Amy, 27: Amy Winehouse and the 27 Club by Howard Sounes
There is nothing in the music world more mysterious than that of the 27 Club, referring to the collection of artists who have passed away at that relatively young age early in their careers. An usual spike at age 27 in the amount of deaths of musicians in the public eye has led to this look by author Howard Sounes into the lives of the six most prominent members of the club, starting with Rolling Stones founder Brian Jones and continuing with the recent passing of troubled British songstress Amy Winehouse.
Sounes does a remarkable job going through the lives of the Big Six, right up until their final moments (and often the controversies surrounding the deaths soon thereafter), while also paying tribute and making connections to the various other members of the 27 Club. While the nature of the book is obviously quite depressing given the topic, the final days and years of these artists’ lives are incredibly fascinating, whether its Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin becoming increasingly aware of their self-image, or Brian Jones and Amy Winehouse suffering from alcohol and drug addiction, or even Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain’s troubled relationships with their family members over the course of their lives.
The main focus of the book is on Amy Winehouse and her tragically short career. Beginning in her late teens as a budding superstar with Frank, then a brief stint at a premiere music school in London, Sounes tracks her every success and every stumble up until her dear bodyguard found her having overdosed on alcohol. While some books might give a quick glance of Amy’s career, Sounes details every show and every cancellation, every fight with her boyfriends, and even every trip to the rehab clinic that Amy reluctantly attended, despite her famous declaration of “they tried to make me go to rehab, I said ‘no, no, no.’”
Sounes argues that it really isn’t true that stardom at such an early age caused these problems or is the direct cause of the 27 Club – it’s more of a coincidence if anything. But because several well-known musicians were unfortunately subject to demise at this young age, greater attention was naturally given. The pressure of being a rock star and the mentally-challenging necessity of touring nevertheless affected these artists in some way, but instead of being seen stereotypically as young and dumb, the book rightfully paints them as lost souls.
These fifty musicians that have passed at the age of 27 have influenced so many future artists with their love of art and selfless personalities, and Amy, 27 is a great tribute.