Even though it needn’t be shocking that Amy Winehouse has been found dead last Saturday, somehow it still is explicably so. When I got a text from my girlfriend saying “did you hear about Amy Winehouse?” I texted back” Is she dead?” whilst doing the sign of the cross. I’m not sure whether this was a proper way to respond to this message, but my blase and foreseen response to “did you hear…?” did not sedate the shock from confirmation of being proved right, when my girlfriend texted back “yes”.
I have been a big fan of Winehouse since her 2003 debut “Frank”, and the somewhat inevitability of her demise due to her supposedly alcohol and drug self destruction means that a talented musician with a beautiful yet distinctive voice has been lost to this world forever. I believe that there has been few people who has made groundbreaking, witty and ultimately great music within the last ten years.
Amy having died aged 27 years, has joined an exclusive club of dead musicians who have all died of the same age. Below is a list of talented and influential singers, songwriters and musicians who due to one way or the other have had their lives cut short:
Robert Johnson was a delta blues guitar player, considered one of the best guitarists of all time. How he came to live up to this posthumous reputation is derived from a Faustian myth that at Midnight, somewhere on a specific Mississippi Crossroads he gave his guitar to the devil who tuned it to make Johnson become an exceptional guitar player in exchange for his soul. The rest of Johnson’s life was filled with minor fame, lots of booze and plenty of women. He only recorded 29 songs but was poisoned by a jealous bar owner whose wife Johnson had been having an affair with. As he lay dying he complained of being tormented by hounds, perhaps the hellhounds; his own personal demons he sang about in this song
Brian Jones (28 February 1942 – 3 July 1969)
Brian Jones was the founding member of the Rolling Stones. His passion for African American Blues, Jazz, and R n’ B fuelled their early recordings. Their group name was attributed to Jones after rolling down his finger on the track list of his Muddy Water’s album and coming across the song “Rolling Stone Blues”. He had a flexible role within the band, acting at one time as manager, slide guitarist, backing vocalist, harmonica playing and various other instruments. He was even responsible for teaching Mick Jagger how to play the harmonica. It is important to note that Jones was influential in getting the Rolling Stones a record deal. But when Andrew Loog Oldman became the Stones manager this was the beginning of Jones’ estrangement from the rest of his band mates.
Richards and Jagger’s songwriting partnership became more successful than the blues covers that Jones was pushing. Jones extensive use of drugs and alcohol, which was common in the late 60s, but a conviction for possession of drugs prevented him from gaining a Visa for the Stones North American tour. As a result and due to his erratic behavior and mood swings, he was visited by the rest of his band mates on 8th June 1969 and told that he was being replaced. On the night of the 3rd July Jones’ body was found at the bottom of his swimming pool in East Sussex. His death was not treated as suspicious by the police but some have claimed that he was murdered by a builder who was the last to see him alive. Shine A Light written by Mick Jagger off of the Exile On Main Street album is about Jones.
Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942] – September 18 1970)
Hendrix was one of those musicians that come along once every lifetime. Considered one of the best guitarists of all time, his stage performances often included legendary acts such as setting his guitar on fire, playing his guitar with his teeth or behind his head. Hendrix was a journey man guitarist before he made it big, playing guitar for the Isley Brothers, Sam Cooke, Slim Harpo, Ike and Tina Turner, Little Richard and various other bands throughout the early Sixties. Yet fame eluded him till he was spotted by Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Keith Richards in a New York club. She referred him first to the Stones manager, who passed and then to Chas Chandler, the former member of The Animals. Chas instantly saw something special in the way Hendrix conducted himself and formed a band consisting of bassist and drums around Hendrix Lead Guitar. The Jimi Hendrix Experience hit list included covers such as “Hey Joe” and “All Along the Watchtower” and stand-out performances at the 1969 Woodstock festival ensured Hendrix would go down in Rock ‘n’ Roll history. He died in Notting Hill, West London having choked on his own vomit, possibly due to mixing wine with a strong dose of sleeping pills.
Jim Morrison December 8 1943 – July 3 1971:
Jim Morrison was a weird guy that exemplified the late sixties Bohemian lifestyle. He was a remarkable band showman who was adverse to reading his poetry during a performance and allegedly exposed himself on stage, whilst trying to provoke a riot during a 1969 concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami. Having retreated to Paris in March 1971, he was found lying dead in his bathtub in July the same year by his long term companion Pamela Courson. It is still unknown how he died as no autopsy was ever performed, but a heroin overdose is said to be the cause, with some suspecting a cover up and that Courson was somehow to blame. The Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where Morrison is buried has become an important tourist attraction.
Kurt Cobain (February 20, 1967 – April 5 1994)
Kurt Cobain was the highly influential singer, songwriter, musician and artist, of the band Nirvana. Cobain was at the forefront of bringing something new to music in the early nineties, spearheading the grunge movement and reviving the allure of playing in bands which h\d waned throughout the 1980’s. The breakthrough success of Nirvana’s second album Nevermind (1991) and its subsequent single “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, thrust Cobain into the limelight and he became an icon for every angst ridden teenager in the world. However Cobain was unable to deal with this new found fame, and due to an erratic childhood sunk further into darkness. He struggled with heroin addiction, depression personal and public pressures. Cobain ended his life by putting a shotgun to his head.