The Best Posthumous Albums You Need To Add To Your Collection
Posthumous albums are popular because fans can’t get enough of their favorite musicians, even in death. Some of these artists die before their latest music is released. Others have snippets of music or unreleased songs that record execs cobble together in tribute to the deceased. It’s a win-win for the fans, the record label, and the musicians’ estates, which often make tidy profits from these albums.
Check out some incredible posthumous albums that are worth adding to your collection…
Prince’s Estate Promises “Mind-Blowing” Music From His Vault In Upcoming Posthumous Album
When Prince died in 2016, it wasn’t long before fans started asking for a posthumous album. The singer was known for his famous music vault in Minnesota, which contains a series of unreleased songs. In spring 2017, an engineer who worked with the singer teased the release of a six-track EP called Deliverance, but the estate blocked its release. Troy Carter, the adviser of the estate, told Variety new songs are “coming soon.” He explained: “I heard some music the other night that was pretty mind-blowing and we’re getting some stuff mixed right now. We’ve got great projects in the works that I’m excited to talk about.”
Johnny Cash’s American V: A Hundred Highways Contains An Exceptional Original Track
Johnny Cash died in 2003 at the age of 71. Recognized as one of the best-selling artists of all time, Cash’s popular songs include “I Walk the Line,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” “Get Rhythm,” and “Man in Black.” He was relatively quiet in the ’80s and early ’90s until collaborating with Rick Rubin. The first album released posthumously was 2006’s fifth American Recording album. Consisting mostly of cover songs, including Hank Williams’ “On The Evening Train,” the highlight is his own “Like the 309.” The album proved Cash was still capable of writing good music just weeks before his passing.
Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York Was A Commercial Juggernaut
Grunge group Nirvana did an acoustic performance at Sony Music Studios in New York City on Nov. 18, 1993, for the MTV series Unplugged. It aired on MTV on December 16, 1993. The group played lesser-known songs as well as cover tunes by David Bowie and bands such as The Vaselines and Meat Puppets. The album was the first one released after Kurt Cobain took his own life. It debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. It was Nirvana’s most popular posthumous release and was certified five times platinum. In 1996, it won the Grammy award for Best Alternative Music Album.
The Dock Of The Bay Includes Otis Redding’s Only Number-One Single
Otis Redding recorded “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” in 1967 while staying on a houseboat with a friend. His colleagues and wife were unimpressed with the tune, even though he believed it was his best song. Later that year, he was flying to a performance when his plane crashed into a lake in Wisconsin. He and four members of the Bar-Kays died. The album was released in 1968. “The Dock of the Bay” was Redding’s only single to hit number one, and the album (his seventh) is considered his greatest. It’s also considered one of the greatest albums of all time.
Janis Joplin’s Pearl Contains Her Greatest Hit “Me And Bobby McGee”
Janis Joplin gained prominence at the Monterey Pop Festival as the lead singer of the San Francisco psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company. After two albums, she launched a solo career but dropped only one album before dying of a drug overdose at the age of 27 in 1970. Nine tracks of unreleased music were compiled into the album Pearl, which was released three months after her death. It included her backing band Full Tilt Boogie and her number-one hit “Me and Bobby McGee” as well as “Mercedes-Benz.” It went quadruple platinum and was her most successful album.
Joy Division’s Closer Defines The Post-Punk Era
Ian Curtis suffered from epilepsy and depression and took his own life on May 18, 1980, just before English rock band Joy Division was set to launch its first North American tour and prior to the release of the group’s second album. Two months following his death, the band dropped Closer, which is widely considered one of music’s definitive post-punk albums. The album’s gothic style meshed with Curtis’ bleak baritone voice hint at his internal struggles. It produced the number-one hit “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and is considered one of the greatest albums of all time. The surviving members formed New Order.
