By Robson Sharuko
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead but it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top,’’ he would have told them. ‘’I’ve seen the Promised Land, I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
It’s called ‘Club 27’ and, for millions of people across the world, it’s a very painful reminder of the time when the music died.
For a strange reason, which is something beyond the comprehension of humans, it’s the age when a host of music legends died.
And, for many of them, their death had a similar ringing tune — now and again, it was the sad end product of the abuse of drugs and alcohol and, of course, accidents, suicide and homicide.
The great Jimi Hendrix, the immortal Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Robert Johnson, Janis Joplin, Alexandre Levy, Robert Johnson, Joe Henderson, Alan ‘Blind Owl’ Wilson, Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan, Jesse Belvin and Rockin’ Robin Roberts.
They have one thing in common, they were all just 27, when they died.
Then, on April 5, 1994, Kurt Cobain, the frontman of American rock band, Nirvana, one of the world’s most influential musical groups, also died.
And, just like his contemporaries, he was 27.
In just a short period, in the trenches, Cobain and his group sold more than 75 million records, and gave the world one of its all-time beautiful theme songs, ‘’Smells Like Teen Spirit.’’
In the final years of his life, Cobain was a tortured soul, a man who struggled with drug addiction, especially heroin, depression and the punishing weight that came with all the fame.
By the time his body was found, with a gunshot wound to the head, on April 8, ’94, he had been dead for three days and the police conclusion was that he had taken his life, at his home, in Seattle.
His name is everywhere — one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All-Time, according to Rolling Stone, one of the best 10 ‘Greatest Voices in Music’ ever, according to MTV and, of course, he has a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
For the ‘Club of 27,’ the death of Cobain, amid the global revolution his music had sparked, cast probably the biggest spotlight on the tragic demise of some of the world’s superstar musicians.
One July 23, 2011, English singer and songwriter, Amy Winehouse, became the latest to die, at the age of 27, her final years spent battling drugs and alcohol addiction.
Today, a bronze statue of the singer stands in Camden Town, north London, a reminder of a genius whose music catapulted her to the top of the world, before it all came crashing down.
A physical throwback to a diminutive artist, who was a giant in her genre who, just three years before her death, had celebrated her Finest Hour.
It came on February 10, 2008 when she took home five Grammy Awards, in a blow-out success story, which saw her win gongs for the Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and best Pop Vocal Album.
Never, in the history of British music, had a female musician won so much, at the event which recognises excellence in music, her achievements that night even led to an induction into the Guinness Book of Records.
Ironically, if not even chillingly, it was also the year when, for the first time, it was revealed Winehouse had, privately, raised fears she would probably join the ‘Club of 27.’
This came from her former personal assistant, Alex Haines, in December 2008, three years before the singer died.
“It was my job to look after her but it was impossible,’’ Haines told the News of the World tabloid. “I thought she wouldn’t survive the year with all the drugs and self-harming.
“Cutting herself was her favourite pastime, she’d keep taking drugs until she passed out. I reckon she spent £3,500 a week on them.
“She reckoned she would join the ‘27 Club’ of rock stars who died at that age. She told me, ‘I have a feeling I’m gonna die young’.”
Somehow, that’s exactly what happened and, at the age of 27, Winehouse died.
THE MYSTERY OF NUMBERS, IT IS WHAT IT IS
That’s the mystery of life, isn’t it, bombarding us with things which we can’t give an explanation to, which we can’t believe until we learn that, indeed, they really happened.
How does one even explain that, as if driven by some form of mystical powerful force, the “News of the World” tabloid, the newspaper which Haines chose to tell Winehouse’s story, and fears, also collapsed in 2011.
The very same year the singer died.
Battered by the storm triggered by the phone-hacking scandal, Rupert Mudorch’s Sunday tabloid, founded in October 1843 as a broadsheet, was finally forced to cease operations, on July 10, 2011.
By the time the newspaper closed shop, with the classic front page headline, ‘Thank You & Goodbye,’ it had been published as a tabloid, for 27 years, with its conversion to a smaller newspaper coming in 1984.
