Six famous music conspiracy theories: Paul McCartney is dead to Avril Lavigne is a fake

Singers who have been replaced by body doubles, Grammy-winning time travellers and slain rappers who faked their death make up some of the most incredible conspiracy theories in the music industry

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Avril Lavigne took to TikTok recently to poke fun at a conspiracy theory that has followed her for more than 10 years. That the “real” her died in 2003, and the woman we currently know as Lavigne is actually a doppelganger called Melissa.

Taking to the social media platform, the Sk8er Boi singer posted a short video, writing: “Every comment on my Instagram… Are you the real Avril?”, racking up more than 15 million views and counting.

The conspiracy stems from a 2011 blog post from Brazil, titled Avril Esta Morta (Avril is dead). The theory espoused that after Lavigne is said to have died, her record label replaced her with a singer who looked exactly like the popular pop star and took over duties for all the work since the album Let It Go.

“I’ve never seen a singer change her style of singing, writing, dressing and behaving as much as Avril Lavigne did, and everyone was talking about it at the time,” wrote the author of Avril Esta Morta. “Everyone was talking about the sudden and radical change in Avril's style and personality!

"It wasn't just the style or the way of dressing that changed. Her style is different, her musicality is different, the lyrics follow another line, in short, she is ‘someone else.’” The story even has its own Wikipedia page: Avril Lavigne replacement conspiracy theory.

Here are five more musician conspiracy theories that refuse to die...

The ’real’ Paul McCartney is dead

The 'real' Paul McCartney is said to have died in a car crash in 1966 at the height of Beatlemania. AP

The conspiracy theory attached to one of the biggest bands in history has been around for decades, originating in 1969 when a caller phoned in to WKNR radio station in Michigan and told listeners that Paul McCartney had died three years prior.

McCartney, the caller said, had been killed in a car crash in 1966 when the group was at the peak of Beatlemania. Their record label, fearful that this was the end of the super-group (or in other theories, British intelligence agency MI5, who were worried his death would cause mass hysteria), drafted in a new member called Billy Shears.

Soon after, the band started dropping hints, such as the lyric “So let me introduce to you, The one and only Billy Shears, And Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, yeah” from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band released in 1967.

Other “signs” that Macca had died include John Lennon muttering “I buried Paul” at the end of Strawberry Fields Forever (he claimed he was saying “cranberry sauce”), and the fact that the Hindu God Shiva “The Destroyer” is pointing at McCartney on the Sgt. Pepper album cover.

Conspiracy theorists claim that Beatles albums 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and 'Abbey Road' are littered with clues as to what happened to Paul McCartney. Photo: Apple Corps

Considered the biggest hint of all is the Abbey Road album cover. Dubbed the “funeral procession”, it shows the foursome on the zebra crossing outside the famous recording studio in London. Fans note that “Paul” is the only one shoeless and out of step with Lennon, Ringo Starr and George Harrison.

Plus, the number plate of the VW Beetle in the background reads “LMW 28IF”, which has been interpreted as “Linda McCartney Weeps” and an allusion to the fact that McCartney would have been “28 if” he were still alive at the time of recording. He was actually 27, but why let facts stand in the way of a good conspiracy theory?

For his part, the former Beatle, who recently headlined Glastonbury, has said: “I am alive and well and concerned about the rumours of my death. But if I were dead, I would be the last to know.”

Murdered woman’s screams caught on the Ohio Players’ track

A track from 70s US funk group the Ohio Players' album 'Honey' kick-started a murder conspiracy which still circulates today. Getty Images, Paragon Recording Studios

American funk band the Ohio Players became the focus of a huge conspiracy theory in the 1970s amid rumours their track Love Rollercoaster inadvertently featured the screams of a dying woman on it.

The 1975 hit gained notoriety over the years for the scream, which was purportedly to represent fear at being on a literal rollercoaster, but which sounds less like a fun-scared howl, and more like a shriek of terror.

Rumours began as word of mouth and were soon spread by DJs that the scream was that of a woman being murdered in or near the recording studio, which snowballed into a band member stabbing his girlfriend (or a cleaning woman) to death.

Other theories claim the screams were from the female model on the cover of the Honey album, on which Love Rollercoaster was featured. Pictured pouring honey on herself, the story goes that it was her screaming in pain due to the fact that the honey had been heated up to make it easier to pour.

