5 Rock Bands, Solo Artists Who Successfully Crossed Genres

Just one genre rarely fits like a glove for some artists, and throughout music history, numerous acts have crossed over multiple musical lanes. Prior to their heyday of psychedelic Fifth Dimension rock, The Byrds helped pioneer country rock with their 1968 album Sweetheart of the Rodeo. Before he was the Godfather of Punk, James Osterberg played in a blues band called Prime Movers, before transforming into Iggy Stooge and his final moniker Iggy Pop, and pioneering punk rock in the late 1960s with the Stooges.

Videos by American Songwriter

In the early 1980s, the Beastie Boys were hardcore punks, supporting bands like Bad Brains and the Dead Kennedys, and released their first EP, Polly Wog Stew, before becoming the first all-white rap group, under the tutelage of producer Rick Rubin.

Many decades into his pop career, in 1997 Pat Boone released a heavy metal album, In a Metal Mood: No More Mr. Nice Guy, while Katy Perry (Katy Hudson) released her self-titled Christian album in 2001 before becoming an international pop star seven years later with her second album One of the Boys and hit “I Kissed a Girl.”

All are proof that there are few bounds within artistry. The number of artists who have opened multiple sonic doors before arriving at their “signature” sound is countless.

Here’s a look at five acts who started in rock and landed in country, pop, hip-hop, R&B, and beyond.

1. Bee Gees

Formed by brothers Barry, Maurice, and Robin Gibb in 1958, by the 1960s, the Bee Gees‘ early music had no trace of disco beats and hitting those trademark high notes. Instead, the all-suited-up trio looked more British mod than bell-bottomed disco and leaned on more psychedelic, folk rock. Releasing their debut, The Bee Gees Sing and Play 14 Barry Gibb Songs, in 1965, followed by Spicks and Specks, the group had their first top 20 hit “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” off their third album, Bee Gees’ 1st, in 1967.

By the early ’70s, the Gibbs had already released 11 albums and were transitioning their sound around more soulful harmonies and Barry’s signature falsetto. The Bees Gees got flashier with their 1974 album, Mr. Natural, and follow-up, Main Course, in 1975. Breakout hit “Jive Talkin'” was featured in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever, along with the entire soundtrack, composed by the Gibbs, which catapulted them into disco history.

Check out 11 Songs You Didn’t Know the Bee Gees Wrote for Other Artists, HERE.

2. Kenny Rogers

Donning longer locks and colored shades, in the late 1960s, Kenny Rogers was more of a hippie rocker than a country icon with his psychedelic rock group The First Edition. Rogers’ rock past was outed to those who were never aware of it, when The First Edition’s 1967 hit, “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” was featured in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski.

The First Edition released 12 albums with Rogers through I’m Not Making Music for Money in 1974, just as he parted ways to embark on his solo career, and transition into country music history. Throughout the remainder of the 1970s, as a solo artist Rogers first broke out with the 1977 hit “Lucille,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard country chart, followed by “The Gambler” in 1978—later inspiring the 1980 Dick Lowry-helmed film series of the same name, starring Rogers—and his third chart-topping hit “Coward of the County” in 1979.

Rogers released 28 albums throughout his career, ending with You Can’t Make Old Friends in 2013 and a Once Again, It’s Christmas in 2015, before his death in 2020 at 81.

Check out 5 Stunning Live Moments in Honor of Kenny Rogers, HERE.

3. The Go-Gos / Belinda Carlisle

The Go-Gos stage dived straight into the Los Angeles punk scene by the late ’70s. At one point, singer Belinda Carlisle was briefly a drummer for Nirvana and Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear’s band The Germs.

Playing shows with X, Fear, the Controllers, and more during their earlier days at clubs like Whisky A Go Go and the now-defunct The Masque. Along with Carlisle and guitarist Jane Weidlin, as the band rounded out with guitarist and chief songwriter Charlotte Caffey, drummer Gina Shock, and bassist Kathy Valentine, they steadily moved toward more new wave sounds. All was elevated by the Go-Gos pop-driven debut, Beauty and the Beat, in 1981 with hits “We Got the Beat” and “Our Lips Are Sealed” and the subsequent Vacation (1982) and Talk Show in 1984.

When Carlisle embarked on her solo career with Belinda in 1986, along with hits “Mad About You” and later “Heaven Is a Place on Earth” and “I Get Weak,” she also topped the pop charts. Carlisle also sashayed into French pop standards on her 2007 album release, Voila, and released her more Indian-inspired Wilder Shores in 2017, featuring a series of Sikh chants performed in Gurmukh.

Read our 2022 interviews with Belinda Carlisle HERE, 10 Questions with Kathy Valentine HERE, and our chat with Charlotte Caffey on writing for the Go-Gos, Carlisle, and the band’s 2021 documentary HERE.

Check out 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Members of the Go-Gos Wrote for Other Artists, HERE.

4. Michael Bolton

Before he was swooning with R&B hits “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” “Said I Loved You…But I Lied,” and his soulful take on Percy Sledge‘s 1966 classic “When A Man Loves a Woman,” Michael Bolton was opening for bands like Krokus and Ozzy Osbourne in the late ’70s with his metal band Blackjack.

Even earlier than that, Bolton released his eponymous soulful rock debut under his real name Michael Bolotin in 1975. By the early 1980s, Bolton also started writing more pop ballads for other artists and then for himself, which turned him into a force in the world of adult contemporary music.

Throughout his career, Bolton has crossed other genres, releasing an album dedicated to arias (My Secret Passion – The Arias) in 1998, featuring a duet with Luciano Pavarotti on “Vesti La Giubba.” He also co-wrote Kanye West’s The College Dropout single “Never Let Me Down.”

Read 8 Songs You Didn’t Know Michael Bolton Wrote for Other Artists, HERE.

5. Darius Rucker

Country was always part of Darius Rucker’s roots. Long before hitting stardom with his Grammy-winning rock band Hootie and the Blowfish in the 1990s, and their powerhouse debut, Cracked Rear View, a younger Rucker was obsessively watching all the country greats passing through the television variety show Hee Haw in the 1970s.

“‘Hee Haw’ was my biggest influence,” said Rucker in 2014. “I can still sing all those songs. I still do. There were only three channels at the time, so ‘Hee Haw’ was a big deal, man. My whole family would watch ‘Hee Haw’ when it came on.”

In 2008, Rucker kicked off his country music career with his second solo album, Learn to Live, and single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” and is releasing his eighth country album, Carolyn’s Boy, in 2023. “When I very first started, it was a lot of naysayers and everything,” said Rucker, “but once ‘Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It’ hit, I think acceptance started.”

Hootie and the Blowfish have also released six albums, including Imperfect Circle in 2019.

Check out 3 Songs You Didn’t Know Darius Rucker Wrote for Other Artists, HERE.

Photo: GAB Archive/Redferns

Leave a Reply

On this Day in Music History: Jerry Garcia Plays His Final Show With the Grateful Dead