For a Rock n’ Roll musician, 27 years of age is an eerie place to be.
Starting with the soul-exchanging bluesman Robert Johnson, some of the most influential musicians of the 20th century did not outlive their 27th year. Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones and Kurt Cobain all met their demise at this becoming age.
I do not intend to throw my name in the same category as these remarkable artists, nor do I intend to elicit spooky premonitions of what the next year will hold for me. Instead, I will take a moment to examine what these people had that I do not, and also what I have, that they did not.
Before I begin, I should note that perhaps the greatest hero of my life- Otis Redding- did not even reach his 27th year. The notion that I have outlived my idol, and am still a very young man, is a profound consideration.
I believe Redding is one of the most gifted artists to ever walk the earth. And yet, in the wake of my 27th year I have been given a gift that Otis was not blessed with: more time.
For an artist of my conviction, this truth holds great sorrow, great honor, and great responsibility.
Although I do not have the talent, the success, or the influence that Otis had- I’ve been given more days to live, more time to love, and more moments to cherish. If you listen to Redding’s songs “Glory of Love” and “Just One More Day,” you can hear just how much this man relished the sheer tumultuousness of life- and that each day, good or bad, is a blessing.
And so I live beyond one hero, and come to an age of peril for a handful more.
But these “Dead at 27” club members did not have their lives robbed from them like Otis did (Redding died in a plane crash in Madison, Wisconsin). These artists all had a hand in their respective undoing.
They had reached the apex of their artistic abilities, were surrounded by the ripe fruits or their labor, and appeared to have the world in the palm of their hands. But whether they died from a shotgun blast to the head, or choking on vomit in their sleep, these 27-year-olds were not happy campers when they left us.
It seems these musicians possessed a common tragic flaw: they all perpetuated the victim within themselves. Through excessive drug use and alcohol abuse, they distanced themselves from the realities that not only wound us, but also heal us. And so they fell, desperately and abruptly.
I seek not to generalize or over-simplify the loss of these artists, but to impress the notion that lessons must be learned not only from their great innovations, but also from their great mistakes.
And that brings me to me.
I have not known the success of these beautiful people (and that they most certainly were), nor have I reached the peak of my own abilities. I know neither the warmth of widespread recognition nor the luxury of great wealth; and I am yet to leave my impression on the medium that I hold so dear.
But I am a happy man.
I am frustrated and dissatisfied and anxious and angry.
But I am inspired. And like Otis says:
“Cry just a little, sigh just a little, let that ‘ol wind blow on by a little. That’s the story of, that’s the good ‘ol glory… of love.”