27 Ad Infinitum: The Death Club?

Kurt Cobain_27

I admit to finding coincidences intriguing. A coincidence, the admission of the hand of chance on a seemingly repetitive basis, sparks my curiosity regarding whether what we’re seeing is an actual trend that can be shown with data, or merely a deceptive slice of cherry-picked data points, or a case that the belief that one should see a particular something leading the mind to filter out contradictory information and home in on reinforcement for what one believes.

Luckily, other people look at something like the well-known coincidence of rock star deaths at age 27 and use it as a point for creating art and items of deep and less geeky engagement.

Jack Dowd – 27: When the Music Died

I’ve known of this exhibition for months courtesy of a fellow rock enthusiast at work, the VP of Corporate Communications to be exact; I just didn’t get round to sharing it. I’m not sure I have much feeling for the images, they’re a little too photographic to inspire but I recognize the difference between being in a gallery studying the paintwork up close versus a flat Internet image; it’s like the comparison between being at a live show versus the YouTube clip.

The overall concept engages me more but brings me back to my reasons in the first paragraph, that I enjoy coincidences because they make me want to look more closely. A few months back a major study concluded that music stars did indeed have higher mortality than the average population until they reached their forties and fifties at which point mortality was no different (https://nirvana-legacy.com/2013/02/01/the-effect-of-childhood-trauma/). The combination of a relatively volatile grouping of individuals, in risky and unstable circumstances, with an excess of opportunities to engage in risk-increasing behaviours was what was, apparently, responsible for the trend. The data-set is good, it’s sheer size giving it authority, the source authority is excellent. They didn’t dwell on the 27 issue at all…

…But in the same Journal another article a year before did:


The study limited itself to just the U.K. and noted no stand-out number of deaths associated with the age 27 though it confirmed the overall heightened chances of dying among musicians. Does that kill the myth?

Not at all. Like all good stories no amount of data can eliminate the enjoyment of an ominous portent, tales of the grim reaper will always remain something to relish…Or to paint.


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