Granted, most of my musical knowledge comes from the 1980’s, but I started to think about rock groups that have had hits with different lead singers, as well as singers that left their groups that went on to have successful solo careers. I
t seems a common story from bands around that time was that they would get popular, and then the lead singer would leave for any number of reasons to pursue a solo career. Sometimes that worked out for the lead singer, most times it didn’t. And sometimes the band carried on and did fine.
Some lead singers that left successful groups to have hit solo songs include Sting from The Police, Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel from Genesis, and Peter Cetera from Chicago.
Probably the most well-known is Van Halen. With David Lee Roth, they had hits like “Jump” and “Panama.” With Sammy Hagar, their hits included “Why Can’t This Be Love?” and “Right Now.”
The group that led me down this train of thought was one as well. Survivor had a mega hit with “Eye of the Tiger” sung by Dave Bickler, yet after he left the band and was replaced by Jimi Jamison, other hits included “High On You,” “I Can’t Hold Back” and “The Search is Over.”
So, is it the singer, or the song that makes the difference? John Wetton of Asia had a number of hits with the group, and while he put out many solo albums, none of those songs got heavy radio play.
Personally, I think successful groups are due to the collective members of the band—though the singer tends to get the most attention. A perfect example of this is the group Genesis.
|Picture of Genesis back in the day|
But Genesis as a group also had hits with different lead singers. Before Peter Gabriel left the group, he sang on the hit, “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)” before having solo hits like “Sledgehammer,” “Solsbury Hill,” “Shock the Monkey” and “In Your Eyes.”
A little less know is a song by Genesis called “Congo” that was considered a hit by yet a different lead singer for Genesis, Ray Wilson, who took over for Phil Collins in 1997.
Mike Rutherford, who also played in Genesis, had quite a successful career outside of Genesis with his band Mike + The Mechanics, probably best known for their songs “The Living Years” and “All I Need is a Miracle.”
But wait, there’s more! Steven Hackett who was the original guitarist for Genesis had a solo hit with “Cell 151” and later, he joined GTR who had a huge hit with “When the Heart Rules the Mind.”
So, is it the singer, or the song? I say it’s a combo. After all, how many songs have been redone by other artists and have become hits. But that’s a blog for another time.