Eight Members of the “32 Club” – Premature Deaths of Young Rock Stars

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Of course, we all know about the “27 Club”: the list of musicians who unfortunately died at that young age include, among others, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, D. Boon, Mia Zapata, and, more recently, Amy Winehouse.

Twenty-seven isn’t the only seemingly cursed again for rock and pop stars, however. Perusing the lists of deaths of other young stars reveals that age 32 also proves to be particularly perilous. So, without further ado, here are eight members of the “32 Club”:

Karen Carpenter of The Carpenters (March 2, 1950 – February 4, 1983)

Karen Carpenter, "lead sister" of The Carpenters

Karen Carpenter, “lead sister” of The Carpenters

Drummer Karen Carpenter performed with her brother Richard from 1969 to 1983, selling more than 100 million albums. Sadly, Karen struggled for years with anorexia nervosa, and despite seemingly overcoming the disorder, she died of heart failure due to years of damage caused by extreme weight-loss dieting.

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin (May 31, 1948 – September 25, 1980)

John Bonham

John Bonham

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page once stated that drummer John Bonham showed up “pretty tipsy” to a rehearsal session with the band on the afternoon of September 25, 1980. Actually, “tipsy” is putting it lightly. Over the course of 12 hours, Bonham ingested 40 shots of vodka, and died of a pulmonary edema caused by inhaling his vomit in his sleep. Led Zeppelin disbanded upon his death.

Florence Ballard of The Supremes (June 30, 1943 – February 22, 1976)

Florence Ballard

Florence Ballard

One of the founding members of The Supremes, Florence Ballard’s life was a roller coaster that took her from childhood poverty, to recording 10 number-one hit songs with The Supremes, and back to poverty again. Following her ejection from The Supremes due to numerous conflicts with Diana Ross and the band’s management (owing largely to jealousy, as Ross was groomed for stardom while Ballard and Mary Wilson were pushed into the background), Ballard descended into alcoholism, depression, and domestic violence, eventually moving into her sister’s home and applying for welfare.

Ballard eventually received treatment at the Henry Ford Hospital, and by 1975 was pulling her life together. She began performing music again, and had contracts extended for both an autobiography and new recorded material. Sadly, she died suddenly in early 1976 from cardiac arrest, caused by a blood clot in one of her coronary arteries.

“Mama” Cass Elliot of The Mamas & The Papas (September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974)

Cass Elliot

Cass Elliot

Mama Cass performed with The Mamas & The Papas from 1965 to 1968, and following the band’s demise, continued with a successful solo career. Despite her success, though, Cass struggled greatly with drugs, alcohol, and weight issues, all of which contributed to her health issues.

Her tendency to go on extreme diets may have caused the most lasting damage: In 1968, Cass lost 100 pounds (one-third of her weight) in only six months, and in the eight months prior to her death in 1974, she shed 80 pounds by fasting four days a week. She died in her sleep of a heart attack (not while eating a ham sandwich, as the urban legend states) in London at singer Harry Nilsson’s flat. Her fatal heart attack was likely caused by her rapid weight loss, which weakened her heart.

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  • Angrytomato

    Over a year late, but thank you for this article! The John Bonham/Keith Moon/Karen Carpenter situation has had made ponder before on the idea of an undernoticed “32 curse”, and now I can consider it ‘confirmed’. I really thought I was alone in wondering about it. Of course I know there’s really no actual curse, and all this talk is really a product of over-the-top sensationalizing/mythologizing of pop culture. But hey, why does it always have to come back to that tired ’27’ thing? I wanna hear more ’32 club’ talk!

  • Angrytomato

    Ah, seems even a medical research study agrees. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dead-musician-27-club-a-myth-study-finds/ “One of the other peaks we noticed was a 32 club.”

  • juninhobaiano

    You can add a third drummer to the list: In 1980, drummer Jon Paulos of the Chicago rock quintet “The Buckinghams” died of a drug overdose at age 32. The group’s “Kind of a Drag,” “Don’t You Care” and “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” were all top-10 in 1967.

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