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Weekend Reading – Apophenia & The 27 Club

March 3, 2012

1. History, 9. Weekends

Apophenia:  Seeing a pattern where none exists.

When Robert Johnson died on August 16, 1938, a pattern was born.  Johnson was a wonderful blues singer.  I’ll embed some tunes below.  He was 27 years, 100 days old when he passed.  He was preceded by Alexandre Levy and Louis Chauvin – both musicians – who died at age 27.  I’m sure not many folks noticed the coincidence of age and occupation until several decades later:  Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones died in 1969, followed quickly by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison – all at age 27.  Pete Ham of Badfinger joined the club in 1975.  Kurt Cobain punched his ticket in 1994.  Other notables (for guys my age):  Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, of the Grateful Dead; Gary Thain, of Uriah Heep; and Alan Wilson, of Canned Heat.  Yes, sure, Amy Winehouse died at age 27, but she was more train wreck than musician so she doesn’t qualify.

Do these deaths all at the same age make a pattern suggesting something outside chance?  Here’s a bit of news from the British Medical Journal that published a research paper on the incidence of musicians dying at age 27:

The myth of the 27 club supposes that musicians are more likely to die aged 27, whereas our results show that they have a generally increased risk throughout their 20s and 30s.

Here’s another bit of news:  Some idiot spent money to do a research paper on the incidence of musicians dying at age 27 – and then a medical journal thought it important enough to print.  Wow.  Just, um, wow.

Maybe they should have considered Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan in their data.  Drummer for Avenged Sevenfold, The Rev died just 43 days shy of his 29th birthday.  I don’t have a specific reason for the “researchers” to expand their database to include him.  Seems irrelevant to the basic premise of the study.  But when the very premise of the study seeks to group random data sets under a single theory, I don’t think relevancy is a major concern.  To wit:  Years in the music industry (perhaps first recording date or first major hit record) is more insightful than chronological age; perhaps the number of shows on the road per year; family history of suicide or addiction (if that was the cause of death); hair color; right or left handed; amount of time devoted each day to personal hygiene; marital status; eye color; anything in addition to mere age and occupation!  If a researcher made this age/occupation proposal to me for department funds, I’d tell him that he’d probably be happier in a different job.  Anyway, I saw Avenged Sevenfold at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.  My daughter and I were leaning comfortably on the stage.  She met The Rev afterward, and he wrapped his arms around her to keep her warm.  And, guess what?  He was 27 at the time. Just saying.

As if the medical-journal study wasn’t enough, here’s an article quoting Kurt Cobain’s mother: “Now he’s gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club.”  Oh, my head hurts.  Puh-please …

How about this for a study:  Relationship of dog-collar color to incidence of barking.  I know, dogs can’t see color, but that’s the whole point!  You see, all the research dollars on dogs and color have been visual issues.  No one has researched whether they can perceive color of something not visually apparent to them.  They can’t see their collar, right?  No shades of grey to influence behavior. Now, we know that red sparks higher emotion in humans and that green is calming.  I propose a double-blind and longitudinal study using a population of 30 dogs – ten each for the two colors, and one control group.  Then we’ll repeat the entire study switching the collars.  It’ll cost $50,000.  Cash or check is fine.  Why, yes, I’m happy in my job – why do you ask?

OK, I’ll stop.  Sorry.

Let’s set aside this 27 stuff … open a second browser window so you can trip through the links above and listen to some music.  Start by reading about Robert Johnson as you hear his great voice and guitar.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Now that you’ve heard all of that, a guy claims Robert’s voice and timing was messed with in the studio. Here’s a YouTube of what he believes was his true sound:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

 

And you hear They’re Red Hot above? Here’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ version:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

 

Um, interesting …

Since we’re in the mood, Janis Joplin was inspired by Odetta, Ma Rainey, and Bessie Smith.  Here’s two entries.  The first is Ma Rainey; the second, a Janis bootleg recording where she sings a Bessie Smith song in a similar style.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ah, because I’m enjoying listening, here’s Bessie Smith’s version of the Janis bootleg above – Black Mountain Blues:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Enjoy your weekend, brothers and sisters.

PS: You know those pieces of toast that have the face of Jesus or Mary on them?  It’s not really Jesus or Mary.  It’s just toast.  And, no, Lincoln dying outside the Ford Theater did not preordain the automobile industry.

PSS:  OK, fine, have it your way.  Riddle me this Batman:

  • In September 1955, James Dean was killed in a horrific car accident while he was driving his Porsche sports car.
  • When the car was towed away from the accident scene and taken to a garage, the engine slipped out and fell onto a mechanic, shattering both of his legs.
  • Eventually the engine was bought by a doctor, who put it into his racing car and was killed shortly afterwards, during a race. Another racing driver, in the same race, was killed in his car, which had James Dean’s driveshaft fitted to it.
  • When James Dean’s Porsche was later repaired, the garage it was in was destroyed by fire.
  • Later the car was displayed in Sacramento, but it fell off its mount and broke a teenager’s hip.
  • In Oregon, the trailer that the car was mounted on slipped from its towbar and smashed through the front of a shop.
  • Finally, in 1959, the car mysteriously broke into 11 pieces while it was sitting on steel supports.

Go figure, eh?  Maybe you better make an alter for that piece of toast after all …

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About Clyde

Clyde is the lead attorney in the firm. Licensed to practice in 1993, he's also taught Constitutional and Criminal Law for several years at a private university, primarily at the Master's level.

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