Jimi Hendrix’s Live At The Fillmore East Features The Long-Running “Machine Gun”
Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 from barbiturate-related asphyxia on September 18, 1970. His posthumous live album Live at the Fillmore East was released on February 23, 1999. It features him and the Band of Gypsys performing on December 31, 1969, and January 1, 1970. At the time, Hendrix was struggling with drug abuse and contractual issues, which he channeled into his frenetic and powerful performances. The live album includes two versions of “Machine Gun,” which run more than a whopping 25 minutes. His energy is palpable, improvisational, and pure Hendrix. His by the cuff performance is one of rock and roll’s greatest.
Grievous Angel Highlights Gram Parsons’ “Cosmic American Music”
Gram Parsons died from a morphine and alcohol overdose in September 1973 at the age of 26. Grievous Angel, his second solo album, was released just four months following his death. He had previously collaborated with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Songs including “Hickory Wind,” “Brass Buttons,” and “$1000 Wedding” appear on the album. His music was a mix of country, rock and folk tunes, which he dubbed “Cosmic American Music.” While critically acclaimed, it was not a commercial success. Yet its legacy of country and rock and roll left an impact on fans who didn’t see him live up to his full potential.
Stevie Ray Vaughan’s The Sky Is Crying Showcases His Musical Influences
Stevie Ray Vaughn died in a helicopter crash on August 27, 1990. His fifth and final studio album contained many songs spanning his career. It was released about one year following his death and included 10 previously unreleased tracks, which were recorded between 1984 and 1989. The album showcases Vaughan’s influences, featuring various types of blues music. It includes both uptempo songs and slower, grittier blues pieces. Highlights include a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Little Wing” as well as the jazz instrumental “Chitlins con Carne” and “Life by the Drop,” a song written by the musician’s friend Doyle Bramhall.
John Lennon’s Double Fantasy Only Gained Momentum Following His Murder
John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980, by Mark David Chapman in New York City. Double Fantasy was released three weeks before his death. It initially failed to impress fans and critics, who were bothered by Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s marriage and its infusion into the album and his music. However, Lennon’s passing turned the album into a commercial success. The songs “(Just Like) Starting Over” and “Woman” hit number one. It won Album of the Year at the 24th Annual Grammy Awards the following year. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the greatest albums of the 1980s.
Sublime’s Titular Album Includes Numerous Hit Singles
Sublime singer Bradley Nowell died on May 25, 1996, of a heroin overdose in a San Francisco hotel while on tour. The punk band’s third and final studio album, Sublime, was recorded by the band during a period of heavy drug use. Themes touched on relationships and addiction, and it was recorded in various styles, such as punk rock, reggae, hip-hop, and ska. The band broke up following Nowell’s death. The album’s hit singles included “What I Got,” “Santeria,” and “Wrong Way” and was overall a huge hit, selling more than 5 million copies by the end of the decade.
Roy Orbison’s Mystery Girl Was Lauded By Fans & Critics
Roy Orbison was different from his contemporaries because instead of embodying masculinity (likes singers such as Elvis), his emotional music expressed man’s vulnerability. He was known for performing in all black and wearing sunglasses during his performances, making him appear mysterious. He had a bit of a career resurgence in the ’80s after joining the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys but died of a heart attack at age 52 in 1988. His final album was meant as a comeback and was lauded by fans and critics. The album’s biggest hit was “You Got It,” written with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne. It hit number nine on the U.S. charts.
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory By 2Pac Was The First Of Many Posthumous Albums
Tupac Shakur was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996. He survived gunshot shot wounds but died from the injuries six days later. He had numerous posthumous albums, but The Don Killuminati was the first one released following his murder. It was released under his stage name Makaveli and contains some of his final songs. Producer Suge Knight pushed for its early release. It hit number one on the Billboard charts and was certified 4x platinum and featured songs such as “Toss It Up,” “To Live & Die in L.A,” and “Hail Mary.”
