Bands with Multiple Lead Singers

  • by Gitabushi

After going through Survivor’s discography (and mostly liking it), I have continued to explore other Jim Peterik bands.  I do not recommend World Stage, but I generally don’t like recordings of live performances, and that’s what World Stage seems to be.  But I digress.

I have started listening to Pride of Lions, and just like World Stage, it features Jim Peterik sharing lead vocal duties with someone else who has a higher voice.

Jim Peterik was the lead singer of the Ides of March, so that’s his voice you hear on “Vehicle.” When he formed Survivor with Frankie Sullivan, the intent was he would share lead singer duties with Dave Bickler, but Frankie put a stop to that fairly quickly. Still, it’s Jim’s vocals on “Love Has Got Me” (which sounds like it was a hit song you never actually heard of, but it never charted).

 

The singer-with-a-higher-voice in Pride of Lions is Toby Hitchcock, who quite often sounds like Dennis DeYoung of Styx.

Which made me think:

Styx was fairly unusual in that it had multiple lead singers, and all had major radio hits.  Most of the time, like Survivor, the band coalesces around a main front man, the face and voice of the band.  To the point that people don’t realize that, say, J. Geils was the guitarist, not the lead singer.

styx

That made me think: what other bands had multiple lead singers?

Roger Taylor and Brian May both sang some lead on Queen Albums.  Roger Taylor sang “I’m in Love With My Car,” which was a fan favorite, but wasn’t really a charted hit. Freddie Mercury was the lead singer for that band.

I’d heard a story that Hall and Oates started when Oates was leading a band and getting heckled by someone in the audience. Oates said, “If you think you can do better, come up and do it.” And it was Hall, and he did, and he became the main lead singer. That doesn’t appear to be a true story, but I still like it. In any case, Hall was the front man. Oates still sang a song or two occasionally, but Hall was the face of the band.

Yes was always led by Jon Anderson, but when Trevor Rabin joined, he started sharing some of the lead duties.

Genesis was Peter Gabriel,until he left, and then Phil Collins became the lead singer.

So all these kind of apply, but none really have the “Multiple lead singers, each getting their own hit song opportunities.”

the cars

The first band I thought of that fit the bill was The Cars.  Rik Ocasek was the main lead singer, but Ben Orr sang “Just What I Needed” and “Drive” and shared lead singing duties with Rik in General.

Then I thought of Triumph, which had Rik Emmett singing most of the lead, but the drummer sang quite a bit, too.  Just Rik had most of the more famous songs, I think.

Heart sort of fits the bill. Both Ann and Nancy Wilson had big hits, but Nancy didn’t really do much lead singing before the huge hit “These Dreams”.  She followed it with “There’s the Girl”, but Ann was still the main lead singer. In fact, their vocal styles were so similar, unless you saw who the singer was in the video, you might not have realized it wasn’t Ann.

Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship had a number of lead singers, I guess, but they were mostly sequentially, until Grace Slick shared lead singing duties with Mickey Thomas in Starship. Not sure how much that counts.

None of these bands share lead singing duties to the level of Styx, however.  The Cars come the closest, perhaps.

Then I thought of Night Ranger.  Kelly Keagy and Jack Blades. They shared lead singing duties quite a bit. Pick a song you like from Night Ranger, and it has about an equal chance to be sung by Kelly as by Jack.

Then:

chicagoband-56aaebcd5f9b58b7d0091924

Chicago fits. Peter Cetera was the known lead singer, but keyboardist Robert Lamm sang lead on a bunch of songs (like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time it is?”, and in my research, I found out guitarist Terry Kath sang lead on “Color My World” and “Make Me Smile” two of my favorites).

Then I thought of a band that exceeds what Styx did with 3 lead singers:

kiss

Kiss.

Sure, Paul Stanley sang most of the songs, but Gene Simmons sang quite a bit of lead, too. And while those two are the nucleus of the band, they sought out both Ace Frehley and Peter Criss because they could sing lead. And Criss sang lead on their mega-hit “Beth.”

And then I thought of the band that had the ultimate mix of lead singers:

Photo of Glenn FREY and Joe WALSH and Don HENLEY and Don FELDER and EAGLES and Randy MEISNER

The Eagles.

Don Henley. Glenn Frey. Don Felder. Joe Walsh (“Life in the Fast Lane”). Timothy B. Schmidt (“I Can’t Tell You Why”). Randy Meisner (“Take it to the Limit”). Bernie Leadon.

Every single one of them (members at different times) have lead singing credits for the band.  The only one that didn’t have a huge hit for the band is Bernie Leadon.

What did we learn from this?

I think the casual fan wants to associate a band with a lead singer, someone who is the face of the band, and a consistent voice. Also, if the lead singer has nothing else to do but sing, they will be more jealous of the lead singing duties. The bands who were most successful in sharing the lead singing duties were those where the lead singers were also major instrumentalists, who contributed to the band’s success with their songwriting and instrumental skills, regardless of whether they were singing any specific song.

The Eagles, Kiss, Chicago, and Styx. In pretty much that order.

Who did I miss? What other bands had success with multiple, simultaneous lead singers?

 

 

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