Life After Death
On March 25, 1997, Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious BIG, released his best selling album 15 days after his murder. Ironically named “Life After Death”, the album was considered a landmark and received 3 Grammy nominations. “Life After Death” outsold its equally grimly-named and possibly prophetic precursor (Ready to Die) and was certified diamond in 2000. Biggie Smalls’ album is a prime example of a musician’s financial worth increasing after their death. Furthermore, the rapper, known for his violent lyrics, is today seen as one of the greatest rappers of all time. Sometimes death can seem more profitable than life. In this way Biggie is not alone; musicians making more money and turning more heads after their death is a commonly seen pattern.
With 6 of Forbes Magazine’s 13 highest paid celebrities of 2016 being musicians it is clear that some top musical acts have tremendous earning potential beyond the grave with “King of Pop” Michael Jackson leading the entire pack. His pop nemesis (Prince), as well as the respective kings of Reggae and Rock and Roll, David Bowie and my favorite Beatle have also been making their mark financially since their deaths.
Make no mistake, these acts all made significant monies during their lifetimes. Elvis made around $5 million US (the equivalent of $40 million US today) in his twenties but he astoundingly made $55 million US in 2012, 35 years after his death. The widely proclaimed “King of Pop” died with $400 million US in debt but has since made enough money to pay off his enormous debt and amass a respectable fortune.
Nostalgia works wonders when it comes to music and in many cases artistes are more respected as musicians after death.
In some cases, after initial success artistes reach a roadblock. Let’s take Michael Jackson as a case in point. The highlight of Jackson’s career was definitely his Thriller album which is highly acclaimed to this day. Unfortunately, after a string of great successes, his career went into a dangerous downward spiral. Allegations of paedophilia and child molestation did nothing to revive his dying career. Interestingly, after his death, Jackson’s career was revived and he rightfully remains a legend of pop music to this day.
Another group of musicians have had the fortune (or misfortune?) of reaching stardom posthumously. Otis Redding, now hailed as a legend of soul music, tragically died in a place crash only weeks after recording his quintessential hit, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay”. Other singers like Selena and Eva Cassidy also became much more famous after passing away.
Some legends of music have reached the point of being immortalised but it must be asked whether this is fair for them to be more appreciated after passing on. Certainly Bob Marley embraced the idea of his musical legend outliving him.
Possessions make you rich? I don’t have that type of richness. My richness is life, forever. – Bob Marley