When it comes to liking a band, most of us usually link the identity of a band to its lead singer or chief songwriter or at least one or two iconic members. As long as that particular person is still in the band, it’s fine with us if they change other members. For example is the Rolling Stones still the same band if there is no Mick Jagger? Are bands like a sports team that change gradually but still retains the fans loyalty regardless of who is in it as long as their signature sounds and music is the same?Or at that stage is it simply a high powered tribute band?
The answer is of course is it depends. There is no doubt losing a key band member can be challenging – especially a lead singer. But many bands did this without problem such as Van Halen with the switch to Sammy Hagar from David Lee Roth. Some bands are considered more of a “franchise” or
Let’s take a look at the evolving band members of some of the most iconic bands of the last several decades.
Queen was founded in 1970 by Freddy Mercury, Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon. Queen fronted by Mercury was iconic and hugely successful and his passing away in 1991 hit the band and the music world hard.
In 2004 the band was reformed by May and Taylor and brought in Paul Rodgers. He technically didn’t replace Mercury in the line-up and the band was called Queen + Paul Rodgers. Rodgers stayed until 2009. After that Queen brought in American Idol alum Adam Lambert to form “Queen + Adam Lambert”. They continue touring today with great success.
Queen’s interesting approach to the “+” naming with the new lead singer is a great way to state that Freddy Mercury was irreplaceable.
The band, Yes, was founded in 1968 by Jon Anderson, Peter Banks, Bill Bruford, Tony Kaye, and Chris Squire. The latter was the band’s longest-tenured member before he died in 2015. Peter Banks on the other hand, was gone after just two albums, followed by Kaye, and then Bruford in the early 1970s. During the Yes’ 80s pop renaissance, Kaye returned but Anderson remained off and on through 2004.
Steve Howe and Alan White joined Yes during its creative peak in 1971 and 1972. However, Howe left for a time to work with Asia after a decade. Geoff Downes and Billy Sherwood who replaced Chris Squire are in their second tenures. In 2012, Jon Davidson came on board. Jon Anderson, ousted founding member, subsequently launched his own version of the band with Rick Wakeman and Trevor Rabin.
Blackfoot is a Southern rock group founded by Rickey Medlocke in 1969. It had a classic-era lineup that included Charlie Hargett, Greg T. Walker, and Jakson Spires. However, all three of Medlocke’s longest-running collaborators left, leaving him to rebuild the band into the 80s. In 1996, he was invited to join LynyrdSkynyrd which finally ended his performing days with Blackfoot.
In the ‘00s, classic-era members Charlie Hargrett, Greg T. Walker, and Jakson Spires reformed Blackfoot. However, Spires suddenly died and the other members eventually left as well. In 2012, Rickey Medlocke started a new edition of the group. He installed himself as producer while working continuously with LynyrdSkynyrd. In 2014, singer Jeremy Thomas joined the band.
Black Sabbath’s original singer, Ozzy Osbourne left the band in 1979 and was replaced by Ronnie James Dio. He was able to infuse the band with new energy, however, he only lasted two albums. By 1983, the band was again in search of a new singer.
Deep Purple’s vocalist, Ian Gillan, needed a gig during that time and it seemed like a good idea to join Black Sabbath. There were a lot of overlap in the Black Sabbath and Deep Purple fan communities but their album together did not work out. They had a tour and after it was over, Gillan left the band and reformed Deep Purple where he remains until now.
The final incarnation of the band started in 2014 with Ozzy as the lead and ended with their final concert in 2017. It seems Black Sabbath was able successfully switch lead singers and remain popular and find success.
In 1976, Genesis’ original lead singer, Peter Gabriel, was replaced by Phil Collins. In 1996, Genesis faced a difficult decision when Phil Collins decided to quit the band. It’s either to carry on with a third lead singer or simply call it quits. Their keyboardist Tony Banks was tempted to call it quits but their guitarist Mike Rutherford pushed for the band to continue.
They brought in Ray Wilson, a Scottish singer, best known for his tenure in Stilttskin. Stilttskinwas unknown in America and had one hit UK single “Inside”. Then, Genesis made a new album entitled, “Calling All Stations”, however, nobody bought it and nobody cared. Because of that, they had to cancel an American tour. Clearly the band didn’t farewell after the departure of Phil Collins.
Blood, Sweat, and Tears
Blood, Sweat, and Tears was co-founded by Al Kooper, Jim Fielder, Fred Lipsius, Randy Brecker, Jerry Weiss, Dick Halligan, Steve Katz and Bobby Colomby in 1967. However, the original lineup of the band with Steve Kats and Bobby Colomby then turned to singer David Clayton-Thomas whodid not last past their first album. David Clayton-Thomas departed for the third time in 2004, leaving Bobby Colomby who still owns the band but no longer perform.
Now, the lineup of Blood, Sweat, and Tears includes American Idol alum, Bo Bice, and Ween keyboardist Glenn McClelland, among others. Steve Katz occasionally rejoins the band.
One has to question if Blood, Sweat and Tears isn’t more of a dedication to a style of music and a brand than to really being an original band.
GWAR, a popular heavy metal band, was formed in 1984 and it initially included Dave Brockie and a rotating cast before the band became solid in the late ‘80s. Mike Derks, and Brad Roberts have been in the band ever since, while Michael Bishop is in his third stint. In 2014, Dave Brockie died of an overdose and he was the last original member of GWAR. Yet they play on, tour and release new albums.
