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Dead Artists Are Better

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...not quite what we meant. (James Ensor, The Painting Skeleton)

"The overwhelming prerequisite for the greatness of an artist is that artist's death."
Thiessen's Law of Art

The vast majority of shows that mention paintings will mention this trope at one point: Artists are never recognized until after they're dead. Though this has happened in many cases, there have also been a lot of painters, modern and classic, that have been recognized while still alive. Nor has the deceased been recognized immediately after his corpse hits the ground, as it seems to happen when this trope is in effect. (Historically, this has affected composers and writers far less than people assume. Shakespeare was successful during his lifetime, so was Beethoven. It stands to reason - only a few people would continue doing something for a long time without some kind of success. This is glaringly obvious for composers - of the top tier, only Bach and Tchaikovsky comes even remotely close to this trope, and they were still far from starving during their lifetimes.)


In theory, the idea that dead artists are better may result from them dying at their peak: they don't have the time to taint their earlier successes with a Dork Age of divisive later works that fail to live up to the masterpieces (whether through being too different or more of the same).

In 99% of the cases where this trope is mentioned, one character, either the artist or an associate, will come up with the "brilliant" idea of spreading rumors of the artist's death, which immediately causes said artist's work to magically get the recognition that eluded it all these years. Of course, something inevitably goes wrong, the artist is found to be alive, and the status quo is restored. For some reason, fraud accusations are seldom made.

The modern-day sentiment is probably "Dead Musicians Are Better", music being arguably the second-most personal media form. Technology has also amplified this trope's effects, with streams of a freshly-deceased artist's songs skyrocketing and social media making people's opinions more apparent. (2016 was a good year-long example.)


See also Vindicated by History, True Art Is Ancient, and Short-Lived Big Impact. When a musician's death or departure leads to their group doing better than before, it's an aversion of The Band Minus the Face. When a dead artist is celebrated (through song), it's a Celebrity Elegy. Many examples below also fall under Never Speak Ill of the Dead, in that some artists who became greatly celebrated after their death lived miserable and/or ridiculed lives before dying.

As a Death Trope, all Spoilers will be unmarked ahead. Beware.


Fictional examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • The plot device with a faked death skyrocketing popularity and recognition is used in Galaxy Angel almost perfectly, although with a military officer instead of an artist.
    • A similar thing happens in Cannon God Exaxxion, though in this case the people playing up the war hero's death actually believed he was dead at first. When it turns out he wasn't, rather than admitting their mistake, they decide to make it come true.
  • In Mega Man Star Force, Hyde is under the impression that people will not love his grim, macabre works of art until after he dies. This is a motive for his villainy in the first place, as he tries to find Mu to become immortal so that he may live to see people appreciate him. When this doesn't seem to be working out, he starts an art class for children to get them to appreciate the art when they grow older, but they all ignore him and simply come for the free food. Free food provided by Luna Platz at that, who is perhaps is his sole earnest student.
  • In one chapter of Pet Shop of Horrors, a has-been actor whose only success was a small role in a cult-classic sci-fi film dies of suicide by basilisk. At his funeral, people are already starting to speak of him as if he were a great actor whose immense talent was too quickly robbed from the world.
  • Manjimutt from Yo-Kai Watch uses this as an excuse for why he has no friends. It should be noted Manjimutt is already dead and is not even an actual artist.
    Manjimutt: The snowflakes are my only friends. Artists are never appreciated in their lifetime.

    Comic Books 
  • In the Doctor Who comic strip "Interstellar Overdrive 2" in Doctor Who Magazine, the manager of a band plans to kill them all in a spaceship 'accident' so the record company can make a fortune reissuing new editions of their back catalogue.
  • In Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift, an evil hipster takes advantage of Marceline's apparent death to appoint himself the keeper of her memory, produce unauthorised merch, and eventually loot her house for memorabilia.
  • In MAD, in one Melvin and Jenkins feature, Melvin pockets a terminally ill boy's art, hoping that it will increase in value once the kid dies.

    Comic Strips 
  • The New Yorker once ran a cartoon with a well-off couple asking a street artist "And how much more would this be worth if you died?"

    Fan Works 
  • In The Horror! The Horror! Nicolas and Perenelle Flamel, having changed their names and professions after the Philosopher's Stone was (supposedly) destroyed, discuss doing it again in the hope of finding better ones than they currently have.
    Nicolas: Famous artist?
    Perenelle: Maybe, but you'd have to die before your paintings would be worth anything.
    Nicolas: Done it before. We could do it again.
  • In No Competition Ally consoles an eight-year-old Harry for his poor grade in art.
    Ally: No artist is truly famous unless they are dead, so it scarcely matters while you're alive.
  • In Claro de Luna it's mentioned that the famous cellist Colccherini wasn't well-recognized until after his death. This also foreshadows Octavia's own fate, as her lover Luna immortalizes her in history after her death.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The movie Pauly Shore is Dead shamelessly parodies this trope.
  • This trope is the subject of the song performed in the opening sequence of Phantom of the Paradise.
  • Robin Williams' son in World's Greatest Dad is a terrible person in life, but Robin takes advantage of his death to sell his own book, disguised as a journal the son wrote before death.
  • Titanic (1997): "It's a pity we couldn't hold on to that drawing. It'll be worth a lot more in the morning." Ironically, he's kind of right — the painting is found in a safe and restored, and given that it's a memento that was brought up from the Titanic it's now a priceless historical artefact. And the artist dies in the sinking, so bonus.
  • In She's All That, two girls in Lani's art class compliment her on how wonderful her paintings are. She thinks it's a genuine compliment until they suggest she invoke this trope and "off herself" as all the greats did.
  • The trope is the whole plot of the '60s movie The Art Of Love, which has Dick Van Dyke staging his own death to increase the value of his paintings.
  • Discussed in Die Another Day. Jinx is meeting with a surgeon on the Cuban island, discussing a drastic procedure to change her looks. He says that he considers himself an artist, and she remarks that most great artists aren't celebrated until after their deaths, upon which she shoots him.
  • In Bring Me the Head of Mavis Davis, a struggling record producer plots to invoke this trope by murdering his one remaining artist in order to boost flagging sales of her work. It... doesn't go according to plan.

  • In the Discworld novel Soul Music, Music With Rocks In requires the early death of its first host (the singer Buddy) in order to spread further. "Everyone will remember the songs he never had a chance to sing. And they would be the greatest songs of all." See the quote page.
  • Older Than Radio: In one of Mark Twain's short stories, two starving artists manufacture a great deal of art... and then manufacture a story about how the artist who painted these things is fatally ill. Naturally, the artist in question eventually "dies", and his paintings become valuable overnight. Note that said dead artist is François Millet.
  • Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers is a murder mystery in which the victim and the prime suspect are both authors. The publicity from the trial substantially helps both their sales; the detective discusses this as a possible motive for the murder but doesn't pursue it because he's in love with the suspect and trying to clear her. As it turns out, she's innocent, and his murder had nothing to do with him being an author.
  • In Margaret Atwood's Resources of the Ikarians, the inhabitants of a barren island devoid of sources of income start cultivating dead artists.
  • Noted in Dumas' novel The Count of Monte Cristo, where the Count notes that the modern school of artists has one major failing — "They have not had enough time to become Old Masters".
  • The Second Deadly Sin (1977) by Lawrence Sanders uses this trope. The artist with the terminal illness has stockpiled paintings to provide for his family and agent. But he lives longer than expected and keeps on producing more paintings...
  • This was the entire motive of the killer in Phryne Fisher novel Murder in Montparnasse.
  • The first case Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble is shown working on in Death Warmed Over is that of a ghost artist, who's having a feud with his heirs: they don't want him to start painting again, because his pre-mortem paintings' value will plummet if they aren't his "last work" anymore.
  • Averted in Max Beerbohm's Victorian Era short story Enoch Soames. The titular obscure poet is convinced that his reputation will soar after his death, so he sells his soul to travel 100 years into the future and bask in his posthumous glory. An afternoon spent in the Reading Room of the British Museum teaches him the bitter truth. Not only is he considered a mediocre poet; he's also believed to be a fictional character created by Beerbohm.
  • Invoked in the Felicia, Sorceress of Katara novella "The Cult of the Rubber Nose", the owner of an art gallery bought a bunch of crappy paintings at excessive prices, then attempted to make up his losses by assassinating the artists to make them more valuable.
  • in the novella "Getting Even" by Ray Brown, an entire extraterrestrial race (sometime before the story starts) got wiped out by a bomb dropped into their sun, causing a solar flare to wash over their planet; and the art of that race suddenly became quite valuable as a result.
  • In The Newest Plutarch, Walter Monks’ last movie was a major hit due to his No Stunt Double policy getting him killed on set.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: Season 6's "Dead and Alive," where Boss Hogg declares Hazzard County artist Artie Bender dead...shortly after he witnesses two crooks rob an armored car. While Boss is anticipating selling Artie's paintings at grossly inflated prices, Bo and Luke are trying to have their alibi credited to hard-nosed Sheriff Little, who has fingered them as the suspects.
  • Since one of the main characters of Caroline in the City is a struggling artist, this trope was inevitable: Richard is mistakenly reported dead and his paintings start selling like hotcakes. Complications arise when a prominent critic demands to go to the funeral. Hilarity Ensues...
  • In Sabrina the Teenage Witch Hilda sells Salem's paintings, passing them off as her own. When he changes his art style, the new paintings don't sell as well. His solution? Tell the newspapers Hilda died, hoping the paintings sell better. Unfortunately for her, the man she was dating reads the obituary and runs out of the house in terror.
    Hilda: That's just great. I meet the man of my dreams. And then I die.
  • In Seinfeld, George buys a crappy painting from an artist who he expects to die soon, hoping that his death will cause the painting to go up in price. Instead, the artist recovers from his illness, crediting George with saving his life because somebody finally buying one of his paintings had restored his will to live.
  • On The Golden Girls, the girls hear that a famous artist is near death, so they buy one of his paintings to make a quick buck. Then Sophia ends up saving the guy's life with a blood transfusion.
  • In the Bones episode "The Skull in the Sculpture" the murderer turned out to be banking on this trope.
  • On The Muppet Show, Gonzo once gave Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge his autograph under the assumption that it would be believed that his last act had rendered him dead, and his autograph would be worth a lot more.
  • On Taxi, the Sunshine Cab Company employees bid on a painting by an artist Elaine knows is at death's door. He's announced dead right after the painting is sold to someone else, causing a priceless breakdown from Louie.
  • In a Saturday Night Live sketch, a marketing consultant advises a past-his-peak rock star that this trope is the best way to increase his popularity. When the performer proves reluctant to take this route, the consultant shows him a line graph comparing Peter Frampton's and Jim Morrison's album sales for the same time period.
  • Parodied on an episode of iCarly: when Spencer (an amateur artist) is incorrectly reported dead in the newspaper for some unexplained reason, he (along with sister Carly) exploits this by milking thousands of dollars off of customers for his sculptures.
  • The Hogan's Heroes episode "Klink's Masterpiece" ends with Col. Hogan reminding Klink of this trope, noting that Vincent van Gogh and Claude Gauguin starved, only becoming popular after their deaths.
  • Criminal Minds: The unsub in "Magnum Opus" dies of Suicide by Cop for this reason.
  • Midsomer Murders: After an artist is murdered in "The Dagger Club", her dealer immediately triples the price of all of her artworks.
  • One Victim of the Week in iZombie is an artist. One of the leads turns out to be an offhand comment about this trope, but the lead turns out to be false (but it is used by the real killer to frame the artist's dealer). Several art admirers even mention that the greatest thing an artist can do for his career is to die.
  • On 30 Rock, Jenna's Bio Pic about Janis Joplin is getting terrible advance reviews, so Jack decides to fake her death to take advantage of this effect. Jenna ends up blowing the whole thing in the middle of a live televised tribute because of a banner showing her birth and death year: "It has the year I was born on it. The real year, not the actress year."
  • Major Crimes: In "Acting Out", a former child star is murdered while attempting to make a comeback. At the end of the episode, his agent remarks that this is the best career move he could have made, as sales of his old TV series, his CDs and even his unwatchable concert film are going through the roof.
  • Death in Paradise:
    • The motive for murder in "Music of Murder".
    • When an aging rock star is murdered in "Swimming in Murder", the killer arranges for him to die in the most rock-n-roll way possible: being electrocuted in a swimming pool. The killer hopes this will make him a legend and ensure the band's comeback is successful.
  • Murder, She Wrote: In "Angel of Death", when it is thought that a famous playwright has been murdered, his director remarks that his final, unpublished play will have a sellout season.
  • Lampshaded by the widow of a now-famous artist whose death is being re-investigated in Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries.
    Veronique: Now that he's famous, now they care about his death.
  • The Doctor Who episode "Vincent and the Doctor" plays with the most famous real-life example by transporting Vincent van Gogh to the present day; his paintings, which were worthless in his time, are the subject of a major art expo, and the man running it gushes about how Van Gogh is the greatest artist of all time. But seeing this apparently isn't enough to prevent his suicide.
  • The pilot episode of Lucifer has this turn out to be the motive behind the pop star's murder.

