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 auditor 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
Michael Jackson, aka “The King of Pop,” is known as one of the leading cultural figures of the 20th century.
His career spans over four decades, from the mid-1960s when he performed with the Jackson Five, to the late 1990s.
But, the 1980s was a time of controversy for Jackson. He had already achieved global fame as a pop solo artist with Off The Wall and continued to sell millions of records with his incredibly successful Thriller.
However, speculations about his lifestyle and ever-changing appearance began to circulate during the mid-80s. These speculations would shadow him until he died in 2009.
Prince Rogers Nelson, better known by his stage name Prince or The Artist, Formerly Known as Princeis 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 Rainwas 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 number one on the Billboard charts.
3. David Bowie
David Bowie is credited as one of the leading cultural influences of the 20th century, and while he achieved much of his fame during the 1970s, his career lasted well into the 2000s.
His career is marked by an ever-shifting musical and visual aesthetic that many classify as “eras.”
During the 1980s, Bowie was in his “New Romantic” era. He reached the peak of his fame in 1983 with the single “Let’s Dance,” and released one of his best-known songs – “Under Pressure,” a duet with Queen’s Freddy Mercury in 1981.
4. Boy George
Boy George, born George Alan O’Dowd, 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?”
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
Sir Elton John, sometimes nicknamed “The Rocket Man” after his 1972 megahit, is a pianist, singer, and composer.
Like many of the names on this list, his work spans multiple decades, and the 1980s were just one period in his varied and influential career. He is a gay icon and known for his iconic style.
By the 1980s 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.”
The 80s saw John perform at the massive Live Aid concert, and record more hits like “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues.”
6. Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis is the lead singer of the band Huey Lewis and the News, best known for their album Sports, and for the songs they wrote for the Back to the Future soundtrack.
The band didn’t achieve long-term success, and today they are better known as a meme or the reason that Christian Bale killed all those women in American Psycho.
Lewis was an engineering school dropout who joined a Bay Area band called Clover in the early 1970s. The band never found success, but Lewis gained attention as a harmonica player by appearing on other artists’ tracks, including Thin Lizzy and Elvis Costello.
Huey Lewis and the News released their first album (a flop) in 1980 but found success with their second album in 1982.
7. Bryan Adams
Bryan Adams is a Canadian guitarist, singer, and songwriter who rose to fame in the early 80s and is best known for his number one album Recklesswhich included the tracks “Run to You,” and “Summer of 69.”
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. It wasn’t until he met his writing partner Jim Vallance in 1978 that his music career took off.
Adams sustained his success through the 1990s and 2000s with multiple number one albums and has been nominated several times for the Grammys and Academy Awards.
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.
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 1970s and 1980s, Joel continued to produce chart-topping albums and singles, “My Life,” “Uptown Girl,” and three 80s number one hits: “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
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 of the band’s songs.
The band gained popularity in 1982 with their album Pornography and released a total of 7 albums in the 80s helping to cement Smith to worldwide stardom.
10. Axl Rose
Axl Rose is best known as the lead singer and frontman for the hard rock band Guns and Roses. He has been the band’s only constant member since its formation in 1985.
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.
Rose’s childhood was marked by abuse, and he found solace in music from an early age. By the age of 17, his delinquency in his hometown forced him to move to Los Angeles, where he began to pursue a music career.
In 1987 Guns and Roses found breakthrough fame with their debut album Appetite for Destruction, which included the classic song “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” They went on to worldwide success and have 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.
Formed in 1975, the Talking Heads 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.
While their popularity peaked in the early 1980s with the release of their landmark album “Remain in Light”, the Talking Heads remained active until 1991, when they disbanded after a final tour.
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.
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 number two 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 number one 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 due to aids 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 Runhowever, his best-known work is probably Born in the USAwhich was 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.”
As well as songwriting, Springsteen is also a master of live performance, with his legendary concerts for their energy and emotion. It is this rare combination of songwriting talent, performance ability, and emotional connection that has made Bruce Springsteen one of the most successful and beloved musicians of our time.
He has won numerous awards, including 20 Grammy Awards, 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!