27 Gone Too Soon is the kind of documentary you can imagine getting three monthly airplay on late Friday evenings on Channel 5 for the next ten years. It is at the same time both insightful and extraordinarily throwaway and naff. The insightful stuff comes with the very brief analysis that takes place of the lives of six extraordinary musicians who died at the age of 27. Those musicians are Brian Jones, Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse. All of them it would seem were united by a childhood experience of some combination of parental divorce, abandonment, neglect, bullying and sadistic abuse. Taking on board what the various commentators have to offer, and adding it all up, you realise that rather than looking at extraordinary adult musicians, you are looking at children whose sense of fear, loneliness and suffering, was only exacerbated by the consequences of the musical success they had experienced. The documentary seemed to suggest that the musical success, which was in some part fuelled by a need to express trauma, served only to cut them off from finding a way out of their private hell. The music industry functioned as a modern day Fagan, knowingly using smoke and mirrors, taking advantage of the desperation for acceptance and love, to groom and cajole these children into walking down the glittering hallway of the music business, to what to these young adults were being sold as redemption but to what those in the music industry knew would be their inevitable demise. Whilst the kids looked around them wondering about when and where they would finally find peace, the industry picked up the dollars that fell from their pockets. These kids needed help, but all they were helped towards was a life of empty hotel rooms and easy access to drugs to numb the pain. There is then a meaningful core to this documentary and yet somehow the whole concept feels a bit naff. The idea suggested by the title of this documentary that twenty-seven is a particularly significant age for the death of musicians is never really taken seriously, and when it is mentioned, it is quickly dispatched. Furthermore whilst there are some distinguished commentators, offering some genuinely interesting reflections, there are a number of young musicians, who seem to be far too young, well-balanced and not particularly successful, to be able to do anything other than clutch at straws. And when you throw in some of the needless cheap visuals, for example images of tablets falling through the air, when drug dependency is mentioned, you kind of feel that this whole thing is a bit of a wind up. And yet as has already been pointed out, it is not.
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