We’ve all acquired possessions that mean a great deal to us throughout our lifetimes. Whether things are handed down from loved ones who have passed on before us, items we’ve earned through hard work, or even special and rare finds we’ve bought to enjoy and keep.
By the time a long life ends, nearly everybody in the modern age has at least a few things with which they’d never want to part. And some go so far as to ensure that—by taking their stuff to the grave! After all, if the plan is to be buried in a casket, there’s at least a little bit of room in there to take a few things with you into the afterlife, right?
In this way, rock stars are no different from us. And in fact, they might be even more focused on special possessions and meaningful items when it all ends. Upon their deaths, many world-famous musicians and beloved recording artists had very specific instructions and wishes for what to bring with them past this world.
Many clung to mementos that touched their hearts even after death, and by being buried with them, they ensured that connection would live on for eternity. In this list, we’ll look at ten times when deceased rock stars took interesting items to the grave with them. If you had to choose, what would you bring with you when it was time to be buried?
10 Elvis Presley
There’s no question that Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock and Roll. For years—for several decades, really—he was a phenomenon the world had never before seen. But the star’s later years were notably difficult. First, his weight ballooned as he aged. He also was on a significant regimen of prescription pills near the end of his life. And considering he died at just 42 years old in 1977, his untimely passing itself was a big shock to his millions of devoted fans.
Thus, by the time Elvis’ body was returned to his beloved Graceland Estate in Memphis after undergoing a medical examination and autopsy, the event was big news. Thousands of people were at the home when Elvis’s remains returned there. Then, in a stunning move, Presley’s own dad determined it would be alright for the public to walk by in procession. For that event, Elvis had to look his best—even after death. So attendants dressed the beloved late singer in a stylish black suit with a white cravat to match.
But that wasn’t the only big news as far as the impromptu procession was concerned. Elvis also had a very specific ring on his finger that meant quite a bit to him in life. The rocker wore his famous “TCB” lightning bolt ring (for “Taking Care of Business”) in the coffin and, thus, to the grave. Then, the personal aspect of the mournful event got even more heartbreaking. Elvis’s then 9-year-old daughter Lisa Marie Presley asked the funeral director, Robert Kendall, if she could put something in the star’s coffin. It was a tiny, thin bracelet that meant something to little Lisa Marie in life. But she wanted her father to have it forever after his death.
Kendall allowed the little girl to make the move and ordered her to hide it under Elvis’s shirt sleeve cuff as he lay there for observation. That way, Kendall counseled, no passing mourners could secretly swipe the meaningful memento. It lay there with Elvis all day as fans paid their respects. Then, upon his burial, the King carried that bracelet with him for the rest of eternity.
9 Chuck Berry
When Chuck Berry died in 2017, his family didn’t want to keep his funeral private. Most celebrities and world-famous musicians on Berry’s level get a quiet and respectful affair as their parting gift. Some have industry high rollers and other celebrities pay their respects. But in Berry’s case, his family wanted the rock star’s fans to be able to offer thanks after his death. And that’s exactly what happened!
More than a thousand mourners attended Berry’s funeral after he passed in 2017. Nearly all of them took photos with Chuck’s body and later posted them online. So not only was the funeral a well-attended event, but it was also a remarkably well-documented affair. And Chuck’s popular legacy after passing thus made it easy to confirm what he took with him to the afterlife.
As fan photos showed again and again, Berry was laid to rest in a coffin that was modified to hold one of his beloved Gibson guitars. The coffin lid was altered, and an attachment was placed upon the interior of the massive box. Berry’s guitar was then placed with its head pointed toward the late rocker’s feet. The lid was made to be deep enough to close the coffin with Berry and the guitar inside together.
For good measure, the rock star wore a sailor hat and a sparkly purple shirt for his final nap too. And why not, really? If you’re going to ride off into the afterlife after enjoying as amazing of a rock music career as Chuck Berry did, could you really wear anything but a sailor hat and a sparkly shirt? If you try really hard, you can even imagine him shredding on that Gibson guitar for St. Peter at the Pearly Gates…
8 James Brown (and Michael Jackson)
When James Brown passed away on Christmas morning in 2006, he left this life a true legend. The soulful singer was one of the most famous men on the planet throughout his long career. And upon his death, millions of fans immediately took to mourning the incredible performer. So it made sense that Brown would want to enter the afterlife properly. And for him, that meant not as much concern about what he’d be buried with—it was more about what he would be laid to rest in.
