There are many reasons why a musician might wind up having an album’s worth of music at the time of his or her death. Maybe they were songs packaged and ready to go, but the artist passed away. Maybe the songs were half-finished and somebody had to come in and complete the job. Sometimes the posthumous album is just a bunch of scraps left over from other sessions repurposed as an album. Or, in some sad cases, maybe they were songs that the artist never wanted to see the light of day, sketches and demos distributed as if they were an “album” ready for the public’s consumption.
But even in those cases, it’s hard to condemn the impulse to release posthumous albums. Fans will always want more from their favorite artists. The families of the deceased often need the financial support that would come from selling another album. And, thankfully, sometimes, these posthumous releases are just too good to hide away in the vaults because of their tragic circumstances.
The latest prominent posthumous release will be Montage of Heck: The Home Recordings, the first so-called solo Kurt Cobain album. It remains to be seen what exactly that record will mean to his legacy: tribute, filler, cash-in, or some combination. What can be certain, though, is that the anticipation will be cranked to 11. To tide you over, we’ve assembled a list of 10 essential posthumous albums, spanning era and genre.