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The art of going out in style

Pink Cadillacs at Aretha Franklin’s funeral in 2018. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty

“Death is a sad but inevitable part of life,” says Austin Harvey in All That’s Interesting, and throughout history, people have come up with meaningful ways of honouring the dead. But a number of celebrities have left highly specific stipulations for their own funerals. After the untimely death of Tupac Shakur in 1996, his friends rolled some of his ashes into a joint and smoked them, in accordance with a line in one of his songs. Hunter S Thompson – the pioneer of “gonzo journalism”, and a man who once kept his ashtray on a crate of live dynamite – had his remains blasted out of a cannon in a $3m funeral funded entirely by Johnny Depp.

When Hong Kong martial arts maestro Bruce Lee died, a film he had been working on was rewritten to include real footage of his funeral. At Aretha Franklin’s ceremony, more than 100 pink Cadillacs flooded the streets of Detroit, and guest performers included Ariana Grande and Bill Clinton. In the days leading up to it, Franklin had her costume changed four times for her open-casket viewings. Pringles inventor Fred Bauer had his family place a portion of his ashes into a Pringles can, and bury it next to the rest of him. And party animal Janis Joplin left a $2,500 fund to her friends, specifying they should use it to go to her favourite bar and “get blasted”.