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This composer was so obsessed with his image, he posed for his own deathbed photo while still alive

We think of image-obsession as being a feature of the the current media age. But Sir Edward Elgar was at it 80 years ago...

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Did Sir Edward Elgar describe his profession as 'composer'? No - his profession was 'knight'. That's knight as in the honour Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, and they don't give them away. Neither do they give away the Order of Merit, which is limited to just 24 living members, and Elgar was among them.

Since the UK hadn't had a decent composer since Henry Purcell died in 1695, there's every justification for honouring Elgar as a national hero.

But the interesting point of relevance today is that Elgar was extremely image conscious and has been described as grooming himself for posterity. Well any musician who aspires to be successful will try to create an image that will captivate the public. There are excellent examples all the way from Elvis Presley to Johnny Rotten to Jay Z who developed a public persona with the express purpose of enhancing their careers.

But a career after death? I'm not so sure I can name any modern-day artist who has consciously prepared their reputation for after their demise. But Elgar did. The photo above isn't Elgar's deathbed photo (which was a popular trend at the time). He is still alive, and he's posing!

OK you aspiring artists out there - what are you doing to promote your career after you're dead? Clearly, judging from Elgar's popularity in the classical world ever since, you should start to prepare now!

By David Mellor Tuesday April 9, 2013
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