7 Bands That Lost Key Members and Survived

There have been countless bands that lost key members and haven’t been able to keep going, from Joy Division to Nirvana, either because the lost members’ contributions were too crucial or because they lost the will to keep going. However, in some instances, bands have managed to keep playing in spite of this and even went on to prosper, as we’ll see exemplified by the following acts.

Dinosaur Jr.

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The rock band came together in Massachusetts in 1984 with J Mascis and Lou Barlow. The two had been in bands together whilst they attended the same high school but soon they developed their sound from punk and hardcore into a more psychedelic influenced, feedback-heavy rock vibe encapsulating a broader range of textures underpinned by Mascis’ breezy vocal style. The group as it is would go on to produce three critically acclaimed indie albums in Dinosaur, You’re Living All Over Me, and Bug. However, the tension between Barlow and Mascis escalated, with Mascis edging out Barlow’s parts of the songs until finally kicking him out of the band in 1989. Despite this, Dinosaur Jr. continued releasing well-received albums on major labels and Barlow went on to find acclaim with the band Sebadoh.

Pixies

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Formed in Boston in 1986, the Pixies would go on to become one of the most acclaimed alt-rock bands of all time, influencing thousands of other acts and bringing a whole new palette to rock music. The more-or-less permanent departure of Kim Deal in 1993 didn’t kill the Pixies, but their songwriting never quite matched the highs of the Deal-era that saw the release of classics like Come On Pilgrim, Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. Everyone involved has still enjoyed success, whether it’s Frank Black with the Pixies themselves or his Black Francis side project or Kim Deal with her arguably superior band The Breeders.

Rolling Stones

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One of the biggest bands of all time, it seems hardly surprising that one of the group succumbed to the rock and roll hedonism the image of which the band helped pioneer. Brian Jones died in 1969, although by that time the band had already taken steps to remove him from the lineup. Despite being the founding member who in the early years proved to be the driving force behind the band’s direction, his eventual collapse into substance abuse took his life at the tender age of 27. The Stones found an eventual replacement in Ronnie Wood in 1975 who’s held his stead ever since, and the band continued to be one of the biggest touring bands on the planet.

Pink Floyd

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The biggest psychedelic band in history has had quite a revolving door as far as key members go. Formed in 1965, drummer Syd Barrett had already left due to deteriorating mental health in 1968. Founding member Roger Waters went on to leave in 1984, despite having a hand in the band’s biggest successes like Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall. In fact, drummer Nick Mason has been the only member of the band to stay constant throughout their career. Despite this turbulent history of membership, the band was never anything but one of the most successful and acclaimed rock bands on the planet.

Metallica

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One of the biggest heavy metal bands of all time, their reputation for having a lot of clashing egos in one outfit has been reflected in the band’s ruthless approach to discarding members. Dave Mustaine was originally part of the band but was ousted just a year later, and fortunately went on to start Megadeth, a massive metal band in their own right. Longtime bassist Jason Newsted himself got the chop in 2001 after almost twenty years in the band. Despite the lineup changes, the band has nonetheless continued to be one of the best selling groups of all time in any genre.

Black Sabbath

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The godfathers of heavy metal have never been strangers to lineup changes over the years. Out of the original members, only guitarist-songwriter Tony Iommi has been a constant in the band that has seen iconic vocalists like Ozzy Osbourne and Ronnie James Dio come and go. Despite this, the band has always been a behemoth of rock that has stamped its imprint onto rock music indelibly.

The Fall

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Though operating around the core of post-punk provocateur extraordinaire Mark E. Smith, the band has nevertheless lost crucial members across the years except for the frontman himself. Most notable amongst these is probably Smith’s erstwhile wife Brix Smith, whose time with the band marked their adoption of a more pop sound and some of the best records of their career. She left both the band and Smith eventually, as indeed do seemingly everyone who has ever played in the band. Whether this is a testimony to the band’s ability to survive the departure of key members or that Smith is the only member who ever mattered, is still a matter of debate.

Article written by: Kaya Johnson

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