There are plenty of great singers that made it big or performed their best songs in the 80s. However, I think there are a select few that stand out from what otherwise could have been a rather long list.
Therefore, I decided to be very choosy with my selection of the most famous male singers of the 1980s. I hope you like my picks. Let’s start with the incredible…
Top 6 Most Famous Male Singers Of The 1980s
Freddie Mercury’s vocal range, power, and delivery were unrivaled. Together with his ability to express emotion and his exquisite phrasing, this was one special guy.
But, that wasn’t all…
His singing was undoubtedly a major part of his success and ability. However, his musicality, songwriting, and his quality as a frontman and performer were all equally as impressive.
Freddie Mercury is best known as the lead singer for the British Rock group Queen. They were formed with Roger Taylor and lead guitarist Brian May in 1970. This was one year after Freddie had become a British citizen. He had previously lived in Zanzibar, where he was born, but was forced to flee in 1964 due to a bloody revolution.
Queen released their first self-titled album, Queen. It immediately grabbed the attention of the public and sold three million copies. In 1974, the second, somewhat unimaginatively named album, Queen II, was released, and this also sold three million albums. This was a period of intense musical output.
In 1975, they released their fourth album, A Night at the Opera, which successfully gripped the attention of a global audience. The album sold over 12 million copies, and except for compilation albums, it is still their best-selling.
It also contains their most successful, most recognized, and most iconic single, “Bohemian Rhapsody.” It sold a staggering six million copies and remains popular to this day.
Under the leadership of Freddie Mercury…
Queen was a band that laid the foundations for their success in the 70s. However, they continued to build upon this and released six more studio albums in the 1980s. The best of these was A Kind of Magic in 1986.
If there was ever a pinnacle point in Freddie Mercury’s career, it would be on the 13th of July 1985 at Wembley Stadium in London. Queen played a free benefit concert, “Live Aid,” in front of a crowd of 700,000 people and a worldwide audience of one billion.
The list of other musicians playing on that day included the very best of the very best. However, it’s no exaggeration to say that Freddie Mercury stole the show. He demonstrated once and for all that he was the best frontman on the planet.
It’s how I will always remember him…
Sadly, on the 24th of November 1991, he died of AIDS after a long battle. With his passing, we lost one of the greatest male singers in the 80s and of all time.
Axl Rose has an incredible vocal range. Although over the past 40 years, he’s done his best to destroy it, he still sounds epic.
He did have a period in the early 2000s when his voice started to suffer from all the drinking and drugs. However, he eventually got his stuff back together, and now, even though he’s in his 60s, he’s back to sounding awesome.
So, how good is he?
He’s phenomenal. He has the largest vocal range of any Pop or Rock singer currently recording music. What’s more, that includes female singers too. The songbird Mariah Carey might think her range is amazing, but at five octaves, it’s still a full octave short in comparison to Axl Rose’s ridiculous range.
This is all well and good, but great singing isn’t all about the range, I hear you say. And, you’d be right. But here’s the thing – Axl also has superb control, masterful technique, and huge power.
I was lucky enough to see him live in 1992 when he was pretty much in his prime. His vocals and ability to shriek and scream his way through the set blew my mind. I’ve seen plenty of famous male singers, but he’s been the best so far by quite a long way.
Axl Rose epitomized American Rock of the 1980s…
He formed the band Guns N’ Roses in 1985, and it was in this decade that made them international Rockstars.
Appetite for Destruction was the first album they released in 1987. It sold 30 million copies and remains their best-selling album. It also contains some of their biggest and most recognizable hits, including “Welcome to the Jungle,” “Paradise City,” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
In addition to singing…
Axl Rose is also an accomplished pianist and songwriter. He is a classically trained pianist, and his classical background can be heard in songs like “November Rain,” which was released in 1991. When they play the song live, he does the piano introduction himself whilst singing.
This guy is a special musical talent, and I’m confident that we’ll be hearing from him for a long time to come. That’s because he was taught how to sing by the amazing vocal coach Ron Anderson, so there’s little doubt that he knows how to take care of his voice.
As long as he doesn’t have a second go at sabotaging his career, he should be fine. I honestly hope I get to see him again at some point in my life. A legendary male singer from the 80s.
Michael Jackson was one of the most famous male singers of the 1980s, and he was also the undisputed King of Pop. But was Michael Jackson a better singer than Axl Rose? No. How do I know? Because I’ve seen them both live.
