15 Of The Most Famous Male Singers Of The 1980s

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The 1980s was a time of social turmoil, flamboyant clothes, and big shoulder pads. It was also an amazing decade for music, and it gave rise to some of our favorite and most iconic artists.

Today, the style, music, and pop culture of the ’80s live on with today’s musicians borrowing the visual and auditory styles of these artists, crediting them as influences.

And in this post, we’ve compiled a list of 15 of the greatest and most famous male singers of the ’80s to highlight the contributions of these incredible artists. Let’s get started

1. Michael Jackson

There’s probably no person alive who doesn’t know the King of Pop. Michael Jackson is known as one of the leading cultural figures of the twentieth century. Though his career spanned over four decades, it was in the 1980s when Jackson achieved global fame as a pop solo artist.

It was during this decade when he released most of his iconic songs, including the incredibly successful Thriller, which won eight awards. His 1983 hits Beat It and Billie Jean also won Grammys.

Despite speculations about his lifestyle and ever-changing appearance, Jackson continued to sell millions of records. These speculations would shadow him until his death in 2009.

2. Prince

Prince Rogers Nelson, better known by his stage name Prince, is regarded as one of the most talented musicians of his generation. He was an accomplished guitar player, pianist, drummer, and vocalist, and was also a gifted lyricist and composer.

Prince was signed to Warner Bros. at the age of nineteen and found immediate success with his album Dirty Mind in 1980. His most successful album, Purple Rain, was released in 1984 as the soundtrack to a film of the same name.

With this album, Prince won the Academy Award for Best Original Song Score and spent six consecutive months at #1 on the Billboard charts.

3. David Bowie

English singer-songwriter David Bowie is credited as one of the leading cultural influences of the twentieth century. While he achieved much of his fame during the 1970s, he was still considered one of the greatest during the 1980s.

His career is marked by an ever-shifting musical and visual aesthetic that many classify as eras, and during the ’80s, Bowie was in his New Romantic era, in which he released his #1 single “Ashes To Ashes.”

In 1981, Bowie released one of his best-known songs, “Under Pressure,” a collaboration with Queen’s Freddy Mercury, and he reached the peak of his fame in 1983 with the album Let’s Dance, which has sold over 10 million copies to date.

4. Boy George

Born George Alan O’Dowd, Boy George is known not only as a singer and ’80s pop culture icon but also as a fashion designer, DJ, photographer, and producer.

He was the lead singer of the band Culture Club, which rose to fame in the 1980s with songs like “Karma Chameleon” and “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” In the late ’80s, he started going solo, with his single “Everything I Own” becoming top 1 in the UK.

George is well-known for his outlandish and androgynous appearance, which includes extravagant makeup and flamboyant costumes. He is a fashion icon, both as an influencer over other designers and as the creator of his own clothing line. 

5. Elton John

Next on the list is renown pianist, singer, and composer Sir Elton John, sometimes nicknamed “The Rocket Man” after his 1972 megahit. Like many of the names on this list, his work spans multiple decades, and the 1980s was just one period in his varied and influential career.

By the ’80s John had already risen to fame on the success of tracks like “Rocket Man,” “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” and “Bennie and the Jets.” That decade also saw John perform at the massive Live Aid concert, as well as the release of his #1 single “That’s What Friends Are For,” in collaboration with Gladys Knight, Dionne Warwick, and Stevie Wonder.

6. Huey Lewis

American musician Huey Lewis is the lead singer of the band Huey Lewis and the News. Though the band did not have initial success, their 1983 album Sports reached top ten in the Billboard Top 100.  

In 1985, Lewis released his single “The Power Of Love,” a #1 hit in the US. It featured in the movie Back To The Future that same year, along with The New’s “Back In Time.”

During this time, Lewis also gained attention as a harmonica player by appearing on other artists’ tracks, including Thin Lizzy and Elvis Costello.

7. Bryan Adams

Canadian guitarist, singer, and songwriter Bryan Adams started playing guitar at age 12 and left school to pursue music using the money his parents had saved for his college fund. By the age of 15, he had already made it onto US Top 100 charts.

His music career took off when he met his writing partner, Jim Vallance, but it was in the early ’80s with his #1 album Reckless, which included the tracks “Run to You” and “Summer of ’69,” that he shot to fame. The album one of his best-selling, with over 12 million sold worldwide.

Adams sustained his success throughout his career, with multiple #1 albums. He has also been nominated several times for Grammys, with a win for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals.

8. Billy Joel

Known for his distinctive voice and piano-playing abilities, Billy Joel is one of the best-selling musical artists of all time, with some 150 million in sales.

Often nicknamed “The Piano Man” after the name of his first single and possibly his most famous song, Joel began playing piano at a young age and was soon writing his own songs.

