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by Marvin van der Weyde
The history of great performers is not just glory and fame. The music world has had its tragic moments when it lost those who are now perceived as the brightest talents.
It would be a bit too long if we mentioned every artist who died prematurely, but here are a few exceptionally successful ones whose deaths shocked millions.
Elvis Presley (8th January 1935-16th August 1977)
Elvis Presley was born in Mississippi and raised in a poor family before he moved to Memphis in his teens. Having finished high school, he became a truck driver, occasionally recording some songs in 1953-1954 that caught the interest of Sam Philips, who was looking for a white singer with a black feel. Along with a couple of other musicians, they established a country act, whose version of the Arthur Crudup blues tune, "That's All Right Mama," sold very well in the South. "I Forgot To Remember Forget/Mystery Train" hit No. 1 on the national country charts in late 1955.
Presley was a perfomer with superstar potential who caught the interest of big labels and Colonel Tom Parker, who became Elvis' manager. Poppier sound appeared on "Heartbreak Hotel," his first solo single, which went to No. 1. With a little help of national television appearances, Elvis instantly became a superstar. "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" was a No. 1 follow-up; the double-sided monster, "Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel," was one of the biggest-selling singles the industry had ever experienced up to that point. Albums and EPs were also charttoppers, not only in the U.S., but worldwide.
So far so good, but 1964 saw the arrival of The Beatles, big Elvis fans, who ironically replaced Elvis as the biggest rock act in the world. They wrote their material and played their own instruments, something Elvis never did. Elvis live was a great live performer, but he never performed outside North America because of legal problems with his manager. His final years were coming. A noticeable weight gain plus a broken marriage led to the usage of drugs, and finally Elvis closed himself from the outside world.
The reason of his death wasn't clear, but most think it was the drug overdoses. After his death, Elvis memorabilia started to sell extremely well. Up to this day, there are a lot of fans who dress like him and claim he is still alive. You can hear them say "Elvis is not alive, he was in my garden yesterday..."
Bob Marley (6th February 1945-11t May 1981)
Released in 1974, "Burnin" has been a big influence in the music world. Eric Clapton's version of "I Shot The Sherrif" gained him a worldwide smash. Hits like "No Woman No Cry," "Jammin" (his first UK top 10 hit), "One Love/People Get Ready" and "Could You Beloved" made him a worldwide phenomenon, and the king of reggae.
Cancer reached him and in 1980 he wasn't able to finish the tour that would be his last, as he died of cancer in 1981. After that his albums started to sell very well, especially "Legend" in 1984, which was even re-released in 1999. It is definitely one of the most successful albums ever. "One Love/People Get Ready" became a top 5 hit in Europe.
After that there were a few posthumous releases of him, but the big seller came out in 1992, when "Songs Of Freedom" was released. It was a booklet with 4 CDs, which was a great retrospective of Marley's music. Around that time, he had a top 5 hit in Europe with a remixed version of "Iron Lion Zion." "Natural Mystic" was a success in 1995, but 1999 gave him more success again. A remixed version of "Sun Is Shining" was a top 5 hit in a big part of Europe. There was also a tribute album released, and the single "Turn Your Lights Down Low," featuring Lauryn Hill became a worldwide top 10 hit. Bob Marley still lives trough in the music of his son...
Freddie Mercury 5th September 1946 - 24th November 1991
There were not only rumours of his bisexuality. There were also rumours that he suffered from AIDS. When he died, the whole world was in shock, and artists like Elton John, Guns N' Roses, Metalica and George Michael performed with the rest of Queen at his tribute concert.
Selena (16th April 1971-31th March 1995)
Selena Y Los Dinos, as the band was called, had problems breaking into the local Tejano market, as Selena was too young and female. However, step by step, the success came their way. By 1988, she was the biggest female Tejano star, and in 1990 she was the most successful Tejano singer ever.
