List of posthumous number ones on the UK Singles Chart

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A man with long dark hair and a beard, wearing glasses and a white jacket, playing a guitar
John Lennon achieved three number ones within two months of his murder in December 1980.

The death of a popular musician, and likewise, the use of a dead musician's work in advertising, often causes a sharp increase in sales of the musician's recordings and associated products; this has led to a number of posthumous number one singles in the UK and elsewhere.[1][2][3][4] The phenomenon, a topic of discussion in both the media and academia,[5] has occurred 19 times in the UK since 1959.

The UK Singles Chart is a record chart compiled on behalf of the British record industry based on sales of singles in the UK. Since 1997, the chart has been compiled by The Official Charts Company and was based entirely on sales of physical singles from retail outlets until 2005, when digital downloads were included in the chart compilation.[6][7] The UK Singles Chart originated in 1952, when New Musical Express (NME) published the first chart of singles sales.[8] The positions of all songs are based on week end sale totals, from Sunday to Saturday,[9] but pre-1987, the charts were released on a Tuesday due to the need for manual calculation.[6]

The first deceased artist to top the charts was Buddy Holly, who died in a plane crash on 3 February 1959. Three weeks later his song "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" entered the charts, and in later April it reached number one. In the 1960s Eddie Cochran and Jim Reeves achieved their first, and as of 2011 only, UK number ones after their deaths, as did Jimi Hendrix in 1970.[10] In August 1977 the "King of Rock'n Roll",[11] Elvis Presley, died of a heart attack and his song "Way Down", which was already in the charts at the time, quickly climbed to number one.[12] Presley achieved four further posthumous number ones in the 2000s. In 2002 his song "A Little Less Conversation", a little-known former B-side, topped the charts after being remixed by Dutch dance music producer Junkie XL for a television advertisement for Nike, which broke Presley's long-standing tie with The Beatles for the most UK number ones.[4] Three years later three of his singles returned to the top spot when all his previous number one singles were re-issued to mark what would have been his 70th birthday.[13]

In late 1980 and early 1981 three singles by John Lennon reached number one in quick succession following his murder on 8 December 1980. His fellow former member of The Beatles, George Harrison, achieved a posthumous number one in 2002 when a re-issue of his song "My Sweet Lord", originally a number one in 1971, entered the chart at number one. In doing so, he knocked "More than a Woman" by American singer Aaliyah from the top spot, the first time that two deceased artists had topped the charts in consecutive weeks.[14]

Number ones[edit]

A dark-haired young man, wearing a dark jacket and trousers and a striped top, dancing
Elvis Presley has achieved five posthumous number-one hits, one shortly after his death in 1977 and four in the 2000s with re-releases of older songs.
Head and shoulders view of a man with long dark hair and a moustache
In 2002 George Harrison knocked Aaliyah off the top spot, the first time that one deceased artist had replaced another at number one.

The following singles were all explicitly credited (either wholly or partially) to deceased artists when they reached number one on the UK Singles Chart. Singles featuring deceased artists who did not receive an explicit credit (e.g. as a member of a band) are not included.

