With today’s controversial release of Michael Jackson’s single, “Breaking News” , (is that really his voice?), it brings to mind the many posthumous song and album releases over the years.
I have mixed feelings about posthumous song releases. On the one hand, it gives super fans something to look forward to, and for a minute- or 4- they may even forget that their favorite singer has died. Because in that moment, he or she is alive and well. On the other hand, posthumous song releases sometimes seem like a violation. As in, did the singer really want that song released? And who’s making money off of it now?
Now, with today’s world premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Breaking News”, here’s a look back at 5 other posthumous songs that left fans wanting more.
“Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay” – Otis Reading. This song was recorded in 1967 and was released one month after singer Otis Redding’ s untimely death in a plane crash at age 26. According to Wikipedia it became the first number one posthumous single in U.S. history.
“Woman” – John Lennon. Lennon’s Double Fantasy album was released on November 17, 1981, just three weeks before his shocking murder. The album initially had a lukewarm reception, but after Lennon’s death- and especially when the second single, “Woman” was released- fans scooped it up and suddenly cherished it, realizing these were the final words of the Smart Beatle.
“Sanctified Lady”- Marvin Gaye. This posthumous single was released in 1985 and hit number 2 on the Billboard charts, a year after Gaye’s father shot and killed him. “Sanctified Lady” was an unfinished work at the time of Gaye’s death, but his collaborator, Gordon Banks, finished off the track electronically.
“Life After Death”- album by The Notorious B.I.G. Two weeks after rapper The Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in a drive by shooting in Los Angeles, his second album, Life After Death was released. Fans responded in a big way. The Grammy nominated album jumped 175 spots on the Billboard charts in one week and it became one of the best selling rap albums of all time.
“You Know You’re Right”- Nirvana. Kurt Cobain’s suicide death in 1994 caused all kinds of turmoil between his former band mates and his wife, Courtney Love. The song “You Know You’re Right” became a big point of contention (to box set or not?) but in 2002- eight years after Cobain’s death- it was released as a single.