The demise of both the newspaper, and the death of the singer, somehow even came in the same month, July 2011.
This week, one of the world’s richest power couples, Bill and Melinda Gates, dropped a bombshell, which shocked the globe, when they announced their divorce.
“Over the last 27 years, we have raised three incredible children and built a foundation that works all over the world to enable all people to lead healthy, productive lives,” the couple’s statement read.
With the 65-year-old Bill, being the fourth wealthiest person in the world, worth around US$124bn, according to Forbes, it’s inevitable their divorce was always going to make headlines, around the world.
For me, the real interest came in the number of years, which the duo, a very powerful team in the world of philanthropy, spent together before realising the time had come, to go their separate ways.
And, in the year that marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Winehouse, and all the scary stuff about the ‘Club of 27,’ I started asking myself whether there is something really wrong about this number.
Asking myself why the other major divorce, in Bill’s life, also happened when he was 27 — when his high school friend, Paul Allen, left Microsoft, the company they had co-founded in 1975.
Paul left Microsoft in February 1983, amid a rift with his fellow co-founder Bill, leaving his colleague as the chief executive of the company.
Away from Microsoft Paul, started to explore his other fantasies, including music, and would hang out with rock stars like Mick Jagger, Peter Gabriel, Paul McCartney and U2’s frontman, Bono.
He also loved Jimi Hendrix, the other giant member of the ‘Club of 27,’ and Paul even bought the singer’s white Stratocaster he played at Woodstock.
Paul even opened a museum, which he dedicated to Hendrix, once again providing a powerful illustration of the influence which the late musician had in his life.
With billions in his accounts, Paul also invested in sports teams, including the Portland Trailblazers, the Seattle Seahawks and Major League Soccer franchise, Seattle Sounders.
Ten years ago, Paul published his book, Idea Man, in which he spoke about his life, his huge part in the founding of Microsoft and the differences with Bill, which led them apart.
The book was released on April 19, 2011, exactly 27 years after Paul had initially quit the Microsoft board, in 1984, before returning in 1990, and then leaving for good, at the turn of the millennium.
On October 15, 2018, Paul died, and was worth about US$20.3 billion, never married and never had any kids.
His death brought an end to a lengthy battle with cancer, which had first been detected in 1982, the year his friend Bill turned 27.
And, all this has been sending my mind exploding this week, as I battled to understand why some things have to happen the way they do, not least having to remember that only last week, we were once again evoking the memory of Derby Mankinka.
The football genius we lost, at the age of 27, in that plane crash, off the coast of Gabon, on April 27, 1993.
Then, it all came crashing down, after I also realised that, just a few days later, former Valencia striker, Rommel Fernandez, was killed in a car crash, after losing control of his vehicle, on May 6, 1993.
He was 27.
The Estadio Olimpico Rommel Fernandez, where Panama play their international matches, is name after him.
Florian Vijent, a Dutch goalkeeper, was killed on June 7, 1989, when Surinam Airways Flight 764 came down as it came in to land in Surinam.
He was 27 and was one of the 178 people, who included members of his select side visiting Suriname for an exhibition match, who lost their lives in that crash.
Prominent players like Ruud Gullit had been scheduled to be on that flight, to play in that exhibition match, but withdrew from the team.
There are a lot of other footballers, who lost their lives at the age of 27, in plane crashes, including in the ’87 Alianza Lima disaster in Peru and the ’79 mid-air collision in Kamianske, in the then Soviet Union, we might need the whole newspapers to deal with their stories.
Gigi Meroni, Aldo Ballarin, Francisco Ossola, Vittorio Mero and Einar Orn Birgisson, who was murdered by a former teammate, all died in horror circumstances, at the age of 27.
Probably the most unique case of them all is the one about Scottish international, John White, a member of the dominant Spurs side of the early ‘60s, who was killed by lightning, on a golf course, on July 21, 1964.
He was 27 and had sought shelter, under a tree, during a thunderstorm.
MARC-VIVIEN FOE, MAHREZ, BENJANI, ESCOBAR
This week, Manchester City booked their place, in the final of the UEFA Champions League, for the first time in their history.
