4 Rock Vocalists Who Never Released a Solo Album

The story has repeated itself throughout rock history: a lead vocalist ventures off from the band because of creative differences—sometimes not—and goes solo. They often return to their band or remain solo. When Genesis was at their peak, Phil Collins released his debut solo album, Face Value, and had more consecutive, hit releases after returning to the band.

Pulling away from the rigors and chaos of Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks started working on her solo debut while the band was recording their 1979 album Tusk. Nicks’ Bella Donna, in 1981, went to No. 1 with hits “Edge of Seventeen” and her Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers collab “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.” In June 1985, Sting released his solo album, The Dream Of The Blue Turtles, a year before the Police disbanded.

Plenty of other lead vocalists had successful solo careers after the demise of—or their departure from—their bands. All of the Beatles were well into releasing solo material as the band reached its expiration date. Lou Reed released his eponymous debut a year after the Velvet Underground broke up in ’71. Peter Gabriel was off with his 1977 self-titled debut, following his departure from Genesis in 1975. Robert Plant released Pictures at Eleven two years after Led Zeppelin broke up in 1980. After being fired from Black Sabbath in 1979, Ozzy Osbourne went solo with Blizzard of Ozz in 1980. And so, more similar stories go.

Then there are the singers who have pushed back from this repetitive pattern and never left their bands to pursue a solo career. Here are just four singers who never strayed to release a solo album.

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1. Dave Grohl

While in Nirvana, Dave Grohl released the album Pocketwatch in 1992 under the pseudonym Late! In 1994, Grohl started recording another album to help him deal with the grief following the death of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Technically, the Foo Fighters‘ 1995 eponymous debut was a “Dave Grohl album.” Though recorded entirely by Grohl—with a little help from the Afghan Whigs‘ Greg Dulli on “X-Static”—it was still released as a Foo Fighters album and featured tracks that became hits once the band was in place later on, including “Big Me” (and its Mentos-inspired music video), “This is a Call,” and “I’ll Stick Around.”

Grohl has plenty of outside collaborations and even ventured out with Josh Homme with early Queens of the Stone Age and later on with Them Crooked Vultures, featuring John Paul Jones, but he has never left Foo to release a solo album as Dave Grohl. In 2018, Grohl released the EP Play, a 23-minute instrumental composition that he worked on while the band was on tour supporting their 2017 release Concrete and Gold, but this was the extent of any solo releases while in the band.

[RELATED: 4 Songs You Didn’t Know Dave Grohl Wrote]

In 2022, Grohl explained why he would never leave Foo Fighters to go solo. “The premise is based on a lot of really hilarious rock and roll cliches and stereotypes,” said Grohl. “The lead singer that wants to go solo and is at a creative war with his own band—and some lead singers do exactly that.”

He continued, “That’s something I would never wish to do because I actually like being in the Foo Fighters.”

2. Bono

Bono has had a lengthy run of collaborations outside of U2—Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Willie Nelson, Michael Stipe, Patti Smith, Keith Richards, Bruce Springsteen, and Luciano Pavarotti. Although he has written songs for other artists and appeared on tracks without the band, he has never wandered off, solo, from U2 since the band’s inception in 1976, when they were still teens attending Mount Temple Comprehensive School in Dublin, Ireland.

“To be perfectly honest, I’m not a solo artist,” said Bono. “‘I need to find…’ I’m just saying what I imagine it would be like, but I don’t know. Imagine what it would be like being a solo performer. At least we’ve got each other. We’re a band, a real band. I can always drag Edge out of bed and talk.”

In 2020, Bono wrote and recorded the song “Let Your Love Be Known” as a tribute to those struggling through the pandemic in Italy, and released it on St. Patrick’s Day.

3. James Hetfield

Though guitarist Kirk Hammett released his debut solo EP, Portals, in 2022, Metallica frontman James Hetfield, has never gone solo. “You don’t wanna hear me solo,” Hetfield once said. In a 2012 interview, Hetfield elaborated on why he didn’t need a solo career.

“Metallica is the four of us,” said Hetfield. “This is our solo project. This is the best way to get our emotions and feelings out and touch people.”

[RELATED: The 1984 Metallica Song That Metallica Doesn’t Like to Play]

4. Axl Rose

A year after moving to Los Angeles from his hometown of Lafayette, Indiana—and following the path of his former schoolmate, and future bandmate, Izzy Stradlin who moved years earlier—Axl Rose has been a loyal frontman of Guns N’ Roses since its inception in 1985. Following a brief stint in the band Rapidfire, and the first iteration of GNR, Hollywood Rose, featured Rose, Stradlin, and Chris Weber. Early Guns N’ Roses were formed from a merger between members of L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose with the lineup shifting over two years until it stayed in place with Rose and Stradling and the addition of Slash and Steven Adler, then Duff McKagan.

Though Rose has collaborated with other artists, including Don Henley, Alice Cooper, former Guns guitarist Gilby Clarke the Sex Pistols‘ Steve Jones, and Sebastian Bach, he never ventured off the GNR path with a solo release—except for a Looney Tunes appearance.

In 2018, Rose lent his voice, and likeness, to the New Looney Tunes animated series. The season three episode “Armageddon Outta Here” featured Rose in his first studio recording, sans Guns N’ Roses, and since the band’s 2008 album Chinese Democracy. In the episode, Rose, along with his backing band featuring Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, helps save the world from armageddon with his song, “Rock the Rock” (written by Joshua Fun), which destroys an asteroid headed towards Earth.

A longtime fan of the Warner Bros. animated series, Rose even used the original Looney Tunes theme song as Guns N’ Roses’ intro music during the band’s Not in This Lifetime reunion tour, 2016-2018.

[RELATED: Slash Returns to His Blues Roots on ‘Orgy of the Damned’]

Photo: Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

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