  • The Dire Straits song "In the Gallery" relates the story of an artist driven to create but never gaining recognition, until... "I've got to say he passed away in obscurity / And now all the vultures are coming down from the tree / So he's going to be in the gallery"
  • The title of the Nightwish song "Kuolema Tekee Taiteilijan" translates to "Death Makes an Artist". They also have "The Poet and the Pendulum", which is basically a 14-minute Epic Rocking song about Tuomas dying, which was written by Tuomas himself.
  • The whole point of "Self Suicide" by Goldie Lookin Chain
  • "Schneller Leben" (Live Faster) by German punk band Die Ärzte is all about parodying this trope.
    "Kurt Cobain hat es gewusst, im alter droht Gesichtsverlust. Was glaubst du warum Jesu Christ, schon so jung gestorben ist. Jimi Hendrix und Bruce Lee, alt geworden sind die nie. Lern von diesen Vorbildern, als Leiche hat dich jeder gern."
    (Kurt Cobain knew, with age comes loss of face. What do you think Jesus Christ died so young? Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Lee, they never got to grow old. Learn from these great examples, everyone likes you as a corpse.)
  • The Smiths song "Paint A Vulgar Picture" is about the record industry's tendency to do this with dead musicians.
    At the record company meeting, on their hands a dead star.
  • The Christian Rock band Dead Artist's Syndrome is named for this trope.
  • Mentioned in "If I Die Young" by The Band Perry: "Penny for my thoughts? Oh no, I'll sell them for a dollar / They're worth so much more now that I'm a goner / Maybe then you'll hear the words I've been singin' / Funny when you're dead, that's when people start listenin'"
  • "Fake My Own Death and Go Platinum" by Psychostick.
    Well you see, I wanna sell a million records / But my music sucks so what am I to do? / They say an artist is appreciated after he's dead / I have no talent, but I bet that it's still true. / The lyrics all suck / and the chords are too funky / We're on a major label cuz / we're just plain lucky / We sold 4 albums to our own mothers / we have a few supporters / (but there aren't many others…) / What if I could live / When they all would think I'm dead / Oh just what if I could have me a cake / and eat it too? / I'd be set for life / No more struggles, no more strife / Let the money do the talking / I'm a dead man walking.
  • The Twenty One Pilots song "Neon Gravestones" is about how we should stop doing this, especially in regards to romanticizing an artist's suicide.

  • Invoked in The Goon Show episode "Tales of Montmartre:"
    Gauguin: You can keep my paintings.
    Toulouse-Lautrec: What good are they?
    Gauguin: Nothing now, they'll be worth a fortune after I'm dead.
    Toulouse-Lautrec: After you're dead... [GUNSHOT] I'm rich!
  • The Hotblack Desiato story arc in The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy has the universe-famous rock star spend a year dead for "tax reasons". It doesn't do his music sales any harm, either.

  • Timberlake Wertenbaker's play Three Birds Alighting on a Field invokes this trope repeatedly. One scene has an art dealer discussing the disappointing sales of a particular painter. The artist had died young, which the dealer mentions as a "good thing, from a marketing point of view".
  • A discovered play by Mark Twain, Is He Dead?, is based on the short story described above with a smattering of Attractive Bent-Gender and some rather funny Melodrama.
  • In Pippin, the title character tries to succeed at life by taking up art, only to discover that "you got to be dead to you find out if you were any good."

    Video Games 
  • The price of a painting in The Sims skyrockets after the sim who painted it dies.
  • A pair of side missions in Grand Theft Auto IV have you helping out an aspiring rapper. At the start of the second mission, he gets shot, and you have to take him to a hospital before he dies. While he's in the car with you, the rapper contemplates how, now that he's had a brush with death in the form of getting shot in the street, more people will take him seriously, meaning that his shot at the big time is now right in front of him. It's not quite death, but it's close enough.
  • Both discussed and parodied in Tales of Monkey Island Chapter 4: The Trial and Execution of Guybrush Threepwood:
    Guybrush: How're sales going?
    Stan: Great! Celebrity merchandise is always a good investment, especially if you suspect that the celebrity in question is about to become a wind chime in the gallows! NOTHING sells like dead celebrities.
    Guybrush: Yeah, well, I don't plan on dying today.
  • In Wadjet Eye Games' The Blackwell Convergence, the antagonist of the story is using a power he doesn't fully understand to strategically kill people in ways that will help his investments do well. At a couple of points, he kills an actor so the movie he stars in will get more promotion, and he kills an artist on the opening night of his art show. The movie becomes a smash success for the small company that produced it and the artist's paintings all sell immediately for a lot more than the original asking prices.
  • Played with in Left 4 Dead 2. It is initially believed by some wall writers that the Midnight Riders have been overwhelmed by the horde, as evidenced by various writings mourning their deaths. When it is announced that the band is still alive, the wall is then filled with bashings and criticisms of their work.
    • Another Valve Software game, Team Fortress 2, also plays with this. In the official comic Unhappy Returns, it's revealed that Scout spent his entire life savings on Tom Jones merchandise. Spy points out how illogical this is — he's one of the most virile men on the planet, he's in his twenties (note that the game takes place in the late '60s-early '70s), he has virtually no enemies...Scout merely replies that it's a "Get-rich-slow" scheme. Of course, this being an Alternate Universe from our own, Soldier murders Tom Jones out of jealousy a short time later (He was living with Soldier's former roommate. It's a Long Story.)
  • One of the newspaper clippings you can get at the end of Dyscourse, depending on your choices:
    "I liked his work BEFORE he died." - Radek Smektala

    Visual Novels 
  • This forms part of the plot of the Visual Novel Hotel Dusk: Room 215 for the Nintendo DS; an artist who is very much alive and his partner had been exploiting this effect, getting high prices for the artist's paintings by making up a dead artist named "Osterzone" and saying that Osterzone was the one who painted them.

