Music and Death

Aspcets of Death and Dying
1/18/02
Music and Death: The Songs and Deaths of Rockstars
That Have Shocked the World
Music as we know it today is the voice of a generation. It gives us entertainment, and
speaks out for a community of people in many ways. Most people listen to at least some sort of
music, and serves a purpose in almost every facet of society. Just about any expression can
be shared through music, inlcuding ideas and feelings about death. Music is used in various
way when pertaining to death, including songs about how a death occurred, or songs at a
service mourning a death. Whichever way you look at it, music serves an important purpose,
and the songs about death and the death of certain performing artists has a great impact on
society, especially the youth of society. It will be interesting to think about some of these
songs and musicians, and the effect their short lives and music can have in our society.


No matter which way you turn your head, your going to hear many different kinds of
music. Many artists look to cover as many topics in their music, and death and dying is a topic
that everyone in this world will sooner or later deal with, so it is a topic that it is covered. It is
interesting when looking at Rap industry, and two artists come to mind right away when speaking
about death. The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur are two rap artists who both have died
within the last five years, and were both extremely popular. What one may look at is the fact that
both seemed to have an idea that they were going to die right before they did, and it was not
because of a terminal illness, it was in fact by being murdered.


Tupac Shakur was a very popular artist, whose talents were respected by people who
weren’t or aren’t even rap music fans. He was very young when he passed, at age 25, and there
are still people who listen to his music toiday, and there are even some people who question his
death even occurred. Many of his albums have thoughts of death and his lyrics represent these
thoughts, as he questions how much faith he has left, and how he seems to know his time is
coming to an end. One of his songs, titled only God can Judge me, talks about how there is death
all around him, and how it is hard to keep positive in the light of friends passing. Now, when
dealing with a popular rap artist who makes alot of money it is hard to judge his albums and lyrics
at face value. But indeed he even insists that it is difficult to escape your hard past, no matter
how much success comes forward. Some of his albums suggest his nature of knowing death as
near, such as his album Me against the World, and 2pacalypse now. Not being a Rap fan it is
hard for to judge what is going through his mind, but by reading some lyrics it is obvious that he
believes that he has a hard life, and that death may be the only answer.


The Notorious B.I.G. was a very famous rap star on the East Coast, and grew to
nationwide fame. His lyrics exemplify death even further, as he seemed to never give up his
gangster lifestyle. Before becoming famous he was a drug dealer, dealing Crack-Cocaine, so he
was well aware of death as a fact of life. His lyrics were different from Tupac’s in that most of
his Death lyrics were about murder instead of his own death, that is until he started to believe that
his death was imminent. Like Tupac’s lyrics, his songs are way to graphic to quote here, but
many of his songs had lyrics of him killing and in some rare cases even some sort of threats of
torturing as well. It would be reasonable to believe that it was because of his lifestyle on the
streets that made him think this way, as he did seem to be obsessed with murder and death.
One of his albums was entitled Ready to Die, and it has songs on both side of the
spectrum. The self titled song was about how is preparing to murder someone, and there was
also a song called suicidal thoughts, which was about how bad his self image was, and about how
he believed that he deserved to go to hell instead of Heaven because of all of his bad deeds. This
song is particularly disturbing, since it gives graphic depictions of what his life would be like in
heaven and then in hell, and it seems like he has a true belief in how bad he really is.


Both of these rap artists were immensly popular for the actually sound and catchiness of
their music. They both displayed alot of power in their music, but mainly they both expressed
alot of truth about their lives, and most certainly on how death was a constant issue. The fact that
these two people lived tough lives makes them appealing to fans, and their views on death can
give listeners an idea of how much of a reality death really is. Now, it is not depicted in a nice
way, but it is indeed very truthful, and therefore very effective.


Death has become a very large part of the music industry, and the Death of some other
music stars have shocked the music industry as well. Another two artists, Kurt Cobain of the
group Nirvana and Brad Nowell of Sublime are two that come to mind. These two are interesting
because they are completely opposite on their outlooks on life, as Kurt Cobain was very negative,
and Brad Nowell has very positive. Now their music didn’t always necessarily pertain to death i
itself, but their lifestyles seemed to, as Kurt Cobain had more than one suicide attempt and some
lyrics that were morbid, and Brad lived a very out of control life, that led to drug abuse and his
death from a drug overdose.


