Story at a glance
- Grunge reached out to 518 people across the United States to see which celebrity deaths affected them.
- Among those named were Prince and John Lennon, but neither came in at No. 1.
- Other artists named in the survey were Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty.
Celebrity deaths transcend past those who knew the person intimately and often spill over into the public, with even those who were actually strangers to the celebrity feeling a sense of grief.
"We know celebrities to a large extent because we read about them, we connect with their characters, we connect to the traits they portray," psychotherapist Hvovi Bhagwagar told Vice. "Celebrities can serve as motivation for us. And when they depart, we often feel a sense of loss that is very real. In a sense, that also means they often represent the best parts of us."
To examine the phenomenon, Grunge reached out to 518 people across the United States to ask, "Which famous musician's death impacted you the most?"
While the answers varied, there was commonality among some of the biggest lost faces of music.
The effervescent singer Prince, who died of an accidental drug overdose in 2016, resonated with 15 percent of respondents.
Renowned and founding Beatle member John Lennon, who was murdered by Mark David Chapman in December 1980, came in at 14 percent.
But the musician who received the No. 1 reply for having the most impactful death was The King of Pop, also known as Michael Jackson, with more than 30 percent of the vote.
Known for his hits such as “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean,” Jackson died of cardiac arrest brought on by a lethal cocktail of drugs. His death was ruled a homicide, and his personal physician Conrad Murray was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for administering the drugs.
Jackson was a musical icon with a complex history, having first entered the public eye as a child star singing with his brothers in The Jackson 5. Fans sympathized with him as a victim of the complicated and harrowing world of child stardom. While adored by fans, he also was the subject of sexual abuse accusations from young boys. He was never convicted.
The survey showed that the level of unexpectedness also played a role in the shock and grief that follow celebrity deaths.
Other artists named in the survey were Kurt Cobain, Chester Bennington and Tom Petty.
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