Morbid Mixtape: 7 Obscure Memorials to Dead Musicians
Saint Coltrane (Photo: flykr/Flickr)
Musicians have a way of leaving a mark on places that often inspire intense devotion. There are the spectacular venues that have inspired album art and when a beloved musician dies, grieving fans have a tendency to create obscure and often morbidly specific memorials to remember them by. We’ve put together a mixtape of death sites, statues, and remembrance walls that honor everyone from Patsy Cline to Michael Jackson along with some of their famous tunes, to get you in the mood for remembrance.
London, United Kingdom
Arguably the grandfather of 1970s glam rock, Marc Bolan, usually simply grouped in with his band T. Rex, has become a rock-n-roll figure on the level of David Bowie and Mick Jagger. Tragically, Bolan died in September of 1977 when a car he was riding in slammed into a sycamore tree along a London road. The site of his death was not officially marked in the beginning, but as fans began making pilgrimage to the site, leaving small tributes, the site took on a bit of a life of it’s own. Eventually a group known as the T-Rex Action Group or TAG, was able to have a bust of Bolan installed on the site along with a board for pictures and tributes. The cobbled together roadside shrine seems like a fitting tribute to a man who became famous singing about his Jeep.
Like a jeepster for your death. (Photo: David Dawson/Flickr)
Have you seen this man (in concert)?(Photo: David Dawson/Flickr)
2. PATSY CLINE CRASH SITE BOULDER
Country music legend (like soul legend Otis Redding, below) died in a sudden plane crash. Cline was flying in a small plane from an engagement in Kansas City back to her home in Nashville on March 5th, 1963, when the craft crashed down into the Tennessee wilderness. The accident claimed the live of her manager (flying the plane), as well as fellow performers Cowboy Copas and Hawkshaw Hughes. Cline was just 30 years old. By the time she passed, her influence on country music history was set in stone, and thus was the memorial placed at the site of the crash, deep in the woods. A large boulder bears the names of Cline and the other victims of the crash, and is accompanied by a gazebo hung with information about the singer.
Patsy Cline’s boulder. (Photo: Brent Moore/Flickr)
3. OTIS REDDING MEMORIAL PLAQUE
Otis Redding never likely expected that he would meet his premature end over a lake in Wisconsin, but then again no one gets to choose. Once again flying in a private aircraft, Redding was desperately trying to fly to Madison in order to make a show commitment, despite warnings that the stormy skies might be to treacherous to navigate. Only four miles out from their destination, something catastrophic occurred and the plane careened into Lake Monona, killing all but one of the passengers, including Redding himself. Redding’s body was pulled from the river and he was buried back in Macon, Georgia. However today a memorial plaque is still tucked away just off the shore of lake, letting anyone who is sitting on the dock of the bay know that a musical great met his end in those waters.
Please don’t fly Otis… (Photo: Rosina Peixoto/Wikipedia)
4. MINIATURE GRACELAND
Elvis is one of the most worshiped musicians of all time (for better or worse), and people have expressed their need for a little Presley in their lives via a seemingly infinite number of impersonators. But it is the rare fan that decides to remake all of Graceland in miniature on their lawn. Yet this is exactly what Kim Epperly and her husband Don set out to do almost 30 years ago. After creating a mini Graceland ,they began to expand their collection to include replicas of famous places Presley performed and other structures related to The King. Unfortunately the Epperlys got too old to continue their little obsession, and Don eventually passed away. Many of the little buildings began to moulder, thanks to fans of Elvis and Epperlys, Miniature Graceland remains a hunka’ hunka’ weird homage.
Little, little Graceland. (Photo: charletonlidu/Flickr)
A little Memphis church. (Photo: charletonlidu/Flickr)
5. ELLIOTT SMITH’S TRIBUTE WALL
Los Angeles, California
Troubled troubadour Elliott Smith died in October of 2003, but one of the most iconic locations from his career is as vibrant and alive today as it was when he shot the cover image for his album Figure 8. By most accounts, Smith took his own life via a number of stab wounds to the chest, although a strangely vocal group of his otherwise introspective fanbase hold out that his death was actually a homicide. Regardless of where they land on his death, fans still make the pilgrimage out to this stretch of Los Angeles wall to write personal messages and leave small tokens of their affection. The memorial wall has been cleaned a few times, but these color bars are still as vibrant.
Color bars. (Photo: Macleod/Wikipedia)
6. MICHAEL JACKSON MEMORIAL TREE
Being a fan of an internationally famous musician from a different country can be hard since most pilgrimage sites for the fans tend to be located in the star’s homeland. So what is a die-hard supposed to do when someone like Michael Jackson dies? How do those in Hungary mourn? Well apparently by covering a public tree with candles and pictures of the star. The Michael Jackson Memorial Tree is located in the park across from Budapest’s Kempinski Hotel where fans would gather to try and catch a glimpse of the star while he was staying at the hotel. In seeming direct inverse of the glamour and fame related to Jackson in his lifetime, the tree is simply papered with stapled-on pictures and ringed with candles like it bore the image of the Virgin Mary. As Hungarian Michael Jackson shrines go, you can’t beat it.
Gotta be startin’ this shrine. (Photo: Derzsi Elekes Andor/Wikipedia)
Miss you, Michael. (Photo: Ella Morton on Atlas Obscura)
7. SAINT JOHN COLTRANE AFRICAN ORTHODOX CHURCH
San Francisico, California
Sure, all of the other shrines on this list expressed their love for some musician or another, this is the only one, and maybe the only time ever, that went so far as to canonize the object of their fandom. At this San Francisco chapter of the African Orthodox Church, Coltrane and his music, especially the things recorded after his religious withdrawal from a heroin addiction. The church features artwork that places the image of Coltrane in faux-medieval religious positions, while the sermons are often accompanied by, or comprised of, free form jam sessions, or listening sessions from Coltrane’s recordings. This church truly believes that his love was supreme.
Let us pray. (Photo: flykr/Flickr)
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