Here's a look at what could have been.
John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, and Elvis Presley are among the iconic musicians who were gone too soon. Now a new campaign called Rock Heaven, which is a partnership between Sachs Media Group and photo manipulation company Phojoe, kicks our sense of nostalgia into overdrive by imagining how these greats would appear — and what they would be doing — if they were still alive today.
The late Beatle, who would have turned 73 last month, looks virtually unrecognizable as a wrinkly senior citizen. While his wife Yoko Ono is still making fun, quirky dance videos — and showing off her great legs — at the age of 80, this rendering of the "smart Beatle" looks like a college professor complete with a dull colored turtleneck and blazer. (Not a "New York City" T-shirt in sight!) Lennon's hair is the most peculiar part of the photo — he's definitely having a bad hair day with matted long bangs shooting in different directions.
Twitter user Craig Calcaterra agreed with us on the fashion, noting "Lennon wouldn't have dressed like that — but fun anyway."
Music experts and authors Dr. Reebee Garofalo, a University of Massachusetts Boston professor, and musician Elijah Wald offered their take on what the Manhattan transplant would be doing today for the feature. The singer, who was shot outside his apartment building in 1980, "would have been likely to continue his social activism with more focus," which we believe as he was an early pioneer for peace. He also "might have been the first classic rocker to embrace the hip-hop revolution," an assertion previously made by Ono — though we don't think this outfit would give him much cred in the studio. And he'd be going strong with Ono, which we agree with — perhaps with a few more "lost weekends" along the way.
We "Can't Help Falling in Love" with Presley's photo in which his unmistakable smile is captured perfectly — though, at 78, we don't think his teeth would be that pearly white unless he invested in veneers. The King's trademark black locks have grown gray, but are still full-ish and styled in the same slicked back way. However, for a man who died of a heart attack in 1977 at 42 after gaining so much weight he was described as "a grotesque caricature of his sleek, energetic former self," he looks healthier than we ever would have imagined. Also, that striped button-down shirt he's wearing seems like an odd choice because, well, there's not a rhinestone in sight.
While we thought Presley's photo was one of the best ones from the bunch, not everyone agreed, prompting this funny "Back to the Future" reference from a Twitter commenter:
So if Elvis were alive today he'd look just like old Biff Tannen? Interesting. http://t.co/2q88YUzm4o
— Eric Raskin (@EricRaskin) November 19, 2013
As for what Presley would be up to, Garofalo and Wald suggest he would have brought his act from Graceland to Las Vegas in his later years, setting up shop there long before Cher, Celine Dion, or Sin City newbie Britney Spears. We think he'd also regularly be seen with his beloved Lisa Marie — when they weren't collaborating musically, he'd be a doting grandfather to her four children. And we think it's pretty safe to say we wouldn't see him competing on "Dancing With the Stars" like his ex-wife Priscilla.
No surprise — the photo of an aged Cobain has him rocking ... flannel. The grunge-loving Nirvana frontman, who would have been 46 had he not taken his own life in 1994, has pretty much the same hairstyle — just shorter and more styled with perhaps some highlights. (Cobain at a hair salon with foils? Now that we'd pay to see.)
Twitter user @Trishie_D saw thought the photo resembled another celebrity, quipping that Cobain "aged into David Spade."
"Given to his aversion to celebrity, had Cobain lived, he likely would have continued to work with Nirvana but also explored smaller, less commercial projects with other players, trying to recapture some of the anonymity and artistic freedom of his early years," wrote Garofalo and Wald of how Cobain's life would be now. While we're not sure what would have happened between him and Courtney Love (it could have gone either way), we suspect he'd be a supportive dad to his daughter Frances Bean, who has grown up to be a well-adjusted young woman despite her tumultuous childhood.
Look — it's Janis Joplin as a pastel-loving, peacenik granny! The singer, who died of an overdose in 1970 at the age of 27, is shown here at 70 with her wild flowing hair now tamed (Brazilian blowout?) and boasting hints of silver. The "Piece of My Heart" singer's signature '60s style a thing of the past — buh-bye bell-bottoms, hello ... pink sweatshirt?! The teal necklace she's wearing has a peace sign charm, the only indication of her hippie days.
"The pace and intensity of Joplin's lifestyle and singing were unsustainable," noted Garofalo and Wald. But after battling her demons (for her, they came in the form of a bottle), they predicted the Texan had a career resurgence in the 1980s alongside Tina Turner and Joe Cocker. By then her "voice would undoubtedly have lost much of its screaming power, but gained control."
We just think it's nice to imagine her enjoying some of her successes, which really didn't come until after she passed away.
Not everyone is a fan of the renderings (many more which can be seen here). Some people — including "Iron Chef America's" Graham Elliot — found them slightly disturbing.
Is it me or does this come off as a tad creepy? Rock & Roll Heaven http://t.co/B6uP4jB7bk
— GRAHAM ELLIOT (@grahamelliot) November 19, 2013
How about you? Do you enjoy seeing these late great icons? Wish you hadn't? And what do you think they'd be doing today had their lives played out differently? Let us know.