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1960s Celebrities Who Tragically Joined the 27 Club

The “27 Club” is a term in reference to the number of celebrities who dies at the age of 27. It seems like more stars pass away at this tender age. Statistical data shows that celebs aren’t likely to die at 27 – thus making the ’27 Club’ a myth. In fact, there are more stars die at the age of 28 than 27. The fact doesn’t matter much, as the legend goes on to take on a life of its own.

The public always is a morbid obsession with famous people whose lives are cut short in their prime. Jimi Hendrix to Kurt Cobain to Amy Winehouse. There is something so captivating and heartbreaking about witnessing such young, promising talents’ gifts wasted due to their untimely deaths. Wonder what can memory of those who perish immortalizes in a sense – forever stop-motion at that ominous age.

Join Facts Verse as we take a look back on some of the earlier members of this club you probably won’t want to be a member of. In this video, we’ll be discussing 1960s Celebrities Who Tragically Joined the 27 Club.

Jesse Belvin

American singer-songwriter and pianist Jesse Lorenzo Belvin was born on December 15, 1932, in San Antonio, Texas. At the age of five, he and his family moved to Los Angeles.

In 1949, Belvin is a part of the opening act at the 5th Cavalcade of Jazz. Playing with Big Jay McNeely and Lionel Hampton at Wrigley Field. The following year, he joined the band Three Dots and a Dash featuring saxophonist Big Jay McNeeley.

In 1952, Belvin signs with Specialty Records, and although his early records aren’t commercial successes. His fourth album entitles ‘Dream Girl’ reaches number 2 on the US R&B Billboard Chart in 1953. That same year, Belvin drafts into the army, but he continues to pen songs while serving his country.

One of these songs is Earth Angel, which after a legal dispute, produces by The Penguins. It becomes one of the very first R&B tracks to cross over to the pop charts. Between 1954 and 1955, the song sold over 1 million records. Ultimately, Belvin awards one-third credit for the song, and due to its success, his career explodes.

While he could have easily made millions off his music, Belvin often would write songs and sell them to other singers for as little as a hundred bucks. Because of this, perhaps even hundreds of songs written by Belvin ended up hitting the airwaves – very few of which he ever received credit for.

After signing with Modern Records in 1956, Belvin cut what would be his most enduringly popular recording, “Goodnight My Love”. The track reached number seven on the R&B charts that year. Two years later The Shields would release a version of the song that would reach 15 on the pop charts.

Over the next couple of years, Belvin’s career would skyrocket with the help of his wife Jo Anne, who was a fantastic songwriter in her own right. She would take over as Belvin’s manager and guide his career towards success.

After signing with RCA, Belvin put out his first big success with the label in 1959 with the top 40 hit single “Guess Who'”. It was clear at this point that Belvin had the potential to be the next Billy Eckstine or Nat King Cole. With Jo Anne taking the reigns, Belvin was finally stepping into his element and showing off a much more mature sound.

In late 1959, Belvin went into the studio and recorded a dozen songs, including covers of standards like Makin’ Whoopee, Blues in the Night, and In The Still of the Night. Sadly, he never get a chance to hear the final recordings, because, on February 6, 1960, not long after playing a show in Little Rock, Arkansas with fellow musicians Sam Cook, Merv Johnson, and Jackie Wilson, Believin, and his wife dies in a tragic head-on auto accident. He became part of the 1960s Celebrities who joined the 27 Club.

Rudy Lewis

This R&B singer, born Charles Rudolph Harrell on August 23, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is famous for his work with the Drifters.

When he was 24, Lewis moved to New York City and joined the musical group that would ultimately turn him into a legend. According to sources close to him, Lewis becomes addicted to heroin, suffered from a binge eating disorder, and was a closeted homosexual.

He managed to keep these secrets from the public, but clearly, these were things that troubled him deeply.

On May 21, 1964, when the Drifters expect in the studio to record the song ‘Under The Boardwalk’ which Lewis works, he dies in his Harlem hotel room. Johnny Moore, who serves as the group’s lead vocalist, brings back in to provide lead vocals for the song.

The following day, the group recorded the song ‘I Don’t Want To Go On Without You’ as a tribute to their fallen friend.

