Whenever a popular or legendary musician dies, the record companies are always quick to try and milk as much profit out of them as possible. This leads to tons of merchandise — t-shirts, special edition box sets, documentaries, pizza cutters, soothing eye drops, and whatever else they can think of to slap the name onto.
It also leads to the more egregious of moneymaking ploys: posthumously released music. Yes, artists typically have hours and hours of unreleased material sitting in a vault somewhere, and the moment they kick the bucket the greedy record labels start shoveling it out by the truckload.
This is a tough one for dedicated fans. They struggle with their desire for more material from the artists they love, but they also feel like it's a bit of a desecration of their legacy. If the artist chose not to release this music it was probably for good reason, and it's disrespectful to put it out there, against their wishes, anyway just because they're dead and it'll make a quick buck.
The King of Pop, Michael Jackson, is the next fallen legend to get his dirty laundry aired on the record store racks. It's frankly surprising that it hasn't happened already — considering that he passed away all the way back in 2009. A new single from the upcoming album has been released. It's called `Love Never Felt So Good,' and it's actually pretty great!
I guess posthumous releases aren't always a bad idea. In the spirit of this new release, let's take a look at some of the best posthumously released songs of all time:
2. 6. Jimi Hendrix "Freedom"
Whether you're a bandana wearing flower child of the 60s who spent the best years of your life blasting this song out of the tinny speakers of a Volkswagen Bus doing 90 on the Interstate, or you heard it in some car commercial, chances are you recognize `Freedom' by Jimi Hendrix. Besides something like `Purple Haze' or his amazing rendition of `The Star Spangled Banner,' this is basically his most iconic work.
But did you know that it came out after he died? Hendrix passed away on September 18, 1970, and `Freedom' was released a year later on the album, `Cry of Love.' So when you hear this song set to the bone-crunching speed of a brand new car flying down the highway in some commercial trying to sell you on the idea of letting go of your worries and giving in to adventure, just remember that the guy who sang it died alone, horribly, because he lived by this motto.
3. 5. The Notorious B.I.G. 'Mo Money Mo Problems'
Christopher `Biggie Smalls' Wallace was tragically gunned down outside of a party on March 9, 1997. He had been ramping up to release his double-disc second album, `Life After Death,' and just 16 days later it came out.
Even with Puff Daddy (or P. Diddy or Diddy or Daddy or whatever his name is now) hamming it up all over this song and music video, the production still shines with that upbeat and victorious sample and heavy and driving beat. It takes a while to get to Biggie's verse towards the end, but when it does you realize why he was considered one of the greatest rappers and lyricists of his time.
4. 4. Buddy Holly 'True Love Ways'
Buddy Holly was one of the biggest rock stars around back in the late 50s. He and fellow artists The Big Bopper and Richie Valens basically owned the airwaves back then. Unfortunately, their lives and careers were cut short when, on February 2nd, 1959, they were killed in a plane crash while on a major tour. It was such a big deal that a song was written about it calling it "The Day the Music Died."
The song `True Love Ways' was recorded just four months before his death, and was released on the album, "The Buddy Holly Story, Vol. 2" in 1960. It's a beautiful track with shimmery strings, an optimistic melody, and hopefully romantic lyrics. Considering the circumstances surrounding its creation and release, however, the song takes on a bittersweet sadness that makes it all the more beautiful and timeless.
5. 3. Nirvana "You Know You're Right"
Hauntingly talented Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, committed suicide in his home on April 8th, 1994. The singer had been deeply troubled for some time before that, but the death came as a shock to friends, family, and fans. His influence on music and pop culture was so rich and powerful that people are still debating the details surrounding his death.
In 2002, a greatest hits compilation album was released entitled, "Nirvana." Although the album featured past hits from the band, there was one previously unreleased track called, "You Know You're Right." It was the last song recorded by the band before Cobain's death. Its dissonance, biting ironic tone, and melancholic lyrics are decidedly Nirvana, and show that the band probably had a lot more great music in them had Cobain not decided to take his life.
6. 2. Johnny Cash "God's Gonna Cut You Down"
Johnny Cash, the Man in Black and an American folk legend, died of diabetes complications on September 12, 2003. His death seemed to come around like his legacy and persona were — sad, dark, and full of regret.
In 2006, an album of Cash's covers of American standards, "American V: A Hundred Highway" was released. Although the whole album — and many of his posthumous releases — is great, the single, "God's Gonna Cut You Down," from this one seems to be full of the anger, piss, and vinegar that Johnny Cash was known for. It's the definitive legacy of the Man In Black.
7. 1. Otis Redding "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay"
This one is probably the most shocking of the posthumous releases — considering that great majorities of people probably only know Otis Redding for this song. The legendary soul singer was killed on December 10. 1967 in a plane crash. The song — and same-titled album — was released in 1968. It was the first ever posthumous album to go to the top of the charts in the US.
The song is a bit sad and melancholy, and really strikes a chord considering that he recorded it a few days before his death. The song is a very iconic representation of Redding's personality and style, so the fact that it came out after he'd already passed away definitely gives one pause.
8. Posthumous Releases From Legends Aren't Always Bad