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A Comprehensive List of Bands Who Successfully Changed Lead Singers

It can be tricky for a band to keep things going with someone new providing their lead voice and, most often, serving as their frontperson. Here are the bands that have done it successfully.

1. Deep Purple

Ian Gillan, Deep Purple’s second lead vocalist, was in the lineup when the band hit it big, and he left in 1973. Gillan later rejoined then was fired, then in 1994 he rejoined for good (it seems). Deep Purple’s vocalists during his absence have included David Coverdale and Joe Lynn Turner.

2. Rainbow

Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame formed Rainbow in 1975, recruiting Ronnie James Dio to front the band. The lineup was never consistent, and Joe Lynn Turner and Doogie White each had their turn up front.

3. Black Sabbath

Ozzy Osbourne was Black Sabbath’s vocalist from the band’s formation in 1968 until his firing in 1979. He was replaced by none other than Ronnie James Dio, who joined Sabbath directly from Rainbow. Dio stuck around for a couple of albums, and later Sabbath vocalists included Deep Purple alumn Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes.

4. The Moody Blues

Denny Laine and Ray Thomas shared lead vocal duties in the early days of The Moody Blues. There were some lineup changes sometime after the release of their first album, and these included Denny’s departure and the addition of Justin Hayward. For their second album, Days of Future Passed, they moved away from R&B and created a progressive, psychedelic classic. Hayward is still the Moody Blues’ principal vocalist.

5. Pink Floyd

Syd Barrett was there for Pink Floyd’s formation and the success that came with their debut album and early live shows. He wasn’t the most stable guy, though, and a lot of LSD and other drugs apparently pushed him over the edge. Syd’s odd behaviour inspired the rest of the band to bring in a fifth member, David Gilmour, and soon after that, they let Barrett go. This was in 1968, three years into Pink Floyd’s existence.

6. Small Faces

In 1969, Steve Marriott left the Small Faces to form Humble Pie. He was replaced with a guitarist named Ronnie Wood and a singer named Rod Stewart. The new guys were relatively tall, which is one reason why the band dropped the “Small” from their name.

7. Styx

After Tommy Shaw joined Styx in 1975, handling some lead vocals as well as playing guitar, the band reached the next level of success with albums like Crystal Ball and The Grand Illusion. They broke up in the eighties and later reformed with Glen Burtnik in place of Shaw, who’d formed Damn Yankees. That lineup of Styx released one album, and the reunion didn’t last long. Styx reformed with Shaw in the mid-nineties, and in the early 2000s, they replaced founding singer Dennis DeYoung with Larry Gowan. The band hasn’t done any real damage on the charts since, but they’ve done tours with the likes of Foreigner, Boston and Yes.

8. AC/DC

After Bon Scott died in February 1980, AC/DC considered calling it a day, but they were convinced to carry on. Later that same year, they released Back in Black, their first album with new vocalist Brian Johnson.

9. Iron Maiden

Paul Di’Anno was the lead singer on Iron Maiden’s first two albums. Bruce Dickinson replaced him in 1982 for the The Number of the Beast. Blaze Bayley took over for Bruce in the nineties, but then Bruce returned and has been with them since.

10. Van Halen

David Lee Roth was with Van Halen for their massive late seventies/early eighties period, and after he had a falling out with Eddie, Sammy Hagar took over vocal duties for their also massive mid-eighties/mid-nineties period. When Sammy and Eddie weren’t getting along anymore, Gary Cherone took over singing for one album. Since then, there’s been a reunion tour with Sammy and then a longer reunion and an album with Diamond Dave.

11. Genesis

Peter Gabriel was up front in Genesis from 1968 to 1975. After he left, drummer Phil Collins ended up taking over lead vocal duties, leading the band in a more commercial direction.

12. Joy Division/New Order

Following Ian Curtis’s death in May 1980, Joy Division found success with their already recorded second album, Closer, and the single “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Guitarist Bernard Sumner then took over as lead singer, and New Order reigned.

13. Anthrax

Joey Belladonna was Anthrax’s lead vocalist during their classic period, but the band did some worthwhile stuff in the nineties with Belladonna’s replacement, John Bush. Dan Nelson briefly took over vocal duties in 2007, but Belladonna has since rejoined.

14. Black Flag

Keith Morris was Black Flag’s first vocalist, but Henry Rollins is probably the most well known one. He was there during the prolific period that lasted until the band broke up in 1986.

15. Faith No More

After the tour to support Faith No More’s second album was over, the band fired vocalist Chuck Mosely due to, according to their official bio, “his constant drinking, limited vocal capabilities, and squabbles with bandmates.” Mike Patton got the job in January 1989.

16. Dream Theater

Dream Theater’s debut album, 1989’s When Dream and Day Unite, featured lead vocalist Charlie Dominici. The rest of the band decided fairly soon after that album came out that they wanted something different in a vocalist and frontman, and in early 1991, they received a demo tape from a Canadian singer named Kevin James LaBrie.

17. Rage Against the Machine/Audioslave

In October 2000, Zack de la Rocha left Rage Against the Machine. In May 2001, former Soundgarden vocalist Chris Cornell joined them in the studio. They changed their name to Audioslave and released three albums and a DVD before Cornell left in 2007.

18. Helloween

Guitarist Kai Hansen handled vocal duties in the early days of Helloween, but he felt the band needed a proper frontman, which they found in teenager Michael Kiske. The first release with him was the power metal classic, 1987’s Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1. Andi Deris joined as the new singer in the mid-nineties, helping get the band back on top.