    Web Comics 
  • Subverted in Sluggy Freelance where Torg's attempts to get his dead friend Bert's painting into a gallery are wildly unsuccessful.
  • In one Dork Tower strip describing comic book convention tips, an artist has just drawn a sketch for a fan, who remarks "Wow, if you die on the way home, this'll be worth LOTS!"
  • In Irregular Webcomic!, after being killed by his future self, David Morgan-Mar speaks to the Head Death about how his death would affect his comic's popularity as shown here.
  • Spoofed in Cyanide & Happiness, where an artist insists he will be "more famous after he dies", then hangs himself with his own intestinal tract. A subsequent newspaper headline still describes him as "pretty bad".
  • This is invoked in Sam & Fuzzy, where Corrupt Corporate Executive Mr. Sin routinely "kills" his label's artists if they become unmanageable, and uses this trope to get more sales out of them, while the actual artist, still alive, is transported to a deserted island and held there. It's implied the entire recording industry in that universe does it since it happened to Elvis in 1977. He's still on the island thirty years later, and quite bitter about it.
  • Butch of Chopping Block takes advantage of this, buying paintings from artists before he kills them.
  • Invoked by Amelia Travoria in Dominic Deegan. She used her enchantment magic to drive Michael Cao to produce darker pictures until he was Driven to Suicide, so she could sell his last works at a markup.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • A Pinky and the Brain episode had Pinky become a hugely successful artist named "Pinkasso", with Brain collecting the money made from his paintings to fund his latest scheme. Naturally, Brain makes "Pinkasso's" popularity skyrocket by announcing his death, but it backfires when Pinky stupidly walks into the auction of the "deceased" artist's work.
  • Lampshaded in The Simpsons: Lisa is outraged that a record of her deceased idol, Bleeding Gums Murphy, costs $250. When Comic Book Guy learns the man is dead, he immediately doubles the price to $500.
    • In the show's parody of Amadeus, the dying Mozart (Bart) comments to his sister (Lisa, the Salieri figure) that he thought she was the more talented artist, but now that he is dying young he'll "be cool forever".
  • In one episode of Hey Arnold!, Dino Spumoni tried to increase his popularity again by faking his death - he got the idea from a book he read about van Gogh. His plan backfired when an imitator took in all his business instead.
  • Parodied in American Dad! when it was shown that Stan had a collection of Tara Reid commemorative plates. His son Steve says it will be worth a lot once she dies in a few months.
  • In Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated, Daphne describes Fred as "one of those geniuses who nobody understands until they're dead." Her description's debatable, though this incarnation of Fred is, at the least, definitely a Cloud Cuckoo Lander.
  • Completely averted in Futurama in the seventh season episode where Bender becomes a paparazzo. Calculon needs to beat a famous actor named Langdon Cobb so he can weaken his ego. He drinks a bottle of food coloring (which is very poisonous to robots) so he can make a believable death scene. Langdon still wins unanimously.
  • In the Darkwing Duck episode "Paint Misbehavin'" after Splatter Phoenix is splashed with turpentine and begins to melt she comments that at the very least her paintings may now be worth something after she's dead.
  • Lampshaded in an episode of Archer. Archer casually mentions that his long-suffering valet Woodhouse is a genius at what he does.
    Woodhouse: Though like so many other geniuses; unappreciated in his time.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Out of the Picture", an art critic makes the mistake of informing Mr. Krabs of this trope, prompting him to make repeated attempts at getting Squidward "out of the picture" so he can resell Squidward's worthless paintings for a huge profit.

Real Life examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Before news of his passing broke in 2010, few Pokémon fans knew who Takeshi Shudō was. Once it did, though, he became more appreciated for his work as the head writer of the series up until partway through Johto, as well as writing the first three movies. Having written many fan-favorite episodes, his departure is now often considered to be the point where the series dropped in quality and never quite recovered.

  • Vincent van Gogh is the poster child of this trope, managing to sell just one painting during his lifetime, but becoming much sought after soon after his suicide.
  • El Greco was not appreciated in his lifetime, the 16th century, because his art didn't conform to the norm of realism. Only in the 20th century has his work been reappreciated for exactly this reason. Nowadays it's far more worth.
  • Pieter Bruegel the Elder: For many centuries his work was seen as vulgar and crass because it depicted ordinary peasants. Only in the 19th century did people finally realize that it was still amazingly well painted and did the prices for his work go up.
  • Although not known by many outside Korea, painter Lee Jung-seob is arguably the most famous modern artist in Korea, and while his paintings are sold in average millions of dollars now, he died in Seoul of hepatitis, broke and alone.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the same vein as Ledger's death, Christopher Reeve's paralysis later in life made him a living martyr and ensured his Superman movies (well, the first two) would be considered untouchable and quintessential, though Superman and his world from the DC Comics have long evolved past their depiction in the films. Which made it frustrating for modern comics fans when the first Superman film in decades was a slavish superhomage to a retro version instead of depicting the contemporary one they're used to. That changed with the reboot, not that that automatically made it beloved.
  • Brandon Lee's final movie, The Crow, received a huge boost due to his death, and has become a Cult Classic. In particular, because he died from a gunshot wound accidentally sustained on the set.
  • Brittany Murphy's career had shrunk to small roles and voice acting (most notably, her role on King of the Hill) by the time of her death, which became a media sensation.
  • Hong Kong actor Leslie Cheung was hugely popular in his lifetime, but the sheer number of eulogies and overwrought tributes after his sudden suicide was unprecedented.
  • James Dean starred in only three movies before his death at the age of twenty-four from a car accident: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant, plus a handful of TV performances. Only East of Eden was released when he was still alive and it was a huge sensation, but Rebel released after his death made him a legend. James Dean was considered by the American Film Institute to be one of twenty-five greatest actors of all time and part of it has to do with his youth, the amazing promise he showed at such a young age (the fact these three films were stone-cold classics in their own right didn't hurt, either). Prior to the assassination of JFK, the day of Dean's death was the benchmark for the "Where were you when you heard..." question, and the level fan/critical response to Dean's death would not be equalled until the death of Heath Ledger a half-century later.
  • Bruce Lee's premature and mysterious death greatly contributed to the box office success of his films and all the Bruceploitation films it spawned.
  • Despite being - to quote The New York Times - "the most ambitious and widely admired American actor of his generation," Philip Seymour Hoffman's death made him a household name in the eyes of the average moviegoer. For example, he finally got his own page here after his death.
  • Robin Williams was extremely popular during his lifetime but didn't have the same reputation as, say, Will Smith or Johnny Depp. His death triggered a worldwide media sensation almost comparable to those of Princess Diana and Michael Jackson. It also brought a renewed focus on mental health issues, given Williams grappled with them throughout his lifetime.
  • Paul Walker, known for starring in the The Fast and the Furious series, as well as a few other roles, was killed in a car crash in November 2013. Although the Fast and Furious films were massive hits, Walker wasn't well-known outside of those films and his popularity was very low compared to co-star Vin Diesel. Since then, a new legion of teenage fans who had previously never heard of him now worship him insanely. The greatest moment of Walker's posthumous legacy came in 2015, when then-fading rapper Wiz Khalifa recorded a song in tribute of him, "See You Again", for the next Furious movie. The song was an enormous hit — spending twelve weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, selling nearly 500,000 copies the week it first hit #1 and becoming its own separate entity from its parent film, as well as propelling featured artist and songwriter Charlie Puth to stardom. Think about it — had Walker's reputation remained where it was when he was alive, "See You Again" would have likely done next to nothing on the charts, and of course, is also likely the song wouldn't have been made if Walker was still alive. It should also be noted that he actually beat Vin Diesel for a Teen Choice Award that same year.
  • Director Ed Wood is known today as the patron saint of bad movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space or Glen or Glenda, but in his lifetime he was virtually unknown and died nearly broke.
  • Carole Lombard was a very successful actress in the 1930s, but it wasn't until after her tragic death at age 33 in a plane crash that she became one of the great icons of screwball comedy, with some calling her the greatest and most influential comedic actress of all time. Even Lucille Ball decided to do I Love Lucy after she dreamed Lombard told her to do it.
  • After a string of flops in the '80s, Gene Wilder had retired from acting, with the public mostly remembering him for playing the title role in the classic 1971 movie musical Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, based on Roald Dahl's classic novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. His death in August 2016 not only helped sustain Wonka's great legacy, but also raised the profile of his other films such as The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Young Frankenstein and everyone began citing him as one of the greatest comedic actors of all time. On a related note, while Tim Burton's 2005 film version of Charlie, starring Johnny Depp as Wonka, had faced intense Hype Backlash for over a decade for what was being increasingly seen as a butchered remake of the original film as opposed to a Truer to the Text adaptation of Dahl's original book, Wilder's death firmly solidified the '71 film as the definitive adaptation of the book and sent the '05 film into pure Deader Than Disco territory.
  • Rock Hudson fell off the Hollywood A-list in the late-1960s, and within 15 years found himself in supporting roles on TV series such as Dynasty. However, he revealed in 1985 that he was dying of AIDS, which followed a few months later by his untimely passing. This ensured Hudson's status as a beloved Hollywood actor, in large part because his death gave the public a greater awareness of AIDS than ever before. In addition, Hudson came out as gay in a posthumously-released memoir, which finally allowed the public to see Hollywood's unfortunate treatment of homosexual actors in the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Carrie Fisher was very well known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films, but she had no real profile beyond Star Wars and wasn't nearly as iconic as her co-star Harrison Ford. Her shocking death at the end of 2016, capping off a year of a surprisingly high number of high-profile celebrity deaths, truly made the world fall in love with her all over again, and Princess Leia was appropriated into a feminist symbol at the Women's March a month later. On a related note, Debbie Reynolds, Fisher's mother, died a day after her daughter. Reynolds was a star from the '50s who was relatively obscure at the time of her death, but the fact that she died just one day after Fisher gave her passing a lot more attention than it would have gotten otherwise.
  • Roger Moore wasn't the most popular of the James Bonds, but he was still fairly well-liked. When he died in May 2017, a lot of his films' biggest critics (namely Connery fans) began to look at his films in a more positive light. Moore's death certainly would have been a big news story, especially considering that he is the first Bond to pass away, but it was largely reduced to an afterthought in the aftermath of the Manchester attacks.
  • The actor Antonio De Curtis, known as Totò, well known in his country of Italy, once said: It's going to be really beautiful at my funeral, there will be praises, words, big words, they will find out I'm a great actor: because this is a wonderful country, where to be recognized in anything, however, you have to die. He was right about his future fame.
  • Anton Yelchin starred as Ensign Pavel Chekov in the Star Trek (2009) films, which many Trek fans have been divided over. In June 2016, only a month before the release of Star Trek Beyond, Anton was killed in an auto accident at age 27, and the entire Trek franchise united to pay tribute to him.
  • Sharon Tate was only acting for the latter part of the 1960s, and she was getting a lot of hype when she was alive, but she was often dismissed as just a Ms. Fanservice (not helping matters by her breakout role Valley of the Dolls being critically trashed but still a Box Office hit. However, her shocking and brutal murder at the hands of the Manson Family ensured her place in pop culture history. Some of her films - notably Eye of the Devil were re-released after her death and grossed much more than they had on their first runs. It got to the point that in 2019 - the fiftieth anniversary of her death - three films about her were produced. These days she's considered a big part of the New Hollywood. Roman Polanski said after her death that she was rarely recognised for her talent rather than her beauty.
  • Anna May Wong had faded by the '50s and '60s after being a star in the '20s and '30s. She had grown burnt out by Hollywood not wanting to cast her in non-stereotypical Chinese parts and taken her career overseas. Her sudden death right before she was to star in Flower Drum Song was right before an emergence of Asian-American talent - leading to Nancy Kwan (who she would have starred alongside in Flower Drum Song) calling her a pioneer in terms of Asian representation. These days she's recognised as the first Chinese-American movie star and a trailblazer for minorities in Hollywood.
  • Marilyn Monroe achieved symbolic status after she died. While she was a huge star when she was alive, her popularity has endured over the years and she's acquired the image of a tragic cautionary tale that almost certainly wouldn't have been if she had lived longer.
  • Jean Harlow was growing in popularity in the 1930s as one of America's favourite blonde bombshells but was despised by critics as a bland Ms. Fanservice. However, her sudden death at the age of 26 caused a worldwide sensation - including a national day of mourning in the UK (where her films were rarely exported). Her all too brief career caused her to become a legendary figure, and indeed an idol of Marilyn Monroe (who was considered her Spiritual Successor). It does help that some of the few films she starred in - Hell's Angels, The Public Enemy, Red Dust - have endured as classics. You can also thank her for the term 'platinum blonde', as she starred in a film with that title based around her hair colour. The buzz around her death was so large that instead of recasting her part in Saratoga (which she'd filmed half of before she died), they used Fake Shemps and released it as her final performance.
  • Jack Wild had long fallen into obscurity as a Former Child Star from the '60s and '70s by the time of his death from throat cancer in 2006. He's nostalgically remembered for his iconic role as the Artful Dodger in Oliver! and his own TV series Pufnstuf. A posthumous biography was even released in 2016, a full ten years after his death.

