Singer Amy Winehouse, 27, was killed by alcohol, coroner Suzanne Greenaway stated in her official report on Oct. 26, describing the cause of death as death by misadventure after Winehouse's autopsy showed she had more than five times the legal drink-drive limit of booze in her blood, an extreme level of acute alcohol poisoning.
Amy Winehouse has had a very public battle with drugs throughout her singing career. When she was found dead on July 23, 2011, many assumed she had died from an overdose of heroin or cocaine, though her family and boyfriend Reg Traviss insisted she had not taken illegal drugs. Talk of the singer joining the fabled 27 Club, a group of more than 30 musicians who died at age 27, almost all due to alcohol or drug overdose, had already begun.
The coroner, however, asserts that it was booze, not crack or heroin, that killed the singer. The unintended consequences of such potentially fatal levels [of alcohol], said the coroner, was her sudden and unexpected death. The singer's blood alcohol level showed 416 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood, roughly five times the legal drinking limit. Amy Winehouse had just broken an extended period of abstinence before she died, and Detective Les Newman, who arrived at the scene after a security guard found Winehouse unconcious in her London home, told Greenaway that he found empty vodka bottles scattered across her bedroom.
Despite the news that a more socially acceptable drug was the cause of Amy Winehouse's death, the fact remains that the singer known for the song Rehab (No, No, No) still joins the morbid pantheon of The 27s, a club that is both an abhorrent testament to drug abuse and a revered symbol of the creative-destructive back and forth between artistic genius and gradual self-destruction.
Here are ten musicians cut short in their personal and professional prime due to drinking and drugs, some the most famous members of this morbid group. The 27 Club has claimed members of almost every musical movement and time, though its peak is (unsurprisingly) in the 1960s and 1970s. Amy Winehouse's cause of death may be with our favorite drug, our slow death of choice, but her addition to this league of tragic, brilliant musicians is as assured as if heroin or cocaine had killed her instead of massive amounts of alcohol.
10. Brian Jones
Founder of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones was the main guitarist and leader of the group before band-mates Mick Jagger and Keith Richards began to overshadow him. Jones developed a serious substance abuse problem, and left the Rolling Stones in 1969. Less than a month later, Jones was found dead at 27 at the bottom of a swimming pool, his cause of death ruled the result of constant alcohol and drug use.
9. Janis Joplin
Known at the height of her career as both The Queen of Rock and Roll and The Queen of Psychedelic Soul, Joplin's rough, whiskey-soaked vocals made her a breakout star during her time in Big Brother and the Holding Company. Joplin's heroin use was common knowledge when the Me and Bobby McGee and Piece of My Heart legend was found dead from overdose and long-term alcohol abuse. It is likely that the singer was accidentally given heroin that was much more potent than usual, as several other customers of the same dealer OD-ed that week.
8. Jim Morrison
The American singer and poet was The Doors, a legendary rock band made famous through Morrison's dark good looks, wild poetic lyrics, and charismatic stage presence. The iconic frontman developed a severe alcohol and drug dependency following The Door's meteoric rise in 1967. In 1971, Morrison was found dead of a suspected heroin overdose, though no autopsy was performed.
7. Ron Pigpen McKernan
A founding member of The Grateful Dead, McKernan helped craft the band's iconic mixture of rock, folk, and bluegrass, with its frequent additions of country, jazz, and psychedelia, through his use of vocals, guitar, harmonica, organ, and percussion. Pig Pen suffered from frequent bouts of alcoholism. After his health had degenerated too far to continuing touring, he was found dead of a gastrointestinal hemorrhage in 1973.
6. Kurt Cobain
The death of Nirvana's frontman has been officially labeled a suicide, but many believe Cobain's struggles with heroin addiction and alcohol abuse greatly exacerbated his bouts with depression, and his frustration with his portrayal in the media. Following the success of album Nevermind, Nirvana was deemed the flagship band of Generation X, but Cobain felt many did not understand his vision or his music. Cobain was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 1994.
5. Robert Johnson
Johnson was a little-known blues singer playing juke joints when he died in 1938, but his music, re-issued in 1961, has since become recognized as a landmark influence on musicians like Eric Clapton. He is regarded today as one of the masters of Mississippi Delta Blues style. Though his death was almost certainly due to strychnine poisoning and long-term alcohol abuse, the shadowy details of his life and his considerable talents have caused some to suggest a more Faustian interpretation, arguing he traded his soul to the Devil in return for being one of the greatest guitarists and songwriters of the 1930s.
4. Gary Thain
The rock bassist, best known for his work with classic British rock band Uriah Heep, had already had a brush with death before he hit 25, after having been electrocuted during one of the band's sets playing Lady in Black.' After being kicked out of Uriah Heep due to his disruptive drug use, Thain died of respiratory failure due to a heroin overdose in 1975.
3. Kristen Pfaff
Best known as the bass guitariast for Hole, an alt-rock band in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Pfaff was also a pianist, vocalist, and cellist in her musical career. In 1994, Pfaff was found next to a bag containing syringes and drug paraphernalia; her death was ruled accidental. Since her death, the University of Minnesota has started an annual Memorial Scholarship for musicians in her name, and Pfaff has been inducted into the Buffalo Music hall of Fame in New York.
2. Jimi Hendrix
The legendary songwriter and musician is still considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of all time. His work synthesizing musical styles and experimenting with stereophonic phasing, his recordings with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and his collaborations with friend Eric Clapton produced such classics as Purple Haze, Voodoo Child, and All Along the Watchertower. Hendrix was known for and associated with the use of LSD, as well as heroin, alcohol, and hashish. In 1970, Hendrix was found dead after having choked on his own vomit, the result of the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol found in his system.
1. Amy Winehouse
Winehouse is the most recent addition to Club 27, after years of failed recoveries from drug and alcohol abuse. The British songstress was known for her rich contralto and unique mix of R&B, soul, and jazz stylings in songs like Back to Black, Valerie, and Rehab. Winehouse died June 23, 2011 of acute alcohol poisoning in her London studio apartment.