All good things must come to an end, they say. And unfortunately that includes the careers of our favorite bands and solo artists.

For some, the finale arrives sooner than expected. John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, to name a few, left the world early and thus their last musical releases were, well, not exactl meant to be their last.

For others, there's a sense of preparedness. David Bowie, for example, knew his terminal diagnosis would cut his career short. Less gloomy are the circumstances in which a band is clear about their end. Simon & Garfunkel, the Band and Pink Floyd are examples of this – after years of music making, it's simply time to move on to a new chapter.

In no particular order, we're taking a look at 50 "Last" Releases From Rock Artists — their swan songs, if you will. Most were released as official singles, others appeared as closing tracks on final albums. A number of them arrived well after the dissolution of bands or the death of crucial band members. Regardless, each left a lasting mark in their respective artists' careers.

1. Simon & Garfunkel, "My Little Town"

By the time Simon & Garfunkel's "My Little Town" came out in 1975, the duo had been split up for half a decade. But this was a reconciliation. Paul Simon was then at work on a new solo album, but something about "My Little Town" begged for his old partner's contribution, and so they collaborated once again in the studio. It was a Top 10 hit and their last original song together.

 

2. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, "Leave Virginia Alone"

If Tom Petty's "Leave Virginia Alone" sounds familiar to you, that may be because Rod Stewart recorded it for his 1995 album, A Spanner in the Works. It had originally been intended for Petty's Wildflowers, but deemed too similar to another song for inclusion. Close to 30 years later — and three years after his death — Petty's own version finally arrived.

 

3. Van Halen, "She's the Woman"

Not long after Van Halen released their 12th album, A Different Kind of Truth, in 2012, Eddie Van Halen's health began a more rapid decline. Eight years later, he died at the age of 65. Thus, the last official single to be released from Van Halen was "She's the Woman."

 

4. Elvis Presley, "Way Down"

An enormous amount of Elvis Presley music has been released posthumously, much of it previously recorded live or released in some other capacity. But here we're looking back to just before the King of Rock 'n' Roll passed away. Moody Blue arrived a month before his death, with the last single, "Way Down," released on June 6, 1977.

 

5. David Bowie, "I Can't Give Everything Away"

Since Bowie's passing in January 2016, there's been some vault activity, but none of it, arguably, has had the same kind of impact as the third and final single from Blackstar, Bowie's final studio album. The LP's first two singles arrived prior to Bowie's death, but "I Can't Give Everything Away" came after, making it his first posthumously released single. There would be more archival music to come, but this was the final offering Bowie made sure to give away.

 

6. The Beatles, "Now and Then"

The 2023 promotional campaign for the Beatles' "Now and Then" made it very clear: this was the last ever Beatles song. Using an old demo tape recorded by Lennon in the late '70s, plus previously recorded guitar parts by George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, a final  collaboration was able to take place.

 

7. John Lennon, "Watching the Wheels"

Let's rewind the tape even further. Like Bowie, Lennon's last official single arrived posthumously. "Watching the Wheels," from Double Fantasy, came out in March of 1981, several months after his murder in New York City. It went to No. 10 in the U.S.

 

8. George Harrison, "Any Road"

Lennon was the first Beatle to leave behind a posthumous last single, but not the only. Harrison's "Any Road" appeared on 2002's Brainwashed, and again as a single in May 2003. (Harrison died in 2001.) Jeff Lynne and Jim Keltner, longtime collaborators, played on the track, along with Harrison's own son, Dhani.

 

9. Billy Joel, "All My Life"

After over a decade away from songwriting, Billy Joel surprised his fans in 2007 with "All My Life," a song he wrote for his then-wife Katie Lee. (Joel stopped writing new songs after the release of River of Dreams in 1993.) It's impossible to say whether or not Joel would ever do something like this again, but for the present, it appears he's sticking to his non-writing routine.

 

10. Pink Floyd, "Hey Hey Rise Up"

In case you haven't noticed over the last few years, the former members of Pink Floyd do not all get along. In 2022, David Gilmour and Nick Mason recorded a song in support of Ukraine titled "Hey Hey Rise Up," and though it was credited to Pink Floyd, Roger Waters did not contribute to the track. And in case it got you hopeful about a potential reunion and more music, Gilmour made sure to emphasize this was a "one-off" endeavor.

