The Top Ten All Time Best Replacement Lead Singers in Rock and Roll

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5. Jean Terrell (the Supremes). Motown president Berry Gordy recruited 24-year-old club singer Terrell to replace the departing Diana Ross in 1969, amidst falling record sales that plagued the formerly unstoppable Supremes. Although the group never repeated the success they had with Ross, the group had several top 10 hits with the angelic-voiced Terrell, including "Stoned Love" and a cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" in which the Terrell-led Supremes teamed with the Four Tops.

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4. Brian Johnson (AC/DC). Why do people hate this guy? Seriously, he had some of the biggest shoes to fill on this list. Bon Scott's vocals were amazing; although Johnson has the same dirty, growly feel to his singing, he doesn't sound like Scott, and he doesn't try. Not only did AC/DC replace their vocalist, but their first album with Johnson, Back In Black, was the biggest album of their careers. From the first clangs of the bell that open up the album, it was obvious that AC/DC weren't going anywhere after Scott's untimely demise.

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3. David Gilmour (Pink Floyd). Critics love to wax poetic about Gilmour's guitar playing -- he is one of the best. Brought in as a fifth member, then bumped to lead vocals after Syd Barrett's breakdown, Gilmour's hypnotic vocals lent a featherlight edge to Floyd's solid progressive rock base. Gilmour's vocals gave the musicianship and songwriting room to shine, and we've gotta say it, post-Waters Floyd gets way too much hate.

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2. Ronnie James Dio (Black Sabbath). It's easy to talk about dead artists being greater than they really were; in the case of Dio, however, the posthumous accolades feel like he's finally getting the credit he deserves. Dio, who turned down a scholarship to Juilliard as a youth, was introduced to the Sabbath guys by Sharon Osbourne after he left Rainbow; his addition breathed new life into the ailing Sabbath, and fans count Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules among Sabbath's best albums. His further work with

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1. Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden). If you want to talk to the most obstinate, know-it-all rock dudes ever, find some rabid Paul Di'Anno purists*. They are correct that Di'Anno was a great live singer with serious versatility; they are also correct that the first two Maiden albums, which feature Di'Anno, are spectacular. However, most Maiden fans discovered the band with Dickinson on vocals. His voice is a vital part of Maiden's magic to a generation of headbangers who came of age to this music. Dickinson's vocals have become a caricature -- would there be Spinal Tap without Maiden? -- because his sound resonated so strongly with listeners, and meshed so well with the band, that it's burned into our brains.

*Iif you want to see something funny, look at the comments on anything Paul Di'Anno on YouTube. Metal fans are nothing if not entertaining.
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68 comments
McPhail
McPhail

Didn't we do this in 2011? I doubt any punk band belongs in a top 10, but...


Can't put the Misfits Gaves in place of Danzig over Henry Rollins with Black Flag 



michael_scott9158
michael_scott9158

An old man's view....

1)  Brian Johnson for Bonn Scott in AC-DC

2)  Bruce Dickenson for Paul Di'Anno in Iron Maiden

3)  Sammy Hagar for David Lee Roth in Van Halen (hated the switch and turned the band from hard rock to pop rock but gotta respect a band taking such a chance to change their entire sound after so much success).

4) Ian Gillian for Rod Evans in Deep Purple

5) Ronnie James Dio for Ozzy in Black Sabbath

6) Todd LaTorre for Geoff Tate in Queensryche (Tate lost his voice, lost his class and led this band to the "Queensryche Cabaret"...PLEASE???)  The new "Queensryche" album with LaTorre sounds much more like classic Ryche).

7) Phil Collins for Peter Gabriel in Genesis

8) Tim "Ripper" Owens for Rob Halford in Judas Priest (Glad Halford is back but amazed this kid could could fill those shoes for 2 albums and a live DVD.

9) David Gilmour for Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd (vocals and lead guitar)

10) Johnny Van Zant for Ronnie Van Zant in Lynyrd Skynyrd (sentimental favorite)

In each of these instances, the singer was only replaced because he could no longer perform or because he, the singer himself, decided to leave the band and go solo....or in Geoff tate's case, just went nuts.

