No one is ever sure if their favorite musicians will be better as solo acts or fizzle out after leaving well-known bands. Each time an artist strikes out on their own, the die is cast.
Remember the Ringo Starr Band? Sadly, we do. Remember Art Garfunkel’s solo career? You might be the only one.
But not every artist in this situation has the same result. Check out these musicians who got better after they left their band.
Let’s hit it!
Why Do Musicians Think it’s Better to Go Solo?
Musicians strike out on their own for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they have creative differences. Sometimes they have personality conflicts with the band. And sometimes, the band that brought them to the top doesn’t grow with them.
The life of a touring musician can be stressful. When the other musicians in the band don’t gel anymore, going solo might be the only choice.
When Neil Young left Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, he said the band drifted from the original reason he joined. After he left, his career took a new turn as the voice of a generation.
When Art Garfunkel decided Paul Simon was getting more attention than he was happy with, they broke up. Simon went on to a storied career as a troubadour, and Garfunkel became a long-distance walker.
The musicians on our list each stepped out on their own and found success, either equalling to or surpassing their previous bands.
About the Previous Band: In the 1990s, Hootie and the Blowfish defied stereotypes as a rock band with a black singer. Hootie and the Blowfish broke the mold in a landscape populated with all-white bands playing acoustic rock.
At their height, the band was topping charts with hits like Only Wanna Be With You, and Hold My Hand. Hootie and the Blowfish won Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group in 1996.
By the early 2000s, though, Rucker was eyeing the exit as the band went on hiatus.
About the Artist’s Solo Career: Rucker stepped out with an R&B album eventually released by Hidden Beach Recordings as Back to Then in 2002. This album was a short-lived diversion as Rucker moved quickly into country music.
In 2008, Rucker released his second country album Learn To Live, produced by Frank Rogers. Rogers worked with country powerhouses Brad Paisley and Trace Adkins and performed the same magic with Rucker.
His second album netted three number one hits on the country charts. Since then, Rucker has released three more country albums.
His fifth, When Was the Last Time, is his most recent album as of 2017. Additionally, he’s performed in support of Reba McEntire at the Indy 500 and appeared on The Voice as a mentor.
His most recent single, a cover of Metallica’s Nothing Else Matters, appeared on the album The Metallica Blacklist and was released in 2021.
While Rucker hasn’t won the kind of awards on his own that he did with Hootie and the Blowfish, his reinvention as a country artist is certified gold.
About the Previous Band: Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart formed the Eurythmics in the early 1980s and rocketed to stardom on their single Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). The gender-bent video hit the MTV market in the early days and stayed in rotation for years.
The Eurythmics were a staple of the New Wave that included other artists like Men at Work, Devo, and The Police. Lennox and Stewart repeatedly charted with singles like Here Comes the Rain Again and Thorn In My Side.
They parted ways in 1992 but continue to play together. In 2019 they played together at a benefit for the Rainforest Fund.
About the Artist’s Solo Career: Lennox’s first album, Diva, charted worldwide and featured Why and Walking On Broken Glass as singles. The video for Why won Best Female Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.
After a break to raise two children, Lennox released her second album in 1995. Medusa featured all cover songs originally by male artists.
In the early 2000s, Lennox found success with songs on the soundtrack for the blockbuster Lord of the Rings. Her third album Bare charted at #4 on U.S. charts.
In 2019, Lennox released Lepidoptera, comprised of four improvised piano tracks. She continues to work as a performer, artist, and activist.
About the Previous Band: The Police were one of a kind. They came to prominence with the new wave genre but solidified their sound with a blend of punk, reggae, and jazz.
Sting was always at the front of the band, writing, singing, and playing bass guitar. The group won Grammys in 1981, 1982, and 1984 with their release of Reggatta de Blanc and Synchronicity.
After five albums and years of touring, the group was ready for a change. Unfortunately, in 1986 the band failed to record their sixth album and fell apart.
About the Artist’s Solo Career: As a solo artist, out of everyone on our list, Sting saw the most success. Over his career, he received seventeen Grammy awards.
Top hits from his solo years are hard to choose but include If You Love Someone, Set Them Free, Love Is the Seventh Wave, and Moon Over Bourbon Street.
After 15 albums and hundreds of film appearances, Broadway shows, and concert tours, Sting is undeniably one of the most successful artists. The Police were simply the beginning of Sting’s illustrious career.
About the Previous Band: Tina Turner started out playing second fiddle to her abusive husband, Ike. As lead singer of the Ike and Tina Turner Review, Tina found success early with the hit A Fool In Love.
Playing the chitlin circuit, the Review gained a reputation as a hard-working, durable act. However, by the mid-1970s, Ike’s cocaine addiction and abusive ways led Tina to say “enough.”
Legendary record producer Phil Spector signed Tina to a solo contract, and she staged a massive career shift.
About the Artist’s Solo Career: Turner started opening for the hottest rock acts around. The Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart both had Tina Turner open for them. However, her cover of Al Green’s Let’s Get Together changed her fortune.
In 1984, Turner released her biggest hit, What’s Love Got To Do With It. For the next ten years, Turner again performed with The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Bryan Adams, and then they were performing with her.
She smashed attendance records at concert tours and won significant awards. In 2018, Turner earned the Grammy Lifetime Achievement award.
Over her career, she’s won eight Grammys as a solo artist, not to mention three inductions into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Proud Mary keeps a’ rollin on the river.
About the Previous Band: Peter Gabriel started as the lead singer of a little band called Genesis. Maybe you’ve heard of them. As part of Genesis, Gabriel was known for his theatricality after appearing in his wife’s dress and a fox head at a concert.
Genesis was also known for its willingness to push boundaries. Clocking in at 20 minutes, Supper’s Ready challenged audiences in 1972. The band spawned careers of more than just Gabriel.
Phil Collins, drummer and singer, also launched a career from Genesis. But Gabriel struck out in 1974 after seven years with the band to find his way.
About the Artist’s Solo Career: Gabriel took an extended break following his departure from the band. He studied piano and music theory to improve his skills.
In 1976 he recorded his first album, Peter Gabriel. His subsequent three albums all had the same name, but fans have given them nicknames. Car, Scratch, Melt, and Security cemented Gabriel as a force to be reckoned with.
His first single as a solo artist, Solsbury Hill, climbed the charts worldwide. However, In Your Eyes is one of his tracks with the most staying power. Movie director Cameron Crowe featured this tune in his 1989 film Say Anything.
Over the years, Gabriel won six Grammys and numerous other awards for his work.
Some Musicians Do Get Better When They Go Solo
These musicians each made their mark after leaving the bands that made them famous, becoming significantly better after doing so. Of the artists on the list, declaring love with a boom box makes us partial to Peter Gabriel.
Which solo artist previously from a band is your favorite?