 

11. Led Zeppelin, "Fool in the Rain"

Led Zeppelin's reign was not all that long compared to other rock bands, but they certainly made the most of it. In December of 1979, just about a year before they would officially call it quits, they released "Fool in the Rain," the only single from In Through the Out Door. Led Zeppelin never performed it live, and once drummer John Bonham died in December 1980, it became evident that the band had run its course.

 

12. Nirvana, "Pennyroyal Tea"

On March 1, 1994, Nirvana performed a concert in Munich, Germany, with no idea it would be their last. By April 5, Kurt Cobain was dead at the age of 27. The third single from In Utero, "Pennyroyal Tea," was supposed to be put out the following month, but the release was canceled on account of Cobain's death. Though the single had been made and distributed in some countries, very few copies survived this era.

 

13. Talking Heads, "Sax and Violins"

In December of 1991, Talking Heads ended. The same month, their very last song, "Sax and Violins," arrived. It appeared in the science fiction film Until the End of the World, a poorly received endeavor directed by Wim Wenders. The song, though, was not unsuccessful when released as a single, reaching No. 1 on the U.S. Modern Rock Tracks chart.

 

14. The Allman Brothers Band, "Old Friend"

The road was not always easy for the Allman Brothers Band, whose career was peppered with loss. Their final album, Hittin' the Note, arrived in 2003, and though there were no official singles from it, the closing track touches on that lasting sense of grief: "You know hard times just an old friend / just an old friend to me."

 

15. The Doors, "An American Prayer"

Seven years after Jim Morrison's passing, his voice was revived. In 1978, the Doors released An American Prayer, featuring music the remaining band members wrote to accompany some of Morrison's spoken word recordings. The title track closes the album, a bittersweet sendoff: "Where are the feasts we were promised? Where is the wine?"

 

16. Jimi Hendrix, "Stepping Stone"

Hendrix's career lasted less than a decade, but he wasted no time during it. On April 8, 1970, he released "Stepping Stone," a song whose origins can be heard in Hendrix's Woodstock performance. Five months later, the guitarist would be dead at the age of 27, and other versions of the song would be released posthumously.

 

17. The Grateful Dead, "Just a Little Light"

While it might be true that the spirit of the Grateful Dead has lived on even after their dissolution — especially with the Dead and Company spinoff — the reality is that the original Dead effectively ended when Jerry Garcia died in 1995. Their last studio single was "Just a Little Light," featuring keyboardist Brent Mydland on lead vocals.

 

18. Rush, "The Garden"

Rush's career didn't so much end abruptly as it fizzled out. Their final album, Clockwork Angels, was released in 2012, with the final single, "The Garden," arriving in April 2013. "I've always wanted to do that kind of song where the melody was the thing that made it connect with you, that gave it resonance, where the voice kind of comes out of the soundscape and delivers the story to you in a heartfelt way," Geddy Lee said at the time. "To achieve that without it being schmaltzy or feeling forced, and with the music around the voice to be very relaxed, I think can only come from years of playing and from confidence."

 

19. The White Stripes, "Conquest"

The very last single the White Stripes released before their breakup was actually not even one of their own songs. It was a cover of "Conquest," written by Corky Robbins and made popular in the '50s by singer Patti Page. In addition to Jack and Meg White, Regulo Aldama played trumpet on the track.

 

20. Black Sabbath, "Isolated Man"

The title of Black Sabbath's 2016 EP The End is pretty self-explanatory. Produced by Rick Rubin, the eight-track project was recorded during the same time as 2013's 13. Four of the tracks were live recordings from previous tour stops, meaning the last original studio track to be released was "Isolated Man."

 

21. The Band, "French Girls"

After years on the road and more than a few concerning accidents involving substances, the Band retired from live performing with 1976's The Last Waltz. But that wasn't the end of their recording career. A few more albums followed, the last of which, Jubilation, arrived in 1998. It didn't include all the original members — Robbie Robertson did not participate and Richard Manuel died in 1994 — but it was still credited to the Band. The closing track was penned by their quietest member, Garth Hudson, an instrumental song titled "French Girls."

 

22. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "No Tears Left"

The exact lineup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young changed a number of times over the years. In the late '90s, Neil Young rejoined the group and the result was 1999's Looking Forward, the last album CSNY would release, and Stephen Stills' "No Tears Left" became the final single.