Kurt Cobain’s band, Nirvana, was a group that shaped rock music as we know it today.
Now rock music isn’t actually the most popular form of music anymore, but it is a format that will
probably live on for a very long time to come. As his group grew immensly popular, Kurt grew
depressed and suicidal. His band grew in the “grunge” type of style, and they revolutionized it,
starting from the very bottom before climbing all the way to the top of the music industry. The
more popular they become, the more depressed Kurt became, and his music showed it. One song
in particular showed this, this being a song released near the end of his life, and it was called “I
hate myself and I want to die.” In this song he talks about a person who kills himself as he was
slowly dying in his own room. It is interesting, since he doesnt sing it in the first person, but it
seems to be of him explaining his own death. Kurt’s first suicide attempt was by and apparant
overdose, but he was saved before he died that time, and he later shot himself in the head. But to
know that this may have been him describing his own death is indeed morbid and may have been
a cry for help.


Bradley Nowell of Sublime was probably the exact opposite of Kurt Cobain, and his
death was probably more tragic due to the recent birth of his son and his more positive outlook on
life. Throughout the Sublime’s seven year history, Brad had been suffering with a heroin
addiction, one that he was never able to kick as he died from a heroine overdose. His music was
very upbeat, and it showed how much a of a part type lifestyle him and his band all lived. Bradley
was indeed a very self destructive person, as he couldn’t live without drugs, and had many failures
when he attempted to get clean and sober. Its a sad story as he was very high on life, but he as
well accepted that he had a hard life, and his overdose ended that struggle. Their music didn’t
become popular until after his death, and his death may indeed has contributed to the popularity of
their music. Just like Cobain, Tupac, B.I.G., Bradley still has a following after his death, and will
continue to have one for a long time afterword.


Each one of these artists has a different story, but they all ended the same, with a tragic
and early death. Each artist was still in his 20s, and each artist has touched many fans around
them. The importance of their death’s is clear, that it gives the general popular culture a sense of
what death is and that it truly exists out there. All four of these deaths have touched the senses in
different ways, one being a suicide, one being an accidental overdose, and two being murders. In
essence it is obviously not good that these artists’ deaths’ came so early, but at least it is a warning
sign for the rest of the world, in that it proves that everyone dies sometime, and that no one is
invincible. These people all lived extravagent lifestyles, and they all learned the lessons of life the
hard way. Each death has been like an overdose of reality to the popular culture, and has
grounded everyone whose lives they have touched.


Anything that popular recording artists do is going to be documented and looked at by the
general public. When one of them actually dies, especially at a young age and in a tragic way, it is
going to have some sort of impact on society’s popular culture, if not the entire public. Sale’s
suggest that death is even good thing for an artists career, believe it or not. Jimi Hendrix, a
legendary guitarist and performing artist summed it nicely saying, “Once you’re dead, your made
for life.” In death, many of these artists sales soar to the top of the charts, as shown by music
from the recenlty deceased Aaliyah and Beetles legend, George Harrison. Bob Marley, who died
in 1981, is still the best selling Reggae artist in the world. Artists like the Doors and Elvis Presly
have also thrived post mortem. All of this proves that even in death, the music goes on, and
people are still touched by the work of the dead.


There are many ways to grasp and view death as a fact of life, and death in the music
industry. Some artists portray death in their actual music, and others just give us a look at death
by their lifestyle and how they eventual die. One thing has become clear: That the lives and
deaths of famous peerforming artists will touch the general public in more than one way. When a
performance artist has died, the public rallies around them, and buys and listen’s to their music to
supoort the deceased and their families. When a performance artist sings about death and their
views or brushes with death, it gives society a chance to see what people think about death, and
how they may handle an apparent death or the thought that their own life is about to come to an
end.
Death is something that every person is going to have to deal with at some point or
another in their lives. To the people who have never had someone close to them die, the death of
a celebrity can be the next closest way for that person to experience and learn to deal with death.
The deaths of the four artists mentioned touched the public in different ways. Brad Nowell was
an aspiring artist who was just making it to the top when it all came crashing down. Tupac
Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. were both already on top and their lifestyles of violence led to
their demise. And the Kurt Cobain was a small town guy who didn’t want all of the fame and his
psyche crumbled as he comitted suicide. Each one of these deaths and the music brought from
these artists gives us a sense of what it is like to die the way each of these people did. To alot of
fans, when their favorite artist dies, a very small part of them dies, and it brings a rebirth to reality,
on how life should be lived and that the industry is only entertainment, and not the way to a
fulfulling life. In the end music cannot be a way of life, but it can lead to inspiration towards
leading a good life, and gives comfort and hope towards that goal.


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