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Life after death

music Updated: Mar 09, 2009 16:03 IST
Parag Kamani
Parag Kamani
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

In the bizarre world of music, it has often been considered that the ultimate marketing ploy for an artiste to boost album sales and gain eternal recognition is.. to die. This statement rings true if one considers a recent survey that shows that the pop icon that fans would most like to meet is Elvis Presley.. who passed away in 1977!

Still rich
Researched by U S-based online music channel Music Choice, the complete list of artistes announced by them includes six dead stars. I don’t have a fascination for the dead, but it becomes difficult to argue against a list that contains Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who died of AIDS in 1991, Beatles legend John Lennon who was assassinated in 1980, guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix who died under circumstances which have never been fully explained, Doors singer Jim Morrison who was found dead in a Paris apartment bathtub (although, in 2007, there was a report that alleged that he died of a drug overdose) and, finally, the artiste that placed reggae on the world map,

Bob Marley, who died due to the spread of melanoma to his lungs and brain. For those curious enough to inquire about the living stars who made the top ten, the list includes Madonna, last year’s most successful ‘live’ performer –– pun not intended –– Michael Jackson, who is in the midstof announcing yet one more comeback that will again not take place, former Take That singer Robbie Williams, and U2 vocalist Bono.

Money spinning legends
The undiminished popularity of the late Elvis can also be gauged from the fact that he topped Forbes magazine’s Top Earning Dead Celebrities list for a second year in a row with an income of US$52 million (in comparison, the living Madonna, No. 2 on the list of pop icons that fans would most like to meet, earned US$40 million).

The upside on Presley’s annual income commenced with his 30th death anniversary in 2007, running into this year with the 70th anniversary of Graceland, Elvis’ former home in Memphis, immortalised by Paul Simon in his multi-platinum selling Graceland album, released in 1986.

The celebrations are being supported by new exhibits in March: Elvis In Hollywood spotlights the singer’s movie career with memorabilia from his silver-screen successes, while Elvis Lives: The King showcases Elvis in action as he entertains crowds in a video presentation.

While the late John Lennon appears on both lists, with an earning of US$9 million last year, it remains a fascinating exercise for me to figure out how music followers still have a fascination for artists who have passed away. Is it because none of the current lot of artistes have the same star value of the past or is it simply because the music churned out by the now demised artistes have a lasting presence in the history of rock ‘n’ roll?