Magazine article Metro Magazine

New Mediated Memorials

Magazine article Metro Magazine

New Mediated Memorials

Article excerpt

The last few months have been tough for music fans--David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole, George Martin, Jon English, Stevie Wright and Motorhead's Lemmy Kilmister have all joined the big gig in the sky. These losses have led to the development of fan--and media-led memorials and tributes as well as to a hunger for existing content, never-before-seen content and compilations of best-ofs for those of us who want to remember (or, perhaps, catch up on what all the fuss is about).

Public memorials for celebrities are hardly a new phenomenon. However, there's something about the loss of popular musicians that's always grabbed us. As RMIT Music Industry lecturer Catherine Strong explained in the introduction to the 2015 book Death and the Rock Star, which she co-edited with Barbara Lebrun, when a popular musician dies, fans look for various ways to grieve. Strong and Lebrun's volume explores international high-profile case studies including famous 'members' of the '27 Club' like Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and Jim Morrison, and also discusses closer-to-home tributes like the Melbourne laneway memorials for recently lost popular musicians Bon Scott (of AC/DC), Paul Hester (of Crowded House) and Chrissy Amphlett (of the Divinyls). Strong notes that the naming of laneways after these lost musicians serves to create and conserve musical communities, providing 'a lasting, tangible memorial to the departed [...] Fans gain a physical place that they can visit to remember, pay tribute to and mourn the loss of their idols.'

Before permanent memorials can be put in place, media memorials arise to help us fill the void and communicate our feelings of loss and gratitude. When Bowie died, his passing was first met on social media with optimistic scepticism, as fans dismissed early reports as merely a 'stunt' linked to a key theme in the song 'Lazarus' from his last album, Blackstar. As confirmation came from Bowie's representatives (and, importantly, his son), social and then mainstream media were flooded with clips, lost interviews and insights from collaborators and friends. The same process occurred for all of the earlier lost musicians (though with relatively fewer conspiracy theories, depending on the artist), as fans and outlets seemingly entered into a co-dependent relationship of exposure.

As Strong and her co-contributors have proven through Death and the Rock Star, an entire volume could be filled with notes about how we remember musicians when they die. And it seems that, following each artist's death, there's a slightly new way in which we can remember them. In the first days after an artist's passing, their loss is newsworthy primarily because of their fame but, often, outlets soon look to complete the story with details of how they died. …

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