19. Napalm Death

Napalm Death’s debut album, 1987’s Scum, features vocalist/bassist Nick Bullen on the first side and new vocalist Lee Dorrian on the second side. Barney Greenway had replaced Dorrian by the release of Harmony Corruption in 1990, and he’s been there ever since, except for a brief firing in the mid-nineties.

19. Iced Earth

He wasn’t Iced Earth’s first singer, but Matthew Barlow was the first singer to stick with the band for more than one album. He actually hung around for almost a decade before being replaced in the mid-2000s by Tim “Ripper” Owens, who had previously taken over for Rob Halford in Judas Priest for a bit.

20. Cannibal Corpse

Chris Barnes was Cannibal Corpse’s growler from their late-eighties formation until the mid-nineties, when he was replaced by George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.

21. Dropkick Murphys

Dropkick Murphys’ original singer Mike McColgan left shortly after the release of the band’s debut full length, 1998’s Do or Die. Al Barr then joined, and he and Ken Casey have handled the Dropkicks’ lead vocal duties since.

22. I Mother Earth

Edwin left I Mother Earth in mid-1997, and Brian Byrne had the position before the year was over.

23. Sublime

Sublime ended in 1996 with Brad Nowell’s death, and they reactivated in 2009 with a young fan named Rome Ramirez. Brad had owned the rights to the band’s name, though, and his family didn’t want it used with him gone, so they ended up calling themselves Sublime with Rome.

24. Arch Enemy

Come the turn of the millennium, Swedish metal band Arch Enemy’s vocalist Johan Liiva had been replaced by German vocalist Angela Gossow. Angela stepped away from the position in 2014 (staying on as Arch Enemy’s manager), and Canadian vocalist Alissa White-Gluz stepped in.

25. Alice in Chains

Alice in Chains hadn’t done much since the 1995 release of their self-titled album, and Layne Staley died in 2002, officially marking the end. There was a reunion in 2005 for a benefit show, though, with William DuVall providing lead vocals, and that reunion has stuck.

26. Gallows

Frank Carter amicably left Gallows in the summer of 2011, and Wade MacNeil, formerly of Alexisonfire, took his place.

26. Three Days Grace

In early 2013, Three Days Grace announced that Adam Gontier was resigning from the band. Matt Walst, singer for My Darkest Days and brother of 3DG bassist Brad, took over.

27. Stone Temple Pilots

Scott Weiland was dismissed from Stone Temple Pilots in 2013. They’ve released one EP, High Rise, since Linkin Park vocalist and big STP fan Chester Bennington joined the lineup.

We need your help to make this a comprehensive list, so please add anyone you can think of that’s missing in the comments!

16 thoughts on “A Comprehensive List of Bands Who Successfully Changed Lead Singers

  • “Successfully”? In some of these cases, more like “suck- cessfully”, am I right?

  • King Crimson (Greg Lake left after the first album to form ELP)

  • Marillion. Though not topping their Fish-era “market penetration” peak of the mid-80’s (when they redefined popular girl names in the UK for the next decade or so with “Kayleigh”), Steve Hogarth became the new frontman and the band is still recording and touring new material to a legion of dedicated fans.
    Does this qualify as “Successfully” though?
    Well, since Steve Hogarth took over in 1989 they’ve:
    – released 13 studio albums, including two double-albums,
    – inspired the historic and successful endeavor to locate and raise the “Bluebird” (a famously lost speed record-setting watercraft);
    – been asked (in the early 2000s) to explain their successful business model to the very recording industry that couldn’t possibly have successfully marketed a band like them, let alone kept it alive and thriving since 1989

    They’ve also been at the actual leading-edge of things bands now take for granted:
    – social media/web-connectivity;
    – crowd-funding (of albums AND tours. ex. an entire American Tour was funded by fans in the mid-90’s, and fans also regularly pre-purchase Marillion’s albums before they’re even recorded, allowing the band to be their own record company and thus not beholden to any corporate bean-counters to dictate or influence their content creation.

    If you see them live you see they’re still vital, passionate, challenging themselves and their audience by putting new material first and never just trading on their “glory-day” hits to get them by.

    If that’s not successful… we need a better definition of the word, in my opinion.


  • WhIle it may be difficult to say they successfully carried on, Teenage Head is still out and touring.

  • Yes. (plus recently they hired that superfan from a Quebec cover band who filled in for Anderson when he was ill)

  • i think we’re going to have to add blink-182 to this list now too

  • The Buzzcocks (Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley) 10,000 Maniacs (Natalie Merchant and Mary Ransey) Live (Ed Kowlczyk and Chris Shinn) Blind Melon (Shannon Hoon and Travis Wariner) Journey (Steve Perry and Arnel Pineda) Turbonegro(Hank Von Hell and Tony Sylvester) St Etienne (Sarah Cracknell, Moira Lambert, Donna Savage) Bronski Beat(Jimmy Somerville and John Foster) and I guess you could make a case for Queen having Adam Lambert take Freddy Mercury’s spot front and center

    • Inspiral Carpets (Tom Hingley / Stephen Holt) ? A bit of a weird one because Stephen was the original singer. Tom was the singer through their hits. Then left or was sacked, and Stephen returned.

  • Nightwish.
    Original singer Tarja was kicked out and replaced with a more pop rock singer Annette that wasn’t great but band stayed alive and active until she had to leave and hand the mantle to Floor who can sing Tarjas old songs without any problems. She’s better than Tarja in some people’s opinions

  • Kansas replaced Steve Walsh twice and had commercial success each time


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