Rock bands tend to peak early in their life cycles, riding the wave of youthful inspiration. It's hard enough to keep a project going for years. It's almost impossible to make great albums up through the end.

In other words, not all "final albums" are created equal. Some long-haul acts slowly fizzle, trickling out average material every few years — mostly as an excuse to rev up the touring engine and play the greatest hits. Others keep the machine running organically, hitting the brakes due to inevitable creative tension, oversized egos or commercial backslides. In cases like Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Stevie Ray Vaughan, projects end in tragedy.

Some final albums are tougher to categorize. Take David Bowie's 2016 swan song, Blackstar, which he recorded after being diagnosed with liver cancer. The art-rock icon knew this batch of songs would likely be his last, and he left it behind like an artful goodbye — dying two days after its release.

We took an objective approach in compiling the Stories Behind 41 Classic Rock Final Albums. The LPs are sorted chronologically, rather than being ranked by quality. And you'll notice that, in some cases, we applied the phrase "final" liberally: While the Doors and Lynyrd Skynyrd both continued to record after L.A. Woman and Street Survivors, respectively, both of those LPs marked the end of distinctive musical eras.

We rounded up the final studio records from more than 40 of classic rock's most notable acts, diving into the music's creation, reception and broader legacy.

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