Recent Pixies song ‘All I Have Now’ was written as “a thank you” to former bassist Kim Deal. But they’re not the first band to pen an ode to a former bandmate, whether celebratory, tragic or just plain angry.
Pink Floyd – ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’
Written about: Syd Barrett, former frontman
Pink Floyd’s nine-part epic dedicated to former lead singer and guitarist Syd Barrett was released in 1975. Barrett’s increasing use of psychedelic drugs led to him being outcast from the band, with a particularly telling lyric from ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ reading “Now there’s a look in your eye like black holes in the sky.“
AC/DC – ‘Back in Black’
Written about: Bon Scott, former frontman
AC/DC’s iconic, footstomping anthem ‘Back In Black’ was penned as a tribute to their late lead singer Bon Scott. Replacement Brian Johnson recalled being asked to write a lyric for the song by the band, saying “They said, ‘it can’t be morbid – it has to be for Bon and it has to be a celebration.’”
Kelly Rowland – ‘Dirty Laundry’
Written about: Beyonce, former Destiny’s Child bandmate
The former Destiny’s Child member voiced her true feelings regarding Beyonce’s success in her 2013 hit ‘Dirty Laundry’. Rowland admitted her jealousy, singing “Bittersweet, she was up, I was down, No lie, I feel good for her, but what do I do now?”, while also revealing that an abusive former lover had turned her against her former bandmate.
Queen – ‘No-One But You (Only The Good Die Young)’
Written about: Freddie Mercury, former frontman
One of the last original Queen releases, ‘No One But You’ came shortly after the death of Princess Diana, but directly refers to former lead singer Freddie Mercury, who’d died six years ago in 1991 from AIDS-related illnesses. Brian May and Roger Taylor shared lead vocals in this power ballad, which proclaims “They’re only flyin’ too close to the sun, We’ll remember, forever“.
New Order – ‘Elegia’
Written about: Ian Curtis, former frontman
Found on their 1985 album ‘Low-Life’, ‘Elegia’ is a five minute instrumental waltz that New Order have stated was written in memory of former Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis. The original full recording of the song, which clocks in at around 17 and a half minutes, has since been released, and can be heard below.
Ice Cube – ‘No Vaseline’
Written about: Eazy E, former N.W.A bandmate and Jerry Heller, N.W.A manager
After departing N.W.A and Ruthless Records acrimoniously in 1989 for financial reasons, Ice Cube’s 1991 diss track ‘No Vaseline’ reignited the feud, launching a stinging attack on Eazy E and band manager Jerry Heller. Cube responded to being criticised by the remaining members by saying “You lookin’ like straight bozos, I saw it comin’, that’s why I went solo” and “You got jealous when I got my own company. But I’m a man, and ain’t nobody humpin’ me“.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Knock Me Down’
Written about: Hillel Slovak, former lead guitarist
The Chili Peppers have written several tributes to original guitarist Hillel Slovak, including ‘Otherside,’ ‘My Lovely Man’ and ‘Feasting On The Flowers’. In response to Slovak’s death of a heroin overdose, 1989’s ‘Knock Me Down’ speaks out against the stereotypical lifestyle of a rockstar, saying “If you see me getting mighty, if you see me getting high, knock me down, I’m not bigger than life“.
Manic Street Preachers –‘Australia’
Written about: Richey Edwards, former guitarist and lyricist
Written in 1996, ‘Australia’ documents the stress and trauma the Manic Street Preachers went through following the disappearance of former guitarist Richey Edwards, who was officially presumed dead in 2008. The song speaks of Australia as a haven of some sort, reading “I want to fly and run till it hurts, sleep for a while and speak no words in Australia“.
Owen Pallett – ‘This Is The Dream Of Win and Regine’
Written about: Win Butler and Regine Chassagne, founding members of Arcade Fire
Violinist and orchestrator for Arcade Fire, Final Fantasy, aka Owen Pallett, released this short, bouncy tribute to founding members of the band Win Butler and Regine Chassagne. Though the lyrics don’t blatantly mention the married couple, the reference to “Your accordion” must surely relate to Chassagne.
George Harrison – ‘All Those Years Ago’
Written about: John Lennon, former Beatles bandmate
George Harrison’s 1981 tribute to John Lennon, who had died a year earlier, was the first time the three remaining Beatles had appeared on a track together since the band split in 1970. Originally written with different lyrics, Harrison gave Lennon a fitting tribute, telling him “You were the one who imagined it all“, referencing Lennon’s 1971 solo song ‘Imagine’.