Canned Heat has had a long history of changing its band members. The longest member who stayed with the band until 1981 is the lead vocalist, Bob Hite. From 1981 up to the present time, some classic members have come and gone. Among the original members, Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel occasionally make guest appearances with the band but it is de la Parra who is really the only link to the current band and the classic band.
Little River Band
Little River Band was formed in 1975 and was originally led by the voices and songwriting of Graeham Goble and Glenn Shorrock. However, both of them left in the ‘90s with co-founder Beeb Birtles.
In 1980, Wayne Nelson was brought by Graeham Goble in the band as a bassist, just in time for the band to hit with songs such as “The Other Guy”and “The Night Owls”. By 2000, Wayne Nelson became the band’s front man and all the original members were long gone.
Quiet Riot was founded by a pre-Ozzy Osbourne Randy Rhoads in 1973 and the band rose to fame in the early ‘80s. The lineup of Kevin DuBrow, Carlos Cavazo, Rudy Sarzo, and Frankie Banali hit it big with “Metal Health”. However, after the death of the band’s front man Kevin DuBrow in 2007, the band fell apart. Quiet Riot was resurrected in 2010 without any original members.
Humble Pie originally featured Steve Marriott, Greg Ridley, Jerry Shirley, Peter Frampton, and then Clem Clempson. They became popular because if the song “30 Days in the Hole”and a cover of “I Don’t Need No Doctor”.
Prior to the release of 1971’s “Performance Rockin’ the Fillmore”, Frampton left for solo success. In 1991, Marriott died in a fire at his home. After 12 years, Ridley passed but not before taking part in a reunion including Humble Pie’s 2002 album “Back on Track”.
In 2018 Jeff Shirley started a new incarnation of Humble Pie with a new line up but he would not be touring. This seems to be more of a brand than a band?
Journey started as a collective of former Santana bandmates in 1973 with Gregg Rolle on keyboards and lead vocals. Four years later, they hired Steve Perry to sing and immediately saw a huge surge of popularity. However, he lost interest in the band in 1986 and a reunion in 1995 did not push through because of Perry’s health problems. In 1998, Steve Augeri was brought in the band and according to their fans, he looked like Steve Perry with a perm. But in 2006, Steve left the band because he had some voice problems. He was replaced by Jeff Soto but he never quite fit.
Journey became desperate and they even though of hiring a Steve Perry impersonator until they came across videos of Filipino singer Arnel Pineda on YouTube. He had Steve Perry’s voice down cold and fans seemed very happy when he joined the band. Still it’s hard to think of Journey without the iconic Steve Perry.
Iron Butterfly is an American rock band famous for their 1968 hit, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”. Over the years, the band’s original and classic members have joined and left the band. These include Doug Ingle, Hurst, and ErikBraunn. However, none of them are in the band at the moment.
In Flames is a Swedish heavy metal band formed by guitarist JesperStromblad in 1990. He was also the last original member of the band but he left in 2010 because of personal problems and health issues as well. Left in the band to keep it going are vocalist Anders Friden and guitarist Bjorn Gelotte who both joined in 1995.
Nepalm Death is a British extreme metal band formed in 1981. Shane Embury was its longest-serving member who joined only 6 years after the band’s creation. The band still keeps on rocking and it has released many acclaimed albums even though it no longer has any of the original members.
Thin Lizzy was formed by childhood friends Brian Downey and Phil Lynott in 1969 together with two former members of Van Morrison’s band, Them. Before the group’s 1975 commercial break through, guitarists Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham joined the band. Eventually, Robertson was replaced by Gary Moore. In 1983, Lynott also worked with members of the Sex Pistols before Thin Lizzy split, then he died three years later.
In 1996, Thin Lizzy was lead again by Scott Gorham together with Brian Downey and Darren Wharton, an early 80’s-era member. Then, Downey left and Thin Lizzy turned to Judas Priest’s drummer, Scott Travis for a 2016 tour commemorating Phil Lynott’s death. Tom Hamilton, Aerosmith’s bass guitarist was also tabbed to sit in. They continue on with a new line up into a new era.
Heart has had several early incarnations with names such as the Army and White Heart and these were led by Roger Fisher and Steve Fossen. It began as early as 1967, long before the early ‘70s when the first Wilson sister joined the band. During the ‘70s, Nancy and Ann Wilson led Heart to multi-platinum success before Roger Fisher and then Steve Fossen left. After that, contributors like Denny Carmassi and Gilby Clarke moved through the lineup. In 1995, drummer Ben Smith joined and is now the group’s longest-tenured non-Wilson member.
In this case it seems the original band members don’t really matter much because we all identify Heart with the Wilson sisters who are still active today.
The Hollies was co-founded in late 1962 by school friends Allan Clarke and Graham Nash. Eventually added in the band were Tony Hicks, Bobby Elliott, and Bernie Calvert. The band had hit with songs like “Bust Stop”. In 1968, Nash left to form Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
The Hollies’ co-founder Alan Clarke then announced his retirement in 2000 and was replaced by Carl Wayne, the former lead sing of the Move. However, Wayne passed away in 2004 because of cancer. He was then replaced by Peter Howarth while Tony Hicks and Bobby Elliott continue with the group.