It’s guitars and it’s right before the second verse and Billy Beck does one of those inhaling-type screeches like Minnie Riperton did to reach her high note or Mariah Carey does to go octaves above,” said Ohio Player Jimmy “Diamond” Williams. “The DJ made this crack and it swept the country. People were asking us, ‘Did you kill this chick in the studio?’ The band took a vow of silence because that makes you sell more records.”

Jay-Z is a time traveller

This image of a man in Harlem in 1939 sparked a conspiracy theory that rapper Jay-Z had figured out the secret to time travel. Getty Images, The New York Public Library

When you become hip-hop’s first billionaire, make history as the rapper with the most Grammy wins and are married to Beyonce, there’s not many achievements left to conquer. All of which is why some fans are convinced that Jay-Z is a secret time traveller in his spare time.

The theory began in 2013, when New York Public Library’s Schomburg Centre for Research in Black Culture added a blog post that featured the image of a man in a flat cap who looks a lot like Jay-Z leaning against a railing.

“Does the man on the right remind you of someone?” they captioned the image. “Perhaps it was his great-grandfather taking a break in Harlem in 1939. The photographer, we know for sure, was Sid Grossman. If you can put a (real) name on the young man, let us know.”

News aggregation and discussion site Reddit picked up on the image, and theories soon began circulating that the man in the photo was Jay-Z who had travelled back in time.

The theory soon devolved into the 99 Problems rapper being dubbed a “time travelling vampire”, joining the likes of Eddie Murphy, Justin Timberlake and Nicolas Cage, who have all been accused of the same after old photographs of their look-alikes appeared online.

In reality, Jay-Z, real name Shawn Corey Carter, was born in New York on December 4, 1969.

Pink Floyd album syncs perfectly with ‘The Wizard of Oz’

A 1995 article claimed that Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side of the Moon' is in perfect sync with the 1939 movie 'The Wizard of Oz'. EMI, Getty Images

Did you know Pink Floyd’s seminal 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon has a different name?

Fans of this particular theory call it Dark Side of the Rainbow in reference to how perfectly the album lines up with the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

In August 1995, journalist Charlie Savage published an article in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in which he claimed that if you press play on The Dark Side of the Moon and watch the film at the same time that the “result is astonishing".

"Song lyrics and titles match the action and plot.”

Naturally, that’s what people started to do, and the evidence began racking up. Pink Floyd’s The Great Gig in the Sky powers up as the tornado hits Dorothy’s Kansas farm, the track Brain Damage comes in as the Scarecrow sings If I Only Had a Brain, and a heartbeat sounds as Dorothy checks to see if the Tin Man has a heart. Most intriguing of all is the lyric “Home, home again” from the track Breathe coming in just as Dorothy returns from Oz to the family farm.

In 2010, Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason insisted the theory had no merit, telling BBC1’s One Show: “It’s unthinkable that we would have felt that it was really important to work with Judy Garland, and devise an album based on that particular story.”

Tupac is alive and hiding out

Twenty six years after his murder, fans still claim to have sighted Tupac Shakur around the globe, as well as subscribing to a 'body double' theory. Getty Images

Wishful thinking by fans of the singer and rapper or a plausible theory that deserves closer inspection? 2022 marks the year that Tupac Shakur has been dead for longer than he was alive — he passed away aged 25 on September 13, 1996.

However, sightings of the star continue to make headlines, along with fresh theories about how he faked his own death and escaped to New Mexico with the help of a body double.

Fans have poured the grief they felt over the slain rapper, who was believed to have been killed as part of an ongoing feud between East and West coast rappers, into reporting several sightings, with even Kim Kardashian claiming to have spotted him working in airport security.

Cuba, New Orleans, Malaysia and Belize are just a few of the places people claim they have sighted Shakur, although the body double theory remains the most famous.

Filmmaker Rick Boss, director of the documentary 2Pac: The Great Escape from UMC, claims Tupac’s corpse was a double, and that he was helicoptered out of Las Vegas immediately after the shooting to hide out in New Mexico.

The theory gained traction when the music video for Shakur’s posthumous hit I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto was released in 1997, the year after his death. In the video, which was overseen by the rapper’s estate — and managed by his mother, Afeni Shakur — an off-camera Shakur arrives by helicopter in the desert a day after his murder.

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Updated: July 18, 2022, 8:07 AM
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