In Remembrance: 8 Great Tribute Songs » Gossip
In Remembrance: 8 Great Tribute Songs » Gossip - Believe it or not, Elton John is not the only star who can write a tribute song, though the overwhelming success of his elegaic ballad "Candle in the Wind" once prompted the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards to crack, "The man seems to like singing songs about dead blondes."
Tragic circumstances have inspired some remarkable work, as music offers a tender catharsis to a great number of talented singer-songwriters. Some of the well-known songs featured here were written about fellow celebrities, others friends and family members. With the exception of KISS' "Detroit Rock City" — which, according to legend, was inspired by the accidental death of a KISS fan en route to a concert — each of these songs reflects a poignant longing for someone who's dearly missed. Here's how some musicians have said goodbye.
The Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang"
Pretenders frontwoman Chrissie Hynde originally intended the band's 1982 hit "Back on the Chain Gang" to be about her then-partner Ray Davies, with whom she had a daughter, but the song's meaning changed when guitarist James Honeyman-Scott died of a drug overdose. Hynde later said that Honeyman-Scott's death kept the band going: "One of the things that kept the band alive, ironically, was the death of Jimmy Scott. I felt I couldn't let the music die when he did. We'd worked too hard to get it where it was."
KISS' "Detroit Rock City"
Though "Detroit Rock City" was a relatively unsuccessful single when it was first released in 1976, it became a cult classic among devoted KISS fans in part because of its backstory: Paul Stanley was supposedly inspired to write the song after hearing of a fan's death en route to a KISS concert. Though it's not quite a tribute — the lyrics are about drinking and smoking before hitting the road — it does seem to celebrate going out in a blaze of glory.
Eric Clapton's "Tears in Heaven"
Eric Clapton did not perform for nine months after the death of his 4-year-old son, Conor, who fell from a 53rd-story window in New York City. Clapton stopped playing the song — and a song he wrote about his absent father, "My Father's Eyes" — in 2004, explaining, "I didn't feel the loss anymore, which is so much a part of performing those songs. I really have to connect with the feelings that were there when I wrote them."
Puff Daddy and Faith Evans' "I'll Be Missing You" featuring 112
Yes, Puff Daddy's tribute to the late Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace was cheesy, but it was heartfelt cheese. Few rap ballads have made a lasting impression, but Diddy had the vocal stylings of Wallace's widow Faith Evans in his corner. The song, which for over a decade was the only rap song to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, re-entered the charts in the UK in 2007 after Diddy performed it at the Concert for Diana. It also made Sting a sweet load of money.
Janet Jackson's "Together Again"
Though the more popular music video looks like one big multicultural dance party in Africa, Janet Jackson's "Together Again" was originally a ballad written in memory of a friend who had recently died of AIDS. Jackson eventually released a "Deeper Remix" along with a sultry music video directed by her then-husband, René Elizondo, Jr.
George Harrison's "All Those Years Ago"
A few months after John Lennon's devastating murder, George Harrison released "All Those Years Ago," a straightforward tribute to his former bandmate featuring Ringo Starr on drums and Paul McCartney on backing vocals. The song's lyrics directly refer to Lennon's work twice: "You point the way to the truth when you say / All you need is love," and "You were the one who imagined it all."
Chris Cornell's "Wave Goodbye"
One of the standout tracks on Chris Cornell's debut solo album Euphoria Morning is this bluesy tribute to the late Jeff Buckley, who drowned in the Mississippi River in 1997 while working on his sophomore album. Cornell, who seems to channel Buckley's vocal delivery in his tribute, often performs with the late singer's telephone near him onstage.
R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon"
R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe has said more than once that his career was hugely inspired by the late comedian Andy Kaufman, who died of lung cancer in 1984. He once told MTV, "Andy was so ahead of the curve in terms of what he was doing, pulling these seemingly disparate elements together in performances that really would befuddle and puzzle and baffle and anger people, and he got exactly what he wanted, which was a reaction. A reaction of any kind."