Amy Winehouse documentary trailer reminds us of the ’27 Club’

Hunter Goddard

With great pain, comes great art – or so they say. Sometimes, with the greatness of talent and fame comes an even greater price to pay.

The first teaser trailer for “Amy: The Girl Behind the Name” was uploaded April 2. The Amy Winehouse documentary is scheduled for a July 3 release in the U.K. The 27-year-old “Rehab” hit maker was found dead in her London home in 2011 as a result of alcohol poisoning.


Winehouse’s tragic passing makes her a member of the so-called “27 Club,” a group of young, successful musicians who have met a violent or otherwise drug-and-alcohol-related end. The circumstances shared between these deaths are eerie, to say the least.

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison were all 27 when they lost their lives to drug overdoses (or probable drug overdoses, in the case of Hendrix and Morrison, whose causes of death proved to be more inconclusive). Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain committed suicide at 27.

The 27 Club curse is not always deadly. Lady Gaga was 27 years old when she sustained a debilitating hip injury that led to the partial cancellation of her “Born This Way Ball” world tour and negatively impacted her 2013 album, “ARTPOP.”

The 27 Club is not the only thing musicians have to fear. The “curse of the ninth” is a superstition that composers are destined to die after writing their ninth symphonies. Examples include Beethoven, Schubert, Dvořák, Spohr, Bruckner, Mahler and Vaughan Williams.

According to the experts, the 27 Club is purely coincidental. A 2011 study published by statistician Adrian Barnett in the “British Medical Journal” concluded that musicians are more likely to die in their 20s or 30s as a whole, not just at the age of 27.

Barnett cites the high-risk rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as a contributing factor. Indeed, rock stars are notorious for their hard-partying ways. Also, a tremendous amount of pressure comes with the world of fame, where artists are expected to please crowds of strangers at all times.

Whatever the roots of the 27 Club may be, romanticizing it is exactly the wrong thing to do. Last summer, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love’s daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, chastised Lana Del Rey over Twitter when the then 28 year-year-old singer lamented that she was not dead yet.

The myth of the “suffering artist” is a popular, but misguided one. This is perhaps best seen in the example of the Beatles, who produced their most “genius” work while experimenting with drugs. Regardless, dead artists are the least productive ones of all.

Perhaps we should look back and remember Amy Winehouse for her life, not for her death, for her industry-changing jazz career, not for her humiliatingly publicized struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.


Winehouse’s 2006 album, “Back to Black,” tied her for a (then) record five Grammy Awards in one night for a female artist, including three of the “Big Four:” Best New Artist, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. It went on to posthumously become the bestselling release of the 21st century in the U.K. at that time.

Garry Mulholland of the BBC declared that Winehouse was “the pre-eminent vocal talent of her generation,” and something as beautiful as that has nothing to do with the ugliness of substance abuse. Winehouse’s demons undoubtedly shaped her artistry, but they also cut it short.

Collegian A&E Writer Hunter Goddard can be reached at or on Twitter @hunter_gaga.