The Citizens won their Wealthy Boys showdown, against Paris Saint-Germain, quite comfortably by beating their opponents 2-1, in their backyard, before completing the job, with a 2-0 victory, in Manchester.
The success story, which thrust City within striking range of their finest hour, once again evoked the memory of Marc-Vivien Foe, the Indomitable Lion, who has a special place at the club.
This is a football institution where the Number 23 shirt is not used, after it was retired by the Citizens, in honour of the Cameroonian defensive midfielder.
It’s a measure of the impact, which Foe made at City that, even though he spent just a season on loan at the club, City still found it necessary to honour him, by retiring the Number 23 jersey.
And, it’s hard not to be swayed by the mystical power of numbers, especially if one considers that City’s date with destiny, in the Champions League, comes exactly 23 years after their lowest point in history.
It came at the end of the 1998 season.
City had then slipped into the second-tier of the English League, which is now known as the Championship, but found the going tough, down there and, in May 1998, they were relegated into the third-tier.
That ensured they became only the second club, after Germany’s 1. FC Magdeburg, to have won a European trophy, and still drop into Division Three, by then.
While City were being relegated, into the Division Three in 1998, Foe found himself, on the sidelines, that same year, when he broke his leg and, in the process, missed a move to Manchester United.
More importantly, for his country, it also meant their best midfield rock was also ruled out of the 1998 FIFA World Cup finals in France.
He was 23.
It’s difficult to argue Foe’s spirit has been walking with City, for the way they have preserved his legacy and, for some of us who now find hidden meaning in numbers, it’s not surprising their finest hour could possibly come this year.
After all, 27 years have passed since Foe made his international debut for Cameroon, in a match against Mexico, on September 22, 1993.
Having played all three games, for the Indomitable Lions, at the ’94 World Cup, and a number of other international matches, his recruitment was meant to give City the dressing room experience, they needed, as they tried to focus on a future where they could challenge for big trophies.
Their move, from Maine Road, which had been their home ground since 1923, was a demonstration of intent, by the City leaders back then, that they now wanted to challenge the big boys.
Ironically, the final goal for the club, at Maine Road, was scored by Foe, on April 21, 2003, in the 3-0 win over Sunderland.
Tragically, just 45 days later, Foe collapsed, and died, in a FIFA Confederation Cup match.
If I had been hired to write his speech, as he waved goodbye to the club, telling them their investment in him, as part of their masterplan for greatness, would one day be rewarded, with even a crack at the Champions League, I would have borrowed from the late Martin Luther King Jnr.
“We’ve got some difficult days ahead but it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountain top,’’ he would have told them.
“I’ve seen the Promised Land, I may not get there with you but I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”
Twenty seven years later, they are on the brink of greatness.
It’s not a coincidence, is it, to realise the hero of City’s semi-final showdown against Paris Saint-Germain, was another African star, Riyad Mahrez, who scored once in the French capital, and twice in Manchester, this week.
His current contract runs out in 2023 which, to the City family, will be time to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of Foe.
Ironically, when he was starting his professional football journey, at French lower division side, Quimper, Mahrez made exactly 27 appearances.
It’s even more remarkable that — amid the transformation which City underwent, in the wake of the arrival of wealthy owners — one of their first African signings was Zimbabwean forward Benjani, in February 2008.
Somehow, when he arrived, Benjani was handed the Number 27 jersey.
Football will never forget Colombian defender, Andreas Escobar, who was shot dead, on his return from the ’94 World Cup finals, which was Foe’s maiden major tournament. Escobar was just 27.
And, his fellow countryman, Elson Becerra, who was also gunned down, on January 8, 2006, was also 27.
Incredibly, Becerra is the player who tried to save the life of Foe, when he collapsed, during the Indomitable Lions’ match against Colombia, in that FIFA Confederation Cup match, in 2003.
To God Be The Glory!
Peace to the GEPA Chief, the Big Fish, George Norton, Daily Service and all the Chakariboys in the struggle.
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Khamaldinhoooooooooooooooooo! The Herald