15 Of The Greatest And Most Famous British Singers Of The 1980s

Last updated

When reliving the 80s, you can’t ignore the decade’s extreme fashion and music. It’s an era best known for music encompassing creativity, liveliness, and nostalgia. And when it comes to British 80s singers, a few things come to mind – their long hair, tights, shoulder pads, synthesizers, and huge hits.

But with so many British singers of the decade, you might wonder who were the most renowned.

Whether you’re interested in rock, pop, soul, or jazz singers, this post has got you covered. Here are 15 of the greatest and the most famous British singers of the 1980s.

1. George Michael

The best place to start is with George Michael who was one of the greatest English pop stars and songwriters of the 80s.

Michael was born and resided in East Finchley until his early teens when the family relocated to Radlett. After moving to Radlett, he joined Bushey Meads School in Bushey, where he met Andrew Ridgeley, his future band partner.

In 1981, the two partnered and formed a music duo, Wham! Michael rose to fame thanks to their first two albums, Fantastic and Make It Big. The band’s hit singles included the huge hits “Last Christmas” and “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”

Michael later embarked as a solo singer, releasing his first solo single, “Careless Whisper,” and solo album, Faith. Faith topped the UK Albums Chart and Billboard 200 in 1987. Michael sold over 120 million records across the world.

2. Shakin’ Stevens

Shakin’ Stevens is one of the UK’s top-selling rock and roll singers in the 1980s. He was born in Ely, Cardiff, Wales, and started his music career in the 1960s. Stevens started a band and performed gigs in Cardiff and South Wales with a group of school friends. 

In 1979, Stevens signed his most lucrative management deal with Freya Miller. Miller advised him to start a solo career, and in 1981, Stevens recorded his first UK chart-topper, “This Ole House.”

Stevens later released ten more songs, including “Oh Julie,” “Merry Christmas Everyone,” and “Green Door,” which were his three number one hits. His album, Shaky, reached number one and his hits dominated the 1980s.

He was very, very successful and over his career sold more records than any other artist of the 80s.

3. Rick Astley

Rick Astley is an English pop singer and songwriter whose multiple hits in the 1980s helped him gain worldwide fame.

He grew up in Lancashire and started playing the drums during his school days. After completing school, he became a drummer for the soul band FBI.

Astley’s association with Stock Aitken Waterman, a production trio, made him famous after releasing the album, Whenever You Need Somebody.

He released his debut single, “Never Gonna Give You Up,” followed by “Together Forever,” which became top hits in different countries.

He later released other hits between 1987-1989 that brought him success and over his career has sold approximately 40 million records worldwide.

4. Kim Wilde

Born in 1960, Kim Wilde is an English female pop star who rose to fame in 1981 after releasing her debut single “Kids in America.”

Wilde was born in Chiswick, West London, but the family later moved to Hertfordshire. After studying at St Albans College of Art & Design, Mickie Most signed her to RAK Records.

Her father, Marty, and brother, Ricky, wrote all her songs in the early 1980s. After her debut single, Wilde released her debut album, Kim Wilde (1981), which had popular hits such as “Chequered Love” and “Water on Glass.”

She released other albums, including Select (1982), Catch as Catch Can (1983), and her biggest-selling album, Close (1988).

Over her career, she sold over 20 million singles and 10 million albums worldwide.

5. Kate Bush

Kate Bush is a British pop/rock singer and songwriter. She grew up in Bexleyheath, Kent, England, in a family of artists.

Bush began writing her musical composition at 11 years before winning a contract with EMI Records at 16 years. She spent the next several years in London taking vocal lessons, studying dance and mime while preparing her first recording.

Bush released her first single, “Wuthering Heights” (1978), which became a number one hit. In 1982, she released an album Never for Ever, which had hits such as “Babooshka.”

She later released other albums such as The Dreaming (1982), Hounds of Love (1985), and her greatest hits collection, The Whole Story (1986). Bush sold over seven million records across the world.

6. Gordon Sumner (Sting)

Better known by his stage name Sting, Gordon Sumner is a British singer and songwriter whose musical style intermingled jazz, pop, and world music, among other genres.

Growing up in Wallsend, Northumberland, after he completed school, he qualified as a teacher and performed jazz with various bands on evenings, weekends, and holidays.

From 1977 to 1984, Sting was the frontman and songwriter of the rock band the Police. He ventured into a solo career in 1985 with his debut album, The Dream of the Blue Turtles (1985).

The album had hit singles such as “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free” and “Fortress Around Your Heart.” Sting has sold about 100 million albums worldwide.

7. David Bowie

David Bowie (1947-2016) was an English rock and pop singer, songwriter, and actor who rose to fame in the 70s and 80s.

He was born in Brixton, London, but the family later moved to Sundridge Park in 1955. Bowie studied music, art & design and in 1963, he embarked on a professional career as a musician.

In 1969, he released his debut song, “Space Oddity,” which featured in the top-five entries on the UK Singles Chart. He released several other singles and albums in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, Bowie released “Ashes to Ashes” (1980), “Under Pressure” (a collaboration with Queen in 1981), and an album Let’s Dance (1983). Bowie had sold over 100 million records worldwide during his lifetime.

8. Elton John

Elton John is a British rock singer, songwriter, and pianist. He was born in Pinner, Middlesex, where he developed an interest in piano as a young boy.

