Modern celebrities tend to die just as they lived: publicly. Often, the public mourns and grieves as if they knew the star personally. Now more than ever, fueled by social media and around-the-clock news cycles, the peanut gallery is privy to instantaneous reports of untimely deaths, worldwide eulogizing, and even virtual funeral attendance. But what about fallen stars' fellow celebs? The friends who actually knew them, worked with them, and are now mourning and missing them? While these are intensely private moments and actions in lives of the bereaved, they are, by their very nature, open to scrutiny and the prying eyes of not only fans but also the paparazzi. But when musicians pay tribute to musicians through the art form they both shared, there's a special kind of respect.
Some celebrity memorials are not only public but filled with song and celebration, particularly in the case of musicians. These send-offs cater to the desires of fans to pay respect, as well as a celebrity’s closest and dearest friends. Michael Jackson, Etta James, and Glenn Frey of Eagles are just a few of the icons who were feted in memorials that were either televised or open to the public with some of their musical contemporaries taking part in the service.
Linkin Park's Chester Bennington mourned the death of friend and musical colleague Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell at his May 26, 2017 memorial at Hollywood Forever cemetery by performing Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" with guitarist Brad Delson. The funeral was private, but the performance took place outside the chapel.
In a strange and tragic twist, Bennington took his own life just a few weeks later on what would have been Cornell's 53rd birthday. Soundgarden and Linkin Park went out on the road together in the late '00s. On that tour, Bennington often joined Cornell on stage for Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike."
Michael Jackson's Star-Studded Memorial Featured Several All-Star Performances
Michael Jackson had what was likely one of the biggest celebrity send-offs thus far. The self-proclaimed King of Pop's memorial was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and watched by more than 31 million people when it aired in 2009. 11,000 fans won tickets to the event via lottery and were witness to performances by Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, and Smokey Robinson, to name a few. Jackson once predicted his memorial would be "the greatest show on Earth," and he would have been pleased to know that it lived up to his expectations: it's the second-most viewed funeral in history, according to the Nielsen ratings.
When early rock n' roll, jazz, and R&B singer Etta James was laid to rest in Gardena, California in 2012, who better to pay homage than pop icon Christina Aguilera, who gave a moving performance of James' most popular song, "At Last." Aguilera, who often includes the song in her live shows, said of the tribute:
"Not only did I have the incredible opportunity of meeting my idol, the legendary Ms. Etta James, but to be asked by her family to perform at her memorial was so very touching and yet bittersweet. I can only hope that she felt the love in the room as we all came together to pay tribute to her and celebrate her life as a person and as an artist. She will be deeply missed, and I thank her family for allowing me such a great honor.”
INXS frontman Michael Hutchence died from an apparent suicide on November 22, 1997. His memorial service, much of which was televised, included mourners Tom Jones, Diana Ross, and ex-girlfriend Kylie Minogue. During the ceremony, rocker Nick Cave agreed to sing his song “Into My Arms,” but asked for the cameras to be turned off out of respect for Michael's grieving family.