  • H. P. Lovecraft, whose stories, though known among genre fans during his lifetime, only achieved anything resembling literary success after he died, with the help of other writers adding onto the Cthulhu Mythos and keeping it going. This is one example where death actually was a direct cause, not just a symptom of the passage of time — his works went into the public domain instead of staying with an estate, which is what allowed all those other authors to play in his sandbox.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien. While he was a noted author and respected linguist during his lifetime, only after his death he has become a household name everywhere. He has been an inspiration on basically every fantasy fiction author, and all his works are fundamental parts of Geek Canon. Vindicated by History: only after his death have The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings been recognized as great works of the 20th century English literature.
  • A more extreme example is John Kennedy Toole's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Confederacy of Dunces. It wasn't his death that got audiences' attention, but the tireless efforts of his mother over the course of eleven years to get it published.
  • Franz Kafka was little-known in the literary circle until he died and his friend Max Brod edited and published his unfinished manuscripts. Max also invokes the reversal of this trope, as he was a very popular and acclaimed author back then, but is now known only as Kafka's friend. It's also interesting to note that Kafka specifically told Brod to burn his unfinished works, and Brod directly disobeyed his dying wish. Good call.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald was popular during the twenties, but later in his life, he was unsuccessful and unpopular. It wasn't until after he died that The Great Gatsby became celebrated as one of the greatest American novels.
  • New Zealand author Ronald Hugh Morrieson once feared that he would become "another of those poor buggers who gets discovered when they're dead." He continues to be proven right, long after his death in 1972.
  • Stieg Larsson died shortly after delivering the manuscripts for The Millennium Trilogy, which has proved wildly successful.
  • As both a journalist and novelist, David Foster Wallace was a critically acclaimed wunderkind in the mid-90s literary world, but most outside of those circles knew him only for Infinite Jest being a doorstopper to end all doorstoppers. Following his 2008 death, he received a tremendous amount of attention and many younger writers and journalists will namecheck him as an influence. His posthumous novel The Pale King had more pre-release anticipation than any of his other novels received during his lifetime, and it received a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Zora Neale Hurston (who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God), despite coming from the prolific Harlem Renaissance period, struggled to make a living throughout most of her life. She died relatively young and penniless, and was buried in an unmarked grave. It wasn't until decades later when Hurston (along with Maya Angelou) was seen as a revolutionary voice for black female writers, and posthumously paved the way for writers like Alice Walker (The Color Purple) and Toni Morrison (Beloved).
  • The study website Shmoop actually predicts note  that this trope will probably happen to Stephen King:
    King's stories, chock full of working-class characters, speak the language of these people (us!) in a way that will probably only be acknowledged fully after his death. Said death will doubtless provoke a Michael Jackson-esque frenzy of King criticism, posthumous awards, and his formal admittance into academia and "the canon."
  • Philip K. Dick was an acclaimed science fiction writer, winning a Hugo award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award, but his reputation as a giant of SF really didn't take off after his death in 1982, when a series of movie adaptations of his work, most notably Blade Runner became popular. (Blade Runner itself was initially a flop before becoming popular on home video.)

    Live-Action TV 
  • As The Agony Booth's Albert Walker remembers and describes as "Dying Young Retroactively Makes You More Talented", the suicide of Jonathan Brandis earned him this status ("Seriously, prior to his death, reviewers mostly described Brandis' seaQuest DSV character as a dopier version of Wesley Crusher").
  • John Ritter was never much of a ratings draw after Three's Company ended. But after his sudden and unexpected death, everyone fell over themselves proclaiming him a genius and Company one of the greatest sitcoms of all time (as well as his current show, 8 Simple Rules, to a lesser extent). The media circus surrounding his death - on the two-year anniversary of 9/11, no less - was so massive that his widow Amy Yasbeck joked that she "married Elvis".
  • Phil Hartman ran away with the trope. Although he did not win an Emmy posthumously for Outstanding Supporting Actor for NewsRadio (causing his co-star Dave Foley to humorously quip, "What does a guy have to do to win an Emmy around here?"), the outpour of respect for him since his death has been immense. Many have since cited him as the "glue" that kept Saturday Night Live together during its second creative peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and while he rarely got to be known as a superstar like his fellow cast members (Dana Carvey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley), he's now regarded as one of the greatest (and perhaps the most versatile) performers of the SNL's history. Additionally, he was extremely popular for his recurring work as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz on The Simpsons, with some even stating that his death coincided with the point where the series started to lose its luster.
  • Jade Goody was generally described as being thick, ugly, and a racist. Until she got diagnosed with a terminal illness.
  • Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Fred Rogers was deeply admired while he was alive but since his death in 2003, he has been elevated to be an American saint of television.
  • Cory Monteith. He was well-respected before his death, but afterwards, his work has become much more respected - like Selena, this is mostly due to imagining what could have been. In fact, much outrage was sparked when it was reported that Monteith would be featured prominently in the 2013 Emmy Awards' "In Memoriam" montage, whereas other actors had been excluded. Adam Klugman, son of late actor Jack Klugman, who'd also been excluded from the montage, was very critical of what he believed was over-promotion of Monteith's life and career.
  • While he was alive, Ernie Kovacs was a critical and cult favorite but never had much in the way of mainstream success. He was rediscovered after his death and is now considered one of the founding fathers of TV comedy.
  • Jim Henson is similar to Mister Rogers in that he was very well appreciated in life, but the general opinion of him especially outside of the Muppet fandom escalated after he passed away in 1990.
  • Patrick Swayze was already an iconic film star, but after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2008, he started gaining newfound appreciation as he did the short-lived police drama The Beast while undergoing treatment. Unfortunately, despite positive reviews, the show had low ratings because Swayze was unable to promote it himself. The show was put on a hiatus after its first and only season, with the intention of revival once he was in better shape. Sadly, he died from the cancer in September 2009, and the show was summarily canceled, but his Determinator attitude earned him greater esteem.
  • Andy Whitfield achieved his Star-Making Role in Spartacus: Blood and Sand right before he was diagnosed with cancer. He died eighteen months later and his role as Spartacus was recast, but he was still considered the star of the show and touted as a real-life badass by fans - often treating him as if he were Spartacus in real life. In lots of ways, his critically acclaimed performance in the show has led to his previous work being rediscovered.
  • Deirdre Barlow wasn't a particularly popular character on Coronation Street (with a lot of fans mockingly nicknaming her 'Dreary' for her habit of ending up in depressing storylines). However, when her actress Anne Kirkbride died suddenly of breast cancer in 2015, she was re-evaluated as one of the soap's long-running characters (she'd been on the soap since she was 18 and died at 60) and the media was more appreciative of her role in several important storylines - most famously her imprisonment in 1998 and the subsequent "Free the Weatherfield One" campaign. Anne Kirkbride was then posthumously given an Outstanding Achievement Award.
  • Inverted with Jimmy Savile. In life, he was very well liked and respected not only for his tv show Jim 'll Fix It which had him making real life children's dreams come true, but also for his vast amount of charity work and volunteering at hospitals. These many good deeds earned him many accolades. One year after his death, it was revealed that he was one of the biggest sexual predators to have ever lived, having been a pedophile, a necrophiliac, and a serial rapist with hundreds of sex crimes. He has since had all his honors and accolades removed, his charity foundations shut down, and his shows permanently pulled off the air.

