published Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Phillips: Birthdays, death and the race to 28

I don't care if you're a newly minted 21-year-old or if you've turned "29" every year for the last two decades, a birthday is supposed to be the best day of the year.

So why did turning 27 this week make me feel nervous?

Certainly not because I'm vain about my age. I laugh uproariously at people who complain of going through a "quarter-life crisis" and have no concerns about turning 30 in a few years.

What I am worried about is the prospect of joining The 27 Club, an infamous group of celebrities who died when they were 27.

The only criterion to join is having survived 27 years on Earth but not quite 28. (Being a celebrity helps, but that's only recommended, not mandatory.)

As of Wednesday, I'm officially eligible, but despite wanting to fit in, I'm understandably reluctant to join.

The 27 Club first gained notoriety when Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison died at age 27 between 1969 and 1971. Since then, the roster has grown to -- retroactively -- include Robert Johnson (1911-1938) as well as Kurt Cobain (1967-1994) and Amy Winehouse, who was just a few months shy of 28 when she died a year ago.

Obviously, people die young at other ages, and musicians are no exception.

Sid Vicious was 21; Buddy Holly and Aaliyah were 22; Duane Allman and Biggie Smalls were 24; Tupac was 25; and Gram Parsons and Otis Redding were 26.

So why is 27 so special?

For one thing, it's been given a name, and names have power. For all that other ages have claimed their share of celebrities, no one talks about The 26 Club or The 22 Club.

Most importantly, however, it's how old I am.

After passing the last age milestone at 21, I've found it necessary to come up with reasons to get excited about my birthday.

Sometimes, that requires a bit of a stretch.

At 23, it was because I was the same age as Michael Jordan's jersey number. At 25, it was because I could rent a car or a beach house.

This year, it's because I'm starting a race to see whether I can outlive Jimi, Janis and Kurt.

Not only does that sound like a sexier reason than that my age is a perfect exponent (3x3x3), but it's also achievable. Considering those artists died of suicide or of living a lifestyle I don't want and couldn't afford, my chances of seeing 28 are pretty good, by comparison.

Granted, I'm unlikely to achieve a fraction of their success, even with the 47 years life expectancy suggests I have left, but I'll be alive and they'll be dead. That's a good tradeoff, in my book.

Two days down, 363 to go.

• • •

Just over a year after his performance was cut short at the then-newly opened venue, Georgia country/rock musician Corey Smith is coming back to Track 29 on Sept. 14.

No word on whether he'll perform the song "Chattanooga," which he wrote about the incident during his last appearance, but you can find out for $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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