Prop Me Up On Stage at a Club (If I Die)

Did Maryland Rapper Goonew get his Post Mortem Wishes Granted?

In 1993, country artist Joe Diffie released his song “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox (If I Die)”.


“Well, I ain’t afraid of dyin’, it’s the thought of being dead
I want to go on being me once my eulogy’s been read
Don’t spread my ashes out to sea, don’t lay me down to rest
You can put my mind at ease if you fill my last request

Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die
Lord, I want to go to heaven, but I don’t want to go tonight
Fill my boots up with sand, put a stiff drink in my hand
Prop me up beside the jukebox if I die

In the video for the song, two bumbling friends break into a funeral home and steal the body of their deceased friend. “It’s what he wanted,” one of them declares. From there they take the body to their favorite bar where Joe Diffie and his band are playing. Like a hillbilly ‘Weekend at Bernies’, the friends place sunglasses on his smiling face, make him flirt with the waitress and then lean him up against the jukebox. At the end of the video Diffie tells the dead body that he needs to go home, slaps him on the shoulder and then walks off as the body slumps to the floor.

The country music legend passed away in 2020 at the age of 61 due to Covid complications. He’d been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1993. Despite the song’s wishes, he was not proped up against a jukebox.

***Warning – Numerous photos of non-graphic dead bodies below***

Dead Outlaw Travels the Country

Almost exactly a year ago I posted episode 12 of the podcast, entitled “The Tale of Elmer McCurdy”. In that episode we learned of a bandit with minimal talent who was shot dead, embalmed and then never picked up.

Elmer McCurdy died in 1911 but his body wasn’t buried until 1976. In those 65 years he traveled as a side show, became an exhibit, was stored in storage and finally became a prop inside of an amusement park funhouse. At first everyone knew it was a dead body, then it became just a rumor and eventually it was thought of nothing more than a decoration you’d buy at a Halloween store.

The story was gruesome and unbelievable at the time. A man who wanted to be a famous outlaw that only gained fame long after his death and not for the right reasons. Research taught me that the idea of displaying embalmed bodies (on purpose) was something that occured often in different cultures. World leaders like Lenin, Stalin and Kim Jong-Il were put on display, some of them are still viewable today.

How the World Grieves

In episode 25 from last year, entitled “Afterlife of the Party” we learned all about how different cultures in the far reaching corners of the world, celebrate death. Many cultures leave their dead in a room in their home until money can be raised for a proper burial. Until the funeral, they are considered to be sick or just sleeping. There’s the turning of the bones, redressing the deceased, leaving bodies out for birds to carry away, and partying alongside a loved one’s corpse. Aside from New Orleans and their jazz funerals, America, when it comes to death, is fairly dry toast.

Until Now?

With my apparent affinity for dead bodies and what becomes of them, I was surprised to see a story pop up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday.

On Friday, March 18th Markelle Morrow, better known as ‘Goonew’ was grabbing a few things from his local District Heights, Maryland convenience store. As he was shopping an undisclosed number of robbers entered the store. He handed over his money and jewelry (including the diamond studded ’64’ in the picture above) but that wasn’t enough. He was shot in the back in the parking lot and died later that evening.

Goonew was only 24-years-old and his career was just taking off. He’d begun rapping at the age of 18 and his distinctive flow and offbeat rhymes became popular with fans of the “DMV” (DC, Maryland, Virginia) style of hip hop.

In six short years Goonew released over a dozen mixtapes and studio albums. In his spare time he dropped numerous singles and was a part of other collaborations.

Not the First Time

Goonew had been shot before. In July of 2020 he posted a photo to his Twitter page.

“I Ain’t Never Show This Pictures (sic) But July 5th Last Year They Told My Mother I Was Dead I Came Back… I’m Blessed & Thankful I’m Still Here”

Celebrating His Life

Sixteen days after the young rapper parished the family held a memorial service. The funeral home that was handling the arrangements contacted Bliss Nightclub in Washington and reserved that Sunday evening. No big deal.

According to Google, Bliss is a “sprawling dance club featuring live hip-hop, rap and R&B in a sleek space with multiple dance floors.” Plenty of room for a party full of family and close friends. The family, however, truly wanted to make it a special evening. Everyone was invited and there was a $40 cover charge for non family and friends.

Goonew was to be sent off in style.

Wait, is that him?

The thing that some people are having a problem with is that Goonew was in attendance.

As family, friends and curious partygoers alike danced and sang and listened to Goonew’s music, there he stood. Markelle Morrow’s corpse was propped up on stage, decked out in designer fashion, rocking some shades and wearing a crown. As fireworks went off all around the body and lights flashed across the room, it took people who weren’t “in the know” by surprise.

Numerous guests took video with their cellphones and shared them out on social media. The confusion and backlash has been plentiful. In other parts of the world, this would be expected, it would seem that many people in this country aren’t quite ready for it though.

Bliss Nightclub immediately released a statement. While they felt bad for the family and their loss, an embalmed body on stage wasn’t part of the deal.

It’s What He Would Have Wanted

The family has been interviewed since the party last Sunday. Goonew was officially buried Monday. They want people to mind their own business and let them grieve how they choose. The issue, I think, that people are having is that there was no warning. If you go to a funeral home, you’d expect to see a body lying in a casket. It’s part of the deal. If you paid $40 to go to what promised to be a great party, celebrating a musician who meant a lot to the community, you may not expect to see his lifeless body secured to something on stage with pyrotechnics going off around him.

Still, it made his mother happy. Commenters on social media mentioned how ‘upset his mama must be’ in regards to the body being propped up on stage. If you watch the videos, you can see her dancing and singing on stage nearby.

Trendsetter in life and death?

Goonew is the third young rapper to be murdered in 2022. Is this the new way to celebrate someone’s life? That’s not for me to say. In the past year or two my opinions have changed on what is ‘okay’ in regards to how death is handled. I’m just not sure the average person is ready to hang out with a corpse for too long.

The police investigation is ongoing. There are no suspects at the time of this article being written.

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