This article ranks the 50 best examples of musicians who’ve been official members of multiple bands or singing groups – and who’ve had major success with both (or more) of those acts.
We’ve all done it.
Weve all pledged our allegiance to one group or team in our lifetimes and somehow had that loyalty challenged by the belief that we’d be better off on the other side, where the grass may be a little greener, or the sun may shine a little brighter.
Weve done it in our jobs, our friendships, our marriages…even our religious and political beliefs.
Heck, there’s probably someone reading this now who’s deciding whether their lifelong allegiance to the Democratic or Republican political party remains a true representation of where they stand for this year’s presidential election, particularly after the recently completed Republican and Democratic national conventions over the past two weeks and the yearlong campaigns by the two major parties’ nominees: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, respectively.
Earlier this month, media and sports news networks were all over NBA All-Star Kevin Durant and his recent decision to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder for the two-time defending Western Conference champions Golden State Warriors, who are now surely favorites to hoist that trophy for a third time going into next season’s NBA Finals.
The chatter has been spurred on, no doubt, by the fact that it was Durant’s previous team, the OKC Thunder, who blew a 3-1 series lead over those Warriors to give them that West title. And now KD apparently wants to take a walk on that greener grass for a (better?) chance to get his first NBA Championship in what will soon be a ten-year career.
Such moves are not uncommon in sports. And they sometimes actually do work out for the player who takes that leap of faith to the other side.
Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, famously switched from the Indianapolis Colts to the Denver Broncos in 2012. His younger brother, NY Giants QB Eli Manning, switched from the team that drafted him, the San Diego Chargers, to the Giants before his NFL career even started.
The moves paid off for both Mannings as both now have two Super Bowl rings, with the older brother getting one with each of his two teams.
In Major League Baseball, the annual tradition of swapping big name players and future prospects before the year’s trade deadline is playing out as I type this, with a recent move already having benefitted the league-leading Chicago Cubs (their acquisition of fearsome closing pitcher Aroldis Chapman). They now look like sure-fire favorites to win this year’s World Series – and Chapman would get his first title as well!
And I don’t need to remind anyone how the NBA’s other great example, LeBron James, has worked out – for all parties involved.
The same can sometimes be the case in the music biz. Over the years, many musicians and singers have “switched teams” with the hopes that they can equal or better their current lots in life.
In reading this, your first thought might go to switching record labels. And while that does happen often, I’m referring to musicians who’ve switched musical groups altogether, or who’ve left one group, then some time later formed or became part of another group.
You know about the famous cases, like the legendary Eric Clapton, Sir Paul McCartney or the members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young, all of whom began their careers with legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame groups before leaving to join another. More recent rock music examples include the Foo Fighters’ David Grohl, the White Stripes’ Jack White, and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction fame.
There are also some famous soul/R&B singers and musicians who – back when R&B groups still existed (they don’t anymore, but that story is for a future article) – bounced from one group to another. The most noteworthy examples include Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley (of both the J.B.’s and Parliament-Funkadelic) and legendary bassist Larry Graham, who played with Sly & the Family Stone before starting his own band, Graham Central Station, in the 1970s.
It is with this multi-team-playing spirit in mind that I look at those examples and many more by ranking the 50 Best Team Switchers in Music. These are the 50 singers or musicians who’ve had more success with official membership in multiple bands than anyone else.
The genres included here are rock, pop, R&B and hip-hop (and all their derivatives).
To be considered for the list, the criteria were simple: 1) the artist must have been an “official” member of two or more bands; 2) at least two of the groups must be noteworthy with at least one album and/or one major hit; 3) simply being in a group’s touring band doesn’t count; the artist had to have recorded at least one album with each group being credited to him or her; 4) while noteworthy, an artist’s solo work does not affect these rankings; and 5) one-time projects, duets and “featured” collaborations (no matter how many) don’t count either, which eliminates all those featured artists that have been the norm during the 21st Century.
Also, groups who reinvented themselves by simply changing their names and adding or subtracting a singer or two don’t qualify. Unfortunately, this eliminates members of alternative rock group New Order, who were simply the three surviving members of the post-punk quartet Joy Division.
That would also rule out cases involving members of the Jacksons, who merely evolved from the Jackson 5 after leaving Motown and replacing Jermaine with little brother Randy; or the various members of Starship, who emerged out of the ashes of Jefferson Starship and – before that – Jefferson Airplane.
Sorry, Grace Slick, but I figured you wouldn’t want to be associated with Starship anyway.
The most glaring and perhaps controversial omission as a result of this stipulation is bandleader George Clinton. As badly as I wanted to include him – and rank him very highly at that – I couldn’t because I (and most music historians) consider his primary bands, Parliament and Funkadelic, to be essentially the same group with various membership changes here and there. Ironically, this stipulation didn’t affect P-Funk members who were parts of other groups during their careers (e.g., William “Bootsy” Collins and the aforementioned Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley).
And before Prince fans get your purple hopes up, he’s not on the list. Although His Purple Highness fronted The Revolution and The New Power Generation, both groups served primarily as backing bands for the legendary artist. And he never really “left” any of them, he simply fired them.
There are many other examples of exceptions like these that I could get into, but you’ll have to scroll through the countdown to find out which artists made the list and which ones didn’t (and why).
So here they are: the musicians and singers who, sometimes in hindsight, made the wisest career decisions to leave their comfort zones, follow their hearts and go to the other side.
Simply put, they’re the best multi-team players in the business…the best team-switchers ever to sing in a mic, strum a guitar, plunk a keyboard or beat a drum for more than one band (officially).
It’s the most comprehensive ranking of its kind, so let’s get to it! Here are the 50 best multi-team players in music, courtesy of this special ranking by djrobblog:
Many of the bands represented on this list are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including Deep Purple, the group for which British singer David Coverdale sang lead before he left to go solo in the mid-to-late 1970s. He ultimately formed his second band, Whitesnake, in 1978 and recorded the iconic #1 hit "Here I Go Again" in 1987.