Top 10 Musicians Who Became More Famous After They Died

This is a list of musicians who received more popularity after their death.
The Top Ten
1 Robert Johnson Robert Leroy Johnson was an American blues singer-songwriter and musician. His landmark recordings in 1936 and 1937 display a combination of singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that has influenced later generations of musicians... read more

During his lifetime, he had no commercial success and very little recognition. He was a blues singer who showed singing, guitar skills, and songwriting talent that influenced later generations of musicians of blues and rock and roll, such as Eric Clapton (from the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek & the Dominos), Bob Dylan, Robert Plant (from Led Zeppelin), and Keith Richards (from the Rolling Stones).

One of his songs, "Cross Road Blues," was popularized by Cream in the late 1960s as "Crossroads." Since the 1960s or 70s, his life has been rediscovered by historians. For example, there are three verified photographs of him today.

2 Nick Drake Nicholas Rodney "Nick" Drake (19 June 1948 – 25 November 1974) was an English singer-songwriter and musician, known for his acoustic guitar-based songs. A singular talent who passed almost unnoticed during his brief lifetime, his work has posthumously achieved wider notice and recognition.

He received little success and recognition during his lifetime. His albums sold less than 5,000 copies. But after his death in 1974, he started to reach a cult following and critical acclaim for his acoustic guitar style and lyrics. One of his most known songs was "Pink Moon."

He influenced artists such as Robert Smith (The Cure), Peter Buck (R.E.M.), and Beck.

3 Otis Redding Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was an American singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, and talent scout.

Sure, he was popular, but not as much as he is today. Back in the 1960s, African-Americans were treated unfairly, and the Civil Rights movement was happening at the time, so it was rough for him to become more popular and commercial before his death.

When he died in a plane crash in December 1967, everybody mourned him. The next month, his label, Volt Records, released the single "(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay," which quickly went to number one, becoming his signature song, his first and only #1 hit, and the first posthumous #1 hit. He has inspired many artists and is one of my dad's favorite artists.

4 Sid Vicious John Beverly, born John Simon Ritchie, later named Sid Vicious, was an English musician, most famous as the bass guitarist of the influential punk rock band the Sex Pistols, and notorious for his arrest for the alleged murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen.

He was known for being the bassist for the punk rock band The Sex Pistols, but when he stabbed his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, things started to go wrong. He committed suicide by overdosing on heroin in 1979. He had left the band a year before his death.

The band's only album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, started to receive critical acclaim, and Vicious was known as a legend since then.

5 Jeff Buckley Jeffrey Scott "Jeff" Buckley (November 17, 1966 – May 29, 1997) raised as Scott "Scottie" Moorhead, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist... read more

He was a blues, alternative, and folk rock artist who had little commercial success and recognition during his lifetime. When his only studio album, Grace, was released in 1994, it had poor sales and mixed reviews, reaching #149 on the Billboard 200.

But after he died in 1997, it received critical acclaim and is listed by some critics as one of the greatest albums of all time. Since then, his legacy has inspired artists like Muse, Adele, and Lana Del Rey.

Jeff Buckley's only album, Grace, was released in 1994 and originally had mixed reviews and poor sales. He died from accidental drowning in 1997, and then Grace became a success, receiving critical acclaim and being listed as one of the greatest albums of all time.

It's sad that it took his death to make him famous and his only album to be listed as one of the greatest albums of all time.

6 Israel Kamakawiwo'ole Israel "Iz" Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole translation: "The Fearless Eyed"; May 20, 1959 – June 26, 1997, also called Bruddah Iz, was an American musician, entertainer and Hawaiian sovereignty activist.

He was a Hawaiian musician who played music on a ukulele. Sadly, he suffered from obesity and died in June 1997. Sometime in 1999, one of his songs, which is a medley of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World," gained notice when it was used in commercials for (the internet subsidiary of Toys R Us).

It was later used in movies such as Meet Joe Black, Finding Forrester, and 50 First Dates. The YouTube video for the song has over a billion views, and in 2021, the song was inducted into the National Recording Registry as part of the heritage of American recorded sound.

