20 Singers Whose Solo Careers Soared After They Left The Band (PHOTOS)

Michele Marin | Aug 28, 2015 Celebrities
20 Singers Whose Solo Careers Soared After They Left The Band (PHOTOS)

Call it a leap of faith (or a bailout), but when the lead singer leaves a band -- especially a good one -- to pursue a solo career, it's risky. Fortunately for these artists, the risk paid off, and they were even more successful when they stepped out on their own.

Here are 20 of our favorite solo artists who skyrocketed to the top of the charts and reached new levels of fame and fortune when they decided to leave the group. 


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  • Justin Timberlake


    Image © Carlo Allegri/Reuters/Corbis

    Not only did the former N'Syncer's music career blow up when he went solo, so did his acting career, appearing in The Social Network and Friends With Benefits. The new papa has a lot to be proud of, including a whopping 119 awards and 300 nominations. Oh, and he brought sexy back!

  • Beyonce


    Image © infusmi-11/13/INFphoto.com/Corbis

    Little did anyone know that when Bey left Destiny's Child she'd become the most nominated woman in Grammy history. Whether she's playing mom to Blue Ivy or channeling Sasha Fierce, her alter ego, we can't get enough of her.

  • Dr. Dre


    Image © Mario Anzuoni/Corbis

    Originally with N.W.A, Dr. Dre shot to stardom with hits such as "Straight Out Of Compton." In the mid-'80s the rapper embarked on a solo career, and his first album, The Chronic, became a mega hit. He's produced more hits for some of the world's top artists and even designed headphones (Beats By Dr. Dre was bought by Apple and increased his net worth to $800 million). 

  • Gwen Stefani


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    Stefani debuted her solo career during a hiatus from No Doubt. She also managed to snatch a Grammy, enjoy plenty of hit singles, became a fashion icon and launched her own clothing line. She married (and recently split from) Bush frontman, Gavin Rossdale, with whom she has three kiddos. 

    More from The Stir: 16 Singers Whose Solo Careers Crashed After Leaving the Group (PHOTOS)

  • Michael Jackson


    Image © Rune Hellestad

    Once part of the Jackson Five, Jackson launched his solo career in 1971, and we all know how that turned out! The King of Pop rocked the music world throughout the '80s and '90s, and his album, Thriller, remains the best-selling album of all time. 

  • Fergie


    Image © Splash News/Corbis

    As the sole female with the Black Eyed Peas, it wasn't that surprising when she stepped away from the phenomenally successful group in 2006 to release her solo album, The Dutchess. Like fellow rocker chick Gwen Stefani, she  launched her own clothing line, married a famous bachelor (Josh Duhamel), and had a baby.

  • Ricky Martin


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    Ricky Martin said, "Adios," to the boy band Menudo, which he joined at age 12 in 1989. He performed solo at the 1999 Grammy Awards to rave reviews. He's got 95 platinum records, one Grammy and two American Music Awards, so we'd say he did pretty well! Fun fact: Martin played a Latin singer on the soap opera General Hospital.

  • Lauryn Hill


    Image © PGFM/Media Punch

    This diva was singing at the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem at 13, and while she enjoyed huge success later with the band the Fugees, her signature achievement came with her solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which earned her five Grammys. 

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  • Diana Ross


    Image © Felipe Troeba/Corbis

    No doubt Ross was successful as part of the Supremes, but she ditched them in 1969, recorded a slew of hit songs, and is still going strong. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," might as well be Ross' mantra. She even ventured into acting and won both a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for her performance in Lady Sings the Blues.

  • George Michael


    Image © Geoff Caddick

    In the 1980s and '90s, the group Wham could have been singing "Wake Me Up Before You Go Go" to their lead singer, George Michael, who bailed to do his own thing. In 1997, he debuted his album Faith, which sold over 20 million records. Lately he's been spotted out with boyfriend, Fadi Fawaz, just coming off his latest Symphonica Tour.

  • Cher


    Image © Splash News/Corbis

    We bet even if Cher could "Turn Back Time," she wouldn't. She gained recognition in the 1970s as part of Sonny & Cher (with hubby Sonny Bono), but it was her solo career that soared. The amount of awards she's accumulated would take too long to list, after all the diva has had a six-decade career. At 69, she's still rockin' the stage!

  • Sting


    Image © Splash News/Splash News/Corbis

    If you think that the Police was a triumphant band, then it doesn't come as a huge surprise that Gordon Sumner (aka Sting) was just as successful when he stepped out to launch his solo career in 1985. He's won a slew of awards and is considered a musical legend. 

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  • Phil Collins


    Image © Bernd Weissbrod/Corbis

    We don't dispute that he was great in the band Genesis, but there's nothing like Phil solo! He's one of only three recording artists to sell over 100 million albums worldwide, both as a solo artist and a principal band member. 

  • Lionel Richie


    Image © Facudo Arrizabalga/Corbis

    Richie had us "Dancing On The Ceiling" when he left the Commodores to pursue a solo career. He went on to snag two Grammys, one of them alongside Michael Jackson for their song "We Are The World." Sorry if you have that song stuck in your head now.

  • Tina Turner


    Image © Nicola Mastronandi/Corbis

    This diva is the best-looking 75-year-old we know. Turner was once half of the illustrious husband/wife duo, Ike & Tina Turner, but her career exploded in 1984 with her solo album, Private Dancer, and the rest is music history.

  • Pharrell Williams


    Image © Splash/Corbis

    This Grammy Award-winning entertainer has produced numerous hits for a slew of recording artists, but at one time he was part of the producing team known as the Neptunes. He went off on his own and has produced award-winning tracks for Gwen Stefani, Ed Sheeran, and more artists, including himself. His hit single for the film Despicable Me, "Happy," was a worldwide sensation when it debuted. He also has a clothing line and is a judge on The Voice.

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  • Iggy Pop


    Image © Igor Vidyashev/Corbis

    As eccentric as he may be, you can't argue Pop's triumph as a solo artist, in the late '70s. Once part of the punk movement with Iggy & the Stooges, Iggy's stage performances were extreme. He was known to pull such antics as cutting himself with glass, beating himself black and blue with a microphone, and raking drumsticks across his body. Weird!

  • Bjork


    Image © Mike Segar/Corbis

    She's an Icelandic singer who was once part of the group, the Sugarcubes. Bjork is largely responsible for introducing electronica to the mainstream. She's had 30 singles reach the top 40, though she's known for her kooky fashion choices and behavior as much as she's known for her music. 

  • Rod Stewart


    Image © Rick Wilking/Corbis

    If you only know him as Rod Stewart, we aren't surprised. It was back in the 1960s that he was a part of the Jeff Beck Group. A Rock & Roll Hall of Famer, Stewart has a new album, Another Country, debuting in October, 2015.

  • Billy Idol


    Image © Josh Withers/Corbis

    The snarl, the black leather -- Idol screamed '80s punk rock. He recorded a version of "Dancing With Myself" with his band, Generation X, but a year later he launched a solo career. His biggest hits include "White Wedding" and "Rebel Yell." 

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