Led Zeppelin’s Coda Was Released Two Years After John Bonham’s Death
Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died on September 25, 1980, after drinking the equivalent of 40 shots of vodka. The band’s ninth and final studio album, Coda, included several unreleased tracks from the group’s 12-year career. The album dropped two years after Led Zeppelin officially split up following Bonham’s passing. A coda is a concluding event, remark, section, or passage of music and was a fitting title for the album. Led Zeppelin released the music because fans kept circulating bootleg versions of their songs, and they wanted to give them what they wanted. Tracks include “We’re Gonna Groove,” “Poor Tom” and “I Can’t Quit You Baby.”
From A Basement On The Hill Is Elliott Smith’s Greatest Work
Singer songwriter Elliott Smith struggled with drug and alcohol abuse as well as depression — themes that appeared often in his music. He died in 2003 at the age of 34 from self-inflicted stab wounds. He was a prolific writer and was working on his sixth studio album when he died. His finished songs were compiled for From a Basement on the Hill, which featured some of Smith’s most melodious tracks. The project was his highest-charting album in the United States and was praised by both fans and critics. It showed his growth as a musician with guitar-heavy sounds and instrumental segments.
Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death Cemented His Role As A Hip Hop Icon
Influential rapper Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Latore Wallace) died in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. He recorded his second studio album, Life After Death, in the months leading up to his murder. It includes collaborations with various artists, including Jay Z, Lil’ Kim, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, R. Kelly and Puff Daddy. The album is one of hip hop’s seminal albums and dives into the mafioso rap subgenre. The album was nominated for three Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album, Best Rap Solo Performance for “Hypnotize,” and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for “Mo Money Mo Problems.”
George Harrison’s Brainwashed Contains Some Of His Best Music
George Harrison died in 2001 at the age of 58 from lung cancer spurred by years of cigarette smoking. After leaving the Beatles, he successfully launched a solo career. Brainwashed was released one year following his death under the direction of his son Dhani Harrison and Jeff Lynne. The album includes tracks he had written years before his death and songs such as “Any Road,” “Marwa Blues,” and “Rising Sun.” It includes some of the best songs from his career and reached gold status. In 2004, “Marwa Blues” won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Confrontation By Bob Marley & The Wailers Includes One Of The Singer’s Best-Known Songs
Bob Marley was diagnosed with melanoma on his toe in 1977. He refused amputation due to religious beliefs, and the cancer spread to his lungs and brain. He died on May 11, 1981, at the age of 36. Confrontation, his reggae album with the Wailers, was released two years after his death. It included a variety of unreleased tracks, many of which were taken from demos, such as “Jump Nyabinghi.” Harmony vocals were added on to several tracks. The most popular song on the album is “Buffalo Soldier,” which became one of the singer’s best-known tracks. It references the black U.S. cavalry regiments in the 1800s.
Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company Received Eight Grammy Awards
Ray Charles died of liver disease on June 10, 2004, at the age of 73. His final studio album included music recorded between 2003 and 2004. It featured rhythm and blues, soul, country, blues, jazz and standards sung by Charles and several well-known collaborators, including Natalie Cole, Elton John, James Taylor, Norah Jones, B.B. King, Gladys Knight, Van Morrison, and Willie Nelson. The project was one of Charles’ most commercially successful albums, selling over 3 million copies in the United States. In 2005, it received eight Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year.
Vulnerable By Marvin Gaye Was Inspired By His Heated Marriages
Marvin Gaye was killed after being shot in the heart and shoulder by his father on April 1, 1984. Gaye Sr. was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and was sentenced to a suspended six-year sentence and probation. Vulnerable was Gaye’s third posthumous album. Tracks were recorded during sessions in 1977, and Gaye initially intended on releasing it in 1979 under the title The Ballads. Motown released it under Vulnerable, and it featured seven songs from the sessions and three alternate cuts. The music was inspired by Gaye’s heated relationships with his wives Anna Gordy and Janis Hunter. Tracks included: “Why Did I Choose You” and “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So.”