I finished The Thirst on Friday. It was an entertaining diversion and has already provided the basis for an earlier blog entry about the availability heuristic. Jo Nesbø is a true multi talent. Before becoming a writer, he was a professional soccer player and successful stockbroker, and for 29 years he has been the lead singer of Di Derre a Norwegian pop/rock band.
His interest in music is apparent in multiple cultural references throughout his novels. Harry Hole and his stepson, Oleg, bond over hating the same bands, and the crime scene investigator, Bjørn Holm, is the epitome of the nerdy music aficionado who copiously reads liner notes.
Early in The Thirst Bjørn Holm makes the droll comment that it “would have been poetic” if Ian Fraser Kilmister, better known as Lemmy the founder, bassist, and lead singer of Motörhead, had lived till he was 72 as opposed to passing away as he did at 70. This, Bjørn argues, would have qualified him as a member of the 27 Club.
For those unfamiliar with the 27 Club, it refers to what many see as an unnaturally high rate of rock musicians who live hard and died young at 27. Members from the late 60s/early 70s include Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. Later inductees are Kurt Cobain in 1984 and Amy Winehouse in 2011.
Hype around the club is so great that statisticians at Queensland University of Technology have even examined the validity of three potential theories behind the “curse of 27.”
- Musicians often achieve stardom in their early 20s. The accumulated effects of drinking and drugs – habits that often accompany a rock n’ roll lifestyle simply peak a few years later.
- Musicians might consciously or subconsciously seek enshrinement in the club alongside their idols, engaging in dangerous or even suicidal behavior.
- It is simply confirmation bias. People focus on examples that support a preconceptions rather than, for instance, taking note when celebrities die at 26 or 28.
Not surprisingly the researchers found “no peak in the risk of death for musicians at age 27 … the 27 Club has been created by a combination of chance and cherry picking.”
Another explanation is death as a career move. Would some of the above mentioned artists be as famous as they are without the added notoriety of a premature death? Leave a comment.