Under that criteria, bands like Journey, Styx, Foreigner, etc...do not qualify.  Sorry. 

CharlesM
CharlesM

I'm surprised there's no mention of Journey, who have had TWO hugely successful replacement lead singers using both approaches.  Steve Perry replaced Gregg Rolie and changed the band's sound from a jazzy-rock fusion to straight arena-pop. THIRTY years later, the band found Arnel Pineda - a Steve Perry soundalike - in the Phillipines, and enjoyed renewed commercial success.


I should also point out that Rick Wright carried a lot more of the lead vocal duties when Pink Floyd left Syd Barrett behind than David Gilmour did, and the lead vocal duties always rotated among the members after that. Even Nick Mason sang lead on one classic song ("One of These Days"), though the lyrics consisted of only a single line. I'm betting that the author of this piece has a difficult time distinguishing between Wright's vocals and Gilmour's. 

davidgasten
davidgasten

I'd like to mention a couple of recent replacements have been wildly successful:  Mark Tornillo in Accept (replacing Udo Dirkschneider) and Todd La Torre in Queensryche (replacing Geoff Tate). Both revitalized their respective bands and changed them for the better to the point that they will never need the previous vocalists again.

And here's a failure that I thought was great but just came at the wrong time: Ray Wilson in Genesis, replacing Phil Collins for one album in the 90's. They really did everything right, it's just that by that time Genesis had become "That band that Phil Collins is in". Ray did a great job of balancing the Gabriel and Collins sounds and brought the band into the 90's and closer to their prog roots all at once.  It was a shame that it didn't turn out so well, but Ray Wilson Genesis has gotten a solid following over time.

Shark
Shark

Van Halen more commercially successful with Sammy than Dave?  Sounds like the author didn't bother to look at sales numbers.  VH sold MILLIONS more albums with Dave than Sammy.

poppymann
poppymann

What about Turbonegro replacing Hank with Tony? It's like AC/DC neither sound like the other.

Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton
Trina Taki Hendrix-Hamilton

before looking at this, I assume Sammy Hagar is on this list? I mean David Lee Roth was explosive but Hagar did hold his own surprisingly well.

Joe Bannon
Joe Bannon

If you're singing someone elses song, it's karaoke.

Jerome Chavez
Jerome Chavez

I'm disappointed Phil ANSELMO didn't make this list.

Jon Jackson
Jon Jackson

Yeah, hates Brian Johnson? Nobody thought that. Ever. Ever ever ever.

jamessavik
jamessavik

*Sighs* You know you are getting old when the only concerts you want to see would require a seance.

Chris Churchman
Chris Churchman

I'll pretend I did not read what you just wrote about the Misifits.

GavinCleaver
GavinCleaver

If you're going to do metal, surely Greg Puciato being parachuted into Dillinger Escape Plan on the strength of a demo tape has to be up there

KD5NR
KD5NR

There are people who actually follow Journey ?

garyputo
garyputo

ARNEL PINEDA of JOURNEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

Ok, I will give you Brian Johnson & the short-lived replacement for Halford, but please, Sammy?  In the 1980's, I saw the original Iron Maiden.  Both are fine lead singers; however, I grew to abhor Maiden.  There is a reason they were pelted with eggs.  Fuck Iron Maiden. 

Fantasticsmith
Fantasticsmith

What about Henry Rollins (born Henry Garfield) for Black Flag? Although he was their fourth singer, he became the face of the band.

Jim C
Jim C

I know I'm in the extreme minority..but I thought Queen's pairing up with Paul Rodgers was brilliant.

JoeDirte
JoeDirte

I'm not arguing the inclusion on this list, but, as a matter of fact, Hagar absolutely blows.

Tommy2Shoes
Tommy2Shoes

Grace Slick replaced Signe Toly Anderson in Jefferson Airplane. That has to be the most successful switch in rock history.

warbaby
warbaby

The misfits were over when Glenn left. Great singer and songwriter. You be taking out your you know what.

brian
brian

You missed REO speedwagon.