At 17, John pursued a career in music after his father failed to convince him to try other professions such as banking. He met Bernie Taupin, his longtime musical partner, in 1967.

Dubbed the Rocket Man, John rose to fame in the 70s after releasing his debut album, Empty Sky (1969), and his first hit, “Your Song” (1970). John and Taupin collaborated and released an album, Too Low for Zero (1983).

In 1984, the Rocket Man released 21 at 33 that had his biggest hit, “Little Jeannie.” He had several albums and singles in the 80s, with popular hits in the US and UK. John has sold 300 million-plus records in his music career.

9. Sheena Easton

Sheena Easton is a Scottish pop/R&B singer and actress. Easton grew up in Bellshill, Scotland, and had her big break as a pop singer in the early 80s.

She was influenced in the music industry by the 1970s rock ‘n’ roll and souls. In 1980, her first single, “Modern Girl,” rose to the top ten, while her second single, “9 to 5”, rose to number three on the UK Singles Chart.

Easton released other hits, such as the James Bond theme, “For Your Eyes Only.” She released her first US albums, You Could Have Been with Me (1981), Sheena Easton (1981), and Madness, Money & Music (1982).

In 1983, Easton collaborated with Kenny Rogers on a Bob Seger song, “We’ve Got Tonight,” a top 10 hit in the US. Easton has sold more than 30 million records worldwide.

Related: Read about more singers from Scotland here.

10. Bonnie Tyler

Bonnie Tyler (1951) is a Welsh pop, rock, country singer, and songwriter known for her distinctive raspy voice. She grew up in Skewen, Wales, and started singing as a child.

She later pursued a career in singing in 1969, although her first singles and album didn’t gain immediate impact.

In the late 1970s, Tyler found fame with her hits such as “Lost in France,” “More Than a Lover,” and “It’s a Heartache.” Her biggest career hit, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (1983), topped the UK Singles Charts.

She released several successful albums in the 80s, including Faster Than the Speed of Night (1983), Secret Dreams, and Forbidden Fire (1986). Tyler has sold more than 20 million records worldwide.

11. Phil Collins

Phil Collins is an English singer, songwriter, drummer, and actor who was a successful pop and rock singer in the 1980s.

He grew up in West London and started playing the drums at five before pursuing a music career in 1970. He is popularly known as a drummer and lead singer of Genesis, a rock band formed in 1967.

Collins’ success in music came in the 1980s after releasing his solo albums Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going, No Jacket Required, and …But Seriously.

His successful singles in the 80s include “One More Night,” “In the Air Tonight,” and “Against All Odds.” Collins has sold an estimated 150 million records worldwide.

12. Alison Moyet

Alison Moyet is a British pop singer and songwriter best known for her rich bluesy voice. She grew up in Basildon, Essex, England, and after school, she trained as a piano tuner.

Moyet’s late 70s and early 80s introduced her to various bands. Thanks to the duo Yazoo in 1982, she rose to fame, releasing several hits and two albums. Moyet left Yazoo in 1983 and formed two other teams.

In 1984, she began her solo career and released Alf, her debut solo album. The album had three successful hits, “All Cried Out,” “Love Resurrection,” and “Invisible.”

She later released other big UK hits that made her popular in the 80s. Moyet has sold over 23 million albums and two million singles worldwide.

13. Samantha Fox

Samantha Fox is a British pop singer famous in the 80s and early 90s. She grew up in Mile End, East London, and took an interest in music at three years old.

Fox formed her first pop band at 14 years, and at 16, she released her first single in 1983 after signing a record deal with Lamborghini Records.

Fox’s single, “Touch Me (I Want Your Body)” (1986), reached number one in different countries and had a spot in the Top 10 singles on the UK Singles Chart.

She later released her debut album Touch Me (1986), followed by Samantha Fox (1987) and I Wanna Have Some Fun (1988). Fox has sold more than 30 million records worldwide.

14. Brian May

Brian May is a British rock singer and songwriter who rose to fame due to his association with the rock band Queen. May grew up in Middlesex, and at 11 years, he formed his first band in 1984. He joined Queen in 1970 as a lead guitarist and as the band’s songwriter.

Some of the best hits May wrote for Queen include “I Want It All,” “We Will Rock You,” “Flash,” and “The Show Must Go On.”

May later ventured as a solo artist, releasing different singles and albums. He has sold about 100 million copies worldwide, and with Queen, they have sold over 200 million records.

15. Sade Adu

Sade Adu, popularly known as Sade, is a Nigerian-born British singer and songwriter best known for her blend of soul, jazz, and funk. She was born in Nigeria and brought up in Essex, England, where she joined the band Pride and released the album Diamond Life (1984).

The band released other albums, including Promise (1985), with singles such as “The Sweetest Taboo” and “Never as Good as the First Time.”

Adu’s third album, Stronger Than Pride (1988), became a success with its best single, “Paradise.” Sade’s band has sold over 75 million records worldwide.

Summing Up Our List Of British 1980s Singers

That’s the list of the greatest British singers of the 1980s.

Without these iconic British singers, music fans wouldn’t enjoy reliving the past with nostalgia. Their songs will forever keep the ‘80s decade alive.

Photo of author
Written by Laura Macmillan
Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.