Sonic Afterlife

All our music heroes are dead—let’s raid their vaults


From Prince and David Bowie to Leonard Cohen and Merle Haggard (and Blowfly—let’s never forget Blowfly), 2016 might have seen the largest pool of inductees into the Dead Rock Stars Club ever. And judging by the music gods’ wrath, they’ll probably snatch up a few more icons in the next two days for good measure. (I’m knocking on wood that it doesn’t actually happen … but if the committee’s inquiring, might I suggest Kanye West?)

If there is a sonic silver lining to the tragedies of 2016, it’s that history has proven that after we’re done crying our sad little eyes out to “Space Oddity,” we’re going to be blessed with some phenomenal posthumous releases of Janis Joplin’s Pearl/Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death proportions.

Who knows what these greats have hidden in their vaults? While Bowie’s Blackstar was very much a goodbye letter (”Look up here, I’m in heaven,” the Starman sang on “Lazarus”), he reportedly has unheard material spanning his entire career that he planned to release. Newsweek reported back in January that Bowie has enough to satiate fans for years to come, and that the first release will arrive in 2017. Let’s hope that’s true.

Hip-hop heads can look forward to a new album from Phife Dawg. As if hearing the Five-Foot Assassin on A Tribe Called Quest’s final record, We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service, wasn’t an audible treat, his wife announced in November that a new solo record from the self-proclaimed “funky diabetic” is due out in early 2017. Tell your mother, tell your father, send a telegram.

We know that Prince hopped in the studio with Kendrick Lamar during the To Pimp a Butterfly sessions, but no recordings came to fruition. Still, there’s gotta be some secret, unexpected collaborations in the elusive Purple One’s unreleased archives. I’d go so far as to swim to the bottom of Lake Minnetonka to fetch ’em.

While I’m excited to hear what’s to come, I know money-grubbing record labels may try to force posthumous releases on us. Remember when Bad Boy put out Duets with a Biggie and Korn collaboration? Hopefully they don’t bastardize any legacies with something as atrocious as that.