  • Kurt Cobain was valued before he died, and they did have several hit singles at the time, but Nirvana probably wouldn't have sold 50 million albums and been considered such a genre-defining band without the dramatic suicide (Pearl Jam, for instance, was easily outselling Nirvana at the time).
  • Rap music, in general, is fascinated with this trope more than other genres. Many rappers who had small, cult followings end up getting deified and endlessly shouted out in other rappers' songs after their deaths; this gets taken to ridiculous levels when you see rappers who had beef with each other talk about how much they admired the now dead rival.
    • Tupac Shakur.
    • The Notorious B.I.G. has been hailed by many as the greatest rapper of all time...after he died. With only two albums, Ready to Die and Life After Death completed in his lifetime, to boot. On top of that, his untimely death in 1997 is likely one of the major reasons his second album Life After Death went Diamond in 2000 way before his more popular rival Tupac Shakur even did, even though Biggie was already very popular, to begin with.
    • Big L's second album The Big Picture, published a year after his death in 1999, went Gold and was L's most successful album, especially compared to his first album Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, which was the only album he released when he was still alive.
    • J Dilla, while very popular due to his works with notable acts (including A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, The Roots, The Pharcyde, Madlib, and Common), wasn't known as well for his solo career. While very successful and admired in the hip-hop community while he was alive, his largest first-week sales as a solo artist was due to the re-release of his EP-turned-album Ruff Draft (heck, the original release was unsuccessful) in 2007, one year after his death.
    • XXXTentacion was a rapper who grew popular in the late 2010s for his dark lyrics and unique beats, yet was heavily scrutinized for his racist ideologies and abuse allegations from his pregnant wife. After he was killed while leaving a motorcycle dealership, a wave of posthnoumous support came in, declaring X as one of the best rappers of the new generation and a pioneer in mumble rap.
  • hide, a Japanese rock guitarist for the band X Japan and who also had a solo career. Very popular in life (and arguably could have been the person to break the "barrier" between Japanese rock and metal and Western rock and metal had he lived) but far, far, FAR more popular after his death.
  • Taiji Sawada, also of X Japan (and Loudness) and The Killing Red Addiction and lots of other bands) has also experienced this - in a more understated way. He's nowhere near the Cash Cow Franchise or wide publicity hide is, but his solo work did get lifted out of relative obscurity on Youtube (and with people who will happily reupload the now out-of-print stuff every time it's deleted) and his bass virtuosity and lyrical skills (along with some of the opinions he expressed in his autobiography, which finally got a full English translation because of his death) became Vindicated by History.
  • Austrian singer Falco ("Rock me Amadeus") supposedly said: "You've got to die in Vienna before the people will appreciate you."
  • John Lennon didn't really become acclaimed until after his tragic assassination. His album Double Fantasy, did go gold before Lennon died, as David Geffen told John when Geffen dropped by the recording studio on the night of Dec. 8, but it is possible that it wouldn't have won that Grammy — reviews published in the three weeks between the album's release and Lennon's murder were lukewarm.
    • Lennon, ironically enough, mentioned of this trope in interviews prior to his death. After his so-called "lost weekend" Lennon took in LA, where he was separated from Yoko and went on an alcoholic binge, leading to some embarrassing behavior around 1973-75, he reunited with Yoko, straightened himself out and took a five-year hiatus from the music industry to raise his son Sean. Lennon commented in interviews that the fact he did not die in Los Angeles meant that critics were free to take shots at his music, but had he died, everyone would be praising him and feeling empathy with his music and messages.
    • Even earlier, in an interview during the 1960s, Lennon was asked how he might die, and jokingly remarked that "I'll probably get popped off by some loony."
  • McCartney's late wife Linda had often been ridiculed by members of the rock press and certain music fans as a mediocre talent in both music and photography, a punchline in many sexist "jokes" like "What do you call a cow with wings", etc., right up until the time of her death from breast cancer in 1998. Since then, and especially in the light of the Heather Mills drama, she has been reassessed as a songwriter and performer and a critical force in the band Wings and Paul's solo groups; her solo efforts as compiled by Paul on the posthumous album Wide Prairie has received critical acclaim. Her photography and environmentalism have been better appreciated as well.
  • George Harrison has also been a beneficiary of this effect since his death in 2001. Suddenly people remembered why songs like "My Sweet Lord" and "Crackerbox Palace" had been so popular in their day. Additionally, George had been an object of frequent derision for his unabashedly religious music and for the red tape issues surrounding the Concert For Bangladesh. After his death, his spirituality became a point of respect, and he was hailed as being compassionate enough to "invent" the benefit concert. (Incidentally, his death made front-page news in Bangladesh itself.)
  • Ian Curtis and Joy Division; while the band was already critically acclaimed during Curtis' lifetime, it was his suicide in 1980 that catapulted the band to legendary status (though some of the praise nowadays runs along the lines of "well, it's depressing but at least he meant it"). The rest of Joy Division became New Order and put out many more albums and hit singles, but tend to be overshadowed by Curtis' suicide. The biopic 24-Hour Party People focuses on Joy Division and moves on to the Happy Mondays with New Order appearing in the background, and Anton Corbijn's Control covers Curtis' life and finishes with his death, with no mention of what the other three did. Grant Gee's Joy Division documentary contains barely a mention of anything past 1980.
    • Well, Control was explicitly a biopic of Curtis' life. And interestingly, most of these tend to avert Never Speak Ill of the Dead, showing Ian for the Jerkass to his wife and child that he was.
  • Brad Nowell and Sublime. As one reviewer put it:
    (Death) gives the record a certain pathos, but that doesn't make the album any stronger.
  • While Freddie Mercury was far from an unknown by the time he died, Queen experienced a major popularity boost after his death. After their fall from popularity in the USA in The '80s, Mercury told Brian May: "Guess I'll have to fucking die before we're big there again" - which sadly was the case. Their album sales in 1992 were significantly better than their sales in the '80s and to date, about half of their sold albums have been since Mercury's death. The AIDS benefit concert dedicated to him certainly helped as well.
    • Brian May mentioned in many interviews that Freddie encouraged Brian to release the latter's solo "Driven By You" single after Freddie's death, as the singer knew that public interest in Queen would skyrocket at that point and it would help the single soar up the charts.
  • Lou Reed was already appreciated and respected for his music and influence on many bands, but when he died in October of 2013, tributes and accolades were given by a huge number of people in the music industry. In fact, his death ultimately led to his induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist in 2015 (it was too late to add him in 2014 and the Velvet Underground had already been inducted in 1996).
  • Cliff Burton, the dead bassist of Metallica, has achieved legendary status within the heavy metal world. Probably because, back in 1986, he died when the tour bus slid on black ice, flipped over, and crushed him. The fact that, when they were lifting the tour bus up with a crane after the accident, they accidentally dropped it back onto him did not help.
    • The kicker is the band drew cards for that bed. Guess which card Cliff drew? The Ace of Spades. No kidding. On the other hand, the band relocated to San Francisco because he'd join them on that condition; he was that good.
  • When Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead passed away, not only was there increased demand for the albums, but also for his line of men's ties and even Ben & Jerry's "Cherry Garcia" ice cream, which had existed since the mid-'80s and went from being one of its better selling flavors to the brand's biggest selling flavor of all time.
  • In the words of Jimi Hendrix:
    "It's funny how most people love the dead. Once you're dead, you're made for life."
  • Mayhem has had countless singers throughout their history. One of them, Dead (real name Per Yngve Ohlin), in addition to being pretty unhinged in life (starving himself to "improve" his voice, burying his clothes in the ground and wearing them onstage while cutting himself), ultimately blew his head off with a shotgun while leaving a note that only said "Pardon the mess." The guitarist, Euronymous, then took a picture of his body before calling the police, the picture of which appeared on one of their album covers. He then, according to legend, made a stew out of the pieces of his brain and ate it (which Euronymous confirmed as false, though he apparently thought about it), and collected fragments of his skull and made necklaces out of them (Euronymous confirmed this one as true.) Now, guess which of their many singers was traditionally called the best?
    • Second Mayhem example: original guitarist and songwriter Euronymous was murdered shortly after recording the band's proper debut album, De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, was completed. This album has effectively become the yardstick against which all subsequent Mayhem albums have and must be measured. His murderer, Varg Vikernes, was playing bass on that album. Varg's releases as Burzum later became entry-level black metal music for unrelated reasons.
  • Eva Cassidy may be the epitome of this trope among female musicians. While she may have never actively sought out for fame and a stable career in the music business, she was relatively unknown outside her home state of Washington D.C. when she passed away from skin cancer in 1996 at the age of 33. She released a collaborative album with Chuck Brown entitled The Other Side in 1992 with her own arrangements of classics like "God Bless the Child" and "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and won a couple of local music awards, but nothing else. Two years after her death, a compilation album, Songbird, was made, which sold over 100, 000 copies over the following months. A British music show then aired a poignant, Deliberately Monochrome video of Cassidy singing "Over the Rainbow", and Songbird shot up the charts. Eight million copies of her album have now been sold as of this writing, and her music has topped international charts. When you watch her perform though (shown here, performing her now-signature song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"), there is arguably something incredibly moving and angelic about her performance, knowing Death had taken her at such a young age.
  • Zig-Zagged by Michael Jackson. Granted, he sold over 270 million albums and helped define a generation, but he also spent pretty much the last two decades of his life as a pop-cultural punchline, almost universally dismissed as a walking train wreck and a reclusive freak (and that's not even getting into the multiple accusations of child molestation leveled at him) whose Glory Days as an artist were long behind him. After his death, the media coverage and tributes completely reversed his reputation almost overnight, to the point of winning four AMA awards after his death for a 2003 Greatest Hits Album. MAD mocked this twice, first with a "brutally honest" obituary that pointed up both his personal failings and the failure of his family and handlers to do anything to help him, and second by declaring the post-mortem near-deification the Dumbest Event of 2009. This renewed popularity would take a major hit, however, with the release of the 2019 documentary Leaving Neverland. Meticulously detailing two new accusations against Jackson, the documentary would end up prompting a widespread re-evaluation of the man's life and legacy and reignited the debate of whether or not it should be socially acceptable to separate art from the artist, although his overall popularity was not affected in the long run.
  • Australian youth radio station Triple J's Hottest 100 Of All Time 2009 confirmed that Dead Artists Are Better, with 4 of the artists in the top 10 (Kurt Cobain, Jeff Buckley, Ian Curtis and Freddie Mercury) dying relatively young.
  • Richey James Edwards, the lyricist and guitarist for the Manic Street Preachers mysteriously disappeared in 1995, and has been presumed dead since 2008. The band has had much more commercial success since then. Of course, this could be because, without his unique vision, they've produced several more pop-friendly albums (an album using lyrics left by him was released in 2009).
  • Sid Vicious didn't play on any of the Sex Pistols' albums, didn't write anything and his amps were turned off live (the man couldn't even play). Still, he's the most famous "member" of the band because he died at 21 (and because he allegedly murdered his girlfriend, though that's a surprisingly small part of it).
  • Bill Drummond (later a member of The KLF) wrote a song that appeared on his solo album The Man dealing with just this. The title: "Julian Cope Is Dead". During the song, Julian Cope dies in order to make his band, The Teardrop Explodes, famous. Bill used to be the manager of the band and the song is a parody of Cope's own solo song "Bill Drummond Said". Drummond's frustration with the music industry (and Cope in particular) is quite well known.
  • Aaliyah was a rising star in the R&B genre and it was predicted she would become even bigger after Romeo Must Die showed her crossing into films. But she had a growing Hype Backlash that said she owed far more to her beauty and production thanks to Timbaland. Since her death at the age of 22 in a plane crash in 2001, she's been remembered as a great singer who died too soon. In fact, many R&B singers who became famous in the 2000s like Beyonce, Ciara, Zendaya etc. cited her as their idol. She's still glorified to this day.
  • Ronnie James Dio. Even Ozzy fans love him now.
  • The famous Rolling Stone cover with Jim Morrison: "He's hot. He's sexy. He's dead."
  • Ozzy Osbourne has had nearly a dozen guitarists join his band, with varying levels of success, but which of them is considered the greatest? Randy Rhoads, of course, the one who died in a plane crash in 1982 and left a legacy even Zakk Wylde lives in the shadow of after playing on only 2 Ozzy albums, if you don't count the live Tribute album released in 1987 (it helps that Rhoads was also Ozzy's first guitarist, and had achieved some fame beforehand as the guitarist for Quiet Riot) and was a very influential guitar player during his time with Ozzy.
  • Nick Drake achieved very little success in his life before his death, though this could partially be due to the fact that he had several mental illnesses plaguing him as well. Afterward? People started discovering him, and his sales started increasingly tremendously. Though he didn't achieve true success until almost forty years later, when his song "Pink Moon" was used in a Volkswagen ad. In the ensuing months, his albums sold more copies than they had in the last 35+ years combined.
    • Nick was so painfully introverted, he almost never performed for an audience (which didn't help his career). One time when he tried, he felt rejected because the crowd wouldn't be quiet and listen (hardly a headliner, he was providing background music for a popular club). He played for small groups of friends, often astonished by his ability. Nick's work did sustain the attention of one important man: producer Joe Boyd, also crucial in the careers of Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson and The Incredible String Band.
    • In a haunting case of Harsher in Hindsight, Drake described this trope in "Fruit Tree" from his very first album, predicting his own posthumous fame: "Fame is but a fruit tree, So very unsound / It can never flourish 'till its stock is in the ground..."
  • Pantera's Dimebag Darrell. Before his death? Badass metal guitar player who helped keep the solo flag flying. After his death? THE GREATEST PLAYER SINCE RANDY RHOADS! (see above)
    • To be fair, a lot of people believed that before his death. When Dimebag was a teenager he won so many local guitar competitions that he was eventually banned from participating in order to give other players a chance to win. In the 1990s the readers of Guitar World magazine voted Dimebag Darrell "Best Metal Guitarist" several times.
  • Amy Winehouse is not a perfect example. She was a very successful artist before her untimely passing at the age of 27. Her album Back to Black sold over 20 million copies worldwide (even more impressive when you consider that record sales were at an all-time low at that point), had 15 charted singles, many of which were international hits, won numerous awards - including 5 Grammys in one night - and by their own admission directly inspired and paved the way for the likes of Adele, Lady Gaga, Florence Welch and Duffy (among others). However despite this in the later years of her life, she was ridiculed by the media for her substance abuse problems and many people overlooked her talent and success, dismissing her as a terrible role model. To be fair, her substance problems did become more notorious than her music during her last years, to the point of being booed in what turned out to be her last concert in June 2011 due to being too intoxicated to sing properly. After her death, however, the focus was not only on her music but also on her charitable activities which had never been mentioned before.
    • NME voted Winehouse "Villain of the Year" in 2008 and 2009 over the likes of Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush, and Tony Blair as well as the "Worst dressed performer" (to be fair, they had given both of her albums stellar reviews nevertheless). Just 4 years later, in 2012, they voted "Rehab" the second greatest song of all time and Winehouse herself as the 5th greatest icon of all time (and one place above Jimi Hendrix to boot), published an article called "How NME fell for Amy" and referred to her as a fashion icon.
    • Virgin Music Awards also voted Winehouse "loser of the year" in 2009 and "legend of the year" after her death in 2011.
  • Although Dean Martin has always had some measure of popularity, he seems to have gotten much more positive attention in death than in his lifetime, when under the shadows of Jerry Lewis and Frank Sinatra. It is almost as likely that posthumous compilations of his greatest hits will turn up in record shelves as Frank's.
  • Whitney Houston did sell over 170 million records in her career, but just like Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse, she spent the last decade of her life as a pop-culture joke, being ridiculed constantly for her problems with drugs and alcohol, her increasingly erratic behavior, and her tumultuous relationship with Bobby Brown. Shortly after her death, sales of her records soared, tributes to her began to pour out and jokes about the problems she had were largely forgotten.
  • While Davy Jones of The Monkees was hugely popular in The '60s, he fell out of mainstream exposure since the mid-'90s despite continuing to be musically active; getting a brief resurge in popularity after his unexpected February 2012 death. Jones' death also caused fellow Monkee Michael Nesmith to reunite with his former bandmates for touring, having separated from them since 1996.
  • This can also be said for '70s disco queen Donna Summer; her passing from cancer just three months after Jones' passing caused people to remember why songs like "Hot Stuff" and "Last Dance" were so popular.
  • Adam Yauch, AKA MCA of the Beastie Boys, was Genre Savvy enough to attempt to prevent this by forbidding the use of his music for advertising in his will.
  • A subversion in one of the most bizarre incidents, Sixto Rodriguez was a small-time Detroit folk singer who didn't know he was a pop superstar in South Africa, who was rumored to have died of suicide on stage. When he was discovered alive and well and performed in South Africa, the local populace felt like it was the equivalent of Elvis being found truly alive and performing again. Searching for Sugar Man tells the complete story of Rodriguez's fall and rise.
  • Elvis Presley. It was once said by a handler that death was the best thing to happen to his career. In fact, he sold more albums and merchandise in the three years after he died than in his entire career! Also, it is not widely remembered that Presley's career and popularity was in uncontrolled freefall in the last couple years of his life; he could only score moderate hit singles (and even then they were generally relegated to the country western charts), critics savaged his new albums, and his fading physical condition and erratic live performances did not go unnoticed, with only blind loyalty (or perhaps the innate attraction to watch a train wreck in action) selling tickets. His death made even his most critically lambasted recordings financially lucrative again and drew people to seek out even his worst movies.
  • Jenni Rivera, a Mexican-American Banda singer largely unknown outside of the genre (although considering banda is practically the most-listened genre in Mexico, she was known by almost everyone there, even by the ones who didn't like her music) got a popularity push after her December 2012 death in a plane crash. Shortly before her death, she was in the news not because of her music, but due to her scandalous divorce from baseball player Esteban Loaiza, who allegedly cheated on Jenni with her own daughter. However, as of 2019 this seems to have been averted, she is not more popular than she was before her death, and she's mostly forgotten in the media except when talking about her daughter (also a banda singer) or her past scandals. Two biographical series about Rivera also emphasize the many troubles she went through throughout her life.
    • Singer/actor Pedro Infante became one of the major icons of Mexican popular culture after he died in a plane crash in 1957 at the age of 39.
  • Bob Marley was already popular during his lifetime, but only after his death did his fanbase expand beyond a cult reputation. Today he is perhaps the most well-loved musician in the Third World. And even in the United States, his fan base has grown considerably.
  • Blues singer Robert Johnson died in obscurity back in the 1930s. His reputation only grew a few decades later, when his music was rediscovered by collectors of authentic American folk music. Those collectors later introduced mainstream audiences to his music when his sides were compiled on the bestselling albums King Of The Delta Blues Singers and the Grammy-winning The Complete Recordings.
  • It's difficult to tell whether the reputations of Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, and John Coltrane would have been so enormous if they hadn't passed away on such a young age.
  • Frank Zappa once said that he didn't care whether he was remembered at all and bitterly assumed that this would be the case after he died. Though he will never become a mainstream favorite his music is now far more popular and acclaimed than during his lifetime.
  • After Captain Beefheart's death, his discography, amazingly enough, started selling better than ever before.
  • Jeff Buckley's death has caused an enormous interest in his music and made his first posthumous album Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk sell far better than it would have in normal circumstances.
  • Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole. Popular and acclaimed regionally before his death; popular and acclaimed worldwide afterwards.
  • Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens would almost certainly not have gotten their Biopics had it not been for the fateful Winter Dance Party flight. Averted in the case of The Big Bopper, though it's arguably due to the effects of this that he even gets mentioned at all nowadays.
  • James Jamerson was Motown's first-call bassist in its classic era. He wasn't very well-known to the public and had a long struggle with alcoholism that led to his death at age 47 in 1983. Years later, as interest in the careers of session musicians grew, Jamerson was rediscovered and is now usually considered to be one of the most important bassists of all-time. One unintended side effect is that Jamerson sometimes gets erroneously credited with bass work on songs that were actually done by other Motown bassists like Bob Babbitt.
    • Interest in Jamerson seems to have led to most interest in general in the "Funk Brothers" (Motown's in-house session musicians), many of them deceased as of 2014, and the documentary movie about them, entitled Standing In The Shadows Of Motown received much acclaim.
  • Although Selena was a pretty big deal in Latin America at the time of her death in 1995, she was unknown in the US until the circumstances of her shocking murder made headlines all over the world. Her anticipated English-language crossover, Dreaming Of You, was released just a few months later, and the residual media interest is at least partly responsible for the album's record-breaking commercial success. Nearly all of the critical acclaim for that record seems to be influenced in some way by the tragedy and imagining what could have been. The successful biopic and Selena's status as a folk hero/borderline religious icon in the Mexican-American community continue to fuel interest in, and admiration for, her life and musical legacy.
  • Paul Baloff of Exodus was often considered a poor singer with too much anger and no control over his voice during his lifetime. After his death, having sung on only one studio album and one live album, he was widely praised for his raw, chaotic vocal style, as well as his enthusiasm for thrash metal.
  • Film composer James Horner has gotten this treatment following his June 2015 death in a plane crash. Prior to his death, Horner had a Vocal Minority of detractors accusing him of ripping off pieces of music from other artists, though he was still respected overall.
  • Charles Mingus was a respected jazz bassist and bandleader but was really only considered a genius after his death in 1979 from ALS.
  • The Rev from Avenged Sevenfold's recognition as a drummer increased greatly when he passed away from a drug overdose in December 2009 at age 28 and is now commonly cited as one of hard rock/heavy metal's greatest drummers.
  • Richard Wright was the main keyboardist for Pink Floyd and instrumental for defining the bands signature sound, even leading it for a while following Syd Barrett's exit. His work was generally overshadowed though by the more prominent members like Waters, Gilmour and the after-mentioned Syd, and in general just seen as 'there' by the general public. It wasn't until after his death in 2008 (and the tribute album the band put out for him) that his role in the bands success became officially recognized.
  • Suicide Silence lead singer Mitch Lucker was pretty popular during his short lifetime. However, after a November 2012 motorcycle crash claimed his life, his fans seem to love him way more and often pay tribute to him online. They even wish he was still alive.
  • Legendary British singer Cilla Black got her first number one album after dying of injuries after falling from her balcony in 2015.
  • After his death, Motörhead frontman Lemmy got massive media coverage. Although his death was late in 2015, he is remembered as the start of the series of tragic deaths from 2016.
  • Natalie Cole briefly got this after her sudden death on New Year's Eve 2015. Sadly, her passing was completely overshadowed by a number of celebrities with even greater media prominence who died in the weeks and months since she did.
  • The year 2016 was marked by the deaths of three prominent music stars and their subsequent reactions:
    • First, David Bowie's death in January almost approached Michael Jackson levels in terms of media exposure. Bowie was widely admired at the time but was seen as something of a Reclusive Artist because he spent nearly a decade out of the limelight following a severe on-stage heart attack in 2004, and didn't tour when he resumed recording again in 2011. His last album was released just two days before his death, and while it sold well and earned critical acclaim upon release, posthumous sales skyrocketed (even knocking Adele off the top spot in most areas) and the album quickly came to be regarded as Bowie's greatest work.
    • Then Prince, who had fallen out of the limelight for years until his death in April, upon which he became a media juggernaut to an even greater extent than Bowie did. At the time of his death, he was still a highly regarded live performer (his last live performance was only one week before his death) but his recent albums had received a less than stellar reception, and his stance on music streaming and YouTube hadn't helped his popularity with younger audiences. The fact that he died rather young and of an unnatural cause (he died of an opioid overdose at 57; Bowie was taken out by cancer at 69) and the masses of unreleased songs in his vault also helped feed his legend status. He even took over the entire top 10 of the iTunes chart afterwards and much of the Hot 100 as well.
    • Finally, George Michael, who died suddenly on Christmas Day, and who was younger than both Bowie and Prince, dying of natural causes at 53. Owing to a protracted dispute with his record label, Michael's solo career ground to a halt in the early '90s, particularly in the United States. His last album of new music was released in 2004 and he spent much of the next decade touring to a dwindling audience and dealing with various run-ins with the law and paparazzi. After his death, his music returned to the charts. The revelation that he was heavily (albeit anonymously) involved with philanthropic causes and gave millions away to charities for terminally ill children and the homeless, also greatly improved his reputation.
  • While this trope does seem to be a truism more often then not, there are a few cases where an artist fails to receive immediate posthumous recognition on account of their death being overshadowed by an even greater tragedy:
    • Christina Grimmie was due to become the new Selena but ended up as a sad subversion, and within one day, no less. She was hardly a household name, mostly known for her stint on The Voice, but she had a sizable following on social media. Her shocking murder at an Orlando theater in 2016 made national and international headlines, largely due to the circumstances that were not unlike those of Selena's death (a crazed fan shot and killed her at an autograph signing before turning the gun on himself), and also the fact that she was only 22. Sadly, it didn't last long as not even one day later, her murder was completely overshadowed by a shooting at a gay nightclub just a few miles away — the deadliest in U.S. history at the time. The coverage for that tragedy and the world's reaction to it was so massive that Grimmie's death was reduced to barely a blip on the radar overnight. Only time will tell if Grimmie becomes a proper example of this trope.
    • The Germs were a relatively popular L.A. area band mainly known outside of their devoted fanbase for being unbookable due to their shows frequently ending in riots. It wasn't until frontman Darby Crash died of suicide that the band was Vindicated by History and recognized for helping to kickstart the Hardcore Punk movement, although it took a while to set in due to Darby's death occurring the day before John Lennon was killed.
    • Unlike other celebrity deaths that occurred the next year, the tragic death of Scott Weiland, aged 48, in December 2015 was largely forgotten about because it occurred just after the tragedy in San Bernardino.
    • Tom Petty was always an iconic rock star, and his sudden passing on October 2, 2017, only a week after wrapping up the Heartbreakers' 40th anniversary tour, affirmed his legacy. Sadly, his death got overshadowed by the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas, which soon become the deadliest mass shooting in American history (overtaking the one that had obscured Grimmie's death) . It didn't help that there had initially been conflicting reports over whether he had passed on or not.
    • Barbara Weldens was a young, rising French singer who released her first album in February 2017, to much acclaim. Unfortunately, a few months later she was electrocuted after tripping on a loose wire while onstage. She might have been an example of this if she had any recognition outside of France, and even there all mention of her was obscured by Chester Bennington's death one day later (see below).
  • While he was highly valued throughout his life and was far from being forgotten, Mexican singer Juan Gabriel became the Latin American highest example of this trope, surpassing Selena, after his sudden death in August 2016, just two days after giving a concert in Los Angeles and the same day the final episode of his autobiographic TV series premiered in Mexico. The reaction to his death was comparable to those of Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Michael Jackson.
    • Three years later, fellow singer José José's passing rivalled Juan Gabriel's in terms of media exposure and public reaction, especially after he spent his last decade as a sad shell of his former self.
  • Big Star would probably never have become one of the most influential Power Pop bands if founding guitarist Chris Bell, half of the driving force of #1 Record, hadn't died at the young age of 27.
  • Russian's cult alternative musician Yegor Letov managed to subvert the trope - due to his highly non-conformist behavior, constant light drug usage and rather nihilistic approach to life in general, on one point he was expected to be killed in some kind of accident or to die of suicide sooner or later. His actual death (heart failure while sleeping) was quiet and painless contrary to preposterous predictions from many mass media, and for the lack of any big scandals surrounding his persona during last days of his life, Letov's Cult Classic status remained practically the same as it was before his death.
  • Although a certain reinterest in her and her work was already brewing in the last years of her life, particularly with Bridget Fonda's character Kelly Porter in Grace of My Heart being loosely based on her note , and "You Don't Own Me" being featured heavily in The First Wives Club, the death of 1960s Teen Queen Lesley Gore in 2015 to cancer seems to have further awakened interest in her music, with Australian pop singer Grace covering "You Don't Own Me" (using Lesley's '60's producer, Quincy Jones) with an assist from rapper G-Eazy for a hit popularized by a trailer to Suicide Squad (2016) and Lesley's original recording being inducted in the 2017 Grammy Hall of Fame. Labels like the London-based Ace Records and American label Real Gone Music have reissued her back catalog, and a biography based on her life, also titled "You Don't Own Me", was released in 2016.
  • Soundgarden were very popular in the '90s, but they were never given the same recognition as Nirvana. Things changed with Chris Cornell's death in May 2017 and their reputation greatly improved.
  • Linkin Park, already often mocked for being a Nu Metal band early on in their career, was suffering major critical and fan backlash after their new pop sound on their album One More Light, and lead singer Chester Bennington for his defence of the album and angry retorts at fans. His suicide in July 2017, just two months after his close friend Chris Cornell's (on the latter's birthday, no less), led to vindication of the new album and former fans reevaluating the band as a whole, as well as increased activism for mental health issues.
  • Swedish DJ and producer Avicii had initially hit it big with songs such as 2011's "Levels" and 2013's "Wake Me Up", with even more songs such as "Addicted to You" "Seek Bromance", and "Hey Brother" becoming very well-known songs in the electronic music world. However, Avicii's career and reputation had hit a low point after the release of his sophomore album Stories, with few artists mentioning him, and with outspoken critics such as deadmau5 criticizing his lack of variety in his work. After his tragic suicide at the age of 28 in 2018, however, Avicii's popularity skyrocketed once again, with many people praising his influence in the dance music industry (in particular, the way he combined electronic music styles with country music on his debut album), and how he passed away too soon. As of late April of 2018, "Levels", "Wake Me Up" and "Hey Brother" have re-entered the UK Top 100 Singles Chart.
  • In June 2018, Pantera lost its second key member in the form of drummer Vinnie Paul (who is also Dimebag Darrell's brother). Following Paul's passing, many fans and critics reevaluated certain parts of Paul's discographynote . Tributes were poured in by many iconic bands in the hard rock and heavy metal community. News about Paul's passing was also covered by mainstream news sites such as CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC.

