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27 Club Myth

May 1, 2014

Statisticians test whether famous musicians are really more likely to die at age 27.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Debunking the “27 Club”… I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Janis Joplin in 1970, shortly before her death. (Grossman Glotzer Management Corporation)

Janis Joplin in 1970. She died later that year at age 27. (Grossman Glotzer Management Corporation)

Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, and now Amy Winehouse…all famous musicians who died at the age of 27. But is the so-called “27 Club” a real phenomenon or just a coincidence? To find out, Queensland University of Technology statistician Adrian Barnett and his colleagues analyzed the lifespan of every musician who had a #1 hit on the UK album charts between 1956 and 2007.

ADRIAN BARNETT (Queensland University of Technology):

We did find a very small blip in risk at age 27, but there were also very similar blips at age 25 and 32, so if you’re going to believe in the 27 Club, then you need to believe in the 25 and 32 Club as well.

HIRSHON:

He adds that overall, famous musicians in their 20s and 30s were 2 to 3 times more likely to die than others of the same age. He says fame and lifestyle caused the spikes, not an unlucky number. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.