To talk about rock music is usually to talk about powerful sounds, cool, confident and sexually attractive characters, nice cars, scandals without consequences, money and careless lifestyle. But this is only one side of the medal. Other, hidden from the audience, includes life full of stressors, alcohol and drug abuse and occupational illnesses. Highly competitive atmosphere, high expectations and need of steady money income exhaust young musicians and they become prone to alcohol and drug abuse. Easy availability of those substances in their workplace (bars, pubs, clubs, festivals...) has contributed to their addictive health-damaging behavior. In one study by Raeburn,1 80% of the examined musicians drank alcohol regularly, 30% used drugs regularly and 50% used drugs on occasion. They uniformly reported that their use of substances increased considerably when performance schedules increased and they spent more time in bars and clubs.
Rock stars have significantly higher mortality from 3 to 25 years after becoming famous (1 .7 times higher) than demographically matched populations in the USA and the UK as proved by Bellis et al.2 A rock star is 70% more likely to die early then an average population member, and this risk is 240% higher in the first 5 years of fame. The leading cause of death in this study was the drug and alcohol abuse (one in four deaths), but cancer, accidents and cardiovascular diseases are also ranked high. According to other studies on premature rock star deaths,3 the average age of death was 36.9 years on a sample of 32 1 subjects, and the leading death causes were accidents (7 1), followed by drug and alcohol abuse (49), heart attack (42), suicides (36), neoplasms (32) and murders (24). If we analyze premature rock stars' deaths by decades of the 20th and the 21st century,4 we can notice how a progressively larger number of premature deaths has occurred. In the 1950s and the 1960s accidents were a leading cause of death, while during the next decades substance abuse occupied a bigger share. This trend diminished in the 1990s and 2000.
Whether a coincidence or not, many famous and prominent rock musicians died at the age of 27. This gave rise to popular myths about »Club 27« and »white lighter« that victims supposedly had with them at the time of their death. The inducement of stories about Rock club 27 were the deaths of a seemingly unusual number of exposed rock stars at the age of 27 within a period of two years. They were Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. The list of rock stars that died at the same age of 27 years is much longer and only some of them are presented here.5,6
Brian Jones (1942-1969) was a multi-instrumentalist and founding member of the »Rolling Stones«. …