Godotnut
Godotnut

I wonder if the author listens to much metal?

Suzinne
Suzinne

What about that Asian guy who stepped in to front Journey when Steve Perry was no longer interested?  The singer was Arnel Pineda, and the band discovered him via youtube.  And the guy has serious pipes.

inarchetype
inarchetype

Cannot BELIEVE Bernard Sumner was passed over for this list!

airforceteacher
airforceteacher

It's too bad you couldn't throw a nod to Christian Contemporary music / Christian Rock.  Petra is probably the all-time favorite Christian Rock band, and they went through a similar vocalist change around the same time Van Halen did - gravelly replacement singer John Schlitt from Head East took over from Greg Volz and his 5 octave clarity.  Even though they were the biggest name in Christian rock already, Petra had their biggest hits after the change.

Six Pack
Six Pack

A list absent Henry Rollins addition to Black Flag is a total fail. 

wiseoneinheartland
wiseoneinheartland

While Ronnie James Dio is legend, and Graham Bonnet was a unique contributor to Rainbow deserving mention, I otherwise disagree and honestly feel that Joe Lynn Turner's voice is one of the most glorious I have ever heard in rock. Suffice it to say, he is perhaps one of the most under-noticed and underrated rock voices around. He has many of the most loyal fans around worldwide and continues rocking to this day. Don't believe me? Check out his facebook page Joelynnturnerofficial.    

MOTÖRHEAD
MOTÖRHEAD

What about Ian Gillian replacing Rod Evans in Deep Purple? 

Garrick Rothstein
Garrick Rothstein

Lest we forget Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone being replaced (after his untimely death) by Eddie Vedder to form Pearl Jam. How many of those other bands have been around as long AND had the lasting quality that Pearl Jam has?

purplelvstuff
purplelvstuff

Journey without Steve Perry isn't quite the real thing to me....but, I'll give Amel props.

MattL1
MattL1

It makes sense that a lot of these bands sucked both before and after the singer change.  #coughvanhalencough

Mcgmdws
Mcgmdws

Three times I've attempted to watch the Floyd movie Pulse. It is tiresome and unwatchable. Without Waters there is no Floyd. Just some guys pretending and ponderous.

WHEE
WHEE

Mike Patton replaced Chuck Mosley

Liles
Liles

Trevor Horn had huge Crocs to fill when he replaced Jon Anderson of Yes. You try goin' from "Video Killed The Radio Star" to singing the falsetto parts of "Close to The Edge" or "Roundabout". That version of Yes still managed to sell out Reunion Arena, as I recall. 

Katy
Katy

Oh, right.

Then there's the guy who sings Dennis DeYoung's parts on the new STYX tours.... and Peter Cetera left Chicago YEARS ago... 

Paul S
Paul S

on that note, Phil had always sung backup with Genesis, and at times was more of co-lead singer with Gabriel. Still, as inconsistent as Peter Gabriel was a singer he has an amazing and unique voice with a ton of soul.

michael_scott9158
michael_scott9158

Oh Please.  First off, "Pulse" is NOT a movie, like with a plot, it's a documentary about the Division Bell Tour.  "The Wall" was BOTH an album and a full length movie and I'm sorry. but most critics agree that the movie version sucked.  AND most critics agree that the best song on "The Wall" is one of the few songs that included Gilmour's collaberation with Waters, Comfortably Numb".   The simple truth is that Waters was the stronger lyricist by far but Gilmour brought the musicality to the band.  Without his vocal abilities and guitar arrangements, you would NOT have Pink Floyd.  If I had to chose between "The Final Cut", the last Floyd album with Waters, or the "Division Bell", the actual last Floyd album, I enjoy the music on the "Division Bell" much more.  Waters is a great talent but he is and always has been an ego maniac.  It took all the members of Floyd to make the band.

Laura
Laura

Faith No More had tons of singers before Patton.  Fun fact: Courtney Love briefly sang with them during that time.  However, they didn't have much success before Patton.

JensBloomquist
JensBloomquist

Peter Cetera was himself the replacement for the original lead singer who had died.  I think that's a pretty successful succession.

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