  • Sylvia Plath. When she was alive, she struggled to gain recognition at all for her poetry. After her death? She was the first poet to posthumously win the Pulitzer Prize, is now regarded as one of the key figures in confessional poetry, and Joyce Carol Oates hailed the publication of Plath's unabridged journals as a "genuine literary event."
    • Both her contemporary Anne Sexton and her husband Ted Hughes might also fit this trope.
  • Older Than Radio: After John Keats' death, literati everywhere said he would've surpassed Shakespeare if he had lived longer. He did die at the age of 26, though, and only really began producing once it was clear he was dying, so they might have a point.
  • Emily Dickinson wasn't even published before her death. If she had been well enough to destroy her own work before she died (instead of trusting a friend to do so) we never would have seen a word of it.
  • Charles Bukowski. He became somewhat popular in The '80s but is now considered a legend.
  • Roman poet Marcus Valerius Martialis (known as Martial) complained of this in the first century AD. "You puff the poets of other days, The living you deplore. Spare me the accolade: your praise Is not worth dying for.". Making this (at least according to Martial) older than print.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Initially averted by Chris Benoit. As when word broke out of what really happened to himself and his family, much of the Internet Wrestling Community turned on him instantly, the same IWC that once worshiped him as their god. However, this started to turn back in his favor when it was revealed that, due to the many, many concussions he suffered during his wrestling career, his brain resembled that of an 80-year-old Alzheimer's patient, helping to explain the otherwise inexcusable act. Adding to this is the accounts of his close relatives, mentioning that Benoit never got over the death of his best friend Eddie Guerrero (and witnessed a lot of his wrestling friends dying at young ages), which would explain why he ended up losing it. These days, while there is still condemnation, at the very least the IWC can understand that he was not completely at fault as circumstances were simply not that kind to him.
  • Played straight by most other wrestlers who die young though, especially Owen Hart, who was never more than an upper-midcarder at best in his lifetime (though according to Triple H, he was about to get a major push when he died; the push that Triple H himself ended up getting, in fact), Randy Savage (whose soiled reputation — largely due to an alleged sex scandal involving an underage Stephanie McMahon — was completely rehabilitated overnight) and Eddie Guerrero, who was extremely over but then became like a GOD after his death.
  • As a rule of thumb, songs by professional wrestlers tend to be So Bad, It's Good at best. However, Randy Savage's rap album, Be A Man, has been looked upon much more favorably after his death. The Bryan & Vinny Show went so far as to point out that rap artists have been known to release albums posthumously, so they expressed hope that another one would be released someday.
  • Nearly averted by Ultimate Warrior, who had built a standing over the last couple of decades as a recluse, bridge-burner (he basically refused to involve himself with anything WWE-affiliated), Cloudcuckoolander, and cynic (with some mild-to-moderate bigotry suggested as well). At WrestleMania XXX, he put all that to rest and made up with several people whom he shared beefs with, got inducted into the 2014 Hall of Fame, mending things over with the audience the night after, which preceded his death from heart failure the following day. All this went to restore his reputation, allowing him to be fondly remembered in the times after as a great wrestling legend without the need for posthumous reconsideration.
  • Chyna didn't have the best relationship with WWE after her departure from the company due to her career in pornography, but after her death, both Triple H and Stephanie McMahon acknowledged her accomplishments. She was eventually posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame as a member of D-Generation X, which seemed very unlikely while she was still alivenote 

