Amy Winehouse had been on the wrong track for years before her death at age 27, but now that she’s passed (and joined a crowd of late music legends in the process), we know that the music world will be asking itself a lot of difficult questions. Just for perspective, we reached out to Eric Segalstad and Josh Hunter, the authors of The 27s: The Greatest Myth Of Rock & Roll, a 2008 book that studies the history of artists who’ve died way too young. Could Amy have managed to escape the fate of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain? Their point of view — which the authors shared in our exclusive chat — might surprise you. Read below.
Segalstad and Hunter were hardly shocked by Winehouse’s early passing. In fact, their book includes a rather eerie passage referencing the possibility. At one point in The 27s, the authors mention a quote from Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 after a dark battle with substance abuse.
“‘People, whether they know it or not, like their blues singers miserable. Maybe my audience can enjoy my music more if they think I’m destroying myself.’ (Janis Joplin) Cue Amy Winehouse,” the authors wrote.
Read what the experts said about Winehouse’s death below:
“I think the reason that we wrote about that in 2008 was, the media and her fans were already concerned about her lifestyle and the track that she was on. You can see blogs saying she’s definitely going to die at 27. If Janis believes her fans wanted to see her destroy herself, I really would have to believe that Amy felt similar feelings for her own fans. I don’t think it was avoidable,” Hunter said.
“She made her own choices. But it isn’t helping when every time you do something wrong, it’s on YouTube and major TV outlets across the world,” Segalstad added.
(And that was certainly true in Winehouse’s case):
Segalstad also cited similarities between the final performance of the late Jimi Hendrix and Winehouse’s tragic, out-of-control performance in Belgrade several weeks ago. For both Hendrix and Winehouse, it was clear in their live performances that “they had just kind of lost something. They had this incredible talent, burned brightly, and its the same kind of story told all over again.”
Winehouse is perhaps the most famous new entrant in the 27 club (aka the Forever 27 Club) since Cobain’s death in 1994, and Hunter pointed out that the very emergence of the dead-at-27 phenomenon may now weigh on young, troubled musicians. (Winehouse, who according to certain dubious/sensational reports actually was conscious of and feared the trend.)
Why is 27 still such a deadly number?
“What happens when they’re 25, 26 and they’re living this hard lifestyle?” Hunter asked. As musicians, “they’re expected to be a little rebellious and expected to be on the cover of star magazine?… Amy was two months away from her 28th birthday. What is going through her head?”