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Classic Rock: The Finest Pop, New Wave and Alternative Singers of the 80s

As the punk movement of the 70s gave way to the 80s, new-wave and singers lumped into that category (Sting and Bono, to name two) began to find legendary status along side power pop vocalists and even the beginnings of what we would call alternative music and the singers who pioneered that genre.

With new wave coming hot on the heels of late-70s punk, acts like The Police, The Cars and U2 found happy homes on alternative radio stations like LA’s KROQ before making their way into mainstream radio and arenas worldwide. Sting’s upper-register story-telling was as unmistakable as the face of The Police as Ric Ocasik’s (sp?) vocals were in the new-wave pop of The Cars. Irish singer, Paul Hewson became Bono and U2 went from having a cult following to being one of the most influential bands of all time, with more vocal greatness than nearly any five bands combined. While short-lived acts like David Byrne’s talking heads fizzled early into the decade, the impact of his vocals on hits like ‘Burning Down the House’ still fuel a certain segment of classic rock radio playlists.

Mainstream pop, dabbling in synth and new-wave sounds, had its monster vocalists as well. Upon the departure of 토토핫 Peter Cetera (who would go on to have a fantastic solo career in the 80s), Chicago tapped San Diego’s Jason Scheff to take over Cetera’s duties. Scheff’s incredible tone and finesse was able to fill the gap Cetera left while carving out a niche all his own. Pop-rock royalty, Toto, juggled incredible vocalists like Bobby Kimball, Fergie Fredrickson and the incomparable Joseph Williams to create a truly varied set of albums that sit well in the annals of classic rock.

All the while, outside the mainstream, new sounds were coming to the fore as REM’s Michael Stipe took his Athens, Georgia band from cult status into college radio and then began crafting some of the most original and uncompromising vocal performances (and hits) of the 80s. The Cure’s Robert Smith was also fashioning one of the most unique vocal sounds alongside Bauhaus, Oingo Boingo and Killing Joke, with Smith finding his way, most unexpectedly into classic rock radio, perhaps less frequently than Led Zeppelin or Rush, but still with a frequency that bares testament to the staying power of his 80s performances.


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