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Celebrity Elegy

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Goodbye England's rose
May you ever grow in our hearts...
Jimi gave us rainbows
And Janis took a piece of our hearts
And Otis brought us all to the dock of a bay
Sing a song to light my fire
Remember Jim that way
They've all found another place, another place to play
The Righteous Brothers, "Rock and Roll Heaven"

A song or poem mourning the death—and often celebrating the accomplishments—of a deceased celebrity. The person often died under tragic circumstances, including murder, drug overdose, car/plane accident, or an incurable disease. Often results from Short-Lived, Big Impact. The elegy may portray the person as Too Good for This Sinful Earth and may be invoked by Dead Artists Are Better.

To qualify, the person must be well-known beyond their family and friends. They must be famous enough, either in-universe or in Real Life, that people knew of them before the elegy was written.

Sub-Trope of a Grief Song and In Memoriam. May overlap with Celebrity Song. Compare to a Biopic, which is a movie or play about a celebrity (though they could be either living and deceased when the movie was made), and an Epic Poem, which may celebrate deceased celebrities (like Achilles and Hector in The Iliad) but is much longer than a typical poem or song. Compare also to Celebrity Breakup Songs, which are about the end of celebrity relationships rather than their lives.


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    Films — Animated 
  • "Shiny" from Moana is a Pastiche of David Bowie and was intended in part to honor the recently deceased singer.
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven: "Love Survives" by Irene Cara and Freddie Jackson was dedicated to the memory of child actress Judith Barsi, who along with her mother Maria, was killed by her father Josef 18 months before the movie's release.