 

23. David Crosby, "Rodriguez for a Night"

David Crosby's death in January 2023 came as a surprise to many. Just two years earlier, he'd released what would wind up his final album, For Free, featuring guests like Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen. Crosby's last single, then, was "Rodriguez for a Night," which was co-written with Fagen and Crosby's own son, Raymond.

 

24. The Monkees, "Unwrap You at Christmas"

Who would have thought the Monkees' final song would be a holiday one? The beloved TV-born band put out their last album in 2018, simply titled Christmas Party. "Unwrap You at Christmas" was the only single, written by Andy Partridge of XTC and sung by Micky Dolenz.

 

25. Bob Seger, "Busload of Faith"

Technically, Bob Seger only said he's not interested in touring anymore, not necessarily making music overall, but it's become pretty clear over the last few years that he's aiming to slow down and seems to speak about his career in the past tense. He released his last album, I Knew You When, in 2017, with one single, "Busload of Faith."

 

26. Jeff Beck, "This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr"

Over the summer of 2022, Jeff Beck released 18, a collaborative album recorded with Johnny Depp, featuring covers of the Velvet Underground's "Venus in Furs," Brian Wilson's "Caroline No" and others. Fans didn't know it at the time, but this would be the last music Beck put forth before his death in January 2023. "This Is a Song for Miss Hedy Lamarr," one of only two originals on 18, was its one and only single.

 

27. The Kinks, "Scattered"

Since roughly the mid '90s, Ray and Dave Davies of the Kinks have focused on their respective solo careers. Though there have been a number of re-releases, the last original single they put out was 1993's "Scattered," a song that was in part dedicated to Annie Florence Davies, the brothers' mother.

 

28. Little Richard, "Puppy Dog Song"

Sometimes, things get put on the back burner. Such was the case with Little Richard's Southern Child, an album that was originally intended for release in 1972, but was shelved until 2005, when it finally saw the light of day and served as Richard's final album. Its closing track was "Puppy Dog Song," co-written with Chuck Rainey.

 

29. Meat Loaf, "Speaking in Tongues"

It wound up fitting that Meat Loaf and his longtime collaborator Jim Steinman died approximately a year apart from one another in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Their last album together, Braver Than We Are, arrived in 2016, with the final single being "Speaking in Tongues," featuring Stacy Michelle.

 

30. Warren Zevon, "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"

Warren Zevon knew he was dying when he began recording 2003's The Wind, shortly after being diagnosed with inoperable cancer. His cover of Bob Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door," released as the album's last single, is about as poignant as they come — a man well aware that the space between him and whatever comes after life was approaching fast, and yet didn't scare him.

 

31. Buffalo Springfield, "On the Way Home"

By the time "On the Way Home" was released as a single in 1968, Buffalo Springfield was more or less over. It's fitting, then, that their final album together was titled Last Time Around, though it was finished mostly to satisfy contractual agreements. "On the Way Home" is the only song on the album to feature original bassist Bruce Palmer, plus Richie Furay singing the lead vocal and Neil Young playing piano.

 

32. The Byrds, "Full Circle"

Is there a better title for a last release than "Full Circle?" Arguably not. In 1973, the Byrds reunited to record the self-titled album that would become their last. "Full Circle," penned by Gene Clark, was released as a single twice: once in April 1973 and again in August 1978.

 

33. Dio, "Electra"

"Electra" was not only the last single released by Dio prior to Ronnie James Dio's death in May 2010, but also the last song the band recorded together before his passing. "It's a really good song," Dio said in an interview conducted in 2009, the same year he was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

 

34. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Someday Never Comes"

CCR's breakup was not exactly clean. In fact, their last album, Mardi Gras, was also their first and only to be recorded as a trio, following the departure of Tom Fogerty. Even then, tensions were still high amongst the remaining members. "Someday Never Comes" served as the final single, penned by John Fogerty. The band would split up not long after the LP was released in April 1972.

 

35. Dire Straits, "Ticket to Heaven"

Dire Straits went out on the biggest bang they could. The follow-up to the highly successful Brothers in Arms (1985) was 1991's On Every Street, co-produced by the band and Mark Knopfler himself. Six singles were released, the last of which was "Ticket to Heaven."

 

36. Emerson, Lake & Palmer, "Street War"

Unfortunately, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's final album, 1994's In the Hot Seat, was a commercial flop. Its closing track, "Street War," had actually been started by Greg Lake several years prior during 1988 sessions with Geoff Downes, at last finding a home on In the Hot Seat.

