Change is a constant in the world of music. While some bands maintain their original lineup, others choose a new direction by replacing their lead singer. This can be a gamble, a leap into the unknown, but it can also be an opportunity for renewal and reinvention. In this article, we look at 10 bands that have chosen a new voice, for whatever reason.
AC/DC – Replacing Bon Scott with Brian Johnson
The raw energy of Bon Scott defined the early sound of AC/DC. However, his sudden death in 1980 put the band in a difficult position. After a careful search, they chose Brian Johnson, a former singer of Geordie. The result? “Back in Black”, an album that was not only a tribute to Scott but also became the best-selling rock album of all time. It’s a testament to the band’s resilience and their ability to turn tragedy into triumph.
Black Sabbath – Replacing Ozzy Osbourne with Ronnie James Dio
The dark tones of Black Sabbath were originally delivered by the incomparable Ozzy Osbourne. But after a decade of success and excess, the band decided to take a new direction and replaced Osbourne with Ronnie James Dio. Although the band’s style changed, they retained their heavy sound and introduced classics like “Heaven and Hell”. Dio’s time with the band was short-lived, and in the following years, many singers would take the microphone, including Deep Purple’s Ian Gillan.
Blood, Sweat and Tears – Replacing Al Kooper with David Clayton-Thomas
The jazz-rock fusion of Blood, Sweat and Tears was originally led by Al Kooper. But after their debut album, Kooper was replaced by Canadian David Clayton-Thomas. Under his leadership, the band reached new heights with hits like “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” and “Spinning Wheel”. It’s a reminder of how a change of frontman can transform a band and help them explore new musical horizons.
Deep Purple – Replacing Rod Evans with Ian Gillan
Deep Purple, known for their powerful riffs and extensive solos, began their journey with Rod Evans as the lead singer. But it was only when Ian Gillan joined the band that they achieved their iconic status with songs like “Smoke on the Water”. Gillan’s voice, combined with the band’s musical virtuosity, made Deep Purple one of the pioneers of hard rock and heavy metal.
The Doobie Brothers Replacing Tom Johnston with Michael McDonald
The sunny Californian sounds of The Doobie Brothers were originally delivered by Tom Johnston. But health issues forced Johnston to step back, and the band decided to take a new direction with Michael McDonald. With his soulful voice, McDonald brought a new dimension to the band, leading to hits like “What a Fool Believes”. It’s a perfect example of how a band can evolve and reinvent itself.
Fleetwood Mac, named after founders Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, has had various singers and styles over the years. From the bluesy sounds of Peter Green to the soft rock of Bob Welch. But it was only when Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined the band that they became global superstars. Their unique voices and songwriting took the band to unprecedented heights, with timeless hits like “Go Your Own Way” and “Rhiannon”. Although the band has undergone various lineup changes over the years, their musical legacy remains undisputed.
Genesis – Replacing Peter Gabriel with Phil Collins
The progressive rock band Genesis began their journey with the theatrical and charismatic Peter Gabriel as the frontman. His unique voice and stage presence defined the band’s early sound. However, after his departure, drummer Phil Collins took over the lead vocals, leading to a more mainstream sound and worldwide success. Under Collins’ leadership, the band produced hits like “Invisible Touch” and “Land of Confusion”, reaching a new audience.
Jefferson Starship – Replacing Marty Balin with Mickey Thomas
Emerging from the legendary Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship began with a mix of former members, including Paul Kantner and Grace Slick. However, it was the return of co-founder Marty Balin that led the band to commercial success with hits like “Miracles”. After his departure, Mickey Thomas took over the lead vocals, leading to a more mainstream rock sound and hits like “We Built This City”.
The Moody Blues – Replacing Denny Laine with Justin Hayward
The Moody Blues began their career with Denny Laine as the lead singer, but after his departure, Justin Hayward took over. Under his leadership, the band evolved from an R&B group to pioneers of symphonic rock. With classics like “Nights in White Satin” and “Tuesday Afternoon”, they established themselves as one of the most influential bands of their generation.
Pink Floyd – Replacing Syd Barrett with Roger Waters and David Gilmour
Pink Floyd’s psychedelic early years were defined by the creative vision of Syd Barrett. However, his mental health issues led to his departure, and the band had to reinvent themselves. Roger Waters and David Gilmour took over the lead vocals and led the band to their most successful and influential period with albums like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall”. Their ability to adapt and evolve in the face of change is a testament to their musical genius.