That’s right! Brown’s body was laid in the ground in one of the most expensive, incredible, and high-end caskets on the market. In fact, the casket was so over the top, it actually had a name: the Promethean. It is made out of solid bronze and plated in 24-carat gold. It didn’t come cheap, either; in 2006 dollars, the incredible piece set Brown’s estate back more than $30,000. That’s about $45,000 in modern currency. All for a casket that’s quickly going to get buried deep in the ground!
When it came time for Brown’s actual funeral, his loved ones held it at the famed Apollo Theater in New York City. Thousands of mourners attended in person to pay their respects to the Godfather of Soul. Thousands more watched the event unfold online and read reports written up about how amazing the celebration turned out to be. That wasn’t lost on other stars, either. Specifically, the presence of the Promethean stole the show at the Apollo—and impacted future celebrity burials.
Michael Jackson was one of the mourners at the Apollo to pay his respects to James Brown. When the King of Pop saw the Promethean, he was shocked. Funeral director Charles Reid recalled a moment he had with Michael at Brown’s memorial. “He stood there, I guess, an hour or so just looking,” Reid remembered. “He asked who requested the gold-plated casket. I said, ‘Well, it’s the family’s decision.’ He asked if that’s something Mr. Brown wanted. I said, ‘Entertainers, they always say solid gold.’”
Michael clearly never forgot that moment. When he died just three years later, he too was buried in the Promethean casket.
7 Jim Morrison
Jim Morrison was the reason The Doors became as famous as they did. His knack for songwriting, performing, and stealing all the attention at a show made him a must-see musician. But behind the scenes, things weren’t going nearly as well. The rocker started fading into the decline of a brutal drug problem. He was also plagued with numerous legal problems and arrests in several jurisdictions. To get away from it all, he moved to Paris with his girlfriend, Paula Courson. They were trying in vain to get him back on track so the music could take the forefront again. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Sadly, the musician joined the so-called 27 Club—the ever-growing group of world-famous rock stars who died in their 27th year—after passing suddenly in 1971. He had been in his apartment in Paris at the time, and his death was totally unexpected. Medical examiners didn’t perform an autopsy. Instead, they merely called the cause of death to be heart failure. Meanwhile, fans assumed drugs were to blame for the awful situation.
Because Morrison died in a foreign country, the aftermath of his passing was chaotic, to say the least. His gravesite was chosen in Paris’s Pere Lachaise Cemetery. But that’s not for any sentimental reason—it’s simply what was available when he died. Courson dressed Jim in a baggy, ill-fitting suit for his burial. She also found the only coffin she could afford for the memorial. Sadly, it didn’t quite fit him, and Morrison went to his grave in a burial box a bit too small for his frame.
But at least there was one set of items he purposely took with him to the afterlife: pictures. Before Morrison was lowered into the ground forever, Courson got together every picture of the two of them she could find and placed them in his coffin. In that way, she hoped, Morrison would forever remember the love they had for each other prior to his sudden departure.
6 Bob Marley
Bob Marley was one of the first international superstars to come from an underdeveloped country. So, when he rose to fame in the 1970s, his unique outlook on Jamaican culture and beyond made him a fascinating follow for music fans all across the globe. Sadly, Marley’s life was to be cut far short. In 1977, doctors discovered a cancerous tumor on Marley’s toe. It wasn’t serious at the time, but they wanted to remove the tumor—and the toe—to avoid it spreading to the rest of his body.
However, there was just one problem: Marley’s Rastafarian religion forbids amputation. So, he opted to go against his doctor’s wishes. The reggae singer never had the toe removed. For a few years, it appeared like things might turn out okay. But by 1981, the cancer had spread. The end was coming, and Marley was fading fast. In May of that year, Marley passed away at a hospital in Miami, Florida.
Not long after his death, the island nation of Jamaica hosted a state funeral for the influential singer. More than 30,000 people attended the event. Many reggae groups performed, and Jamaican singers offered songs in an attempt to memorialize the legend. Marley’s own group, The Wailers, capped off the funeral-turned-concert with a rousing performance in his honor. When it came time to bury Bob, his coffin held a couple important items: a Bible and a guitar. On his hand was a lion ring supposedly given to him by an Ethiopian prince.
