The most famous posthumous albums in music history
8 October 2020, 20:00 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 16:08
We take a look at some of the most notable times that albums have been released after the artist has tragically left us.
The Doors - Other Voices
Jim Morrison checked out in a Paris apartment in July 1971, and it was a mere three months later that the surviving members - keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger and drummer John Densmore - issued this Lizard King-less LP. It contains that all-time classic I’m Horny I’m Stoned.
Jim Morrison - An American Prayer
And that's not all - in 1978, the surviving Doors collabroated on some music to accompany spoken word recordings made by Morrison in 1969 and 1970. The album got a mixed reception from fans.
Nirvana - MTV Unplugged In New York
Between recording this acoustic set in November 1993 and its release exactly a year later, Kurt Cobain had committed suicide at his home in Seattle and the rest of the band were reeling in shock. The performance of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World flashed around the world following Cobain’s death, making this an essential purchase for mourning fans.
Johnny Cash - American V: A Hundred Highways
The famous cover of Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt was taken from American IV, the last album to be released by The Man In Black before his death in September 2003. Recorded earlier that year, volume five again sees Rick Rubin as producer and features covers of songs by Bruce Springsteen and Hank Williams.
John Lennon - Milk And Honey
The Beatles was gunned down in New York December 1980 as he was experiencing something of a comeback with a new album, Double Fantasy. Having got his creative juices flowing again, both Lennon and wife Yoko Ono were in the middle of recording tracks for a follow-up, which emerged four years later as Milk And Honey. While some of the album was a bit rough around the edges, the single Nobody Told Me made the UK Top 10.
George Harrison - Brainwashed
The Quiet One had been tinkering with songs for his twelfth and final album for a number of years, but once he was diagnosed with throat cancer, he began working in earnest with his sone Dhani and ELO producer and fellow Traveling Wilbury Jeff Lynne. The former Beatle died in November 2001 and the album was finally released a year later.
Queen - Made In Heaven
Having been diagnosed with AIDS, the ailing Freddie Mercury corralled the rest of the band to record as many vocals and demos while he was still able. The resulting album was finished by his bandmates after his death in November 1991 and was finally released four years later.
Joy Division - Closer
Recorded in March 1980, by the time the Manchester band’s second and final album was released that July, lead singer Ian Curtis had committed suicide on the eve of the group’s first US tour. The dark music, together with the image of an Italian tomb on the cover, made this one of the most poignant and stark posthumous albums of all.
Amy Winehouse - Lioness: Hidden Treasures
Released less than six months after the singer’s tragically early death, Lioness features unreleased songs and demos, including her celebrated duet with the legendary crooner Tony Bennett.
Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death
The erstwhile Christopher Wallace died on 9 March 1997 aged 24, the victim of a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. His second and final album hit shops just sixteen days later, which only added to Biggie’s notoriety.
Jeff Buckley - Sketches For My Sweetheart The Drunk
One of rock music’s greatest voices died on 29 May 1997 while swimming in the Mississippi river. At the time, Buckley was working on the follow-up to his acclaimed debut album, Grace, to be titled My Sweetheart The Drunk. Buckley’s band completed the tracks from demos and session material, and the album was released a year after his death with the (Sketches For) prefix added to indicate this was an unfinished work.
Jimi Hendrix - The Cry Of Love
Following the death of Hendrix on 18 September 1970, his record label Track released the two-year-old song Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) as a single, which immediately went to Number One in the UK charts. The following March, the label issued The Cry Of Love, which contained a number of tracks that Hendrix was working on at the time of his death and gained some acclaim from critics of the time. There would be more posthumous albums, but with diminishing returns.
Viola Beach - Viola Beach
All four members of this young band from Warrington - Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin - along with their manager Craig Tarry were killed in a road accident while on tour in Sweden in February 2016. Shortly afterwarsd, a decision was made to release their self-titled debut album posthumously in honour of their memory.
Elliot Smith - From A Basement On A Hill
The American singer-songwriter had been struggling with depression and substance abuse for some time, but the summer of 2003 had seen him return to writing and recording music again. His recovery and return to performing was halted on 21 October that year, when he was died from stab wounds to his chest, which appeared to be self-inflicted. The album he was working on was released a year after his death.
Tupac Shakur - The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
The acclaimed rapper was gunned down in Las Vegas in September 1996, just a few weeks after he’d recorded this final album. Following the star’s death, Death Row Records boss Suge Knight rush-released the LP in November, bringing it forward from its original release date of March 1997.