9 Successful Solo Artists That Started In Bands

9 Successful Solo Artists That Started In Bands

solo artists from bands
L-R: Rob Thomas, Eric Clapton, Joan Jett, Ozzy Osbourne (Photos: Getty Images)

There are literally so many great solo artists that started in bands, once you start the roller-coaster, it’s hard to get off! So in this piece, I’m going to focus on the artists who've had a really high level of success as a solo artist, rivaling the career they had that started in bands. 

Rob Thomas

There’s no way you can talk about Rob Thomas without mentioning his work in Matchbox Twenty. When they hit the scene, they made a HUGE impact on radio all over the world because their music crossed boundaries or rock and pop. Meaning they could be played just about anywhere. The same can be said for the incredible solo career of Rob Thomas. He took that frontman scepter and charge forward. His multi-platinum debut solo album went to #1 on the Billboard charts, and it was the first time a that a male artist from a rock or pop group debuted at the top in the history of the charts. His first solo single, "Lonely No More" is still a staple of radio the world over, such was the impact and success this man achieved. His next solo album, Chip Tooth Smile, is out April 26 and you can pre-order it here, plus get a taster courtesy of new single "I Love It" below. 

Ozzy Osbourne

Anyone who’s read Symptom Of The Universe, the Black Sabbath bio, will know that when Ozzy was fired from the band, Sharon Osbourne (nee Arden) was the one that picked him up out of his pity party, and turned him into a certified superstar, while Sabbath languished. He’s sold more albums solo than with Sabbath by a long way, and continued to be relevant throughout the 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and today. It’s an amazing feat, perfectly orchestrated by Sharon and Ozzy. Everything you see them do, is all part of the plan to stay on top. And stay on top he has. 

Eric Clapton

Derrick and Domino’s, The Yardbirds, Cream. Look at those bands. HUGE by anyone’s standards, influential, powerful, but why? Eric Clapton. Oh sure you can include Jimmy Page in there, but Eric Clapton as a solo artist has absolutely gone nuts after he left those bands. Name a music award, and chances are, he’s won it, at least twice. How’s 18 Grammy awards sit with ya? Old ‘slow hand’ is off the scale when it comes to influence and success. Definitely deserving a place on this list.

Stevie Nicks

Recently inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist (for the second time, previously with Fleetwood Mac), Stevie literally has nothing to prove. From being a co-writer in the Mac on some of their biggest hits to working with Tom Petty and Prince in her solo career, and still continuing to work with Fleetwood Mac, she's a force. Stevie's Stand Back collection is out now, here, and she's heading to our shores for the Fleetwood Mac 50 Years Don't Stop tour in August. 

Paul McCartney

OK, so maybe Paul shouldn’t be in this article, because his body of work with the Beatles far outweighs any solo stuff he did, and yet his solo career has been decades longer. When you’re in the Beatles, anything you do after that will be overshadowed by the might of the Fab 4. That’s just the way it is. However, this is The Mac, and he’s been putting out fantastic music for decades and I can’t see him stopping. 


Make no mistake, The Police made Sting who he is today, but his solo work will stand the test of time, every time. This charismatic tantric frontman slash bassist really didn’t suffer commercially after parting ways. Also helps that these days he’s one of the nicest blokes in the world. 

Joan Jett 

An icon in her own right. From a really young age she was a founding member of the Runaways, but has gone on to a life-long solo career, one of the most successful as an indie artist.

Phil Collins

Was just here this year for a bunch of sold out shows, who would have thought that he’d be able to bring the heat like he did and sell so many tickets after a such a long time? Testament to the fact that he’s been a super star since leaving Genesis. I still love his Genesis work, the key change at 2:42 of "Invisible Touch" is an industry standard that defined all 80’s key changes. But his solo career is massive. He’s one of only a few people, including Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney to have sold over 100 million albums worldwide with a band and solo career. Monstrous stuff. Every single one of his solo studio albums has gone to #1 somewhere. 

George Michael

"Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" was, and still is a massive party hit for Wham. Geroge Michael and Andrew Ridgeley stopped the planet with that one. But when George decided to go solo, that’s when things went nuclear. When he sadly left us, he’d sold over 80 million solo albums worldwide, an incredible feat give that he only release 5 studio albums in his solo career. The power came from the 47 singles he released and 30+ music videos, it was those treasures that endeared him to fans around the globe. Geroge Michael was a hit machine.


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