Dying as a career move may sound like a strange question, but there’s plenty of evidence that it works, at least for the deceased’s benefactors. There are many cases where the person is remembered as they were but also many who seemed to become more wonderful the second they were no longer with us.
With Christmas fast approaching, just look at some of the compilation and greatest hits albums that will be here. Elvis, for example, is bound to have yet another version of some of his hits released though obviously they are the same ones released often since his death 40 years ago. He was a superstar and worshipped by many but did dying keep his reverence better than if he survived.
David Bowie, after his death, was revered as he was when he lived. His death is more recent but I don’t think his legacy will be milked like it has been for others. Buddy Holly only survived long enough to make three albums of songs yet still has numerous combinations of greatest hits though. As he died 60 years ago I am sure most people could only name a couple of songs. In fact a quick internet search shows 24 collection albums since he died. He was a fine musician of his time and at the forefront of a new type of music, but was he much more? We will never truly know as he didn’t get a chance to show his potential.
When Kurt Cobain joined the infamous 27 club, he was thought of as one of the voices of his generation. This was true in many ways and the outpouring of grief as it was announced he had died showed how he was loved by many. The difference to Buddy Holly was the amount of songs recorded and his live shows playing these songs live. This also applies to Chester Bennington of Linkin Park fame who recently took his own life and who I am listening to now. He wrote and sang on many songs focussing on depression and suicide, indeed the last song he publicly sang on was about suicide. Videos released of home a few days before he died showed a happy man but his life ended soon after. He again has been revered as a voice of his generation; again it’s too early to know if the back catalogue will be exploited but I think it less likely than with some.
The modern way of choosing electronic versions of music is probably better for the memory of someone as purchases are more selective and personal. You no longer need to go to a record store to see your idols on innumerable complications. The charts often show surges in purchases after someone has died, indeed I expect Tom Petty’s death this week triggered a surge in sales. With the modern way people can pick and choose what they want and can make their own greatest hits, it’s also a time to look for records they might not have heard or original versions of songs covered by other people.
I think it’s better to remember people how they were and if they pass on maybe buy albums already released or download your own choices. Stop the profiteering by record companies from dead artists and try and get them to focus more on living artists. Compilations from already recorded music is an easy and cheap way to make money. Although artists that died many years ago can be introduced to a new audience, there are better ways. Families should pass on their favourite artists to their children or at least let them hear older music, especially with so much modern music being covers of much older songs. Let the dead lie in peace and quiet.