You know the old saying “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” doesn’t always work for everyone. Even successful lead singers sometimes feel the need to break off and try going solo to satisfy some kind of creative itch. That, or the other band members plum don’t exist anymore on Planet Earth. Check out some of the best successful rock lead singers who went solo and are still going strong.
Paul McCartney (The Beatles, Wings)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Save Us”
Even at the age of 73, he’s sharp as a tack and whipping up some of his best solo stuff since the days of “Rubber Soul,” “Flaming Pie” and “Band on the Run.” His last full-length release, “New,” was a solid collection of songs start to finish, and his world tour gave people a look into those youthful eyes just as passionate as the days of Beatles stardom, LSD and goofy haircuts.
We could say Ringo, but that would be imply he had a successful solo career without the other Beatles to help. We’ll give him “Octopus’ Garden,” but the goofy haircut stuck, too.
Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Rainbow”
After the death of drummer John Bonham, Led Zeppelin went into extensive hibernation with the occasional reunion show. Robert Plant, however, would not have it end there, as he would collaborate with a number of folks and backing bands from 1982 on. Now he can be seen touring with The Sensational Space Shifters after his tenth solo release, “Lullaby and…The Ceaseless Roar,” which came in 2014.
Brandon Flowers (The Killers)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Still Want You”
After the release and supporting tour of “Battle Born,” The Killers went into another brief hiatus, in which time lead man Brandon Flowers released his sophomore record, “The Desired Effect,” a progressive follow-up to his brave debut, “Flamingo.” His first record came between The Killers 2008 “Day & Age” and 2012’s “Battle Born.” His second solo shot rang out in 2015 while the band waits to kick up again.
Morrissey (The Smiths)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Suedehead”
After The Smiths called it quits in 1987, Morrissey quickly revved up his solo career in ’88 with “Viva Hate” and held on strong until 1997. After an extensively introverted break from the scene, he returned in 2004 for awhile, before disappearing again for a handful of years. But now he’s back, still dark and introverted as ever. Morrissey recently co-headlined the festival scene with Kanye West in support of his 2014 album, “World Peace Is None of Your Business.”
Eric Clapton (The Yardbirds, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Layla”
He’s one of the most consistent and talented singer-songwriters in the business, starting up with The Yardbirds in 1963 before moving to a number of other groups. Over the next 50-plus years, Clapton has constructed bands, solo records and some of the greatest classic blues songs in history. Rock songs like “Cocaine” and soft ballads like “Tears in Heaven” are unmistakable Clapton hits, and after 22 studios records, his vocals and playing are as fine-tuned as a fiddle gets.
Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Edge of Seventeen”
From “Bella Donna” in 1981 to “24 Kart Gold” in 2014, Stevie has had a long solo career alongside her Fleetwood Mac folks. The Mac got its start in 1975, but Stevie’s solo talents were not to be quieted, as her debut — Tom Petty played on it — reached the top spot on the Billboard Top 200. Fleetwood Mac has been back on tour, despite having not released a studio album since 2003, but Stevie keeps churning out the good stuff
Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield, CSNY)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Hey Hey, My My”
He got his start in the mid ’60s covering Shadows instruments before starting up Buffalo Springfield in ’66, just before CSNY took off in 1969. Through those years, he came out with his first solo, self-titled record in 1968 and has steadily released albums every couple years, sometimes multiple albums in the same year. Aside from recently trying to revolutionize the quality of the music-listening experience, Young released “The Monsanto Years” in 2015. He has more than 40 solo album credits, not including his work with CSNY and Buffalo Springfield.
Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)o
Check Out This Solo Track: “Crazy Train”
With 35 years of solo work coexisting in between his Black Sabbath days and reality TV family, the Godfather of Heavy Metal has hardly slowed down for a man of his age and weary build. Born in the late 1940s, Osbourne started releasing Black Sabbath record in the early ’70s before starting up his solo work in the ’80s. His last solo album came out in 2010, but Black Sabbath has continued on its way with a recent album in 2013 and a return to the live forum. Something tells us the guy who bit the head off a bat once on stage isn’t going to go away quietly, especially if his last solo effort was titled “Scream.”
Butch Walker (SouthGang, Marvelous 3)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Bed on Fire”
You may remember that catchy tune from the ’90s, “Freak of the Week,” but Butch Walker has written and produced a lot of music in the past 20-something years. All the girls just melt for those heartfelt lyrics lining his power-pop ballads from records like “Sycamore Meadows” and “Letters.” The 45-year-old solo songwriter is still pulling in the crowds, especially after a solid broke-down melody with “Afraid of Ghosts,” his latest solo venture — Ryan Adams sat at the helm in the producer chair — after Walker parted ways with his backing band, The Black Widows.
Brandon Boyd (Incubus)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Lady Black”
It appears he’s found some new folks to take his shirt off with, as Brandon Boyd took it upon himself to build on his solo career, which began budding in 2010 with “The Wild Trapeze” during Incubus offseason. In between the band’s 2011 “If Not Now When” and a cancelled “Jesus Christ Superstar” reboot, Boyd found himself back in the studio with their longtime producer, Brendan O’Brien, as a two-man team, Sons of the Sea.
Peter Gabriel (Genesis)
Check Out This Solo Track: “Solsbury Hill”
Though he got his start alongside Phil Collins — another singer who fits into this list — with Genesis in the late ’60s, the group broke in the mid ’70s, just before Peter Gabriel decided to fly solo in ’77. He took an extensive break in the late ’90s and ’00s but returned with a record in 2011, “New Blood.” He put out a live album, “Back to Front: Live in London” in 2014 and is currently arranging a new studio album as of summer 2015.
Joan Jett (The Runaways)
Check Out This Solo Track: “I Hate Myself For Loving You”
Though The Runaways had a certain level of success around the world, they never really could book it in the U.S., stuck mostly as a solid opening act before Jett would go solo in 1979. She recorded her first songs with a couple of the Sex Pistols and dropped her first record in 1981. With the help of The Blackhearts, Jett has managed to remain a fixture of rock ‘n roll still today. She’s been around the festival scene and had a studio record as recently as 2013.