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Best & Worst Lead Singer Changes In Rock N’ Roll

Best & Worst Lead Singer Changes In Rock N' Roll

The Most Successful Bands To Change Singers

While many bands have tried, only a few have been really successful with switching lead singers after they become famous. Let’s take a look of some of the best lead singer changes first….

Iron Maiden – Starting out with Paul Di’Anno, the band made a name for themselves and were poised for greatness. The band had a major label deal with EMI records in 1979. With Di’Anno at the helm the band recorded their debut album “Iron Maiden” and “Killers”, but due to Di’Anno’s self destructive behavior and extreme drug use, the band parted ways with him and hired then Samson vocalist, Bruce Dickinson. And the rest as they say….is history. Iron Maiden scored their first No. 1 UK hit with “The Number Of The Beast” and built one of the biggest followings worldwide with Dickinson. In 1993 Dickinson left Iron Maiden to further his solo career. The Band hired Blaze Bayley, who only made two albums with the band before Dickinson returned. The band is currently one of the most popular metal bands in the world.





Black Sabbath – After nine years of recording and touring with Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne was fired and replaced with Rainbow vocalist Ronnie James Dio. While no one wanted to follow up Osbourne in Black Sabbath, who are considered along with Led Zeppelin as the Godfathers and originators of heavy metal music, Dio was able to provide a second life to Black Sabbath with two studio albums, Heaven and Hell and The Mob Rules as well as the critically acclaimed “Live Evil” album. After Dio left to create his own solo band, Black Sabbath seemed to become a revolving door of singers and was never able to keep a cohesive band or image together for very long. Only after Osbourne’s eventual reunion with the band, many years later did their legacy finally seem complete.


AC/DC – After becoming a rock n’ roll sensation from Australia, AC/DC were on track to take the world by storm. However, tragedy struck as Bon Scott was found dead after reportedly chocking on his own vomit, while unconscious,  from a long night of drinking. Each album release had propelled the band to higher charts, but Scott’s death was almost too much for the band to overcome. The band considered disbanding, but decided to move forward with a new vocalist, Brian Johnson. In 1981 AC/DC released Back In Black with “Hell’s Bells” in tribute to the late Bon Scott with Johnson on vocals. It would prove to be one of the best selling albums in rock. The band continued right where they left off and were able to grow an incredible worldwide fan base.





Van Halen – Van Halen were the epitome of rock stars in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They had the guitar hero Edward Van Halen, who took rock guitar playing to a new level and the blonde mane and wild front man antics of David Lee Roth. But, apparently things weren’t always as they seemed behind the scenes. Once again the band had grown in success with each album that they released, culminating in “1984” which saw the band at the top of the charts. But David Lee Roth decided to take a break and pursue a solo career which ultimately proved to the undoing of the band. After the band parted ways with Roth, they chose to replace him with Sammy Hagar, former vocalist for Montrose and solo artist in his own right. The band received more airplay on the radio and MTV with what many fans considered to be a softer version of Van Halen, often referred to as Van Hagar by fans who saw this as a completely different band than the Van Halen with Roth. Eventually, the band parted ways with Hagar and replaced him with former Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone. This version lasted for only one album, before eventually going on hiatus for years before returning with Roth on A different Kind Of Truth in 2012.


Honorable Mention:

These bands have found continued success with different vocalists. But most, have only one or two albums with the current vocalist and it remains to be seen if they continue to succeed long term.





Bands That Weren’t So Successful With Different Singers

These bands switched singers only to find that things weren’t quite the same. Some have reunited, some have not.

Motley Crue– The bad boys of 80’s rock n’ roll dominated the scene like no other. With Vince Neil on vocals the band soared with hit albums and tons of radio and MTV airplay. However, the band began in-fighting after the Dr. Feelgood album was released. Vince Neil was fired from the band and replaced by John Corabi. Corabi was well known on the L.A. Strip for several bands that he fronted which received a lot of attention. However, fans seemed lost as to who he even was. What resulted was the infamous, self titled “Motley Crue” album. Corabi sounded and looked nothing like Neil. The band went for a more in the gutter, rough and tumble approach with the album. It was critically well received and still is considered a great album on many levels. Ultimately, the band’s fans just didn’t accept Corabi as Neil’s replacement. Vince Neil returned to the band, which recorded a slew of albums after his return, but none of which, reached the popularity and chart positions that they once held.





