One Ear in the Grave

Our obsession with the dead is getting out of hand, Serena Bhardwaj delves deep to uncover the music industries shameful capitalisation of the dead

26th October 2015

In today’s society, death tends to immortalise musicians. But why does our obsession with an artist grow exponentially once they’ve kicked the bucket? Why do we put them on a pedestal bigger than any stage they played when they were alive? All I know is mortality boosts record sales, that’s for sure. 

Last week it was announced that the soundtrack from the recent film ‘Amy’ it to be released later this month. It will feature a collection of live versions and ‘rarities’ including a downtempo edition of ‘Some Unholy War’. The only thing is, with the click of a button a lot of these songs can be accessed on Spotify, Soundcloud or Youtube…not so rare after all. From the industry’s viewpoint I suppose its cash that’s the driving force. But, surely profit is not a viable justification to revive the dead through their music. Winehouse’s album ‘Lioness: Hidden Treasures’, was released four months after she died and it ended up being the highest selling album of 2011, it’s just a shame she’ll never know. When a statue of Amy Winehouse was revealed in London, people flocked from all over the world to attend the unveiling. There’s no denying she was an astonishingly talented artist; but we’ve suddenly transformed her into an object of worship instead of appreciating the music she produced.

In 2012, Cochella decided to one-up this by making the most of technological advancements to glorify the late Tupac by producing a hologram of the rapper. That’s where I finally draw the line; trying to recreate a performance of a dead man is slightly disturbing and morally sketchy. We need to let the dead rest in peace instead of exploiting them for our own benefit. Michael Jackson, John Lennon, Johnny Cash - the list is endless. There’s even a 27 Club of talented musicians, adding to the mystery surrounding death which as a society we have always been fascinated by.

Next month, Kurt Cobain’s rendition of the Beatles’ And I Love Her / Sappy (early demo) is set to be released as a 7 inch vinyl that can be bought for £10. It’s bit steep for a single which is once again available on the internet. You could even splash out and get the Montage of Heck Home Recordings Deluxe Edition for a modest £100. I’m left wondering, if Cobain were alive today would these extra records be released and would they be so expensive? Perhaps our infatuation with Nirvana’s frontman stems from the conspiracy surrounding his death - I suppose that is most likely true in my case. I’m not necessarily a massive fan of the music, I like a handful of their songs yet I’ve watched numerous documentaries and interviews with them.

“She was an astonishingly talented artist; but we’ve suddenly transformed her into an object of worship instead of appreciating the music she produced”

I fully put my hands and admit that I often join in with obsessing over artists who’ve passed away - to some extent. After Amy Winehouse died, I played her music far more frequently than I had done before. Perhaps for the listeners it’s just innocent musical martyrdom and a way to cherish the music. Maybe for the industry it simply comes down to money.



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