To some extent The 27 Club represents an observational fallacy. There are only so many ages at which a person can die, after all, so of course a lot of famous people have died at any particular age you want to consider. The 28 Club, if there is such a thing, includes The Big Bopper, Jeff Buckley, Shannon Hoon, Heath Ledger, Brandon Lee, two Kennedys and Caligula. The 29 Club? Marc Bolan, Anne Bronte, Josh Hancock, Christopher Marlowe, DJ Screw, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ronnie van Zant, Hank Williams and yet another Kennedy. It’s always tragic when talented people die young and our society – perhaps any society – feels an excess of pain when we see wasted potential. We can’t help imagining what might have been accomplished over the course of a full lifetime.We spend a lot less time thinking about those who do great things by the age of 27 and then live out long, comparatively pedestrian lives, though. That kind of narrative doesn’t make especially good fodder for songwriters or filmmakers, as it turns out.
Talented. Potential. Accomplishment. Oh, how dreadfully bourgeois to drag such considerations into art! Again, what’s this obsession with longevity? Seriously, what shall we call the crowded club of artists who put out two or three great records and then spent a long, slow decline into mediocrity and the sort of mortifying, self-unaware embarrassment that you watch with one hand clamped over your face, peeking out between two fingers? (Besides “The Metallica and Aerosmith Club.”) There are fates worse than death, you know.