As the First David Bowie Tributes Roll In, Here's To 10 Other Artists Whose Deaths Inspired Music

In an age where the whole world is a vidcam, it took only hours for the first breathtaking David Bowie musical tribute to go viral.

Chris Nickol, organist at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, marked his sadness over the passing of the much-loved Bowie by sitting down at the organ and playing the artist's "Life On Mars."

Soon it was echoing far beyond Scotland, and it goes like this:

With Bowie as with most artists whose unexpected deaths leave us somewhere between shocked and numb, the first musical responses have tended to be renditions of his own music.

But tribute songs are already beginning to surface. A Bowie fan band in Ohio, Modern Electric, is performing one this weekend, and Youtube is starting accumulate a few originals.

That's a popular music tradition of its own, and a heartening one. Music is the language musicians speak, and song feels like the natural medium for a singer's sendoff.

So even as we anticipate more songs about David Bowie, here are 10 other artists whose death also inspired songs - of widely varying quality, it should be allowed, but with admirable sincerity.

10. Aaliyah. "Miss You" was recorded by Aaliyah, but not released before her death in 2001. It was released the next year, with a video that featured tributes to her from an all-star posse. Jay-Z took the musical track and released a tribute song in 2003.

9. Johnny Ace. This R&B pioneer shot himself to death on Christmas day 1954. In a familiar scenario, his posthumously released "Pledging My Love" became his best-selling record. Several R&B tributes were recorded soon after, including versions of "Johnny Has Gone" by both Varetta Dillard and the Five Wings. The Teen Queens' hit "Eddie My Love" reportedly was originally written as "Johnny My Love," in memoriam. Several decades later Paul Simon wrote and recorded the haunting "The Late Great Johnny Ace."

8. Marvin Gaye. Gaye's death in 1984 inspired the Commodores's "Nightshift" a year later. That song also incorporated the death of Jackie Wilson. Even sooner after Gaye's death, Diana Ross had recorded "Missing You.

7. John Lennon. Fellow ex-Beatle George Harrison had not always gotten along with Lennon since the group's breakup, but after Lennon's tragic death in 1980, Harrison used "All Those Years Ago" to say all the things he probably wished he'd said when John was alive.

6. Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, The Big Bopper. Soon after their plane crashed on Feb. 3, 1959, killing all three, Tommy Dee dashed off "Three Stars," a half-song, half recitation with minimal musical value, but great sentimental allure. It sold a million copies. Eddie Cochran also recorded a version in 1959, in which he can be heard choking up. Cochran's recording wasn't released until six years after his own death in 1960.

5. Kurt Cobain. Numerous friends were moved to write songs after Cobain shot himself in 1993, often lamenting they couldn't help him. Three of the most striking were "About a Boy" by Patti Smith, "Let Me In" by REM and "Sleeps With Angels" by Neil Young, whose own lyrics were famously referenced in Cobain's suicide note.

4. Hank Williams. Country artists have memorialized their fallen idols back to Jimmie Rodgers, whose death inspired songs by the likes of Gene Autry. But no one has been referenced anywhere near as often as Hank, who died on New Year's Eve 1952. David Allan Coe's "The Conversation," about meeting a ghostly figure in the back seat of the same car in which Williams died, is intense stuff. Kris Kristofferson's "If You Don't Like Hank Williams" makes the key point, which is that if you don't like him, you're just flat-out wrong. No Hank song captures him any better, though, than Johnny Cash's hilarious "The Night Hank Williams Came To Town." Note, too, a little help from Waylon Jennings.

3. Eazy-E. Rappers love tribute songs, and unfortunately, the mortality rate has been high enough to make it a thriving industry. There are songs to Tupac, Huddy 6 and a dozen others. But for whatever reason, Eazy seemed to draw the most, including DJ Yella's "4 The E," Ice Cube's "Growin' Up" and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's "The Crossroads."

2. Biggie Smalls. Notorious B.I.G. may not have had as many songs as Eazy-E, but he had the one that tops them all: "I'll Be Missing You," recorded in 1997 by Puff Daddy with Biggie's widow, Faith Evans. It puts new lyrics over the 1983 Police hit "Every Breath You Take," and some reviewers found it pretty trite. What did they know? It went on to win a Grammy and sell more than eight million copies, making it one of the top 100 sellers of all time.

1. Elvis Presley. The only immediate hit spawned by Elvis's death in 1977 was Ronnie McDowell's weepy "The King Is Gone." But he really isn't, of course, and hundreds of songs have referenced his death over the years. Some are pretty good, too, like Marc Cohn's "Walking In Memphis," Merle Haggard's "From Graceland to the Promised Land" and Simon's "Graceland," even if he didn't just write it about Elvis. None is sweeter, though, than Emmylou Harris's unassuming "The Boy From Tupelo."