Top 10 Posthumous Albums

Script written by Aaron Cameron. Their candles may’ve burned out, but these musical artists weren’t ready to fade away. For this list, we’re only looking at albums that were released after the artist or a member of the band that created them passed away. Most of this material must be previously unreleased, so we’re excluding compilations and live albums. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 posthumous albums. Special thanks to our users Keenan Wilson, and arimazzie for submitting the idea on our Suggest Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Aaron Cameron.

Their candles may’ve burned out, but they weren’t ready to fade away. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 posthumous albums.

For this list, we’re only looking at albums that were released after the artist or a member of the band that created them passed away. Most of this material must be previously unreleased, so we’re excluding compilations and live albums.

#10: “Made in Heaven” (1995)
Queen

While dying of AIDS, Freddie Mercury tried to make the best of his remaining health by recording as many vocals as he possibly could with Queen. After his passing, the remaining members used these demos to complete multiple tracks and combined them with previously recorded Mercury material to which they added the Queen stamp. The resulting album, Made in Heaven, was a global smash and included Mercury’s last vocal recordings on “Mother Love.”

#9: “From a Basement on the Hill” (2004)
Elliott Smith

By the time of his death, the indie musician had already recorded heaps of new material. Unfortunately, few tracks could be considered completed products. Despite this, Elliott Smith’s family wanted the world to hear what he’d come up with. An ex-producer and an ex-girlfriend collected 15 tunes, opting to leave them unfinished and mixing only what had been recorded. The final album may not have been what Smith intended, but it did become his highest-charting album ever, reaching number 19 on the Billboard 200.

#8: “Sublime” (1996)
Sublime

Sublime’s third effort was supposed to come out under another name, but ended up being self-titled after frontman Bradley Nowell died of a drug overdose before its street date. Sublime became the band’s first major label release and their mainstream breakthrough, though the success was obviously bittersweet. The staple of ‘90s alt-rock has sold over 6 million copies, thanks to the fact that multiple singles charted within the Hot Modern Rock Tracks top 5.

#7: “Milk and Honey” (1984)
John Lennon and Yoko Ono

As the follow-up to Double Fantasy, the last album released while John Lennon was still alive, Milk and Honey was put on the back burner after the former Beatle was assassinated. The collaborative effort was eventually released more than three years after his death, as it took Yoko Ono that long to return to the project. While she contributed mainly new and more slickly produced tracks, she left Lennon’s work mostly untouched and raw. The album went on to chart within the Billboard 200’s top 20.

#6: “Dreaming of You” (1995)
Selena

Intended as her English language crossover, Dreaming of You only had 5 songs in the can before Selena met her untimely demise. Her murder by the ex-president of her fan club prompted label execs to package these new tracks with some older material and previously unreleased Spanish songs. The effort made history when it entered the Billboard charts at number one, as Selena became the first solo act to achieve this feat posthumously.

#5: “American V: A Hundred Highways” (2006)
Johnny Cash

Fortunately for us, The Man in Black had recorded approximately 50 new tracks prior to his death in 2003. Twelve of those songs became American V: A Hundred Highways, which was also his 93rd record overall. Consisting mainly of covers, it includes songs by Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, as well as a stripped down version of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” After topping both the pop and country charts, it became Johnny Cash’s first number one effort since 1969.

#4: “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” (1996)
Makaveli

Using the alias Makaveli, Tupac Shakur completed his fifth album a few months before he was fatally shot in September of 1996. Following producer Suge Knight’s rush-release of the effort that November, The 7 Day Theory went on to sell more than half a million units in its first week and it eventually topped the Billboard chart. A considerably darker effort than his earlier work, the record’s lyrics have Pac dissing other rappers like Nas, Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, and the Notorious B.I.G.

#3: Life After Death (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G.

Following a delay of a couple of months, Life After Death ultimately dropped two weeks after Biggie was murdered in a drive-by shooting. In addition to critical acclaim, the album sold 10 million units and topped both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums chart. Meanwhile, “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” made him the first artist to score two posthumous number one hits.

#2: “Pearl” (1971)
Janis Joplin

It was her on-again off-again relationship with alcohol and hard drugs that eventually led to Janis Joplin’s fatal overdose in 1970. And when this occurred, she was in the midst of recording sessions for her second solo album. Luckily, enough material was captured to fashion an album out of this fusion of blues, country and funk rock, and Pearl landed atop the Billboard charts for 9 weeks. The album is also known for including her only number one single; a cover of Kris Kristopherson’s “Me and Bobby McGee.”

Before we unveil our top pick here are a few honorable mentions:
- “Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk” (1998) Jeff Buckley
- “Genius Loves Company” (2004) Ray Charles
- “Grievous Angel” (1974) Gram Parsons

#1: “Closer” (1980)
Joy Division

Released two months after the suicide of frontman Ian Curtis, Joy Division’s sophomore outing is considered by many to be the group’s finest hour. Produced by Martin Hannett at Pink Floyd’s Britannia Row Studio, Closer is chock full of hypnotic drum beats, hooky basslines, and Curtis’ own doom-meets-gloom vocals. The album also set the template for what would become gothic rock and paved the way for the remaining band members to regroup and form New Order.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite posthumous album? For more entertaining Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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