It is happening more and more. Musical artists and entertainers putting out more stuff after they die. Tupac did it. Notorious B.I.G. did it. Chris Farley did it. Marlon Brando made an appearance in the latest Superman film. It may seem like a new thing, but it has been going on for centuries. Schubert’s 8th symphony is The Unfinished Symphony. Plus let us not for get the famed Halfway Done Statue of Some Guy, I Think by DaVinci. Regardless of the artist, if the fan base is strong, and if the next of kin is greedy enough, then some manner of “bonus material” is going to surface.
Certainly it reflects well upon an artist that even death itself cannot sate the thirst of his or her followers, but one wonders if it is what the artist would have wanted. After all, there has to be some reason that they never released this particular piece. I mean, who would spend untold hours polishing a 2000+ page manuscript or something that they never let anyone see? A lunatic, that’s who. So this must be something that they weren’t happy with. Something that they didn’t want anyone to see. And yet here it is, distributed far more widely than any of the stuff they actually liked. Doesn’t that strike you as, uh, HORRIBLE. It is like waiting until someone dies, then pulling down their pants and showing off their bits and pieces because “the public demanded it.” Or like the guy giving the eulogy at your funeral just telling everybody all of your deepest darkest shames.
It is only a matter of time before the trend spreads. As more and more celebrity descendants run out of cash, we can expect to see more and more of the stuff they never wanted us to see. Titles like Humphrey Bogart: Picking His Nose on the Set of Casablanca, I Did It My Way: The Sinatra Sex Tape, and Best of Elvis Body Functions Vol. I & II will show up on shelves. I, for one, am holding out for The Lincoln Letters: The Shovel Years. I hear they have a chapter about the never before released standup act he had written on the back of the Fords Theater Playbill. Rumor has it he as a bit about pantaloons that is killer.
The people who have one or two postmortem performances are bad enough, but some people just keep releasing stuff for years. 2Pac died in 1996. His discography has him performing on 16 albums since then. Many people find this is irrefutable proof that Mr. Pac is still alive and kicking. I personally suspect Voodoo. I think they have the perforated carcass of 2Pac leaning against the wall in the basement of some record company. Every now and then they need to make a quick buck so they wheel it into a recording studio and shake a bag full of chicken feet. He lurches to life, hungry for brains and busting mad rhymes. Occasionally they must get their hands on some inferior zombie powder, though, because the UnPac merely vigorously agrees with the music they play for him sometimes. Fortunately, ever since Uh huh, Yeah by Sean “P Puff Diddy Daddy” Combs, you can just overlay a vigorous agreement over someone else’s song and release it as your own. It’s called “sampling,” though you may know it by its former name, “plagiarism.” Finally, a few other people, living or dead, are called into service to fill out the vocals and the latest smash hit from the great beyond is released, using the same voodoo that allowed Reagan to “recover” from the assassination “attempt.”
Regardless of whether it is voodoo, a faked death, or the prying open of a locked drawer full of first drafts, it seems that there will always be a ready supply of the work of dead people for those who are interested. There is nothing any of us can do about it. So I say, enjoy it. Go out and buy a copy of The Old Man and the Pee: Hemingway’s Bathroom Wall Essays. Just remember, if you have a really bad idea, go ahead and release it. At least then you can apologize instead of putting money in the pockets of the executers of you estate.