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Published on January 18th, 2013 | by Brent Chittenden


Top 10 Bands That Survived a Change of Frontman

by Brent Chittenden

I was kind of surprised to hear the news of Adam Gontier leaving Three Days Grace. I’m not a fan by any stretch but I do have a healthy respect for them. They tour, they try to grow, they’re just not my thing which is okay. 

Given their Facebook press release, it appears that Three Days Grace are planning on continuing onward which can be a tough row to hoe. Fans tend to look to the frontman as kind of the logo for the band, someone that’s instantly recognisable with the band. When you change that logo, fans sometimes can veer off.

But the TDG guys should take note, there are a number of bands that lived through their lead singer leaving, some even went on to more success. With that in mind, here is the Top Ten Bands That Survived Frontmen Changes!

10) Joy Division / New Order

I almost wasn’t going to put this one in here because technically it’s a different band BUT one you look at it, New Order did essentially what AC/DC did. After Ian Curtis committed suicide, the band soldier onwards. Given how important Curtis was to Joy Division, it’s pretty amazing that New Order not only did well but did spectacularly well.


9) Faith No More

Faith No More made a minor splash with the song We Care A Lot that featured lead vocalist Chuck Mosley (a song that’s probably more recognisable as Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs opening theme song). Unfortunately, despite the upward momentum, Mosely was erratic and kind of hard to deal with. In came Mike Patton and The Real Thing album and the band went huge.



As far as bands go, for a while, Inxs was kind of like the little engine that could. After the death of Michael Hutchence, the band continued to appear at various concert events with a number of vocalists until they used reality tv to find a new singer in J.D. Fortune. Fortune and the tv show helped reignite the popularity of the band. The toured to bigger audiences, they sold a good deal of albums, it was pretty good for a while. Unfortunately, the band had issues with Fortune and Ciaran Gribbin came to be the last singer of the band when they hung it up in November of last year.


7) Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage were doing fine with Jesse Leach but with Leach’s sudden departure in 2002, the band brought on Howard Jones. It was during the Jones era that Killswitch really hit its stride and popularity. Jones left the band in 2012 and Leach has come back without the band skipping a beat.


6) Alice in Chains

Everyone loves the story of a great come back by a great band. When Layne Staley died in 2002, all signs seemed to point to Alice in Chains being done but in 2008 the band released a new album with a new lead vocalist, William DuVall and not only was Black Gives Way To Blue good, it was incredibly solid and deserving of the Alice in Chains name. The band is currently finishing up a new album due later this year.


5) Pink Floyd

Former lead vocalist Syd Barrett was pretty much the main rudder for the good ship Floyd for a few years until LSD and depression took their toll and he was no longer able to be part of the band. Since his departure, lead vocals were handled mainly by Roger Waters and David Gilmour (with the occasional lead of Richard Wright) and Pink Floyd gained more success and recognition during this period than the previous with Syd.


4) Genesis

Genesis is a band that’s fan base is fairly divided due to it’s vocalist (and style change). Many critics love the Peter Gabriel era of Genesis with the costume changes and the art rock vibe. But sales wise and popularity, the band never did better than the Phil Collins era. While there was a Genesis without Collins or Gabriel, it was short lived. Collins has since reunited on a few occasions with the band, Gabriel has yet to perform with them but has appeared with the other members at a few functions. A full blown reunion is occasionally talked about but seems unlikely due to Collins inability to drum due to injury.


3) Black Sabbath

After Ozzy left / got fired from Sabbath, no one really expected much out of either of them. But both camps did well until they reunited in1997. In the meantime Sabbath recruited Ronnie James Dio for a second era of classic metal. But, much like Van Halen, after Dio left (for the first time) in 1982, Sabbath had a succession of vocalist changes ( at least nine in total including twice for Ozzy, twice for Dio [three times if you include the band Heaven and Hell from 2009]) with varying degrees of success. At the current moment, the band is still very much alive with Ozzy back at the mic for a new album due this year.


2) Van Halen

Confession time. 99% of people asked will always refer to the David Lee Roth era (well… the first one  72 -85) as the golden age of Van Halen. While I like that era, I actually think I prefer the Sammy Hagar era (85 – 96). Van Halen is a band that has survived not just one but three different lead singers and a total of SIX lead singer changes (Roth – Hagar – Roth – Gary Cherone – Hagar – Roth) while still remaining fairly popular and doing decent album sales, even the Cherone lead Van Halen III sold 500 000 copies and hit #4 on Billboard.


1) AC/DC

You can’t have this list without putting the thunder from down under on it. With Bon Scott, AC/DC were starting to make some noise slowly but surely. Their ragged high voltage bar blues rock was catching on. But after Scott died due to “misadventure”, Brian Johnson came aboard and the band hit it out of the park with Back in Black. It does make you wonder though, would AC/DC have made it as huge as they now are if Bon had never died? We’ll never know.

Is there any bands that should have been on this list? Let us know in the comment section below!

About the Author

Brent Chittenden is a freelance writer with a gift for the geek. Currently a writer with A Journal Of Musical Things and Geek Hard Radio, he's also written for Comic Book Daily, Explore Music and a dozen other places. Currently, he is the co-host of the True North Nerds podcast. You can find out more at

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8 Responses to Top 10 Bands That Survived a Change of Frontman

  1. Jeff says:

    Black Flag! Not as commercially successful as any of those bands, but put out great music with four different frontmen, all of whom could arguably be considered the best/ most important.

  2. Chris Powell says:

    Maybe a debatable one, but the Small Faces dropped Steve Marriott and the "Small," and added Rod Stewart.

    One of the biggest examples of a band thriving after its lead singer is replaced is Iron Maiden. Bruce Dickinson replaced Paul Dianno for "The Number of the Beast" and a metal colossus was born.

  3. David E says:

    Hi Alan

    I might be aging myself but you missed Ultravox and the change from John Foxx to Midge Ure.

    David E

  4. duncanf says:

    deep purple.Ian Gillan was the 2nd singer. God knows how many others there have been.

  5. Adam says:

    Steve quit the Small Faces.

  6. Alan Cross says:

    I was just about to say. Steve Marriott quit the Small Faces and was replaced by Rod Stewart. They were known as The Small Faces for a few months before they became just "The Faces." That's because Stewart and Ron Wood were a little too tall to be considered "small."

  7. caleb says:

    I mother earth!!

  8. Kyle says:

    Alright, I'm gonna say it: the Dixie Chicks.

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