With the popularisation of the 27 club phenomenon, the notion that some of the world’s most prominent rock stars all died at the young age of 27, death and mourning became an integral part of popular music culture. This was especially prevalent in 2016, a year that saw the deaths of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen, just to name a few.
The news of these passings incited an outpouring of public grief. Why we mourn individuals so outwardly when we have never met them might seem like one of those meaningless oddities of modern life, but it actually reveals something important about how we interact with the music we love.
When Bowie died, the one comment that came up time and time again was: “I feel as though I knew him”. Music has that power. In buying records and attending concerts, we develop an intimate connection with our favourite artists that seems to transcend geography. For many, it was as though putting on a Bowie record, was tantamount to watching him step into their own living room.
No wonder, then, that the deaths of musicians seem to affect us so strongly. The difficulty is that rock n’ roll, being what it is, is full of tragic stories of drug overdoses, plane crashes. freak yachting accidents and shootings.
Sometimes, these tragic events came out of nowhere. Other times, however, they seemed the logical conclusion of a life spent on the edge. From the singer who seemed destined to join the 27 club, to the musician who wrote a song in which they unknowingly forecast their own demise, in this article, we’ll be zooming in on five musicians who predicted their own deaths.
The 5 musicians who tragically predicted their own death:
Two years before he released the album that would make his name, Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix was a little known backing guitarist. In those early days of his career, the musician recorded a song called ‘The Ballad of Jimi.’
The track tells the story of a man called Jimi who, as its narrator describes, will be dead in five years. Hendrix told everyone that the story was about his best friend, a man called Jimi — who just so happens to play the electric guitar.
In ‘The Ballad of Jimi’, Hendrix sings: “Many things he would try, For he knew soon he’d die/ Now Jimi’s gone, he’s not alone. His memory still lives on/ Five years, this he said. He’s not gone, he’s just dead.” Lo and behold, exactly five years later, on 18 September 1970, Jimi Hendrix’s body was found in a hotel room, having died of asphyxiation.
In 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot dead on his way to a club in Las Vegas. He’d made himself unpopular with LA’s Southside Crips gang and, after becoming embroiled in the rivalry, died of a pistol shot to the chest.
Two years prior, however, the rapper sat down with Entertainment Weekly for an interview in which he would unknowingly predict his own demise. In the interview, Tupac was asked where he would like to be in 15 years time.
Tupac responded with: “Best case? In a cemetery, not in a cemetery–sprinkled in ashes smoked up by my homies,” before adding: “I mean, that’s the worst case! Best case, multimillionaire, owning all of this s—!”
There are two songs that seem to predict Jeff Buckley’s death. One comes from Jeff Buckley himself, the other comes from his father, Tim Buckley. In ‘Dream Brother’, Jeff Buckely repeats the same line three times: “Asleep in the sand with the ocean washing over”. The song is pervaded by the image of the “dark angel” of death who, in the song, appears to watch over the narrator as he drowns.
With this song, Buckley predicted his own death with startling precision. In 1997, Buckley and a friend decided to visit Wolf River, a spot known for being a dangerous place to swim. Despite his friends’ warnings, Buckley went ahead and plunged into the water. The current, however, was too strong for him, and he was quickly carried away.
After six days of searching, his body was found washed up on the shore. His death by drowning is made all the more prescient by the fact that his father, the cult songwriter Tim Buckley, had written a track called ‘Song of The Siren’, which ends with the lyrics: “swim to me, swim to me/ Let me enfold you/ Here I am, here I am/ Waiting to hold you.”
The death of Amy Winehouse is one of music’s great tragedies. Like Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse died at the age of 27. And like many of the musicians on that infamous list, Winehouse’s death was the result of drug and alcohol abuse.
When the news broke of her death in 2011, the media went into a frenzy. The same tabloid newspapers that had derided and publically flogged Winehouse for her addiction now went about transforming their derision into pseudo-mourning.
One of these tabloids managed to secure an interview with one of Winehouse’s closest friends, Alex Foden, who was quoted as saying: “Amy always told me she thought she would die young and that she knew she’d become a part of the 27 Club.”
For many, Bob Marley was something of a prophet. His social consciousness, political activism, and mystical spiritualism helped to inspire countless communities to radical action. However, he was also a prophet in a more literal sense.
Even as a child, he showed an uncanny ability to forecast future events with startling accuracy, leading his mother to claim her child had the power to predict the future. Whilst some of his predictions seemed to foreshadow coming conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq, one of them was a little closer to home. When he was just 24, Bob Marley walked into a bar and told his friends: “I know I’m going to die at 36.”
After developing melanoma under the nail of his big toe, Marley visited a doctor who recommended he have it amputated to quell the spread. As a Rastafarian however, Marley believed amputation to be a sin, and so he refused treatment. By 1980, the cancer had spread, and the reggae star was forced to travel to Germany to undergo an experimental treatment. But Marley would never make it to Germany because, on May 11th, 1981, Marley was found dead during a stopover to Miami. He had just turned 36.