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Not With The Band: Musicians Die 25 Years Earlier Than The Rest Of Us


The Conversation has an in-depth article/study about death in the music industry…. Why did so many artists die so young? There is rarely a week that goes by when we don’t learn about the death of a musician, and there is the famous 27-club, certainly more a myth than anything else, but very popular in people’s mind, because very popular musicians such as Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones… all died when they were 27. However, the British Medical Journal did a study and concluded that ‘The 27 Club is unlikely to be a real phenomenon’,… ‘Fame may increase the risk of death among musicians, but this risk is not limited to age 27.’ Meaning it was just a coincidence if these people died at 27, still many pop and rock stars die young and this is the real phenomenon.

The new research, done by Dianna Kenny, professor of Psychology and music at University of Sydney, considers the first population study of performing pop musicians from all popular genres who died between 1950 and June 2014. She included a very large sample (12,665) and took her data from various and numerous sources such as The Dead Rock Stars’ Club; Nick Tavelski’s (2010) Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Rock Obituaries, Pop star mortality; R.I.P. Encyclopaedia Metallicum; Voices from the Dark Side for Dead Metal Musicians; Wikipedia’s List of Dead Hip Hop Artists and Hip Hop obituaries…

She considered longevity as the average age of death for musicians by sex and decade of death, and compared averages with averages by sex and decade for the general US population, the results are very telling and pop up in a series of graphs published on the site. When it comes to the average age at death of pop musicians, female and male pop musicians are way below the general population, at any decade, the worst being in the 70s and 90s; the average age of death is around 55-60 for musicians whereas it is climbing to 75-80 for the general population, why is this the case? The cliché drug sex and rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t lie… And males are even more vulnerable than females.

Kenny also compiled the percentage of deaths by accident, suicide and homicide (although we all know that many suicides may not be real suicides…) and again, in the three cases, musicians die in larger number than the rest of the population… in the 60s, accidents were really high, whereas suicides and homicides reached a pic in the 90s… Here is part of her conclusion:

‘The results of this study are disturbing. Across the seven decades studied, popular musicians’ lifespans were up to 25 years shorter than the comparable US population. Accidental death rates were between five and 10 times greater. Suicide rates were between two and seven times greater; and homicide rates were up to eight times greater than the US population. This is clear evidence that all is not well in pop music land.’

Kenny then tries to find some answers, the pop music scene fails to provide boundaries and model acceptable behavior, it valorizes outrageous behavior, sexual and destructive impulses…. Sure nothing new here, what about artists are often lost souls and depressive individuals, coached by dubious individuals who see them as cash cow and encourage them in their risky behavior? Yeah, all of the above, plus what about a rock/pop star is worth more dead than alive? It is another cliché but unfortunately very true, once they are dead their label/estate/sponsors/promoters make more money than ever, so they have absolutely no interest at maintaining them alive… Of course there are exceptions to the rule but old guys like Keith Richards, Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osbourne are really not the norm. The point of this study is that, if you consider a music career, be careful! Kenny has also said she wants to compare death rates by music genres, which could be interesting too,… I wonder which genre could kill the most!

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