Legendary musician Prince was found dead today at his home in suburban Minneapolis at age 57.
The circumstances of his death aren’t currently known, but famous musicians have a tendency to die young. Music fans and researchers ruefully note the existence of the “27 club,” which includes famous artists – Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix among them – who met tragic early deaths at that age.
But research published at The Conversation by Dianna Theadora Kenny, a professor of psychology and music at the University of Sydney, finds that the 27 club is largely a myth. Kenney analyzed the deaths of more than 12,000 popular musicians between the years of 1950 and 2014. What she found was that the late 50s and early 60s are the years the artists in her database were most likely to die.
Prince was 57, the age with the third-highest frequency of mortality in Kenny’s database. The deadliest age was 56, with 2.3 percent of the deaths occurring then.
Researchers have generally found that the risk of death for musicians is higher in the younger decades of their life than it is for the general population. Kenny’s research shows that the life expectancy for the pop musicians in her database is significantly lower than life expectancy among the general population, at all decades in her study.
“Across the seven decades studied, popular musicians’ lifespans were up to 25 years shorter than the comparable US population,” Kenny writes. “Accidental death rates were between five and 10 times greater. Suicide rates were between two and seven times greater; and homicide rates were up to eight times greater than the US population.”
Kenny’s data strongly suggest that the life of a pop star isn’t all glamour and glory – there’s a lot of human suffering lurking behind the curtains.