To say that a lead singer, more specifically a lead singer’s voice, is the most quickly recognizable indicator of a particular song or band would be an understatement. Sure, the more musically inclined and studied of us can likely pick out a band without their frontman or woman uttering a single word, but for the vast majority of the population, we’re left to await that first line or harmonization. If you haven’t heard the song before and you just happen upon it while browsing the dial -or listening to a Pandora or Spotify station- it’s all you can do.
A singer’s voice is by no means a fingerprint, as there are plenty that can sound alike, but it is unique for many performers. So you can imagine the struggle a band would be faced with should they lose that lead, whether by death, retirement, or firing. Obviously, there have been more than 5 bands who were forced to move on without their lead singer, but today, I’m focusing on some that not only did so but found success along the way.
6. Three Days Grace and Adam Gontier
Three Days Grace was formed in 1997 in Norwood, Ontario, Canada by guitarist and lead singer, Adam Gontier, drummer and vocalist Neil Sanderson, and bassist Brad Walst. In 2003, the trio would be joined by new lead guitarist, Barry Stock. In that same year, the band would release its first major album, the self-titled “Three Days Grace.” This, along with their next album, would go Platinum as the band rocketed into prominence. Gontier’s vocals played a huge role in this as his unique voice gave instant recognizability to listeners and provided original sound that allowed the quartet to stand out amid a crowded music scene.
All of that would change in January of 2013 with Gontier’s abrupt departure. To drive home how sudden this development was, the rest of Gontier’s bandmates were blindsided. The band’s fourth album had just been announced and they were weeks from beginning a co-headlined tour with Shinedown.
Said Gontier about his decision to leave. “After twenty years of being part of an ever-evolving band, I have been inspired by life to move on and to continue to evolve on my own terms.”
Left scrambling, the remaining members of Three Days Grace would bring on Matt Walst, former lead of My Darkest Days and brother of bassist Brad Walst. The band would recover, carrying out the tour and eventually returning to the studio to write new music.
In 2014, Three Days Grace reached number one on the Mainstream Rock Chart with their hit, Painkiller. It marked the band’s 11th number one hit and signified that even with Matt Walst at the helm they would be a force on the rock music scene.
Their latest album, Human, was released in 2015 and saw continued success with its third single, Human Race. The band is now back in the studio recording their next album.
5. Stone Temple Pilots and Scott Weiland
“We didn’t have any other choice.” “I want to have f****** fun, man, making music.” These are the words of Stone Tempe Pilots bassist Robert DeLeo with regard to former frontman Scott Weiland. Tensions rose within the band when Weiland decided to play a solo tour featuring music from the band’s early album, Core. Despite numerous warnings from his bandmates, Weiland went ahead and did so.
In May of 2013, the band filed a lawsuit against its then-former frontman, demanding he cease performing their songs as he had been dismissed due to addiction and “persistent tardiness.” In response, Weiland filed a countersuit arguing the band had no legal standing to forcefully remove him.
It was a very difficult decision to terminate the face of your band. There are many paths to the history of certain bands and each one is a little different, but it all kind of turns out the same at the end. But it was a very difficult decision to do that. That’s as big as it gets. But we didn’t really have any other choice.
DeLeo would further elaborate as he was able due to legal constraints at the time of the interview, saying, “[We] always looked out for Scott’s best interests and tried to be a great friend to someone who didn’t really care to be friends with us.”
During the transition, Stone Temple Pilots brought in Linkin Park frontman, Chester Bennington, who also chimed in on the controversy. “I really respect the decision these guys have made. I also understand how incredibly difficult having that conversation would be. At the same time, it isn’t a surprise. Everybody who knows the band understands why decisions have been made.” Bennington would go on to add that he didn’t really “need” the opportunity to front the band given his own band’s success, but that his friendship with the Stone Temple Pilots was the reason for him stepping in.
With Bennington at the helm, Stone Temple Pilots released the EP High Rise, which featured the tracks, Out of Time, Black Heart, Same on the Inside, Cry Cry, and Tomorrow.
Although the band would see a brief reunion with Scott Weiland later on, he would once again be dismissed in 2015, just weeks before he would die of an overdose.
4. Genesis and Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel, the original frontman of Genesis, saw significant success in his time with the band, sporting an avant-garde prog-rock sound vastly different from the more pop-leaning sound the band would come to know under Phil Collins.
On the heels of their masterwork, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Gabriel would leave Genesis to pursue a solo career. Collins, the drummer whose backing vocals had harmonized with Gabriel for years, would step into the light while being the rare frontman drummer in rock. With a new frontman, the band would find plenty of success throughout their next few albums, sticking with their prog-rock roots until 1978’s platinum-selling …And Then There Were Three.
The album’s hit single “Follow You, Follow Me,” struck a chord with a vast audience, prompting the group to continue down this road toward tremendous success throughout the 1980s. Collins would even find success in his solo work, which he ran in addition to his responsibilities to Genesis.
