A matter of life and death: the representation of a musician's death through the lens of the obituary

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceeding with ISSN or ISBNConference contribution with ISSN or ISBNpeer-review


When life takes a popular musician, that’s not news, but when a popular musician takes their own life that is. Whilst popular music’s relationship with the subject of death has been extensively intertwined, the desire and increasing curiosity for an insight into this final rite of passage is relatively recent. This paper will explore the extent to which journalistic coverage through music obituary writing both reflects and shapes the reality of a life lived and also sheds light on a society’s views of death, both culturally and historically. For non-musical celebrities, suicide would be a shocking end, but for popular musicians, it’s the ultimate rite of passage to the ’Forever 27 club’. By uncovering dominant discourses in the popular music press’s coverage of suicide, the research will illustrate emergent ideologies of celebrity culture and thirst for ‘reality’ platforms, as well as attempt to understand the wider construction of cultural meanings and preoccupations with death in modern society. Using critical discourse analysis to determine categorisation in the coverage of ‘unexpected’ deaths of musicians, the lens of Foucault’s panoptical vision will be applied to demonstrate the emerging audiences who request and consume this output. The paper will also include interviews with editors, writers and sub-editors (those ‘gatekeepers’ in charge of commissioning the stories, constructing the narrative and writing those attention-grabbing headlines) as well as with music obituary writers. Through an analysis of contemporary obituaries, the highly constructed text will demonstrate how a life is renegotiated in the re-presentation of a particular type of death. One that not only reflects, shapes and views the musician’s life, but also, how that in turn, is a reflection of society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDeath Day Conference
Place of PublicationUniversity of Winchester
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2010
EventDeath Day Conference - University of Winchester, 15 May 2010
Duration: 15 May 2010 → …


ConferenceDeath Day Conference
Period15/05/10 → …


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