Emily shares her thoughts about how celebrity deaths impact our grief.
When a celebrity passes away – particularly unexpectedly – the news not only leaves their friends and family members swept up in a cloud of grief, but also their fans. Logically, it doesn’t seem to make any sense to feel sad about losing someone you didn’t personally know, but it is certainly true that celebrities, such as actors, athletes, and musicians, can leave a lasting mark on people because there’s no doubt that their work can leave a positive imprint on our minds and memories.
On Friday 14 April, I refreshed my social media and the first post that popped up was the shocking news that the guitarist from the band The Script – Mark Sheehan – had died. I have followed The Script’s music since their first album 15 years ago in 2008. Many of their songs have felt relevant to me at particular points in my life. I have also been fortunate enough to have seen The Script live on two occasions. The news has left me feeling sad.
The one song by The Script that means a lot to me is ‘If you could see me now’, a song that finds The Script addressing the death of vocalist Danny O’Donoghue’s father and both of Mark Sheehan’s parents.
“That song is all about two grown men sitting down and dealing with things,” O’Donoghue told The Daily Mail, “With that song, Mark and I left the realm of songwriters and began to bare our souls. It’s not a look-at-me song. It’s us wondering what our parents would think of us now. They’d probably tell me I drink and smoke too much, but I think they’d also be proud.”
Sheehan told The Sun about writing the song: “We’re quite happy lads in real life but we just vent everything in our music.”
The song makes me think of my Dad and my Grandad. The lyrics resonate deeply with me as I always wonder whether my Dad and my Grandad would be proud of me and what they would see if they could see me now.
What I noticed though is – when a celebrity dies – there’s a collective grief usually displayed all over social media – and people support each other. In the past month alone, some notable celebrity deaths have been Paul O’Grady, Paul Cattermole from S Club 7, and now Mark Sheehan from The Script. Because their work means so much to so many people, it’s clear that everyone’s natural response is emotional and is to grieve. I remember writing something similar in 2022 when the band Il Divo lost Carlos Marin. When the Queen died, it was almost as though the whole nation and the world was in mourning, because, especially these days, celebrities are easier to be followed through our increasingly digital society.
Celebrity deaths often remind us of other losses we have dealt with. But as with anyone who dies who means the world to us, we will always remember them. I remember watching a 20th anniversary celebration of Harry Potter on TV and Robbie Coltrane who famously played Hagrid said something along the lines of the fact that he wouldn’t be around in 50 years, but the books and the films still would be, and Hagrid would be. Sadly, Robbie Coltrane died in October 2022. These celebrities are human beings and their deaths are felt as much as anyone else’s.
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