Some of the most successful solo artists in history started out as part of a band. In some cases, artists have moved between a number of different bands before they found the courage to begin a solo career. Often, rifts caused by certain creative decisions often resulted in the severing of ties between certain bandmates.
Many famous band members have managed to enjoy fruitful solo careers. Morrissey, highly regarded for his work with The Smiths, remains extremely popular as a solo artist who seems to become more and more popular with age. Icelandic singer Björk also branched out from the Sugarcubes, and became an extremely successful artist despite skepticism from critics. Some are not so lucky though – members of the Spice Girls who attempted a solo career were generally met with woeful reactions from critics.
These 10 Richest Band Members Who Went Solo managed to achieve success on their own, shaking of the legacy of their former band days. In many cases, these solo artists who broke free from their original group went on to be even more successful than the group ever was in rare cases of the components being worth more than the whole.
10. Robert Plant – $120 million
After Plant joined the band The Yardbirds, they soon reformed under the name Led Zeppelin. For the 12 years proceeding 1968, the great stage duo of Plant and Jimmy Page would tour the world as the original, archetypal rock gods.
In late 1980, after the death of drummer John Bonham, Led Zeppelin broke up. At this stage Plant considered a career as a music teacher, and was even accepted into a training program. Instead, though, he started up his solo career that is still going today, which sees him playing old Led Zeppelin tracks, and sometimes collaborating with Jimmy Page.
9. George Michael – $135 million
George Michael’s career began in the early 1980’s when he formed the pop duo Wham! with Andrew Ridgeley. Wham! experienced immediate success, with their first album ‘Fantastic’ reaching 1st place on the UK albums chart. Wham! made history in 1985 when they went on tour in China, as they were the first Western band in history to do so. Yet even while Wham! were enjoying enormous success, Michael began releasing solo singles. Soon, all focus had shifted onto Michael, and many suspected a split.
Michael soon began a successful career without Ridgeley which has now spanned over two decades. This year, Michael released his first live album of his most recent tour, which featured at number one in the UK albums chart.
8. Robbie Williams – $160 million
Robbie Williams was just 16 years old when he became a member of British boyband Take That with Gary Barlow, Mark Owen, Howard Donald and Jason Orange. Take That became extremely successful, but Williams slowly became the misfit of the group.
Williams was apparently keen to explore other genres of music such as hip-hop, which clashed with Take That’s neat, tidy, ballad-singing image. Williams’ was also developing issues with substance abuse, which caused a rift with the other band members. They told Williams that they planned to tour without him, and Williams left the band. Although his solo career was initially treated with circumspection, Williams ended up being more successful than Take That ever was or would be. To date, he is the best-selling solo artist in the United Kingdom.
7. Rod Stewart – $172.5 million
Stewart was born to a working class family in London in 1945. Stewart joined a number of bands in the 1960’s, including The Dimensions and the Jeff Beck Group, all of which experienced a limited amount of success. Stewart was keen to explore a more pop-focused career, and eventually made the decision to go solo in the 1970’s.
Stewart experienced huge success in the 1970’s, but his career fell rather flat during the following two decades. However, he managed to bag a Grammy award in 2004 aged 59, showing that his solo career was not over yet.
6. Eric Clapton – $200 million
Eric Clapton is considered as one of the fathers of rock and roll, as well as one of the most talented musicians alive today. Clapton started out his career in numerous bands, in which he didn’t always gel very well.
The first band he joined was The Yardbirds with Robert Plant, with whom he only played for a couple of years. His next venture as a member of John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers was even shorter – Clapton left after a couple of months. After experiencing success in the band Cream and Blind Faith, Clapton finally began a solo career, which was initially paralysed by a heroin addiction. After overcoming his personal demons, Clapton began a hugely successful solo career, and now has an incredible 17 Grammy awards to his name.
5. Sting – $270 million
Early in 1977 Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner moved from Newcastle to London, where he formed the Police with Stewart Copeland and Henry Padovani. Over the next five years the band would release five chart-topping albums, win two Brit awards and 6 Grammys.
However, in 1983, whilst on stage at the Shea Stadium in Queens, Sting made the decision to leave The Police. According to him playing the Shea was his ‘Everest’, and he needed a change. In the early 80s Sting had begun preforming solo, or with guests like Eric Clapton, Phil Collins, and Bob Geldof.
4. Beyonce Knowles- $350 million
Beyonce’s original band Destiny’s Child was torn apart by disputes. The original line-up included five members, including LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson, who quit after disputes with the manager over alleged favouritism of Knowles. Many fans blamed Beyoncé for the break up of the original band, and she entered a period of depression that would last for several years.
However, things began to look up in late 2002, when Beyoncé’s first solo recording was released, and made it to number 4 in the charts. Under a year later in June 2003 her solo album Dangerously in Love experienced huge success. Since then she has moved from strength to strength and has become one of the most influential women in music. Beyoncé and husband Jay-Z are often referred to as the biggest power couple in music.
3. George Harrison – $400 million
George Harrison needs little introduction. This Englishman made up one quarter of the most famous band of all time, the Beatles. As the band went from strength to strength in the 1960’s, Harrison was pushed out of the spotlight, while John Lennon and Paul McCartney were the media darlings. This happened to such an extent that Harrison became known was “The Quiet Beatle.”
By the late 1960’s, Harrison was growing increasingly angry that his ideas weren’t being taken seriously in the group. After he left the band for several weeks in 1969, the band split in 1970. Harrison began a successful solo career soon afterwards, but it would appear that life in a band suited Harrison. He formed a new group, the Traveling Wilburys, in late 1980’s, and it became a multi-platinum selling musical endeavour.
2. Tie: John Lennon and Paul McCartney- $800 million
John Lennon was the founder of the supergroup the Beatles. He and bandmate Paul McCartney experienced a turbulent relationship during their years in the music business, ranging from best friends to sworn enemies. Lennon released his first solo album soon after the Beatles broke up, but his major hit was 1971’s Imagine. The song Imagine was ranked at number 3 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “All-Time Best Songs” list.
Paul McCartney also experienced a healthy post-Beatles solo career. His 1970 album McCartney was a hit, but his solo career took a hiatus after the assassination of John Lennon in 1980. McCartney’s solo career has continued into the 21st century, and as of today he is classed as pop music royalty.
1. Michael Jackson – $1 billion
Michael Jackson was not only the richest but also the most well-known band member who went solo. During the 1960’s, he performed in the Jackson 5, a group set up and controlled by his strict father. Michael was the standout member of the group, who was praised at a young age for the emotional depth and range of his voice. By the 1970’s, Jackson had begun a solo career.
Jackson’s solo career was extraordinarily successful. His 1982 album Thriller became the best-selling album in history. During his lifetime, Jackson made invaluable contributions to music as a whole. He is regarded as one of the most important public figures in history, a cultural icon, and his legacy has lived after his death.