The strange and tragic life story of Richey Edwards is, so far, unique in the variety of forever 27 club stories. He is deemed a member of the famous group not because he actually died at 27 years of age, but because he disappeared and, like many famous missing people, was never seen or heard from again. You can read about his entire story here: A Version of Reason: In Search of Richey Edwards
At the time he vanished he was 27 years and 41 days old, but his family only reluctantly had him declared presumed dead in 2008. He was a lyricist, promo expert and sometimes guitarist for the Welsh band Manic Street Preachers.
The group was famous in part for the lyrical approach in their songs. At a time when the political and cultural fringes that used to be inhabited by the Clash and other bands were nearly deserted, they brought the sense of frustration with the status quo and the desire for change back to the masses. In addition, the band’s lyrics were very intellectual and filled with references to literature and poetry, largely due to Edwards. He was fascinated with Rimbaud, the French symbolist poet, as well as Camus and Dostoevsky, and had a penchant for the dramatic in all aspects of his short life.
An educated young man with a university degree in political history, Edwards started out as a roadie and van driver for the newly-formed trio in his native Wales. But his charisma and energy along with his eccentricities made him a natural rocker, and the band accepted him as a 4th member. Unfortunately, he was unable to play an instrument and his role in the group was mostly as lyric writer and publicity person. He appeared at shows with a guitar, but his miming was not actually heard. Likewise, he did not contribute any music to the recordings.
Edwards came to the music public’s attention when he displayed his ability to self-harm in an interview. A reporter from NME questioned his seriousness and adherence to punk values as expressed in the group’s songs, and implied that they were inauthentic. In response Edwards took out a razor blade and etched the phrase 4real into his forearm, requiring 18 stitches but mightily impressing the interviewer and his readers. He admitted that he experienced clinical depression often and had done so from an early age. He felt himself to be an outsider who didn’t fit in, and was painfully bored and angry with his life. He was prone to substance abuse, and his self-mutilation was well-known. However, he never attempted suicide and saw it as a weakness that he did not have.
In late 1994, the Manics ended a tour with an orgy of destruction onstage in a London show that saw Edwards smashing a guitar and the rest of the group joining in on the fun. On February 1, 1995 he and fellow Manic James Bradfield were due to board a plane for the US, and he did not show up. He had left the hotel where he was staying at 7 that morning, and then driven to Cardiff in Wales to his apartment. During the next few weeks there were reports that he had gone to a passport office and been seen at a bus station in Newport, where a cab driver took him to several locations and was paid with cash. On the 14th of February his car was ticketed, and on the 17th was reported as abandoned and was searched by police. They found the vehicle to have a dead battery and showing signs that he had lived in it for a time.
Edwards’ car had been left near the Severn Bridge, a common site for suicides, and there was much talk afterward that he had leapt off of the bridge and taken his own life, even though his body was never found. This rumor was challenged as unlikely by those who knew him, however, and he himself had said that he would never take his own life because he was strong and could handle pain. There have been tales of alleged sightings of Edwards over the years since he vanished, much in the vein of Elvis sightings – uncorroborated and spread without evidence or proof. The family waited as long as they could before giving up on him and having him declared dead, and the band has reserved his royalties in hopes of him returning someday. But no reason has ever surfaced for anyone to think that he is still alive, and no evidence has been found to verify his demise. As for the forever 27 club, his vanishing act at 27 qualifies him as a bona-fide member.
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