Celebrity deaths

By August 2, 2011Uncategorized

How is it that in death, the rich and famous become even richer and more famous? Unlike diehard fans, we never really take much notice of them or their music while they are alive, yet when they are gone, their album sales go through the roof as we feel the need to be a part of something great that we originally missed out on when they were on this earth. 

Amy Winehouse is an example of that. 

Since her sudden death last Saturday, her 2006 album Back to Black is set to storm back into the charts this week at number one, and her reputation for being a talented musician and a down to earth woman who loved her family – as opposed to a blood stained ballet pumps wearing drug addict with an alcohol dependency – has filled the news pages this week.

Her father Mitch too has helped re-build his daughter’s reputation. Any parent would play tribute to their child, but his moving eulogy where his last words were “Goodnight, my angel, sleep tight. Mummy and Daddy love you ever so much” showed a vulnerable and somewhat child-like side to Amy. Coupled with the fact that he revealed she had been clean from drugs for three years, sober for three weeks and with the post mortem results inconclusive, perhaps demonstrates she had put her demons to rest.

We’ll never know though how Amy died until the toxicology results come through; but for now, the beehive, heavy eyeliner and jazzy voice that produced so many catchy songs is what Amy is currently renowned for.

Her death has also raised some interesting ethical questions about posthumous products, profits and ownership of a celebrity brand.  

Amy’s family certainly has other things on their mind at the moment but will eventually need to ask ‘what happens to Amy’s work?’.  Amy had recently collaborated with Fred Perry on a fashion line and had three collections in the pipeline.  Fred Perry has considerately put these on hold until they can speak with the family about whether to release the line. But there is also the album she recorded while holidaying in Barbados in 2009 which was reported at the time as having a distinct reggae feel to it, a leap away from her signature sound.  At the time the record company rejected this new sound and sent her back to the recording studio.  No doubt they are still in possession of these tracks (and many others) and my guess is, they will be heavily produced and released within the next year.  The record company are the owners of these unreleased tracks, but Amy’s family are the keepers of her image, her reputation and her memory.

New music from Michael Jackson has also been released since his death sparking comments from his industry ‘friends’ that the pop star would not have been happy with the release because the music wasn’t actually finished.   A clear example of greed winning over creative integrity and image protection.  But does any of this really matter if the family are getting the profits?  Perhaps Priscilla should start offering master classes to families to ensure that they not only receive all proceeds but that the legacy of their talented loved one is continued in a respectful manner.