Throughout the ’80s, Joel continued to produce chart-topping albums and singles, including “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me,” “Tell Her About It” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” Over his career, he’s been nominated for 23 Grammy awards (winning five) and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1991.

9. Robert Smith

English singer-songwriter Robert Smith is best known as the founder, lead singer, and only continuous member of the rock band The Cure. He is also known for his signature look—red lipstick, black eyeshadow, disheveled black hair, and all-black clothes. This look strongly influenced the rise of the Goth subculture. 

The Cure formed in the late 1970s, but Smith didn’t become the lead singer right away. At first, he was the backup guitarist, but by 1980, when the group was touring with Siouxsie and the Banshees, Smith was writing and singing all the band’s songs.

The band gained popularity in 1982 with their album Pornography and released a total of seven albums in the ’80s, helping to cement Smith to worldwide stardom.

10. Axl Rose

Next on our list is Axl Rose. He is best known as the lead singer and frontman for the hard rock band Guns and Roses. Rose has a distinctive tone and impressive vocal range and has been named by many as one of the greatest rock singers of all time.

In 1987 Guns and Roses found breakthrough fame with their debut album Appetite for Destruction, which included the classic song “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” The following year, they released G N’ R Lies, another best seller.

From then on, the band went on to worldwide success and has since sold over 100 million records.

11. David Byrne

Next, we have David Byrne, who is a singer, songwriter, producer, actor, writer, music theorist, and filmmaker. He’s probably best known as the lead singer of the new wave band Talking Heads.

The band blended elements of punk, funk, and world music to create a unique style that helped to define the sound of New York City in the 1980s. The popularity of the Talking Heads peaked in the early 1980s with the release of their landmark album Remain In Light.

In addition to his work with the Talking Heads, Byrne has also released a number of solo albums and collaborated with a variety of artists, including Brian Eno and St. Vincent. He’s also composed the music for a number of television and films.

His contributions to popular music have been widely recognized, and he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.

12. Morrissey

English singer-songwriter Morrisey first came to the limelight as the lead singer of the Smiths, a groundbreaking British rock band that released a string of classic albums in the 1980s.

The group’s debut album, The Smiths, was released in 1984 and reached #2 on the UK charts. The album featured the singles “What Difference Does It Make?” and “Hand in Glove.” The follow-up album, Meat Is Murder, was even more successful, reaching #1 on the UK charts.

With his distinctive quiff and voice, it was Morrisey’s stage presence that made him one of the most iconic frontmen of his generation, and after the Smiths broke up in 1987, he embarked on a successful solo career.

13. Freddie Mercury

There are few singers who have left as indelible a mark on the music world as Freddie Mercury. He was the lead singer and frontman of the rock band Queen.

Regarded as one of the best rock singers of all time, he was well-known for his flamboyant stage persona and an incredible four-octave range. He was also a talented songwriter, penning some of Queen’s most iconic hits, including “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love.”

With Queen, Mercury has sold an estimated 300 million records, making him one of the best selling artists of all time.

His untimely death in 1991 dealt a devastating blow to the music world, but his legacy continues to live on through the enduring popularity of Queen’s music.

14. Tom Petty

America’s favorite heartland rocker Tom Petty has been cranking out hits for over four decades. From his early days with the Heartbreakers to his solo work and beyond, Petty has always had a knack for writing catchy tunes with relatable lyrics. He was also a member of the ’80s supergroup The Traveling Wilburys

Some of Petty’s best-known songs include “Free Fallin’,” “I Won’t Back Down,” and “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” which were all released during the ’80s.

While Petty’s musical style has evolved over the years, his unique voice and approachable persona have remained constant. It’s this consistency that has endeared Petty to millions of fans around the world and earned him a place among the greatest singers of the 1980s.

15. Bruce Springsteen

And finally, Bruce Springsteen, nicknamed the Boss, is known as one of the pioneers of the heartland rock, which combined elements of rock with narrative songs about working-class America.

By 1980 he had already achieved worldwide fame with his first album Born to Run; however, his best-known work is probably Born In The USA, released in 1984. Some of his best hits of the ’80s were “Dancing In The Dark,” “Cover Me,” “Born In The USA,” and “Glory Days.”

Springsteen is also a master of live performance, with his concerts legendary for their energy and emotion. It is this rare combination of songwriting talent, performance ability, and emotional connection that has made him one of the most successful and beloved musicians of our time.

Springsteen has won numerous awards, including 20 Grammy Awards and two Golden Globes, and in 1999, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Summing Up Our List Of Famous 1980s Male Singers

The world is still feeling the influence of these great artists—not just their music, but their styles, personalities, and what they contributed to pop culture.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about these iconic singers. If any of the names on this list are unfamiliar to you, we highly recommend digging deeper into their discographies—you won’t regret it!

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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.