27 Forever: Kristen Pfaff and the coverage of death as the re-presentation of a gendered musical life

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Multidisciplinary academic practices (including Sociology, Death Studies, Cultural Studies, Journalism Studies, Media Studies) have all examined the subject of death and suggest that, within mediated representations, such as obituaries and news coverage, there is a lens through which we can reflect upon contemporary social views. With the unexpected death of a young woman, in particular, what additionally opens up is room for speculation as well as articulations of morality. This is especially true for those musicians who die young and through lifestyle choices. Through dying young, the prospect of facing the perceived anxieties and difficulties of becoming an older woman (in relation to issues of identity, music and performance that are chronicled so extensively throughout this book) are, of course, avoided. The coverage of death that results, however, fixes a version of a life, freezes age and, in the process highlights particular understandings of the relationship between gender and popular music at particular periods in time. Whilst, as a sombre form of journalism, there are clear legal, ethical and house style guidelines which structure how those deaths are covered in the press, in reality, however, this area of writing can actually be dependent on many variants. For musicians as a professional group, these rules are regularly broken when it comes to death through what is perceived as reckless behaviour, and more especially, when it comes to women. This triple whammy was acutely evident in the media coverage (and comparatively minimal reporting) of the death of Kristen Pfaff, the bassist from Hole, who died in 1994 at the age of 27, after a heroin overdose.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication'Rock on': women, ageing and popular music
EditorsRos Jennings, Abigail Gardner
Place of PublicationFarnham, UK
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781409428428
ISBN (Print)9781409428411
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012

Publication series

NameAshgate popular and folk music series


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