It’s a tragic phenomenon: artists who only gain real fame after their death. Here are ten musicians whose legacy and influence were truly recognized after their passing:
1. Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson, an American blues singer and songwriter, died in 1938 at the age of 27 under mysterious circumstances (thus one of the members of the famous Club of 27).
During his lifetime, he had little commercial success and recognition. However, his unique combination of vocals, guitar skills, and songwriting influenced later generations of musicians, including greats like Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, and Keith Richards. His song “Cross Road Blues” was popularized in the 1960s by Cream as “Crossroads”.
2. Nick Drake
Nick Drake was known for his acoustic guitar-based songs. Despite his undeniable talent, he received little recognition and success during his lifetime. His albums sold poorly, and he died young in 1974.
After his death, his popularity grew steadily, with songs like “Pink Moon” now considered classics. Artists such as Robert Smith of The Cure and Beck have indicated they were influenced by him.
3. Otis Redding
Although Otis Redding enjoyed some popularity during his lifetime, his fame only grew after his death in 1967. His tragic death in a plane crash led to a posthumous number one hit with “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. This soul singer has inspired many artists and is now considered one of the greatest soul singers of all time.
4. Sid Vicious
Sid Vicious, the notorious bassist of the punk rock band The Sex Pistols, was known for his wild lifestyle and tumultuous relationship with Nancy Spungen. After her death and his subsequent suicide in 1979, his legend grew.
The band’s only album, “Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols”, received critical acclaim, and Vicious was posthumously celebrated as a punk icon.
5. Jeff Buckley
Jeff Buckley, an American singer-songwriter, released only one studio album during his lifetime, “Grace”, in 1994. Although it initially received mixed reviews and poor sales, it was widely praised after his death in 1997. The album is now considered one of the greatest albums of all time.
6. Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Israel “Iz” Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole, also known as Bruddah Iz, was an American musician and a strong advocate for Hawaiian sovereignty. He was best known for his ukulele music. Sadly, he suffered from obesity and passed away in 1997. His rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” combined with “What a Wonderful World” received global recognition and was used in numerous films and commercials. The song remains a lasting memory of his talent and influence.
7. Jim Croce
Jim Croce was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Although he enjoyed some popularity during his lifetime, his fame truly exploded after his tragic death in a plane crash in 1973. His songs “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and “Time in a Bottle” became big hits, with the latter posthumously reaching the number one spot.
8. Big L
Big L, born Lamont Coleman, was an American hip-hop artist. While he received some recognition in the East Coast underground hip-hop scene, his potential was never fully realized due to his untimely death in 1999. After his death, his influence and talent were truly recognized, and he is now considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.
9. Juice WRLD
Jarad Anthony Higgins, better known by his stage name Juice WRLD, was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He is considered a leading figure in the emo-rap and SoundCloud rap genres, which gained mainstream attention in the late 2010s. His stage name was derived from the 1992 movie “Juice”, and he stated it represented “taking over the world”.
Juice WRLD broke through with his hit “Lucid Dreams” in 2018, which peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and quickly became one of the most streamed songs of that year. His music, often characterized by heart-wrenching lyrics and melodies, resonated with young listeners worldwide.
Tragically, Juice WRLD suddenly passed away in December 2019 at just 21 years old. His death shocked the music community and fans worldwide. After his passing, his songs were streamed even more, and his posthumous album “Legends Never Die” reached the number one spot on the Billboard 200.
Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, often simply known as Selena, was an American singer known for her Tejano music. She was tragically murdered in 1995 at the age of 23. After her death, she became an icon in both the Latin American community and beyond. Her posthumous album “Dreaming of You” reached the number one spot on the US Billboard 200, making her the first Latin American artist to achieve this feat.