Although no autopsy performs, Lewis’ death rules as a likely drug overdose. Those close to him however believe that he died of a combination of overdose, heart attack, and asphyxiation. He became one of the 1960s celebrities who joined the 27 club.

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Joe Henderson

This R&B and gospel singer is famous for his 1962 song ‘Snap Your Fingers’. Henderson is born in 1932 in Como, Mississippi, and becomes an adult in Gary, Indiana.

His musical career started with him performing gospel music before signing with Todd Records in 1958. In 1962, he records ‘Snap Your Fingers’ which proves to be the biggest hit of his career. The track not only performed well on the R&B charts but also on the pop charts.

He charted three more times over the next two years with the songs Big Love, The Search is Over, and You Take One Step (I’ll Take Two’.

Henderson died of a heart attack in his Nashville, Tennessee apartment on October 25, 1964.

Malcolm Hale

Born in Butte, Montana on May 17. 1941. Hale was an original member and lead guitarist for the female-fronted rock group Spanky and Our Gang. He performed with the band for their first two albums.

On October 31, 1968, Hale dies in his Chicago home. It reports that his death attributes to an attack of bronchial pneumonia. His death proved to be a major blow to the band and ultimately led to their breakup a year later in 1969. Malcom Hale is one of the 1960s Celebrities who joined the 27 club.

Dickie Pride

This Rock & Roll singer had a stage name that apparently reflected his real-life persona.

Pride was born Richard Kneller in Surrey, England, on October 21, 1941. When he was young, he considered becoming an opera singer but instead took an interest in skiffle – a type of folk music with blues and jazz elements that was popular in the 50s. Later he would fall in love with Rock & Roll music.

He played his first concert as Dickie Pride at the age of 16 after he was discovered by composer Russ Conway and producer Larry Parnes. In 1959, he put out his debut single ‘Slippin’ and Slidin’ – a cover of a Little Richard track.

Pride then performed alongside fellow-Larry Parnes’ pop prodigies Marty Wilde, Terry Dene, Johnny Gentle, Duffy Power, and Billy Furty in The Big Beat Show.

Pride only ever had one hit, a song called ‘Primrose Lane’ which made the top 30. His other tracks failed to perform, and it didn’t take long before Parnes dropped him.

Pride soon found himself struggling with drug addiction, mental illness, and legal troubles. After a failed marriage, Pride checked himself into a psychiatric clinic where he was lobotomized. At first, it seemed as if the procedure had been a success, but Pride soon fell back into drugs.

On March 26, 1969, Pride’s sister found him dead lying in his bed. It was later determined that he had accidentally overdosed on sleeping pills. He became part of the 1960s Celebrities who joined the 27 club.

Brian Jones

This musician was one of the founding members of The Rolling Stones. He was a talented multi-instrumentalist who was said to be able to pick up just about any instrument and play it adeptly. His musical gifts can be heard on Stones’ albums like Aftermatch, Their Satanic Majesties Request, and Between the Buttons.

Jones was born in Cheltenham, England. When he was young, he was astute and excelled in school – especially in music, where he played clarinet for his school’s orchestra as the first chair.

In his teen years, Jones began to rebel. He hated conformity and the strictness of school life. Jones developed a love for blues and jazz music around this time, which introduced a new unexplored world to him.

At 17, he picked up his first acoustic guitar. He spent the next few years living a life as a nomadic, vagrant busker playing music on the city streets. In the early 60s, he moved to London, where he helped form The Rolling Stones. He even came up with the band’s name drawing inspiration from a Muddy Water’s song.

Over time, however, Jones became estranged from his bandmates. The outfit’s manager Andrew Loog Oldham desired for Mick Jagger to be the face of the band and for them to write original money-making material.

Brian, however, wanted the Stones to continue playing blues music. After getting arrested a couple of times for possession of weed, he started giving the band trouble. Things got worse when the Stones toured America in 1969. Since he wasn’t able to make the tour, and had already been practically outcasted from the group, Jones was fired in June of that year.

Less than a month later, he was found dead in his swimming pool of an apparent accidental drowning on July 3, 1969.

Can you think of any other members of the so-called 27 club who died in the 1960s? And which one of these celebrity deaths would you say caused the biggest shock when they happened? Let us know in the comments.

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