Famous figures lead extraordinary lives, so it’s only fitting they have extraordinary send-offs. Here are five memorable – and often surreal! – goodbyes to some unforgettable names…
The most powerful female voice in Soul received a long and loud send-off in her home city of Detroit. A star-packed ceremony was held at the Greater Grace Temple. Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan and former President Bill Clinton were among the well-known mourners.
She may have risen to the top but Franklin famously never left Detroit behind. “You don’t need to be in Detroit long before someone reminds you that Aretha was one of them,” wrote Sky News in their coverage of the funeral from 2018.
The epic seven-hour + event was also put on a large screen, at the more down-to-earth setting of a gas station forecourt. Reports state the mood was one of celebration rather than condolences.
The King of Rock and Roll may have passed on in 1977. Yet for many, Elvis Presley never died.
His funeral was held. His body was laid to rest in Memphis, Tennessee. However, he didn’t stay there for long. Did Presley rise from the grave and walk?
No. Dad Vernon Presley moved him to the legendary Graceland to preserve his eternal sleep. A world-famous figure like Elvis attracted attention, with some seeking to crack open his crypt. Now the final destination of the King, plus other family members, can be viewed as a tourist attraction.
Ripleys wrote, “According to staff at Graceland, fans bring flowers, photos of the king, stuffed animals, American flags, and other keepsakes to leave at his grave.”
Another music icon who died young was Tupac Shakur. The rapper, known as 2Pac, exited this world violently at just 25 in 1996.
His send-off was a laid-back affair… very chilled in fact. Why? Following his cremation, friends from the star’s Outlawz collective rolled him into cigarette form and took a puff of greatness.
No smoke! Sorry, joke.
Whose idea was it? 2Pac himself. The lyrics of Shakur’s ‘Black Jesuz’ stated that he’d like his friends to smoke his ashes. The rapper’s pals decided to honor that weed-oriented wish. As well as smoking, the beachside memorial service featured “some chicken wings” and “orange soda,” according to performer Young Noble.
“Pac loved that kind of [thing],” he told Vlad TV in 2011, adding: “so we were giving him our own farewell.”
Hunter S. Thompson
The counter-culture author and “gonzo” journalist Hunter S. Thompson died at his own hand in 2005. Among those devastated by his loss was star Johnny Depp.
Thompson’s request for what happened to his remains was eye-popping. This explosive detail wasn’t a shock exactly – the man lived a dazzling and dramatic life.
But firing his ashes from a cannon? That would really end things with a bang. Depp apparently stepped in to fund what could be the planet’s noisiest send-off.
According to a story in The Guardian from 2017, the celebratory event was packed with A-Listers. Jack Nicholson, Bill Murray, Sean Penn, and Depp’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas co-star Benicio del Toro flew in to watch the fireworks.
“Depp bankrolled the ceremony,” the piece said, “which involved hoisting the cannon to the top of a 47m tower on Thompson’s Colorado farm.”
This was no ordinary tower. The enormous fist with two thumbs was conceived by Thompson and artist Ralph Steadman.
The cost of this fiery farewell…? A reported $3 million! Someone who lived a full life was never going to do things by half measures.
Monty Python’s comedy team broke the mold. When the irreplaceable Graham Chapman passed away in 1989, that tradition continued.
“Good riddance to him, the freeloading bastard!” said fellow Python John Cleese. “I hope he fries.” This stunning statement was made as part of a unique eulogy in front of family and friends.
Chapman had died a few weeks earlier. Cleese was appearing at a memorial service held at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London.
He shuffled off his mortal coil. But in typically surreal fashion this didn’t stop him from performing with the team. A turn onstage with the Pythons in 1998 (or rather an urn, with Chapman’s ashes sharing the spotlight) went wrong after his remains were inadvertently spilled by Terry Gilliam.
All in good fun, of course. The counterfeit cremation wound up inside a dust-buster.