  • Formula One has the Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna. He's one of the most talented and noteworthy drivers from the '80s-'90s, renowned as an effectively aggressive driver who won three world championships within a short time and a master at driving in heavy rain - though admittedly he was not without powerful rivals. Following his shocking death in the 1994 San Marino GP, however, he has become an unrivaled legend that absolutely nobody in the future can match, especially considering the extreme They Changed It, Now It Sucks! attitude from the fanbase. This is especially true in Brazil, where Senna became the country's biggest sporting hero, even surpassing Pelé, after his death - to the point that other Brazilian F1 champions like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nelson Piquet are completely forgotten, and good Brazilian drivers who never won the championship like Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa are treated as symbols of shame. Many former Brazilian F1 fans insist F1 died with Senna.
  • In the North American racing series, Dale Earnhardt (NASCAR), Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson (Indy Car) all won Most Popular Driver awards in the seasons they were killed in action, although like Senna, many can argue they were still at or almost at the peak of their talents when they died.
    • An even bigger example is Bryan Clauson, who won Indy's Most Popular Driver award in 2016. Unlike Wheldon or Wilson, he never started a single race in the series outside of the Indianapolis 500, and wasn't even killed in an Indy car crash, but rather a sprint car crash on a dirt track. Much of his popularity from that season came from his campaign to run a combined 200 paved and dirt races in various disciplines (including the 500) in 2016 and reviving the old-school dream of short track open-wheel racers working their up to the promised land of Indianapolis.
  • Former NHL player Pavol Demitra gained a lot of fans when he passed away, along with the rest of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, in a plane crash.
  • Pete Maravich was considered a phenomenal basketball player but the lack of success of the teams he played for was held against him. LSU never made the NCAA tournament during his college years and he never made it past the first round of the NBA playoffs. Also, he ran into injury problems. But after his premature death at age 40 more attention was paid to his individual accomplishments and he's now considered one of the true legends of basketball.
  • Miami Marlins pitcher José Fernandez did very well for a player who was in the early years of his career, including two All-Star Game appearances and winning Rookie of Year. His untimely death during a boating accident in September 2016 has ensured that he will always be a legend and one of the most beloved players in the team's history.
  • Roberto Clemente was one of the great Major League Baseball players of the 1960s (15-time All-Star, MVP in 1966). After his death in 1972note , a special Hall of Fame election was held four months later to waive the five-year waiting period (he was elected with a 92.7% percentage of the vote).note  His career total of 3,000 hits is now considered the standard for a Hall of Fame-level player.
  • Kobe Bryant was one of the most popular NBA players of all time thanks to his success on the Los Angeles Lakers, but even then, he was not quite the icon that say, Michael Jordan was. That all changed following his sudden death in a helicopter crash in January 2020, along with his beloved teenage daughter and seven others. Within hours of his passing, people were calling for the NBA silhouette to be changed to one of Bryant, and for his numbers #8 and #24 to be retired league-wide like the MLB did for Jackie Robinson and the NHL for Wayne Gretzky. Mark Cuban quickly announced that the Dallas Mavericks would retire #24 despite the fact Bryant never once played for them (or any other team); the Grammy Awards, which were held at the Lakers’ home Staples Center that night, quickly became a tribute to him; and guess what the NBA All-Star Game trophy was renamed to?

