Typically in a rock band, there is one lead singer. Sure there may be other band members adding background vocals and harmonies to fill out the sound, but those other members usually have a primary role other than singing. Of course, this is not a steadfast rule by any means. In fact, in the classic rock era the multiple-lead-singer setup was quite prevalent. And some of the greatest bands of all time have had more than one lead vocalist, where each singer is identifiable as a trademark of the band’s sound. As with so many things, it all started with The Beatles, where each member was a commanding vocalist in his own right (even if Paul McCartney and John Lennon handled the lion’s share of vocal duties). And the Fab Four laid the groundwork for a whole slew of classic rock bands that employed the ol’ multiple-lead-singer trick (to great success), whether we’re talking about The Band, Fleetwood Mac or Pink Floyd. Here’s a list of 14 classic rock bands with more than one lead singer that that dropped their egos and let the lead guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist and tambourine player step into the spotlight and take the vocal reins on some of their band’s biggest songs.
The Canadian-American roots rock group combined the vocal talents of Richard Manuel, Levon Helm and Rick Danko on some of the band’s classics including “Whispering Pines,” “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” and “It Makes No Difference.”
The rock band utilized many of their band members for lead vocals, including guitarist/synth player John Curulewski on “Mother Dear” and guitarist James Young on songs like “Midnight Ride,” but they’re perhaps most known for the songs sung by keyboardist Dennis DeYoung (“Come Sail Away”) and guitarist Tommy Shaw (“Fooling Yourself (The Angry Young Man)”).
Though the psychedelic rock band’s biggest hits feature Grace Slick on lead vocals (“White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love”), co-lead singer Marty Balin and rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner contributed to some of the band’s best-known songs like “Today” and “Let Me In,” respectively.
The lead vocals for the bearded blues/hard rock legends are dominated mostly by guitarist Billy Gibbons (tracks like “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs”) but bassist Dusty Hill is no slacker on the mic, contributing to some of the band’s biggest songs like “Tush” and “Bad Girl.”
The Beach Boys
Though Mike Love is often associated as the lead singer of the surf-rock/pop band, Dennis Wilson and Al Jardine also contributed vocals to the group’s more upbeat tunes with Brian and Carl Wilson singing the ballads such as “God Only Knows.”
The British-American rock band has utilized the vocal talents of three different band members, each with completely unique feels and tones – singer Stevie Nicks for the ballads like “Rhiannon”; keyboardist Christine McVie for the airy pop songs like “You Make Loving Fun”; and guitarist Lindsey Buckingham for the more rock-driven tunes like “Go Your Own Way.”
The Boston new wave rock band traded lead vocal duties between rhythm guitarist and songwriter Ric Ocasek and bassist Benjamin Orr on mega-hits like “Good Times Roll,” “Just What I Needed,” and “Drive.”
Though the country-rock band has been dominated vocally by guitarist Glenn Frey and drummer Don Henley throughout the years, each of the members (past and present – Randy Meisner, Don Felder, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh) have contributed to songs ranging from “Hotel California,” to “Lyin’ Eyes” to “Take It to the Limit.”
The hard rock band’s classic lineup saw all 4 members contributing lead vocals, from bassist Gene Simmons on “Rock and Roll All Nite” to rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley on “Detroit Rock City” to lead guitarist Ace Frehley on “Shock Me” and drummer Peter Criss on the hit ballad “Beth.”
Though the British psych/blues-rock power trio generally traded lead vocals between bassist Jack Bruce (“White Room”) and guitarist Eric Clapton (“Strange Brew”), they also combined their vocal talents on many of the band’s songs, and drummer Ginger Baker took the lead on deep cuts like “Blue Condition.”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
The folk rock supergroup is known for its multi-layered harmonies, but on landmark albums like 1970’s Déjà Vu you can hear each individual members stunning lead vocal ability – David Crosby on “Almost Cut My Hair,” Stephen Stills on “Woodstock,” Graham Nash on “Our House,” and Neil Young on “Helpless.”
Though Syd Barrett led the way vocally on the psych-rock band’s first couple albums, David Gilmour and Roger Waters took over on most of the band’s big hits (“Money,” “Welcome to the Machine,” “Comfortably Numb”), with occasional contributions by keyboardist Richard Wright on songs like “Summer ’68.”
The British punk rock band’s songs were generally carried vocally by rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer (“London Calling”) and lead guitarist Mick Jones (“Should I Stay Or Should I Go”) but bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Topper Headon also contributed lead vocals on tracks like “The Guns of Brixton” and “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe,” respectively.
The legendary British rock group mostly utilized the vocal talents of primary songwriters Paul McCartney and John Lennon, but lead guitarist George Harrison also contributed lead vocals on classics like “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Something,” and drummer Ringo Starr sang lead on “Yellow Submarine.”