Death & the hero

Fraser Bryce pic

By Fraser Bryce


If you’re a decent human being I’m sure you were shocked by the tragic loss of Viola Beach, a young British band who had only released their first single last year. Now, I’m not even going to pretend that I was a fan of the band because I wasn’t. In fact, I hadn’t even heard of them prior to news breaking of their passing. Naturally, I was curious, so I went and had a listen.

What grabbed me wasn’t their music. No siree. It was the comments which accompanied the video, all of which had the same general message: ‘OMG I love this band’; ‘So sad that I didn’t know about them before they died’; ‘R.I.P.’ Now, these people were like me: they were curious as to what these young lads sounded like. But when I dug deeper, I saw fans that didn’t like our curiosity being harassed, because it was disrespectful, by the very people that had heard of them at the same time I did. Which brings me rather neatly to my point: why after a celebrity dies does their work achieve a higher level of appreciation?

My main argument rests on one particular example: David Bowie. Now, contrary to what people think, I’m not a massive Bowie fan. I mean, I like his 70s work because I have two ears attached to a heart but after that I really lose interest. Based on previous conversations, many of my friends feel the same way, but on the morning news of his passing broke, Bowie fans came crawling out of the woodwork like cockroaches clad in Ziggy Stardust makeup. On the news, they were calling Bowie the most influential artist of all time. He’s definitely up there but if it was Paul McCartney that had died, would we be calling him the most influential artist of all time? Yes, yes we would.

Imagine that, people coming out and claiming that the Frog Chorus or that godawful Christmas song changed their lives.

While those dark days are yet to come, we must ask ourselves: would we be gushing over David Bowie’s new album in the same way if it wasn’t his last?

The same goes for Alan Rickman. All day my Facebook timeline was bombarded by pictures of Snape and that quote about him reading Harry Potter when he was eighty – which was fake, by the way, nice going. Now, while I accept that Harry Potter is important to our generation I saw many people who didn’t give a damn about it saying that Rickman’s performance was their sole inspiration.

Can you hear that beeping? I think it’s my bullshit detector. And not only because his best performance was as Hans Gruber, with the Sheriff of Nottingham a close second.

And don’t even get me started on the person I met wearing a ‘R.I.P. Lemmy’ t-shirt who had no idea who Lemmy was. That being said, how do I get blood out of jeans? Asking for a friend.

I think the reason this is such a common occurrence – besides the fact that celebrities are dropping like particularly poorly flies – is because we feel that giving their work this immortal status will serve as a fitting tribute, when in reality, there are much better ways to pay tribute. Look at the amount of David Bowie albums that entered the UK Top 40 after his death, that’s a tribute.

Look at the amount of places that have started calling a Jack Daniels and Coke a ‘Lemmy’ – c’mon Strathy, get your shit together – that’s a tribute. Even the campaign to get Viola Beach to number one is a rather lovely gesture. If Piers Morgan died, would you start claiming he was anything other than a monumental penis? Exactly. And how would you feel if some unknown showed up to your dad’s funeral, having never met him, and start saying how much he changed their life? Exactly.

So, next time someone famous dies, and at this point it could be anyone – I’ll put a fiver on Bruce Forsyth – if they actually meant something to you, by all means, pay tribute: post a quote on Facebook imposed onto a black and white photo. Just don’t even begin to pretend that they affected you in any way if they didn’t.