The recent untimely deaths of Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston, and the resurrection of Tupac Shakur for a performance at the Coachella music festival, have focused the media spotlight, yet again, on the relationship between rock, popular music and death. The ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ lifestyle has left many casualties in its wake. Over time, however, as the ranks of dead musicians have grown, so the types of death involved and the reactions to them have diversified. Conversely, as the artists who were at the forefront of the rock‘n’roll revolution of the 1950s and 1960s continue to age, the idea of dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse (which gave rise, for instance, to the myth of the ’27 Club’), no longer carries the same resonance that it once might have.
This volume will examine the cultural meanings associated with popular music artists and death, and the editors invite contributions on this theme. We are particularly interested in exploring how dead singers’ music and memories live on, how the media portray a singer’s death, how a singer’s death is absorbed by fans and other artists, how death generates new memories and nostalgia, and how death can be ‘used’ by different social, music and fan groups for different purposes.
An edited collection will be submitted to Ashgate, who have already expressed a keen interest in the proposal. It is anticipated that contributions from international scholars such as Andy Bennett (most recently editor of Britpop and the English Music Tradition, Ashgate, 2010) and Olivier Julien (editor of Sgt Pepper and the Beatles, Ashgate, 2008) will be included.
Proposals for chapters are invited exploring any of the following themes (this list is by no means exhaustive):
- Different kinds of death: accidental deaths, suicides, spectacular deaths, quiet deaths, death from ‘natural’ causes and ‘old age’;
- Life beyond death: impersonators, song covers, tributes, fan culture and memory work;
- Death and worship: comparisons with sainthood, ‘pilgrimages’ to cemeteries;
- Death and new media: availability of songs and performance through YouTube; accessibility of the past;
- Legacies of rock stars: what happens to their music (re-issues, ‘lost’ recordings); how the music is incorporated into cultural memory (e.g. through film soundtracks);
- Forgetting: deaths that fail to make a lasting impression, rediscovery and new embodiments of ‘lost’ artists;
- Memory and nostalgia: retromania, cultural ‘discoveries’ of the past; generational tastes, passing down music tastes; recuperating one’s youth
- Gender: differences in death between male and female stars (the tragic female?);
- Death, place and identity: the importance of the geographical locations where artists lived and died;
- Memorialisation, prestige and institutionalisation: the incorporation of popular music stars into official discourse; museums and tourist sites dedicated to artists (thanatotourism).
We welcome contributions from outside the ‘rock’ canon, and particularly from non-Anglophone music cultures.
Abstracts of no more than 400 words should be sent to the editors, Catherine Strong ([email protected]) and Barbara Lebrun ([email protected]) no later than 15 July 2012. Acceptance of articles will be advised by 15 October 2012 and completed chapters will be required by 1 September 2013.