While the funeral was happening, Marley’s widow also placed a cannabis stalk inside the coffin with her late husband. That bit of weed was critical for the afterlife, as Marley was a practicing Rastafarian during his time on this earth. Thus, he believed in the importance of smoking marijuana as part of a religious ritual. There was said to be at least one more thing in Marley’s coffin, too: a soccer ball.
5 Vinnie Paul Abbott
When KISS rose to fame the world over, they developed a legion of loyal fans. So loyal, in fact, that these listeners would buy nearly anything with the band’s logo on it. That even included coffins. The band created a legendary KISS coffin in the late 1990s for their fans to use in burial. When it was finally unveiled for sale in 2001, Gene Simmons delivered an iconic quip about the burial line. “This is the ultimate Kiss collectible,” he told the media. “I love living, but this makes the alternative look pretty damn good.”
Skeptics who didn’t understand fans’ love for KISS didn’t get the appeal. But every year, a few more fans chose to be buried in the bodacious box. And every year, the KISS Kasket became a bigger (and weirder) part of the band’s image in the public eye.
Fast forward to 2018, when Pantera heavy metal rocker Vinnie Paul Abbott died. Now, Abbott was a tough dude in life and ran with one of the most aggressive and manly metal bands around. But even he was a KISS fan deep down—and upon death, he chose to be buried in the KISS Kasket too.
As it turned out, Simmons and KISS bandmate Paul Stanley appreciated Abbott’s support so much that they actually gifted him the KISS Kasket for burial. And he wasn’t even the first Abbott family member to choose it as a final resting place. Nearly two decades before, Vinnie Paul’s brother Dimebag Darrell Abbott was also buried in the notorious coffin (more on him in a minute). Clearly, the Abbotts had a deep love for KISS.
Abbott’s burial in the KISS Kasket would have been a unique send-off in any circumstance, but it was especially crazy because other KISS members didn’t know it was happening. KISS guitarist Ace Frehley was asked to speak at Vinnie Paul’s funeral, and he did so. But he wasn’t told the Pantera drummer was going to be buried in a box with his face on it.
After the funeral, Frehley recalled his complete shock at seeing the KISS Kasket in front of mourners. “It was crazy because I had a speech planned, and it went over perfectly,” Frehley said. “In the church, I’m at the podium, and I spoke for about 10, 12 minutes. And then we get out to the cemetery, and he’s in a KISS casket. Vinnie Paul got buried in a KISS casket, and I see my face on the casket, and it weirded me out.”
4 Ronnie Van Zant
Ronnie Van Zant was on his way to “legendary frontman” status after Lynyrd Skynyrd released their first two albums in the 1970s. The southern rock band rose to prominence with mega-hits like “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” Listeners across America loved their sound—a unique brand of southern rock that gave a nod to country but stayed hard-driving and tough. Then, in 1977, it all ended in tragedy.
A plane crash that year claimed the lives of several band members, including Ronnie. The awful accident was completely unexpected. And in mere moments, the band went from the top of the musical world to being dead and gone. Loved ones reeled at the tragedy and were then forced to grapple with the fast-moving aftermath. Years later, Ronnie’s widow Judy recalled how quickly she had to make funeral plans after his instant death, saying “emotions were high and decisions had to be made quickly.”
There was at least one funeral choice that came very easy to Judy, though: what to put in Ronnie’s coffin. The frontman had loved to fish during his short life. When he wasn’t on stage or recording music, he had his trusty fishing pole by his side and would run off to relax at the lake. So Judy carefully placed Ronnie’s pole in the coffin alongside his dead body. As he was buried, he took that fishing pole with him to eternity. Today, some (possibly overzealous) Skynyrd fans now even claim they have seen Ronnie’s ghost fishing with that very same pole at Lake Delancey in Florida.
Sadly, other overzealous fans have taken to mourning Ronnie a little too closely. Van Zant was notorious for wearing Neil Young T-shirts while on stage. Music media members had reported on a supposed feud between the two singers during Ronnie’s life. It wasn’t true, but to play up the feud rumor, Ronnie wore Neil Young shirts to be funny.
After he died, a rumor went around that he was buried with one of those shirts too. It almost certainly wasn’t true, but fans wanted to find out. So, in 2000, his grave was vandalized. Judy has since chosen to move his remains to a new location so that won’t happen again.
