The Tragic Backstories of Artists' Final Songs

Fame isn’t always full of highs. Sometimes, there are lows. Sometimes, there are tragedies. Sometimes, it’s just one’s time to go. In a world where many aspire to live until their 70s or 80s, to have a musician you love pass as young as 27 or 42 is devastating. It’s almost like it breaks the spell that these people practically worshipped by society are not unattainable deities. They’re just regular people, like anyone else. They can meet the same tragic fate that anyone can. Sometimes, fame is what brings that downfall. One thing that we can cling to when an artist dies (beyond their memories) is their works of art. The songs they leave behind play in the speakers of our cars, at backyard parties, and in our hearts, no matter how long ago the musician has passed. The final song recorded by an artist can be memorialized for decades, the last recorded song by someone who is no longer with us.

Today, I’m diving into the tragic backstories of some of those musician deaths. While an artist’s last song can have no correlation to their death, and oftentimes that is the case, sometimes, there are strange stories behind the final songs. Coincidences seem too convenient. Song lyrics take on a new meaning. So, let’s dive into these eerie stories.

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Freddie Mercury’s Fearful Final Words

Freddie Mercury was a national treasure and one of the biggest names in music in the 1970s. This section is including two songs that have mysterious circumstances on top of being around Mercury’s death.

September 5, 1991. Freddie Mercury’s 45th birthday.

The song “These Are the Days of Our Lives” was released in the US. It’s considered one of the most significant singles off Queen’s album, Innuendo. This is the case because of the accompanying music video which is some of the last footage of Freddie Mercury while he was still alive.

At the time that the video was being shot, Mercury was in really bad shape. To hide the severity of Mercury’s deteriorating health, the video was shot in black and white. Knowing this adds a darker aura to the entire video. Beyond this, the final lyrics of the song feel haunting knowing that they’re the last words recorded on camera of Mercury. As the last notes fade, Mercury says “I still love you” while looking straight at the camera. It feels as if he’s speaking directly to his fans, a form of goodbye. Freddie Mercury died just a little over two months later on November 24, 1991.

The music video was featured during the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert the following year, bringing tears to the eyes of fans all over the world.

While “These Are the Days of Our Lives” is the last video recording of Mercury, the last song co-written by Brian May and Freddie Mercury was “Mother Love.” At Queen’s recording base of Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, they began recording in May 1991. It is the last song that Mercury ever recorded. “Mother Love” is a fitting final song as it demonstrates the pain and sadness Freddie was feeling (and that May was witnessing) during the singer’s last year alive. In the song he begs for “comfort and care,” and pleads, “I long for peace before I die.” Unfortunately, due to Mercury’s health, the song wasn’t completely finished. His body just couldn’t make it for the whole song as he was only six months away from his death. It was said that after he finished his second verse, he said, “Oh I don’t feel too well. I’m going to go home and we'll finish it tomorrow.” But he never did. That was the last time Mercury was in their studio.

About two years later, the remaining members of Queen got together to finish those final recordings for “Mother Love” with Brian May singing the final verse of “Mother Love” in Mercury’s absence. The remaining bits of the song was used as a sing-along from Queen’s famous 1986 show at Wembley Stadium and a 1972 sample of Freddie singing, “I think I’m going back to the things I learnt so well in my youth.” In the end, you can hear a baby’s cry. The members of Queen used it to convey a circle of life message, in tribute to Mercury.

Jimi Hendrix’s Full Circle Final Thoughts

Jimi Hendrix was a guitar legend most popular in the 1960s for giving a new definition for what could be done on an electric guitar. Beyond his guitar playing, he was a talented singer and composer who fused American traditions in genres like jazz, rock, and soul with techniques from British avant-garde rock. He was a legendary figure that still inspires thousands of musicians today. Sadly, his life ended too soon. At the age of 27, he was killed from drug-related asphyxiation. His final song, as it turned out, was exceptionally poetic without meaning to be. You see, the last studio recording that Jimi Hendrix made before his death was a song about being born.

Hendrix wrote the country blues tune about the months leading up to being born. In the song, he imagines what it would be like for a growing fetus to observe his parents from the vantage point of a “Belly Button Window.” It’s been said that his inspiration for the song stemmed from Hendrix’s bandmate Mitch Mitchell who was expecting a baby soon. However, it has also been said that Hendrix drew inspiration from his own unhappy childhood memories. The song’s lyrics describe parents who are unhappy with the pregnancy, saying, “I swear I see nothing but a lot of frowns / And I’m wondering if they want me around.”

The lyrics for the song were written before the melody, and the lyrics were initially plugged in with the song’s melody for “Midnight Lightning” but they wound up not blending the two together. On August 22, Hendrix recorded the final, bluesy version of the track. As they were getting “Belly Button Window” together with the final melody, Hendrix was also spending time considering what new recordings would be on his next album. Only Hendrix would not live to see it released.

Days after the session, Hendrix, Mitchell, and Billy Cox left for the UK to play the 1970 Isle of Wight festival and then more dates in Europe, set to begin in September. Sadly, some of those dates never happened because, on September 18, 1970, Hendrix passed away. Less than a month after laying down “Belly Button Window,” Hendrix had died.

The final recording from the guitar legend later became the closing track on his first posthumous album, Cry of Love. Many find it strange that the last song written and recorded by Hendrix before he died was actually a song about starting life as a baby. It’s almost like reincarnation. A song about birth as one dies. The coincidence of the song’s subject matter is quite eerie, but also poetic in a way.