Recently, I explored some of the strange things that musicians have been buried with. In the course of researching that article, I came across a lot of tales about the cremated remains of rock stars. Some very odd things have occurred with famous ashes, so being the resident morbid person on staff, I've gathered those stories to present them to you.
10. John Lennon: After he was shot in 1980, there was no funeral for the legendary Beatle. Yoko Ono had Lennon's body cremated at the Ferncliff Cemetery, and scattered his ashes in Central Park, in sight of their New York apartment. Five years later, the Strawberry Fields Memorial was dedicated on the approximate spot, and more or less serves as Lennon's official gravesite.
9. Steve Gaines: Lynyrd Skynyrd guitarist Steve Gaines was cremated and had his ashes housed not far from the gravesite of fellow Skynyrd member Ronnie Van Zant. In 2000, their graves were vandalized and opened, some say in order to prove whether or not Van Zant had been wearing a Neil Young shirt when he was buried. The bag containing Gaines' ashes was broken, and some were spilled. Both have since been moved to secret locations.
8. Johnny Ramone: Half of the original Ramones are laid to rest in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery... sort of. Dee Dee has a proper grave, but Johnny sports a cenotaph as a memorial marker for fans to visit. Johnny's widow Linda has his actual remains in her keeping.
7. Kurt Cobain: Visiting the final resting place of Kurt Cobain's ashes involves several trips. Portions of the Nirvana front man were scattered in a dozen places, including the muddy banks of the Wishkah River, in various ceremonies. A story that the remaining ashes had been stolen from Courtney Love and were to be smoked in a spliff by Australian artist Natascha Stellmach turned out later to be a hoax.
6. Laura Nyro: Laura Nyro wrote songs for some of the most popular rock stars of all time before ovarian cancer claimed her in 1997. Her ashes were buried in the garden outside her bedroom window in Connecticut underneath a Japanese Maple Tree. The ashes of her partner, Maria Desiderio, and their dog Ember were later interred with her.
5. Stiv Bators: One of punk rock's most important voices was Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys and the Lords of the New Church. After he was hit by a car in 1990, he left the hospital without being seen because he was bored. He died in his sleep later than night. His girlfriend Caroline followed Bators' wishes to be cremated and spread over the grave of Jim Morrison -- except, according to filmmaker John Waters, for the small amount she snorted.
4. Amy Winehouse: Winehouse is another member of the 27 club who was cremated after her death. Unlike Kurt Cobain, though, her ashes are all in one place, just not alone. Winehouse was extremely close with her grandmother Cynthia, who passed away from lung cancer in 2006. Winehouse had her grandmother's name tattooed on her arm, and her ashes were mixed in with Cynthia's after cremation.
3. Cliff Burton: The original Metallica bassist died in a bus crash in 1986. While playing "Orion" his surviving family and band members scattered his ashes at the Maxwell Ranch in California, one of Burton's favorite hangout spots. Burton's friend Dave DiDonato described the scene: "We stood in a large circle with Cliff's ashes in the center. Each of us walked into the center and took a handful of him and said what we had to say... Then he was cast onto the Earth, in a place he loved very much."
2. Tupac Shakur: Arguably the most prolific deceased musician of all time, Tupac lived an interesting life that extended even to his remains. Some of his ashes were mixed with marijuana and smoked by his friends in the Outlaw Immortalz.
1. Joe Hill: You've probably never heard of Joe Hill, but the man was a major figure in turn of the 20th-century union politics. A radical member of the Industrial Workers of the World, Hill fought for the rights of workers at a time when doing so was a good way to get killed. His weapon of choice was song, and his catchy anthems were heard across the country. Even his will was set to music.
Hill was charged with murder in 1914 in a case that many believe was a frame-job designed to quiet the popular songwriter. He was convicted and executed in 1915. He was cremated in Chicago, and his ashes were sealed in 600 envelopes to be delivered to various IWW offices and other like-minded groups.
One envelope was found to have survived because the U.S. Postal Service had confiscated it as "subversive material." It was turned over to the IWW in 1988. Portions of the remains were eaten by Wilco collaborator Billy Bragg, and the rest was scattered to the wind save for a small part interred at a library in Landskrona, Sweden.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.