3 Dimebag Darrell
As we’ve already learned, “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott was a fan of KISS, along with his brother Vinnie Paul. Of course, the duo’s work in Pantera became legendary in the hard rock community in its own right. But both brothers loved the path KISS paved for bands like Pantera and others. Dimebag Darrell also had another musical love in his life too: Van Halen.
Sadly, Dimebag Darrell was tragically shot to death by a deranged fan during a 2004 concert in Ohio. The awful incident was shocking for Pantera’s fans and music lovers alike. His on-stage murder was beyond brazen. The unhinged fan who committed the violent also killed three others in the venue before being shot dead by a policeman. For days and then weeks after, the senseless killing rattled the music world to its core.
After the worst of the grief settled, Abbott’s loved ones moved to honor his memory. And they did so by giving a nod to his musical mentors at his funeral. Not only was Dimebag Darrell buried in his own KISS Kasket, but Van Halen also became intimately involved with the ceremony. Darrell’s family asked Eddie Van Halen if he might offer a copy of the iconic black and yellow “Bumblebee” guitar he’d first made famous in the 1970s. Eddie came through with something even better: the original.
He brought the real Bumblebee guitar to Darrell’s funeral and allowed family members to place it in his casket for eternity. As Eddie later told media members, his decision to do so was simple, “An original should have an original.” With that, Dimebag Darrell was lowered into the ground inside a KISS Kasket carrying an authentic Van Halen guitar into the afterlife.
2 Michael Hutchence
Michael Hutchence became a world-famous sex symbol as the lead singer for INXS. His on-stage persona was carefully crafted—and incredibly unique. Off stage, his life appeared to be going very well too. After his work with the popular group, Hutchence released a solo album in the late 1990s. At 37 years old in 1997, he had more music to look forward to in the coming years. Plus, he had a baby with his girlfriend, Paula Yates.
Things should have been looking up for the performer. Sadly, tragedy struck that year. Hutchence was found dead in an Australian hotel room in late November. For a while, his loved ones got the runaround regarding what happened to him. But eventually, answers came out: he had died by suicide after struggling with addiction and other issues away from music.
Following Michael’s death, his family chose to cremate his body. However, before he was to be turned to ashes for a memorial, Hutchence’s body was placed in a coffin for a family viewing. At the event, Michael’s mother clipped off some locks of his hair and removed a few buttons from his suit to take as her own memories. His brother Rhett took nothing from the coffin but instead decided to place a few things inside.
Michael would not be cremated with them later, but the symbolism was still important for Rhett. Among the items the mourning man left with his fallen brother were one Marlboro Light cigarette and a picture of Rhett and his wife. Then, for good measure, Paula secretly stashed “a gram of smack” in Hutchence’s jacket pocket so he could get high one last time in the afterlife.
1 GG Allin
Kevin Michael “GG” Allin may be one of the most unique rock stars ever. The notorious frontman for the Murder Junkies was not the most hygienic of rockers. One music journalist notoriously referred to him as a “poop-smeared man from New Hampshire.” Another noted GG was known to “slice open his skull with a broken bottle” during particularly violent and aggressive performances.
So when he wanted a calmer set for Murder Junkies fans, he chose to eat women’s sanitary products on stage. His antics shocked more conservative music fans and older Americans alike. But a very specific subset of punks came to love Allin for his “don’t give a damn” attitude and the way he very clearly wore his passion on his sleeve.
On-stage antics aside, GG Allin’s childhood had been brutally bad. When he was a kid, his father would dig pits in the family basement. Then, when he was angry, he’d taunt GG with the threat of death and burial in one of those deep, dank holes. At first, Allin escaped by turning to music. Then, as his career progressed, he found further refuge in alcohol and drugs. In 1993, when Allin was 36, it all came to an end following a drug overdose.
And as you might have guessed, the rocker’s funeral was far from normal. For one, he had previously requested funeral directors not wash or clean his body in any way after death. So five days after he died, Allin’s corpse was displayed unaltered in an open casket. Mourners proceeded to leave drugs and alcohol in GG’s casket during the viewing. Some added stickers to his coffin. Others drew on his body with permanent markers.
The rocker himself went to the grave wearing a jockstrap, a leather jacket, and headphones. They were connected to a Walkman that was playing one of his albums. In that way, GG Allin truly lived a rock outcast’s life and then died a rock outcast’s death.