Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Top Ten Musical Acts Who “Went Solo”

Top Ten Musical Acts Who “Went Solo”

Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Carole King, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, Ray Charles … all eventually rose to success under their own name. They may have paid their dues in the background, and eventually had a great band behind them, but you don’t pay to see “The Revolution”. You pay to see Prince.

The modern music industry has given us pre-digested personas like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and the boy-band spin-offs of Justin Timberlake, Ricky Martin, blah, blah, blah. We know pap when we see it. We might consume it for day-to-day musical sustenance, but it sure does not rock.

The heart of great rock & roll will always be THE BAND! Here is a list of great musical acts who contributed to great music in their band and then went on to create great music by “going solo”:

#10 Ozzy Osborne – Actually used to be in a band called “Black Sabbath” where he sang “Iron Man”, “Paranoid” and “War Pigs”. I think Black Sabbath created Heavy Metal music. Ozzy on his own defined it.

#9 Fergie – Would anyone really buy the Black Eyed Peas without Fergie? Fergie is the best example of bouncing between solo and band success. Michael-licious, Eric-licious…they just sound wrong. Fergalicious. (Natalicious DOES sound good though. See below.)

#8 David Lee Roth – “DAAAAAAAAVE TEE-VEE!” David Lee left Van Halen right there in front of us all. We saw the hate in Eddie Van Halen’s eyes on MTV when MTV still played music. We got to watch Dave build a new band around Steve Vai and watch the Van Halen brothers plug in Sammy Hagar to become just another OK band.

#7 Natalie Merchant – Left 10,000 Maniacs and led a whole new genre of 90s female rock. What a voice. And I love her because she was once late for a Twin Cities area concert due to having too much fun tubing down the Apple River.

#6 Michael Jackson – Starting with “Off the Wall”, MJ rocketed off his success with the Jackson 5. No matter how weird he eventually became, his early solo work really rocked.

#5 All Four Guys From “KISS”. Remember they all came out with “solo” albums at the same time in the late 70s/Early 80s? The albums all looked and pretty much sounded the same. We were all supposed to decide which KISS character we liked the best. On this list because it was the most crass commercialization I know of “going solo”. I love America.

#4 Diana Ross – Mary Wilson, Florence Ballard, Diana Ross and the genius of Barry Gordy made up The Supremes. Originally known as “The Primettes” who sang with “The Primes” Paul Williams and Eddie Kendricks – who left to join The Temptations. In 1976, Billboard magazine named Diana Ross the "Female Entertainer of the Century." In 1993, the Guinness Book of World Records declared Diana Ross the most successful female music artist in history.

#3 Peter Gabriel – Left Genesis and created one of my favorite songs - "Solsbury Hill". Also “Games Without Frontiers”, “Sledgehammer” and “In Your Eyes”. We will not mention other Genesis members in this top ten. Also, no Beatles.

#2 Paul Westerberg – Singer for The Replacements. Paul wrote most of the Replacements songs. Bob Stinson died, Chris Mars left and Paul went off on his own. Paul is the most influential “unknown” rock and roll act ever.

#1 Eric Clapton – What can you say? He left Derek & the Dominoes and Cream to build the “Slowhand” persona on his own. He blasted through reggae and country music in the 70s and created his own very unique musical style around his kick-ass gee-tar playin’. Eric also gets kudos for looking and sounding SO different in each of his incarnations.

What do YOU think?


  1. Good list! I am glad that I am not the only person who ponders these things... also, Sting from the Police! definitely had a pretty good run after they disbanded, especially in the late 80s and 90s. I had a "bootleg" from a show on the "dream of the blue turtle" tour with Branford Marsalis and his jazz ensemble that was pretty spectacular. He wrote some cool songs since the Police and they sounded great when they did Police covers as well. Definitely David Groehl with the Foo Fighters after Nirvana if that qualifies as "solo". I would say it does. Also, Mark Knopfler stuff is pretty good long after his Dire Straits success. Then there is George Harrison, John Lennon, and McCartney with Wings. Especially George Harrison, I read somewhere that he was kind of frustrated that he could not contribute very many songs to the Beatles like he wanted with Lennon/McCartney assuming the role, so when he had the chance it was pretty liberating for him to record All Things Must Pass. ... of course if you are talking about country music, or talking to my mom, you have to include Hootie from the Blowfish in this category now. which is crazy!!!