 

37. Stevie Ray Vaughan, "Little Wing"

There are few guitarists who wouldn't name Stevie Ray Vaughan as one of the most influential blues players there ever was. Vaughan died in a helicopter crash in 1990, but a little over a year later, a posthumous album titled The Sky Is Crying arrived. The last single was a cover of Hendrix's "Little Wing," with a fitting "fly on" message.

 

38. Cream, "Badge"

If it wasn't clear from the title of Cream's final album, Goodbye, the band was already over by the time the album was released in February 1969. A month after that came their last single, "Badge," which was co-written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison. (It was a Top 20 hit in the U.K.)

 

39. Janis Joplin, "Get It While You Can"

"We may not be here tomorrow," Janis Joplin sings in "Get It While You Can," the last single from 1971's Pearl. It was only her second solo album, but it was already a posthumous one — Joplin died in October 1970, three months before it was released.

 

40. Marvin Gaye, "Lucky, Lucky Me'

Like a few other songs on this list, Marvin Gaye's "Lucky, Lucky Me" is an example of something recorded and ultimately shelved. Gaye recorded "Lucky, Lucky Me" in 1964, but it would be another 30 years before it saw the light of day on 1994's The Very Best of Marvin Gaye, which also marked a decade since his death.

 

41. Leonard Cohen, "Moving On"

There is only so much time in one's life. The last album Leonard Cohen released in his lifetime was 2016's You Want It Darker, but the journey wasn't quite over there. Thanks for the Dance arrived in 2019, featuring leftover compositions from 2016, finished with the help of Cohen's son, Adam. "[We had] conversations about what instrumentation and what feelings he wanted the completed work to evoke," Adam told The New York Times in 2019, "sadly, the fact that I would be completing them without him was given." "Moving On" was the last single, released in January 2020.

 

42. Oasis, "Falling Down"

It's one of the best known sibling splits in music: the Oasis brothers. In March of 2009, the band released their very last single, "Falling Down," from Dig Out Your Soul. Less than six months later, Oasis was no more and have not reunited since.

 

43. The Clash, "This Is England"

After half a dozen albums, the Clash called it quits at the top of 1986. Just before that, they released Cut the Crap, which included their last single, "This Is England," an anthemic number about the then-current state of Britain.

 

44. Funkadelic, "Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?"

Following Funkadelic's dissolution in the '80s, George Clinton kept fans interested with his P-Funk collective. Then, in 2014, Funkadelic miraculously returned with First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate. The second and last single, "Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?," was released along with Clinton's autobiography, Brothers Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard On You?

 

45. The Cars, "Free"

In 2011, a year after reuniting, the Cars released Move Like This, which wound up at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 and was their first and only album without bassist/vocalist Benjamin Orr. Their final single was "Free." This was followed by a tour, but the Cars have been dormant ever since.

 

46. Roy Orbison, "I Will Always"

In 1966, Roy Orbison's wife Claudette died in a motorcycle accident. Two years later, a fire destroyed his home and killed two of his sons. In 1969, understandably not the man he once was, Orbison stepped into the studio and recorded an album titled One of the Lonely Ones. It went unreleased for close to 50 years, but in 2015, Orbison's family found the project in the archives and finally released it. Its final track was a song written by Don Gibson, "I Will Always."

 

47. INXS, "Mediate"

INX's final project ended up being pretty unique. In 2010, they released Original Sin, an album full of re-recordings of their older songs, "re-invented," as Jon Farriss put it at the time. Their last single, then, was a brand new version of 1987's "Mediate," featuring the British rapper Tricky.

 

48. Aretha Franklin, "Rolling in the Deep"

Who would have thought that Aretha Franklin's final single would be none other than a cover of one of the biggest hits of the 21st century? Franklin's rendition of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" also featured a snippet of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and appeared on 2014's Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics.

 

49. Robert Palmer, "Need Your Love So Bad"

Approximately four months before his death in September 2003, Robert Palmer put out Drive, an album of mostly covers. The last of them was "Need Your Love So Bad," the classic blues number first recorded by Little Willie John in 1955.

 

50. Jimmy Buffett, "Bubbles Up"

Jimmy Buffet, who died in September 2023, left an inspiring parting gift for his fans in the form of a final single titled "Bubbles Up." "When the journey gets long / Just know that you are loved," he sings. "There is light up above / And the joy is always enough / Bubbles up."

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Gallery Credit: Ultimate Classic Rock Staff

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