Judas Priest – Lead singer Rob Halford left Judas Priest in 1991 to form the band “Fight”. You can’t replace Rob Halford. After all,  they don’t call him the Metal God for nothing. While unknown singer Tim “Ripper” Owens did just about as good as anyone could at replacing a legend, it just wasn’t the same with Halford fronting the band. Owens was in a Judas Priest tribute band and was selected as Halford’s replacement, which lasted for two studio albums and one live album release. After Halford’s return the band has continues to record and tour to one of the biggest metal fan bases on the planet.







Skid Row – After hitting the charts with their debut album, and continuing to sell albums in the platinum range afterwards, Skid Row decided to fire lead singer Sebastian Bach. After replacing him with the little known Johnny Solinger, the band continued to tour and released several albums to dismal sales. Once again fans just didn’t see Solinger as a fitting replacement for Bach. The band, then recruited former TNT vocalist Tony Harnell who quit the band over a dispute, Currently the band has another, little known vocalist fronting the band, ZP Theart. Skid Row is one of the bands that fans have consistently demanded do a reunion, only to be denied.






Ratt – Ratt hit the scene in the heyday of 80’s hedonism. The band struck it big immediately with their first single “Round and Round” from their debut album “Out Of The Cellar”. Although, behind the scenes, the band had major differences and personalities. Stephen Pearcy left the band to form a new project called “Arcade”. The band reformed briefly and recorded an album “Collage” and Ratt before splitting again. Warren DeMartini and Bobby Blotzer won the right to tour as Ratt with a different singer and ultimately chose Jizzy Pearl, most famous for fronting the L.A. metal band Love/Hate. Pearcy returned to Ratt again in 2007 the band reformed and record Infestation, which many have hailed as their best album since the early days. But, trouble was brewing again and Pearcy, once again left Ratt due to conflicts with drummer Bobby Blotzer. Blotzer then formed his own band and toured as Ratt with a revolving door of musicians. After, many lawsuits and legal disputes, Ratt (Pearcy, DeMartini and Croucier) won a court settlement to control the name Ratt. Currently Ratt is touring and working on a possible new album in the future. Bobby Blotzer was kicked out of the group and has remained quiet for quite some time since the court order was announced.



L.A. Guns – After finding success with Phil Lewis as lead vocalist, the band would go on to be a popular touring band and MTV favorite. But, after the disappointing sales of the Vicious Circle album, both Lewis and Mick Cripps left the band. Tracii Guns then went for a new approach with Chris Van Dahl as vocalist. The band’s sound leaned closer to an alternative sounding Pantera than the previous blues based heavy metal that came before it and the fans jumped ship like rats from a sinking ship. The band then went through several singers Ralph Saenz (Steel Panther) and Jizzy Pearl (Love/Hate, Ratt). For a while two version of L.A. Guns existed as Tracii Guns and Phil Lewis both toured with competing versions. Finally, Tracii Guns version ended only leaving Lewis’ version with the name. Currently L.A. Guns consists of both Phil Lewis and Tracii Guns and the band is recording a new album for release in October of 2017.





Quiet Riot – The band found success with Kevin DuBrow as vocalist, but later fired him after substance abuse problems. He was replaced for one album by Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt). It received a lot of critical acclaim. but ultimately sounding nothing like the Quiet Riot sound of old. After reuniting with Dubrow, the band continued recording albums and touring until his death in 2007. What followed has to be one of the strangest and most Spinal Tap like stories to ever involve a rock band. The band went through a string of singers who ultimately didn’t work out. The band currently has a new album out, entitled “Road Rage” with new vocalist, former American Idol  contestant, James Durbin.


The Misfits – After Glenn Danzig left horror punk band The Misfits to create Samhain and eventually a successful solo career, the band went on hiatus. Founding member Jerry Only and his brother Doyle were involved in a legal battle with Danzig over the rights to royalties and the name and image of The Misfits for years. In 1995 the parties settled out of court and The Misfits were allowed to tour and record under the Misfits name, sharing merchandising rights with Danzig. Only reformed the band with 19 year old singer Michael Graves. Graves remained with the band until 2000. Jerry Only then changed the band to a three-piece unit and became the vocalist as well as bass player. In 2016, the band put their differences behind them and reformed with Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only, Doyle and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo on drums. They did two reunion shows and are leaving the possibility open for future shows and possible recordings.



So what are your thoughts on this list? Did we forget anyone?






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