7 Jim Croce James Joseph Croce was an American folk and rock singer-songwriter. Between 1966 and 1973, Croce released five studio albums and singles. His songs "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and "Time in a Bottle" reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Sure, he was popular during his lifetime, but not as famous as he is today. By the time he died in a plane crash in September 1973, he had four Top 40 singles, with two Top 10 hits and one No. 1 hit, "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown."

Shortly after his death, his fame exploded, and the song "Time in a Bottle" was released and quickly went to #1. His songs have been featured in popular movies and TV shows, such as Stranger Things.

8 Big L Lamont Coleman (May 30, 1974 – February 15, 1999), best known by his stage name Big L, was an American hip hop recording artist, born and raised in Harlem, New York City, New York. Coleman embarked on his career in rapping, with the hip hop trio, Three the Hard Way. His first notable appearance came... read more

He was an underground rapper on the East Coast and didn't receive much recognition at the time. His debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, was released in 1995 and only peaked at #149 on the Billboard 200 charts.

After the album was released, he was slowly becoming more popular, which led to Jay-Z planning to sign him to Roc-A-Fella. But four years later, he was murdered, and his second album, The Big Picture, was unfinished. It was released the following year with remixes and additional material added to complete the album. He has influenced many rappers and is regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time.

9 Ian Curtis Ian Kevin Curtis (15 July 1956 – 18 May 1980) was an English musician and singer-songwriter. He is best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the post-punk band Joy Division... read more

He was the lead singer of the post-punk band Joy Division. He suffered from both epilepsy and depression and took his own life during the band's North American tour in 1980. After his death, one of the band's albums, Unknown Pleasures, started to receive critical acclaim, and his music influenced U2 and The Cure.

10 Selena Selena Quintanilla-Pérez was an American singer, songwriter, spokesperson, actress, and fashion designer.
The Contenders
11 Pop Smoke

He was a rapper associated with Brooklyn drill, a trap-like style that emerged in Brooklyn, New York. He was about to become popular during his lifetime, but he was unexpectedly murdered in his home in February 2020. His death was mourned by rap fans.

When his debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, was released, it became very popular, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. It is 2x Platinum as of October 2021. He is regarded as a legend by rap fans.

He had some success before he died, but he became really famous after his death.

12 Kurt Cobain Kurt Cobain was born February 20, 1967, in Aberdeen, Washington. In 1987, he started the grunge band Nirvana, which became one of the most successful bands ever. He was a talented yet troubled grunge performer. Kurt Cobain became a rock legend in the 1990s with his band. He committed suicide at his... read more

Kurt did become more popular after his death, but one of the reasons he killed himself was literally because of the fame from the media.

13 Sister Rosetta Tharpe
14 Juice WRLD Jarad Anthony Higgins (December 2, 1998 – December 8, 2019), known professionally as Juice Wrld (pronounced "juice world"; stylized as Juice WRLD), was an American rapper, singer, and songwriter. He is considered to be a leading figure in the emo-rap and SoundCloud rap genres which garnered mainstream... read more

The media mentioned his name so much that everyone started finding out who he was.

15 Chuck Berry Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter, and one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. He died on 18 March 2017.
16 Bradley Nowell Bradley James Nowell was an American musician who served as the founder, lead singer, and guitarist of the band Sublime.
17 Avicii Tim Bergling (September 8, 1989 - April 20, 2018), better known by his stage name Avicii, was a Swedish electronic musician, DJ, remixer and record producer. He is best regarded for his work in Electronic Music during the 2010s in which his works have charted among the Top 40 Radio and for his influence... read more
18 Canserbero
19 XXXTentacion Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy (January 23, 1998 - June 18, 2018), known professionally as XXXTentacion, and often referred to as X, was an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and criminal.
20 Michael Jackson Michael Jackson (Michael Joseph Jackson; August 29, 1958 – June 25, 2009) was an American singer, dancer, and songwriter. He passed away from cardiac arrest caused by a propofol and benzodiazepine overdose on June 25, 2009. He donated (at least) a remarkable 500,000,000 dollars to charity. Michael... read more
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