The 10 Most Underrated Classic Rock Vocalists of the 80s

The 10 Most Underrated Classic Rock Vocalists of the 80s | Society Of Rock Videos

via Brandon Hixson / YouTube

The 1980s were a decade that brought in a new age of rock and roll and changed the face of music. Even with their extraordinary talent, some vocalists went unnoticed amid the glamour and flash of mainstream success stories. Here are ten such musicians whose contributions to classic rock should be given greater credit.

Tom Keifer

Tom Keifer was not just the lead vocalist of Cinderella; he was the driving force behind the band’s success in the late 80s. With his raspy voice and dynamic stage presence, Keifer could capture the raw emotion of Cinderella’s lyrics, bringing the stories in their songs to life. His performances on tracks like “Nobody’s Fool” and “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone)” showcased his range from powerful belts to tender crooning, making him a standout artist of his time. Despite his significant contributions to the glam metal scene, Keifer often remains underappreciated compared to other vocalists of his era.

Andy Wood

Andy Wood brought an eclectic mix of funk, punk, and glam to his performances with Mother Love Bone, setting the stage for what would later become the grunge movement. Wood’s engaging presence and theatrical flair made every performance a spectacle. His untimely death at the age of 24 left a void in the music community, just as Mother Love Bone was on the verge of a major breakthrough. Though his career was short-lived, Wood’s influence on the Seattle music scene and the artists that followed cannot be overstated.

Trent Reznor

Trent Reznor mastered the art of blending rock, electronic, and industrial elements, creating a sound that was revolutionary. With Nine Inch Nails, he not only offered his haunting and powerful vocals but also his skills as a producer and multi-instrumentalist. This multi-faceted approach allowed Reznor to create dense, textured soundscapes over which his introspective and often dark lyrics floated, captivating an audience that found solace in his musical complexity. Despite his success, he remains a somewhat shadowy figure, overshadowed in mainstream rock histories by other bands of the era.

Ian Astbury

Ian Astbury brings a rich, baritone voice that melded perfectly with The Cult’s varied musical influences. From the hard-hitting “She Sells Sanctuary” to the mystical “Rain,” Astbury’s vocals are a pillar of the band’s broad appeal. His ability to infuse traditional rock with touches of gothic and world rhythms gives The Cult’s music a timelessness that persists to this day. While The Cult enjoyed moderate success, Astbury’s unique vocal prowess often goes unmentioned in discussions of rock music greats.

Steven Patrick Morrissey

Steven Patrick Morrissey, commonly known as Morrissey, offered the world more than just his singing; he provided a perspective. With his vivid imagery and melodramatic style, he appealed to a swath of listeners who felt outside the mainstream. His clever, often sardonic lyrics paired with his melodious voice made The Smiths’ songs anthems for the introspective and disenchanted. Despite his defining impact on indie rock and pop, Morrissey’s vocal contributions are sometimes overshadowed by his controversial public persona.

Janet Gardner

Janet Gardner shattered glass ceilings in the rock music industry with her powerful vocals and stage presence. Leading Vixen, she navigated a path through a heavily male-dominated industry, inspiring a host of women rockers who followed. Her voice, capable of both aggressive rock snarls and impressive melodic arcs, helped Vixen’s music resonate with a diverse audience. Even though her role in advancing women in rock music is critical, Gardner rarely receives the recognition she deserves.

Don Dokken

Don Dokken brought a distinctive touch to heavy metal with his lyrical, almost haunting approach to vocalization in Dokken’s anthems. His ability to blend softer, melodic lines with powerful metal screams created a dynamic range that became a hallmark of Dokken’s sound. Songs like “In My Dreams” and “Alone Again” highlight his skill in conveying deep emotion, making the band’s music both cathartic and accessible. Still, Dokken often remains in the shadows of larger bands from the 80s metal scene.

Rindy Ross

Rindy Ross brought a refreshing mix of saxophone skills and vocal talent to Quarterflash, making their sound distinctive in the landscape of 80s rock. Her voice, clear and inviting, captured listeners’ attention with hits like “Harden My Heart.” Ross’s ability to switch effortlessly from smooth vocals to powerful saxophone solos made Quarterflash’s performances unforgettable. Despite their success, Ross and her band have not enjoyed the lasting fame of some of their contemporaries.

Tony Lewis

Tony Lewis brought an infectious energy to The Outfield, particularly with the hit “Your Love.” His high-pitched vocals and British charm set the band apart in an era dominated by American rock. Lewis’s ability to craft catchy, upbeat tracks that still felt emotionally resonant helped The Outfield achieve brief but memorable success in America. Despite their impact, Lewis and his band’s contributions are often overlooked in retrospectives of 80s rock music.

Peter Wolf

Peter Wolf infused the J. Geils Band with a spirited blend of rock and roll, rhythm and blues, making every performance an energetic showcase. His charismatic, fast-talking vocal style helped songs like “Centerfold” become massive hits. Beyond the charts, Wolf’s ability to connect with audiences, drawing them into each song’s narrative, made him a pivotal figure in the band’s success. Despite these accomplishments, his name rarely appears alongside the leading voices of rock music from the decade.

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