    Films — Live-Action 


    Live-Action TV 

  • John Lennon has inspired several songs following his assassination:
    • "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)" by Elton John references Lennon's last concert sitting in with Elton in 1974; they made a semi-joking agreement that if Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" (featuring Elton on background vocals and keyboards), and Elton's cover of The Beatles' "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (featuring Lennon on background vocals and rhythm guitar) both went to Number 1, the reclusive Lennon would have to appear in concert with Elton, which he did. After the show, Lennon would reunite with his then-estranged wife Yoko Ono, who unbeknownst to John was waiting in the wings watching him perform. Elton still finds it hard to perform the song due to it conjuring up memories of John, and rarely performs it outside of Madison Square Garden as a result.
    • "All Those Years Ago" by George Harrison is a standard rock song dedicated to John and everything he did, All those years ago...
    • "The Late Great Johnny Ace" by Paul Simon is dedicated at first to Rhythm and Blues Legend Johnny Ace, but slowly becomes about John Lennon over the course of the song.
    • "Murder" by David Gilmour.
    • Paul McCartney's song, "Here Today", is similar to "Yesterday" and "Mother Nature's Son", with only one acoustic guitar and an orchestra, and it's him looking back at all the good times (and bad times) he had with Lennon, but that he would always cherish all of them.
    • David Bowie, Elton John, Roxy Music, and Queen also covered Lennon's songs, or dedicated songs to him at live performances around the time of his death.
    • Queen's "Life Is Real (Song for Lennon)" (from Hot Space) was in tribute to John.
    • Stevie Nicks' "Edge of Seventeen" was partially written about Lennon's death.
  • There have also been several songs honoring Elvis Presley:
    • "The King is Gone" by Ronnie McDowell.
    • "King's Call" by Phil Lynott, the lead singer for Thin Lizzy.
    • "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles.
    • "Advertising Space" by Robbie Williams, which he downright called "my 'Candle in the Wind'", and as the music video shows, borrows from True Romance, where a character spoke with Elvis's spirit.
    • "American Roulette" by Robbie Robertson is about Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and James Dean, and an attack on American celebrity culture that voraciously chews people up and spits them out.
  • And speaking of Marilyn Monroe, there are multiple other songs that honor her as well:
  • Kurt Cobain had several:
    • Neil Young wrote "Sleeps with Angels" after being affected by Cobain quoting Young in his suicide note.
    • R.E.M.'s "Let Me In", which was recorded with Cobain's guitar.
    • "Tearjerker" by Red Hot Chili Peppers.
    • "The Day Seattle Died" by Cold, which was also about Layne Staley.
    • "The Fall (Kurt's Blues)" by Cher.
    • "Mighty K.C." by For Squirrels
  • Vincent van Gogh had at least two:
  • Speaking of McLean, "American Pie" (the song) is about "The Day the Music Died": the deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper in a plane crash. The song also serves as a Take That! to those whom McLean viewed as unworthy musical successors: Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and especially The Rolling Stones.
  • "Abraham, Martin and John" by Dion is about Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy, written following King's assassination. Before the song was released, Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated, so Dion added a final verse about him as well, in which he sees Bobby walking over the hill with Abraham, Martin, and John.
  • "Rock and Roll Heaven" by The Righteous Brothers is about several deceased musicians (including three named Jim): Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding, Jim Morrison, Jim Croce, and Bobby Darin.
  • "50,000" by Sting is about all the beloved musicians who passed away in 2015 and 2016, particularly David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Lemmy, and Prince.
  • "Bird Song" by Grateful Dead is also about Janis Joplin.
  • "Angel of Harlem" by U2 is about Billie Holiday and the jazz scene in general.
  • "Princess for the World" by New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Blitzkrieg is dedicated to Princess Diana.
  • "Flying for Me" by John Denver about the victims of the Challenger space shuttle explosion on January 28, 1986.
  • "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans, with 112 as featured artists (sampling "Every Breath You Take" by The Police), is about The Notorious B.I.G..
  • "Man on the Moon" by R.E.M. is about Andy Kaufman.
  • "Night Shift" by the Commodores is about Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson.
  • "St. James" by Avenged Sevenfold is (subtly) about mourning their late drummer, Jimmy Sullivan.
  • David Bowie's passing inspired a few songs:
  • "Tom's Song" by The Handsome Shadows is about Tom Petty, and the song's lyrics feature Title Drops of some of Petty's songs.
  • "Tears of a Clown", by Iron Maiden, is about the then-recent suicide of Robin Williams.
  • Mike Berry's "Tribute to Buddy Holly".
  • David McEnery's "Amelia Earhart's Last Flight".
  • Vince Gill began writing "Go Rest High on That Mountain" as a tribute to Keith Whitley.
  • Garth Brooks' "Good Ride Cowboy", for Chris LeDoux.
  • Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandman's "Ask Anyone" is a tribute to MF DOOM.
  • Toby Keith's "Cryin' for Me (Wayman's Song)", for former NBA player and jazz bass guitarist Wayman Tisdale.
  • Ron Hynes' "Godspeed" is one for his friend and fellow Canadian songwriter Gene MacLellan.
  • The Tears for Fears song "Swords and Knives" is a memorial to Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen; it was originally written for the biopic Sid & Nancy, but it was added to The Seeds of Love album after the filmmakers rejected it for not being "punk" enough.
  • "princess leia" by Shura is about her discovering the passing of Carrie Fisher after a long flight.
  • The Dream Academy's 1985 hit "Life in a Northern Town" is a tribute to British folk singer Nick Drake.
  • Big Red Machine's "Hutch" is a tribute to Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, who killed himself in 2018. The singer mourns him and the things he could have said to him before his passing.
  • Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky is a tribute to the paintings of artist Viktor Hartmann, a friend of the composer, who had passed away the previous year.
  • Manic Street Preachers' "Kevin Carter" is explicitly inspired by the life of the South African photojournalist of the same name, who killed himself partially due to trauma from the many gruesome events he had witnessed during wars, civil unrest and famines, and his moral self-hatred about making money out of them and not intervening in them to try to help.
  • The verses of "In My Hour of Darkness" by Gram Parsons refer to three friends of his who had recently died: actor and musician Brandon deWilde, The Byrds guitarist Clarence White, and LA scenester Sid Kaiser.
  • Green Day's "Amy", about Amy Winehouse.
  • Ted Nugent weighed in with "Fred Bear", about bow manufacturer and bowhunting promoter Fred Bear (also a personal friend).

  • "Death of the Poet" was Mikhail Lermontov's reaction to the death of his idol Alexander Pushkin in a duel. In it, Lermontov emotionally decried the Russian high society that he believed had manipulated Pushkin into reckless challenges and threatened them with divine retribution. Although the poem wasn't properly published until after Lermontov's own death (in a duel), it was enough to send him into exile. It also, coincidentally, put the young poet on the map as a rising star of Russian literature.
  • Walt Whitman wrote "O Captain! My Captain!" and "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" to mourn the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
  • W. H. Auden wrote "Elegy for J.F.K." after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

    Religion and Mythology 


Video Example(s):


Chris Farley Song

Adam Sandler delivers a tribute to his close friend and SNL castmate, Chris Farley.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

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Main / CelebrityElegy

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