Let’s face it – the front man or woman of a band is usually the focal point of the group, and it’s their voice and image that we most readily identify with in the band. However, nothing last forever, and sometimes lead singers suffer from a case of exploding ego, which makes them insufferable to be around. In more extreme cases, those lead singers with over inflated egos, massive drug and alcohol addictions, and crippling insecurities often inconveniently die or commit suicide. Join us as we count down famous bands who have replaced their lead singers – some more successfully than others.
It was always going to be a big ask to replace a larger than life rock god like Michael Hutchence following his death in what was apparently an elaborate wank gone wrong. However, the remaining band members subjected the band’s legacy to an epic fail – first by getting has-been Noiseworks singer Jon Stevens to join on vocals and then by starring in a reality TV show to find them a new singer. The band completed ruining their legacy by settling on Canadian session singer and cocaine addict JD Fortune.
The prog rock band were once fronted by Peter Gabriel, who left after a falling out with the rest of the band in the mid 1970s. In a left field move, they moved the lead vocal mic down the back of the stage and let balding drummer Phil Collins take over singing duties. Surprisingly, it worked! The band took on a more commercial approach and started racking up the hits, such as ‘Invisible Touch’ while Gabriel’s solo career started notching up hits such as ‘Sledgehammer’.
Originally conceived as a supergroup featuring members of Guns n’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, after persistent junkie Scott Weiland decided to up sticks and return to a reformed Stone Temple Pilots, the band have been looking in vain for a new singer for the best part of three years.
One of the more successful replacements of lead singers in band history, FNM had struggled through the 1980s with lead singer Chuck Mosley, scoring a minor hit in the middle of the decade with “We Care A Lot’. Enter Mike Patton as his replacement in 1989 and the band hit the big time in 1990 with their album The Real Thing spawning the worldwide hit ‘Epic’.
As Joy Division began to start touring in Europe following the release of their 1979 debut album Unknown Pleasures, Curtis was married to his childhood sweetheart Deborah, but embarked on an affair with a Belgian consular official named Annik Honoré, who also dabbled in a bit of music journalism. Despite unsuccessfully trying to break off the affair and then his wife moving out of their marital home, Curtis struggled in vain against his feelings. It is believed that the band’s signature tune Love Will Tear Us Apart chronicled his failed marriage and was released several weeks after his suicide in May 1980.
Following the death of lead singer Layne Staley from a heroin overdose in 2002, the band remained on hiatus. However, when a reunion was devised by the remaining members in 2006, they drafted in William DuVall in Staley’s place, whose voice bore a remarkable similarity to that of his predecessor. Luckily, that combined with original songwriter Jerry Cantrell still penning the tunes meant that it was far from a tragic reunion.
After a massive clash of egos which saw Lou Reed force John Cale out of The Velvet Underground after they had finished touring second album White Light/White Heat, Cale was replaced by bass player Doug Yule for the band’s next two albums. However, when Lou Reed quit the band in 1970, Yule took over on vocals, adding members as all the original ones left, before the whole group sputtered to a halt in 1974.
After the larger than life singer of heavy metal forbears Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, quit the group in 1979 to forge a solo career, no-one believed that he could be replaced. However, the three remaining members did just that, hiring former Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio as the stand in singer. Although he sounded nothing like Ozzy, the two studio albums that the band released with him on vocals were acclaimed by both fans and critics alike.
The ultimate pub argument is who was the best Van Halen singer – David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Both have left the band and returned, with Roth currently back on vocals. After David Lee Roth quit at the height of their success to date in 1984 to embark on a solo career, his replacement Hagar saw the band take on a more commercial and pop sound which alienated many older fans but consequently saw them embraced by the mainstream.
After Bon Scott choked to death on his own vomit while sleeping off a big night in a parked car in London in 1980, his band mates were faced with either dissolving the band or embarking on the unenviable task of finding a replacement for the irrepressible front man. Enter singer Brian Johnston, whose gravel in a blender vocals bore quite a similarity to Scott’s, and the band set about recording Back In Black which would become their highest selling album of all time, and the group go on to be one of the biggest bands of all time.