It’s not that he was not good…
He was great, but he just didn’t have the sheer power or bottom range that Axyl had and still has. Michael Jackson was all top-end, although very precise. I’d go as far as to say that he had perfect pitch for the type of Pop songs he sang.
Michael Jackson sold 400 million albums in his career compared to just 100 million for Guns N’ Roses. Therefore, I think that his lack of a bottom end and power probably didn’t worry him too much.
Also, the fact that he is the second most successful singer of all time, after Elvis, would no doubt make him smile as he was grabbing his crotch and talking to his monkey.
So, how did he get to the top?
Michael Jackson was born in 1958 and was performing with The Jackson 5 by the time he was just six years old. It’s no surprise then that when he began his solo career in 1979, he was already an accomplished performer and songwriter.
The 70s were the catalyst to kick-start his solo career. In 1979 he released, Off the Wall, which went to #1 in several countries and sold 20 million copies. With just one album, he successfully shook off the shackles of this family, and all should have been good.
And it was for a while…
Three years later, in 1982, he released what was to be the best-selling album of all time. It sold 70 million copies, and that’s a record that is most likely never going to be beaten. I am, of course, talking about, Thriller.
The 80s were the time that defined Michael Jackson as an artist. This position was further solidified with the release of Bad in 1987. His World Tour between 1987 to 1989, when I saw him, also consolidated his reputation as one of the greatest male vocalists and performers of all time.
Then, the wheels began to fall off…
Following Bad, things quickly went into free fall and were never the same. He became obsessed with plastic surgery, and in the space of another 14 years, he only managed to release another three studio albums. Frankly, none of them were that great.
I honestly think he lost his mind…
His decision-making became increasingly poor. It was not only the plastic surgery but also the amount of time he began to spend close to children when unsupervised. If anything inappropriate happened or not is not for me to say. However, no sane person would ever put themselves into those kinds of situations.
His recklessness also extended to the taking of crazy amounts of sedatives. This eventually led to his death at the age of 50 in 2009. I’m sure you’ll agree, a complete and senseless waste of a life. Still, he was one of the defining male singers of the 1980s.
Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi was the frontman and songwriter for the American Hair Metal band Bon Jovi. The band got together in 1983, and despite some comings and goings over the years, they are still together today.
In the 80s…
Bon Jovi was as big as their hair, and it was also the decade when they made their mark. It all started with their debut album, the self-titled Bon Jovi, which was released in 1984. However, the record that got them noticed globally was their third album, Slippery When Wet.
It went to #1 in the US and #6 in the UK. It sold over sixteen million albums and became their third best-selling album.
Jon Bon Jovi followed up the success with the release of New Jersey in 1988. This made it to #1 in both the UK and the US. What’s more, it also became their best-selling album, and produced two of their biggest and best-known hits – “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “You Give Love a Bad Name.”
Bon Jovi was riding high…
Jon Bon Jovi was not only one of the most famous male singers of the 1980s, but he was one of the most famous celebrities too. He seemed to be everywhere in the media. He was either in the charts, on the TV, in the movies, or on stage. His brand of music and his personality seemed unstoppable. Which, to an extent, is true.
When the 90s hit…
Jon Bon Jovi pursued several successful solo projects. He released his debut single, “Blaze of Glory,” in 1990, and it was no surprise when it reached #1 on the US Billboard charts. Despite the solo projects, it was never at the expense of the band as they continued to play together, tour, and make hits.
He was one of the most successful male singers of the 1980s and the King of Hair Metal. His Glam Rock style of catchy music remains popular, and he continues to pack out arenas and sell records.
There seems to be no end to his popularity, and he hardly looks any older than he did 40 years ago. I’m beginning to suspect he has done a deal with the devil. The guy has done good, and I’m a tiny bit jealous.
Ozzy Osbourne is a musical legend. He was one of the main guys, along with Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Tom Ward, that created Metal music. Without Ozzy and his fellow three band members, there would be no Metallica, Pantera, or Iron Maiden, and that would be very sad indeed.
The self-proclaimed “Prince of Darkness”…
Ozzy came to prominence in 1968 with the formation of Black Sabbath. Two years later, they turned the world of music on its head with the release of their debut album, Black Sabbath.
Unexpectedly, the album charted at #23 in the US and #8 in the UK. It also sold over four million copies, and overnight it made Black Sabbath a force in music and a band to be taken seriously. More success followed with the release of their second album, Paranoid. This was also released in 1970, and it became their biggest hit after selling more than 12 million copies.