3. Iron Maiden and Paul Di’Anno
Spearheading the new wave of British heavy metal with a more “punk” attitude, Paul Di’Anno’s vocals were paramount to the success of the self-titled 1980 debut album. Unfortunately for Di’Anno, ongoing “personal issues” forced him to miss one performance too many, prompting the band to move on in search of a new lead.
Iron Maiden would go on to find Bruce Dickinson, or as he liked to be called, “Bruce Bruce.” With Bruce on board, the band dropped their 1982 worldwide breakthrough LP, The Number of the Beast.
Dickinson has left the band a time or two over the years but always seems to return for reunion tours. What’s even better is that he’s a globe-trotting pilot and flies the band’s private jet, “Ed Force One,” named after the band’s zombie mascot.
2. AC/DC and Ronald Belford Scott
The first notable frontman for AC/DC, Ronald Belford Scott soared to fame, seemingly taking the world by storm much in the way Freddie Mercury did before inevitably flaming out in 1980 of “acute alcohol poisoning.”
Forced to move on, the band would turn to Brian Johnson, whom ironically Scott had once called “a great rock-and-roll singer in the style of Little Richard.” And what would quickly follow Johnson’s arrival to AC/DC? Back in Black. Recorded as a tribute to Scott, Back in Black would sell more than 40 million copies.
To give perspective to how huge AC/DC became, they would not only be widely regarded as one of rock’s all-time great bands, but they would reach an iconic status so surreal they would eventually have their own section in Wal-Mart. Wrap your head around that one…
1. Sick Puppies and Shimon Moore
After a dispute revolving around a reserved music room at their high school in 1997, Shimon Moore and Emma Anzai would eventually opt to play together, with Moore leading on guitar and vocals while Anzai honed her craft on base. Eventually, the yet-to-be-christened band would add drummer Chris Mileski. During that Summer, while rehearsing in the garage, the neighbor’s dog would vomit on Mileski’s drums, prompting someone to respond, “That’s one sick puppy.” Thus, Sick Puppies were born.
In the early 2000s, after struggling to find prominence in their home Australia, Emma and Shim would take their futures into their own hands and move to Los Angeles, California. Chris Mileski would remain behind, forcing the duo to immediately put out a Craigslist ad for a drummer. Luckily, they would find Mark Goodwin after a short search, allowing them to set their sights on signing with a major label.
After several rejections, they would take matters into their own hands, launching one of the first viral videos, the Free Hugs campaign, which Moore paired to a video protest and petitioning of outlawed hugging at a mall in Sydney, Australia. Strange yes, but the simple message and catchy track, All the Same, captivated viewers and proved to record labels these kids from Austrailia might have something after all.
Releasing their first major album, Dressed Up as Life in 2007, the trio began to carve out a niche for itself, creeping into the Billboard Top 200 at 181. Two years later, the band would release its most successful album to date, Tri-Polar, which featured the number one hit, You’re Going Down.
The album’s third single, Maybe, would also go on to reach number one on the Billboard Heatseekers and even elevate them into the Top 100 Chart, making it their single most successful hit.
In 2013, the band would release its fourth studio album, Connect. Originally titled “Under the Black Sky” after Emma Anzai’s album-closing track, Connect would see the band take a more pop-rock direction. With singles “There’s No Going Back,” “Gunfight,” and “Die to Save You,” the album was viewed as a step back for the band and would sow the seeds for dissension within the group.
In October of 2015 it was announced that lead singer Shimon Moore had left the band and that Emma and Mark would continue under the same name. This left Emma as the only remaining original member and the third incarnation overall. Anzai and Goodwin would explain in a statement that Moore’s exit from the band was necessary due to attempts he had made to dissolve the band through lawyers due to creative differences. Moore wanted to continue in a more “stadium rock” direction while Anzai and Goodwin listened to the band’s base and wanted to return to the heavier sound that had made Tri-Polar so popular. Moore would claim he was blindsided by the ousting, and reportedly even attempted to gain the rights to the band’s name and music, although that would fail. He has publically said that while he is surprised and saddened by the decision, he wishes nothing but the best for his former bandmates. Anzai would seemingly vent her frustrations in their next album’s track, Walls.
Following Moore’s exit, Anzai and Goodwin would begin a lengthy search for their new lead, eventually finding Bryan Scott out of Houston, TX. With Scott front and center, they would release their 5th studio album, Fury in May of 2016. Their first single, Stick to Your Guns would find success and revive the base. They would follow with singles, Earth to You and Where Do I Begin?
Given the band has only released one album post-Moore, it’s difficult to say whether they can ultimately match or exceed the success they had enjoyed with Moore, but considering the direction Moore wanted to take the band, and the failure of Connect, it seems safe to say the move was not only necessary but a success in its own right.
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