What works on paper might not pan out onstage or in the studio when it comes to replacing members of bands, particularly singers. The chemistry might or might not be there.
The only way to know if something will work is by trying it out. Here’s a look at 10 singers who replaced established vocalists.
Ian Gillan replaces Rod Evans in Deep Purple: Evans’ pedestrian vocals grace the band’s first hit, “Hush.” When Gillan took over as frontman in 1969, it was a massive difference. Gillan has an incomparable voice and one of rock’s most identifiable screams. He was a perfect fit.
Ronnie James Dio replaces Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath: Dio was filling the shoes of boozy icon Ozzy Osbourne, who was kicked out of the Sabs during the late 1970s. It took guts for British Black Sabbath to go with an aging American singer with a very different style and voice. But it led Sabbath into a totally different creative direction.
1980’s “Heaven and Hell” is as great as any album that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers ever recorded. It took guts for Dio to join the band since Black Sabbath fans loved Osbourne.
“It took some time before I was accepted,” Dio told me during an interview in 2008. “The first place to accept me was Philadelphia. Someone unfurled a banner that said ‘Philadelphia loves the Reverend Ronnie James Dio.’ I knew I was fine after that.”
It shouldn’t have been so difficult to embrace the late Dio, who had the greatest voice in metal history.
Steve Perry replaces Gregg Rollie in Journey: Rollie is a capable singer, but Perry, aka “The Voice,” ushered Journey into the upper echelon of pop after joining the band in 1978. Journey’s emergence had much to do with Perry’s enviable set of pipes. The early 1980s shows were electric, and Perry appeared irreplaceable.
Brian Johnson replaces Bon Scott in AC/DC: In terms of record sales, Johnson is the greatest replacement of all time. Yes, Johnson possesses a voice made out of gravel just like Scott. However, the late Scott sounds slimier and grittier than Johnson. Scott, who like many 1970s rockers, lived hard and died hard.
But let’s give credit to Johnson, who joined the band in 1980, and AC/DC, who lived the rock and roll life perhaps more than any other band. Johnson is deaf, the late guitarist Malcolm Young lost his mind, and drummer Phil Rudd was arrested and charged with attempting to procure a murder. Rock on, lads!
Axl Rose replaces Brian Johnson in AC/DC: It was only for the 2016 tour, but if there was anyone ever born to belt out AC/DC songs, it was Rose, who was magnificent during the band’s final ever show in Philadelphia. Rose knocked it out of the park singing classics such as “Whole Lotta Rosie,” “T.N.T.” and “Back in Black.”
It was difficult to believe that Rose, who had just reformed Guns ’N Roses, scheduled back-to-back tours. After years of being the Greta Garbo of rock, the enigmatic icon was as ubiquitous as Ryan Seacrest. Let there be rock!
Adam Lambert replaces Paul Rodgers in Queen: When Brian May and Roger Taylor initially decided to reunite as Queen in 2004, Rodgers was selected as frontman. The former Bad Company singer is a contemporary and a fine vocalist, but he is everything the Queen frontman was not.
Lambert, much like Mercury, is flamboyant, dramatic and possesses a wide vocal range. I caught the initial Queen + Lambert tour three years ago with no expectations and left mightily impressed.
Arnel Pineda replaces Steve Augeri in Journey: Everyone forgets the Augeri period (1998-2006), and Pineda is an upgrade. Journey fans love the Fililpino vocalist who was discovered via YouTube. An acquaintance once exclaimed that Pineda is better than Perry, which is insane. Perry invented the sound and was on another vocal level.
However, after catching Journey two years ago, it is evident that Pineda not only has the vocal goods, but he also is a feel good entertainer who engages the audience.
Phil Collins replaces Peter Gabriel in Genesis: Collins, who is such an under-heralded drummer, was never as arty as the innovative Gabriel, but he gave Genesis new life during the 1980s as a pop songwriter, and he could work a crowd in a much different manner than his spellbinding predecessor.
Chris Cornell replaces Zach de la Rocha, and Rage Against the Machine becomes Audioslave: When de la Rocha quit at the commercial peak of Rage in 2000, who could blame his bandmates for wanting to soldier on?
It was a wise move to change the name. Audioslave’s music is much different than Rage’s work, which makes sense since the late Cornell had an unparalleled set of pipes and a distinct sonic sensibility.
Audioslave, which formed in 2001, has left behind a solid catalog. The only misstep was when Audioslave covered Rage tunes. As great a singer as Cornell was, de la Rocha is the only one who can deliver his raps.
Mike Patton replaces Chuck Mosely in Faith No More: FNM had a minor hit, “We Care a Lot,” with Mosely, but that was about as far as the quirky group was going to go commercially. The animated and innovative Patton enabled Faith No More to morph after signing on in 1988.
Thanks to Patton’s amazing performance in the studio and in front of the camera, the infectious “Epic” became a smash in 1990, and two years later the band released its critically acclaimed masterpiece, “Angel Dust.”
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