50 Ways Marilyn Monroe Has Been Kept Alive For 50 Years
One regrettable Marilyn reference on primetime came in February 2011, when James Franco's baffling performance as host of the Academy Awards (#14) included a bit where he came onstage in drag dressed as Marilyn in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes."


Marilyn was only 11 years gone when Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote "Candle in the Wind" (#15) about her. The lyrics weren't exactly subtle ("Hollywood created a superstar/And pain was the price you paid"), but the song became one of John's standards -- though its connecton to Monroe was slightly eclipsed when he rewrote the lyrics to make it a tribute to Princess Diana after her death in 1997.

Lots of other songs reference Marilyn, from Madonna's "Vogue" (#16) to the Kinks' "Celluloid Heroes" (#17) to Tom Waits' "Jitterbug Boy" (#18), in which a shady character adds her name to a long string of ludicrous boasts ("I slept with the lions/And Marilyn Monroe/ … I taught Mickey Mantle everything that he knows").

Of course, Madonna and Lady Gaga and Britney Spears and many other pop divas owe reams to Marilyn, witness "Material Girl" (#19), "Dance in the Dark" (#20) and live performances of "If U Seek Amy" (#21, left), respectively.

But the most substantial musical treatments could be Dan Bern's "Marilyn" (#22) in which the singer-songwriter posits that her life would have been better if the author she married had been Henry Miller rather than Arthur Miller, and T Bone Burnett's "After All These Years" (#23) which Burnett has said was inspired by a story he read about exhuming Monroe years after her death:

"Was she still as alluring, still as seductive?
Could she still drive you crazy by the look on her face?
Did she still have a whisper you could hear cross an ocean?
Was she still a scandal, still a disgrace?"

Extra points to Burnett for his wry, deadpan and delightful cover version of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (#24).

Even classical composers have been inspired by Monroe. The opera "Marilyn" (#25), for instance, was one of the centerpieces of the New York City Opera's own 50thh anniversary celebration in 1993 – but one critic called the Ezra Laderman/Norman Rosetn work "bizarre and excrusiatingly banal," and it has faded from the repertoire.

And, of course, Monroe is dead center on one of the most famous album covers of all time, the Beatles' "Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band" (#26) – she's right above Ringo, and surrounded by writers Edgar Allan Poe and William S. Burroughs, British comedian Tommy Handley and explorer Dr. David Livingstone.


Andy Warhol's Marilyn Diptych (#27, below) from 1962, which he completed in the weeks after her death, is probably the best-known piece of Marilyn-centric art.

But he's hardly the only artist to have been inspired. Other artist who have dealt with Monroe range from Salvador Dali (#28) to Willem de Kooning (#29) to Robert Rauschenberg (#30)  to Shepard Fairey (#31) to Mr. Brainwash (#32); that list certainly includes both the sublime and the ridiculous, though you can make your own decision about what belongs where.

Does J. Seward Johnson's giant Marilyn statue (#33) that currently occupies a street corner in Palm Springs count as art? Reactions differ, perhaps less in the California desert resort than in its previous home in Chicago, but we'll let it into the category.

And in architecture, the Absolute World buildings (#34, left) in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, outside Toronto, have been nicknamed "Marilyn Monroe" because of their undulating forms.


Joyce Carol Oates' "Blonde" (#35) is one of the best-known and most acclaimed entries on the shelf of books that drawn on Marilyn; Oates insists that it is a novel, not a biography.