Artist Single Date of death Reached
number one[a][15]
Weeks at
number one
Ref.
Holly, BuddyBuddy Holly "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" 3 February 1959[16] 25 April 1959 3 [17]
Cochran, EddieEddie Cochran "Three Steps to Heaven" 17 April 1960[18] 25 June 1960 2 [19]
Reeves, JimJim Reeves "Distant Drums" 31 July 1964[20] 24 September 1966 5 [21]
Hendrix, JimiJimi Hendrix "Voodoo Chile"[b] 18 September 1970[22] 21 November 1970 1 [23]
Presley, ElvisElvis Presley "Way Down" 16 August 1977[24] 3 September 1977 5 [25]
Lennon, JohnJohn Lennon "(Just Like) Starting Over" 8 December 1980[26] 20 December 1980 1 [27]
Lennon, JohnJohn Lennon "Imagine" 8 December 1980[26] 10 January 1981 4 [28]
Lennon, JohnJohn Lennon "Woman" 8 December 1980[26] 7 February 1981 2 [28]
Wilson, JackieJackie Wilson "Reet Petite" 21 January 1984[29] 27 December 1986 4 [30]
Mercury, FreddieFreddie Mercury "Living on My Own" 24 November 1991[31] 14 August 1993 2 [32]
Aaliyah "More than a Woman" 25 August 2001[33] 19 January 2002 1 [34]
Harrison, GeorgeGeorge Harrison "My Sweet Lord" 29 November 2001[35] 26 January 2002 1 [34]
Presley, ElvisElvis Presley "A Little Less Conversation"[c] 16 August 1977[24] 22 June 2002 4 [34]
Presley, ElvisElvis Presley "Jailhouse Rock" 16 August 1977[24] 9 January 2005 1 [36]
Presley, ElvisElvis Presley "One Night" / "I Got Stung" 16 August 1977[24] 16 January 2005 1 [36]
Presley, ElvisElvis Presley "It's Now or Never" 16 August 1977[24] 30 January 2005 1 [36]
2Pac "Ghetto Gospel"[d] 13 September 1996[37] 2 July 2005 3 [36]
The Notorious B.I.G. "Nasty Girl"[e] 9 March 1997[38] 4 February 2006 2 [39]
Cassidy, EvaEva Cassidy "What a Wonderful World"[f] 2 November 1996[40] 22 December 2007 1 [41]
  1. ^ This date represents the "week ending" date listed on the chart in question.
  2. ^ Credited to The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  3. ^ Credited to Elvis vs JXL.
  4. ^ Credited to 2Pac featuring Elton John.
  5. ^ Credited to The Notorious B.I.G. featuring Diddy, Nelly, Jagged Edge and Avery Storm.
  6. ^ Duet with Katie Melua.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

General
Specific
  1. ^ Silverman, Rosa (25 July 2011). "Sales of Amy Winehouse records surge". The Independent (London). Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  2. ^ Christman, Ed; Bruno, Antony (3 July 2009). "Michael Jackson sales surge expected to last months". Reuters. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  3. ^ Gray, Marcus (26 October 2007). "Is that my bassline I can hear?". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Elvis makes chart history". BBC News. 16 June 2002. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  5. ^ Brandes, Leif (11 February 2011). "Selling The Drama" (PDF). University of Zurich. Retrieved 9 September 2011. 
  6. ^ a b Roberts, p.14
  7. ^ "New singles formats to save the charts". BBC News. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  8. ^ "The story of the single". BBC News. 23 March 2001. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  9. ^ "FAQ". The Official UK Charts Company. Archived from the original on 13 December 2007. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  10. ^ Roberts, pp.113, 237, 417
  11. ^ Gilchrist, Jim (13 August 2007). "Elvis. . . the King of rock'n'roll who'll never lose his crown". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  12. ^ Roberts, p.399
  13. ^ Jones, Alan (10 January 2005). "Jailhouse Rock tops UK singles chart". Music Week. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  14. ^ Hurley, James (7 May 2011). "George Harrison and Aaliyah's posthumous double header". MSN Music. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  15. ^ Roberts, p.644
  16. ^ "1959: Buddy Holly killed in air crash". BBC News. 3 February 1959. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  17. ^ "All the Number 1 Singles". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 24 August 2011. 
  18. ^ "Eddie Cochran". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  19. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1960". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  20. ^ "Jim Reeves". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  21. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1966". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  22. ^ "Jimi Hendrix". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  23. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1970". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  24. ^ a b c d e "1977: Rock and roll 'king' Presley dies". BBC News. 16 August 1977. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  25. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1977". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  26. ^ a b c "1980: John Lennon shot dead". BBC News. 8 December 1980. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  27. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1980". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  28. ^ a b "All the Number One Singles: 1981". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  29. ^ "Jackie Wilson". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  30. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1986". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  31. ^ "Freddie Mercury". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  32. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 1993". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  33. ^ "Aaliyah". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  34. ^ a b c "All the Number One Singles: 2002". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  35. ^ "George Harrison". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  36. ^ a b c d "All the Number One Singles: 2005". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  37. ^ "2Pac". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  38. ^ "The Notorious B.I.G.". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  39. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 2006". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011. 
  40. ^ "Eva Cassidy". Allmusic. Retrieved 25 July 2011. 
  41. ^ "All the Number One Singles: 2007". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 23 August 2011.