Over the next eleven years…
Ozzy shrieked and wailed his way to international fame, cutting eight albums in the process. The most successful was their second album, released in 1970. It sold over 12 million copies. Six more albums followed in the 70s, and it felt like the ride would never end. But, it did.
In 1979, Ozzy had become increasingly unreliable, and his behavior was increasingly erratic. It’s fair to say that during the late 70s, if he wasn’t drunk, then he’d be under the influence of drugs. The result was that Tony Iommi called time, and Ozzy was kicked out of the band.
Frankly, it marked the beginning of the end of Black Sabbath. They got some great vocalists to replace Ozzy, but they were still never good enough.
Ozzy was and still is special…
His voice is truly awesome. He’s a tenor, and when he sings, he’s more than comfortable singing at the higher range of his voice for extended periods. I was lucky enough to see him live in the early 80s and was blown away by the uniqueness, power, and amazing tone of his voice.
After getting expelled from Black Sabbath, he went solo and got busy putting his band together. In 1980, he released his first solo album, Blizzard of Oz. I gritted my teeth, went to the local record store, bought a copy, and took it home with a feeling of impending doom.
I don’t honestly know what I was expecting. But I can tell you that it wasn’t “I Don’t Know,” “Crazy Train,” “Suicide Solution,” and “Mr. Crowley.” It pretty much blew my mind and no doubt everyone else who heard it. I didn’t know what the hell I was listening to!
It was absolute genius…
In no small part due to their newly recruited young guitarist Randy Rhoads. The following year, Ozzy released Diary of a Madman, which was no less brilliant. In the space of a year, he released two of his best-selling albums and chalked up 9 million in sales.
The next forty years were probably what could be described as extremely solid. Ozzy never hit the peaks of success from his early music but still sold 70 million albums as a solo artist. More importantly, he packed out stadiums whenever he toured with an adoring loyal fanbase.
As I write this, Ozzy is in a poor state of physical health, so it is unlikely that we will ever see him return to the stage or release any more music. That’s a shame, but I’d like to say thank you for allowing me to be part of your incredible journey.
In many ways, Brian Johnson and Ozzy Osbourne are cut from the same cloth. They were both born at around the same time, they both come from rough areas of the UK, and they both come from poor working-class backgrounds.
Additionally, they have never received a single singing lesson, and their incredible vocal ability is completely natural. That’s just crazy.
What makes Brian Johnson so awesome?
That’d be the combination of power married to a voice that exudes passion and grit with every note. When Brian Johnson sings, we hang on to every word and believe everything he’s telling us. It’s a wonderful experience.
Before he replaced Bon Scott as AC/DC’s frontman, he was the lead singer of Geordie. Essentially, Geordie was not very well-known outside of Brian Johnson’s native Newcastle in the north of England. They did have a couple of minor hits, but nothing to get them much in the way of recognition.
Brian Johnson joined AC/DC and made an immediate impact. He wrote the lyrics for the band’s first album release, Back in Black, following the death of Bon Scott. The album just went crazy and ultimately sold a mind-blowing 50 million copies. That makes it the second best-selling album ever after Thriller by Michael Jackson. Not bad for your first try, eh?
Brian Johnson and AC/DC went on to be one of the biggest Rock bands in history. They moved from sell-out gigs in local town halls to sell-out concerts in sports stadiums and arenas. They have currently sold 200 million albums, and some of those are down to me. Don’t mention it, guys!
As recently as 2016…
Brian Johnson had to stop his shrieking and screaming, I mean singing, due to hearing problems. Thankfully, after a short stand-in from Axl Rose during a world tour, Brian Johnson is back. I’ve seen AC/DC twice already, and I’m now hoping for a third.
Want to Learn About More Incredible Singers?
If so, have a look at our detailed articles on the Most Famous Black Singers Of The 1970s, the Most Famous Blues Singers, the Most Famous British Singers, the Most Famous American Singers Of All Time, and the Best Female Singers to discover more amazing vocal talents.
Of course, you’ll need to listen to them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Headphones For Rock & Metal Music, the Best Headphones for Music, and the Best Sound Quality Earbuds. Or how about the Best Noise Cancelling Earbuds, as well as the Best Wireless Bluetooth Headphones you can buy in 2023?
Most Famous Male Singers Of The 1980s – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. Six of the best male singers of the 1980s. Also, six of the most influential musicians of their generation. It’s been a lot of fun diving back into history to bring you this list, and I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey.
Until next time, happy listening.