  • Heinrich von Kleist is considered one of the great classics of German theatre, but before his 1811 suicide, he only managed to get two of his plays performed on stage, both in mutilated form. For instance, Goethe (in his capacity as director of the theatre in Weimar) felt it necessary to transform Kleist's one-act comedy Der zerbrochne Krug ("The broken jug") into a three-act play, thereby completely spoiling its effect. IN some respects Kleist was so far ahead of his time that he had to be Vindicated by History, which helps to explain why his Penthesilea and Amphitryon would have to wait until 1876 and 1898, respectively, for their first performance.
  • It's hard to say if the Broadway musical RENT would have turned into the long-running smash it is if its author, Jonathon Larson, hadn't died shortly before its debut, but it certainly added to the show's legacy. (However, unlike Angel, he didn't die of AIDS).
    • Arguably, RENT was also highly valued because Broadway attendance was slumping at the time, and a Rock Opera about sassy young hipsters offered appeal to someone besides middle-aged Camp-lovers and little old matinee ladies.
  • Neil Simon was liked well enough before his death, but it's likely this trope's effects were subverted for the same reason as Tom Petty (see Music), as his peaceful passing at age 90 ended up being pushed aside for coverage of a shooting at a Florida E-Sports arena. Though the violence was ultimately not as bad as Route 91 was, another day had arrived and the news moved on.

    Video Games 
  • Satoru Iwata, former president of Nintendo, was a rather polarising figure for his strategy of attracting new, "casual" gamers with the Wii, as opposed to appealing to established players. Many called for him to resign after the Wii U failed to match sales with its Xbox One and PlayStation 4 rivals. After he passed away in 2015, he was known as a fellow gamer who cared for Nintendo's audience, and more of his Genius Programming feats were known — almost universally turning his portrayal amongst gamers into a positive one.

    Web Original 
  • Monty Oum was somewhat renowned and respected through his early animating career for neat personal passion projects like Dead Fantasy, but Volume 1 of his last work RWBY released to a rather lukewarm reception, with critics citing janky animations and low production values. Just as the show was starting to hit its stride with Volume 2, Monty shockingly passed away in February 2015 from an allergic reaction in hospital. Colleagues have continued Monty's work and turned RWBY into a juggernaut which has become a smash hit in Japan and was featured in the Arc System Works Fighting Game BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle, while Monty is considered to be one of the best (if not the) 3D web animators to have ever lived.

    Western Animation 
  • Looney Tunes examples:
    • Tex Avery: Though his work was very popular and influential during his lifetime, the man himself never received the respect he deserved so well. It didn't help he was extremely shy and didn't like to be in the spotlight. He died in obscurity. Only after his death in 1980 did his reputation grow to critically lauded proportions.
    • Robert McKimson was quite shy and his work was always seen as more conformist compared to his fellow colleagues at Warners. His only two creations, Foghorn Leghorn and The Tasmanian Devil were far more obscure compared to Bugs and Daffy and would only get more popular after his death. Today McKimson's work is re-evaluated as fine draftsmanship. Two of his creations in particular (Taz and Speedy Gonzales, though the latter only became popular after Friz Freleng redesigned him) are among the most popular characters in the Looney Tunes staple. Taz even earned his own TV show.
    • Bob Clampett's problem had more to do with the fact that his 1930s and 1940s cartoons weren't seen that often in theaters and TV after the end of the war. He was also subject to a bitter hate campaign from his fellow colleague Chuck Jones who claimed Clampett was an egotistical liar who took credit for things that he didn't invent in the first place. He got his reputation as an acclaimed cartoon director when his cartoons became available on TV, and many cartoon historians like John Kricfalusi praised him for his work came after his death in 1984.
  • Judith Barsi, a child actress best known for her roles in Don Bluth's The Land Before Time and All Dogs Go to Heaven, died under tragic circumstances before either film came out. Because of this, her work is better regarded than it might have if she were alive.
  • Mary Kay Bergman was a very respected voice actress in the '90s, but to most, she was best known as the lady who did all the female voices on South Park. After her sudden and tragic suicide however, her work became very highly regarded, and she's often cited as one of the greatest and most versatile voice actors of all time. Her passing also brought a lot of attention and awareness to mental health struggles.
  • Christine Cavanaugh was another respected voice actress in the '90s, voicing many popular characters like Chuckie in Rugrats, Dexter in Dexter's Laboratory, Bunnie Rabbot in Sonic the Hedgehog SatAM, and Babe in Babe. However, by the time she passed away in December 2014, she had been retired professionally and publicly for almost 15 years. It still didn't stop the news from reaching national headlines, and ensuring her work would reach classic status for nostalgic '90s babies.
  • Clay Martin Croker was one of the many notable people who passed on in 2016. He did animation and voices for Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Toonami, Aqua Teen Hunger Force and The Brak Show.
  • For the last few decades of his life, Gene Deitch's overall animation work was polarizing to many. Some enjoyed his work, but most weren't too keen on his style. His Tom & Jerry cartoons in the 1960s were especially hated amongst fans. When he passed away in April 2020 he was suddenly hailed as an animation genius, with numerous people now calling his Tom & Jerry shorts as "legendary works of art".


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