Sorry about the late post, I was out far too late yesterday evening, and I missed the last train out of down town. I had to bike for 2 hours to get home, ugh. Anyways, as I’m sure many of you are aware, Amy Winehouse died today, at the age of 27. There is a semi-common urban legend that for celebrities, and musicians in particular, 27 is something of a cursed age. Jimmi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and others all died at age 27. I was intrigued by this idea. It’s entirely possible that 27 is just the median age in a distribution of ages for celebrities dying from drugs and alcohol, and that this has been picked up on in the pop culture. So, I figured I would do some back-of-the envelope type research to see if this idea is plausible.What I first set out to do was get a list of celebrities who died from drug and alcohol related shenanigans. The Wikipedia had a page already set up for me, including the birth and death years for the unfortunates listed there. So, I downloaded the xhtml for the page, and using sed and grep, pulled out the birth/death years for all the people, totalling 376 celebrities. Here’s the distribution of ages I found:
In that distribution, the median age is actually 38, and the most likely age for dying from drugs or alcohol is 34.
But, the myth is about musicians especially, so what about them? Thankfully, the Wikipedia article also listed the professions of the people cataloged. The page listed a total of 72 musicians. What I found when looking at this subset surprised me: the most likely age for a musician to die from drugs is in fact 27! The median is also much lower, at 31 years.
So perhaps the 27 Club is one of the rare cases of pop culture and urban legends actually stumbling on an accurate statistical occurrence. Naturally, take what I found with a grain of salt, as it was whipped up in an hour, using a single Wiki article as a source. Nonetheless, it looks like 27 is indeed a bad year for musicians.