Magazine article Risk Management

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Magazine article Risk Management

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Article excerpt

In 1984, Van Haien was the biggest rock band in the world. Their single "Jump" was number one on the Billboard charts and on constant rotation on the radio and MTV. Their album, 1984, peaked at number two, behind Michael Jackson's Thriller, and would eventually go on to sell more than 10 million copies. The band was at the height of its popularity, reaching a status few other artists ever experience. But then in 1985, the band's flamboyant lead singer and frontman David Lee Roth left the group. For most bands, this would have meant disaster. But new lead singer Sammy Hagar led the band to even greater success. Although some diehard fans never took to Hagar, the band recorded four number-one albums and 17 Top 20 singles during his time in Van Halen - something they never did with Roth.

A few years before, in 1980, another hard-rock band found itself at a similar crossroads, albeit due to much more dire circumstances. AC/DC had just released its highest charting album to date when its hard-partying lead singer Bon Scott died of alcohol poisoning. The band considered calling it quits but decided to continue on in his memory. AC/DC's next album, Back in Black, with new lead singer Brian Johnson, would eventually sell 49 million copies worldwide and 22 million copies in the United States, putting it at second and fifth place on the all-time sales charts, respectively. (Number one in both cases? Thriller, of course.) Today, AC/DC is still one of the most popular rock bands in the world - they have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide and their most recent album, Black Ice, went to number one in 2008.

At first glance, replacing a lead singer seems like one of the most difficult things a band can do. After all, the lead singer is usually the most recognizable member of the band and, many times, is the person who most defines a band's sound. When the singer leaves, many bands just choose to call it quits. But the stories of successful "lead singer-ectomies" don't end with Van Halen and AC/DC. Classic bands like Pink Floyd, Journey and Genesis all found lasting success after the departure of their original vocalists.

It's a phenomenon you can spot throughout the rest of pop culture as well. Iconic news anchor Walter Cronkite was more than capably replaced by Dan Rather on the CBS Nightly News, and later, over at rival NBC, Tom Brokaw was succeeded at the anchor desk by Brian Williams, who some consider to be the Walter Cronkite of the 2 1 st century. …

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