It seems that the stranger and weirder our world gets by the day, humanity struggles to find reasons behind all this calamity and tragedy. We try our best to find conclusions to why bad things happen, and when we can't fully fathom that the awful truth is just that, instead try to blame the influence of shadowy forces that supposedly linger in the dark.
In the past 50 years, our society turned away from accepting basic facts and has instead begun to traffic in speculation and hearsay, trumping up careless words until they became part of the greater conversation. Just as people search for new and alternate realities behind the attacks on September 11, various assassinations and even the 1969 moon landing, there are folks who don't see events in rock and roll history in black and white. There are actually people who believe that Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly were killed in some of government plot to quell that evil rock and roll.
When our rock stars die tragically, we don't always accept that they were destructive drug addicts, suicidal artists or unhealthy caricatures. Just like with John F. Kennedy, who we revere even more now than in 1963, we seek to find another reason - other than the obvious - they are no longer with us. That's why there are currently (at least) six Elvises and four Jim Morrisons sitting at truck stops and outdoor cafes throughout the world.
It's more romantic and interesting to think of them as aging poets roaming the Earth anonymously on the Earth than just sad gray ashes or bodies decaying in a coffin. With the anniversary of JFK's assassination looming this weekend, Rocks Off got to thinking about rock fans' seemingly undying love of their idols, and how they will say and do anything to keep hope alive that they aren't playing that great gig in the sky.
When the Doors frontman died at age 27 in 1971, he was on the brink of leaving the Doors and in the process of becoming an overweight American expat in Paris. It's not known conclusively whether or not he died in the bathtub of his apartment of a heroin-induced heart attack, or if he died earlier in the night at a Parisian nightclub of an overdose. No autopsy was performed, and his body was sealed in a casket before anyone besides common-law wife Pamela Courson could view the body.
Theories abound that Morrison was killed by shady Parisian drug dealers, or that Courson herself topped him to collect on the healthy Doors royalties that she would obtain as his widow. Others claim Morrison is still in Paris and embraced a new life away from music and the Doors, becoming a traveling poet or street person. Stephen King even claimed at one time to have picked up a Lizard King-like hitchhiker here in Texas.
Kurt Cobain's suicide almost instantly became the stuff of speculation after his April 1994 death at his Seattle home. Some say that he was killed by associates of Courtney Love to collect on insurance money, with late Mentors singer El Duce telling everyone who would listen that Love had offered him $50,000 to kill the Nirvana frontman.
No one believes the singer is still alive, considering that his body was positively identified at the scene. He used a powerful and destructive rifle to kill himself, unlike others who overdosed. Doubt and guilt still surrounds Love to this day, with people blaming her for the death of Cobain - not just physically, but, late in his life, mentally.
In the end, it may just be a case of extreme depression coupled with dangerous drug use that did him in, not some vicious wife bent on murder.
Michael Jackson wasn't even dead five minutes before message boards and social networking sites were invaded by death-hoax rumors. The story goes that the singer faked his death to cash in on the windfall of album and merchandise sales that would inevitably follow - and certainly have - his demise. He was in a ridiculous amount of debt at the time of his death, making this theory plausible if not completely laughable.
It may be true that the King of Pop owed a lot of people money when he passed on, but he was well on his way to at least trying to consolidate his debts, especially with that tour in the works. There's even a nifty YouTube video of someone who purported to be Jackson being hustled out of a coroner's van by police. The best one we've found is the above clip of what appears to be Michael Jackson disguised as an elderly man at this own funeral.
When Tupac Shakur was gunned down in 1996 by angry Southside Crips, he left behind a treasure trove of unreleased flows and music that are still seeing the light of day even 13 years after his death. He was incredibly prolific in life, leading many people to come to the conclusion that he has been still alive somewhere recording new tracks while people mourn him to this day. Likewise, rapper Lil' Wayne has taken Shakur's lead, and records almost daily on his tour bus and in hotel rooms.
People who question the validity of Shakur's death point to various lyrical references and numerological coincidences surrounding his untimely end. One contingent claims he is living off Cuba, recording tracks in a secure location with strict orders of confidentiality. Sadly, anyone who has seen his post-mortem autopsy pictures can attest that Makaveli is in fact hanging out with Marvin Gaye and Miles Davis right about now. Shakur has another new album of material called Shakurspeare
slated for June 2010, so take from that what you will.
Since 1977, this has been the queen mother of all rock and roll hoaxes, with the late Elvis Presley being sighted in ashrams and honky-tonks from India to Iowa. The moment he suffered a drug overdose on his toilet and was pronounced dead at a Memphis hospital, the spirit of Elvis didn't ascend to heaven, he actually just spread out in physical form all over the planet, it seems. Some "researchers" say that the body in the casket at the funeral service was a wax one, in the same way that many JFK theorists scream that the Kennedy head in the autopsy pictures was also crafted in the same way.
The sick thing about most of these death hoaxes is that, in a sense, these skeptics believe that these musicians would put their friends and family through such a wrenching ordeal to selfishly scare up a measly amount of cash or anonymity.
If Elvis really wanted to disappear, he had an entire mansion to himself instead of spending the past 32 years on the road like a hobo. The autopsy findings proved to be devastating to his father Vernon, and are sealed until 2027 by court order, leading many to conclude that he was doing way stranger and cooler drugs than we could have ever imagined.
The television footage announcing his death sounds eerily like what we were hearing in June when Michael Jackson passed.