In 1992, they wanted Selena to be a hit in Mexico, which proved difficult due to Mexico's dislike of Mexican/American singers, especially ones who were female. But being the nice and charming person, through hugs and kisses to the press, Selena made it. Thanks to her hits "Baila Esta Cumbia," "Como La Flor" (her first No. 1), and "La Carcacha," she eventually became a huge star in the rest of Central and South America. In 1993 she signed a deal with SBK (Jon Secada's label) to make an all English album.
However, she couldn't begin due to the sudden success of her 1994 album, "Amor Prohibido," which made a big impact on the Billboard Latin charts with the title track, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," and "No Me Queda Mas," both No. 1 hits. Selena also opened her own clothing boutique and starred in the Mexican soap "Don Mejores." Her tour was very successful and she played the biggest ever concert at the Houston Astrodome rodeo stock for 64,000 people. She opened with the Disco Medley (which is also seen at the beginning of the movie about her) and sung "I Will Survive" and other disco hits. She left the stage with every promise to became a huge star in the English market.
Who would have thought she would die by the hand of the president of her own fanclub. She got shot in the right shoulder, and died sadly. Her first Hollywood movie got released a week after her death (she played a small role in "Don Juan DeMarco"). Her single, "I Could Fall In Love," became an international hit, and "Dreaming Of You" sold in one day what Mariah Carey's single sold in one week. The movie about her life became a box office hit, and Jennifer Lopez, who played Selena, got her breakthrough on the big screen. Posthumous albums are still selling well, and a lot of unauthorized biographies are sold worldwide.
2Pac (16th June 1971-13th September 1996)
In 1995, he released the album, "Me Against The World," which entered the charts at No. 1. The single, "Dear Mama," is an example how his music illustrated sensitivity as well as an urge to end the violence. At the end of 1995, he signed with Death Row Records. He released the double album, "All Eyez On Me," in spring 1996. The record and the single brought him superstar status. What he captured in his music also overtook his life. But at a drive in Las Vegas he got shot, and, 6 days later, he passed. But is he really dead? Many people are not sure about it, and lyrics like "5 guns can't shoot me" (he was shoot by 5 guns), and his posthumous albums continuously deliver new songs.
Notorious B.I.G. (21th May 1972-9th March 1997)
Media have been assuming B.I.G. and his camp were responsible, but he and his producer Sean "Puffy" Combs denied it. Early in the morning on 9th March, he was returning to his hotel in LA, after the Soul Train Award party, when another car aside his car opened fire and killed him instantly, only 6 months after 2Pac's death. The double disc' "Life After Death'" was released three weeks later, debuting at No. 1 on the charts. 1999 brought the release of a posthumous album called "Born Again".
Aaliyah (16th January 1979-25th August 2001)
After that, she became interested to record music for soundtracks. "Journey To The Past," an epic ballad, was released as a single for Anastasia, but it was in 1998 when she released "Are You That Somebody?" taken from the Dr. Dolittle soundtrack, when the whole world noticed a change. Aaliyah and her producer Timbaland managed to create even more unique sound that was fresh and original. The song became a hit even in Europe and many R&B artists followed Aaliyah's style.
She took the film theme one step further and starred in one herself. It was "Romeo Must Die," alongside Jet Li, which was her big screen debut. The film also had a soundtrack featuring Aaliyah and the first single, "Try Again," gave her another worldwide smash in 2000. In 2001 she returned with a new single, "We Need A Resolution," which featured Timbaland again. Her third album, "Aaliyah," sounded very original, and gave her great success. She was about to bloom and become a true diva.
Aaliyah went to Bahamas to shoot the video for "Rock The Boat," a second single from the album, but sadly, it proved to be the last one. On the way back from Bahamas, Aaliyah died in a plane crash, along with eight of her crew, because of the human irresponsibility of taking nine people aboard a plane that was supposed to be carrying six at most.
She was one of the most important artists in R&B, and no doubt will be remembered for years to come. Urban artists have been paying numerous tributes, as they all realize how big a loss it is and how tragic it must be for the relatives and fans.
Whether they have been killed, used drugs or took the wrong plane, they could have had many more successful years, as most of them passed away in the peak of their career. The only thing we can do now is to remember them by listening to their music...