Musician Death Curse
December 22, 2011 by staff
Were Winehouse and other members of the so-called “forever 27 club” really at a higher risk of dying at this supposedly inauspicious age? Researchers investigating the urban legend of a theory found that well-known musicians do indeed live faster and die younger-just not necessarily at 27.
Led by Adrian Barnett from Queensland University of Technology in Australia, a team of statisticians examined three possible explanations for the “curse of 27″ hypothesis. First, musicians often achieve stardom in their early 20s, so the risky habits that often accompany fame-drinking, drugs and other hallmarks of a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle-might simply peak a few years later. Second, musicians might consciously or subconsciously seek enshrinement in the legendary 27 club alongside their idols, engaging in dangerous or even suicidal behavior at that mythic age. Finally, the theory could represent confirmation bias, in which people focus on examples that support their preconceptions (rather than, for instance, taking note when celebrities die at 26 or 28).
To separate fact from fiction, Barnett and his colleagues assembled an international sample of 1,046 solo artists and band members who had a number-one album in the UK between 1956 and 2007. Seventy-one of the musicians-7 percent-had died, three of them at age 27. (The other four famous members of the 27 club were excluded from the group-Robert Johnson because he died in 1938; and Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison because they never topped the UK charts.) A statisticalanlysis showed that the survival rate for young musicians was no lower at 27 than at similar ages, and only after 60 did risk of death increase substantially.
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