Welcome to a list of “10 of the greatest British singers of the 1980s”
This is not a definitive list of British male singers from the 1980s by any means, nor is it a list of who I personally think was the best British singer of the 80s, it is more of a mixture of the best-selling and most influential singers of 1980s Britain.
Where I can I’ve highlighted in bold some of the important facts for each singer, such as biggest-selling artist, or special awards they may have won, such as Brit Awards. I’ve also added where they were born and in what year, because, well, that’s always nice to know!
I will try and do a seperate list for Best British bands from the 80s, as this list contains none of the great bands we had during that time period, such as the great synth-pop bands of the day – Human League, Duran Duran, New Order and the like. They will get their own list on Britlists.com in due course.
There are obviously (as the list is limited to 10) going to be singers not on the list that you believe should be. If that is the case PLEASE let us know in the comments below. Also just let us know who your favourite male singer from the 80s was, whether they are on the list or not, we’d love to know.
I’ve made this list votable, so you can click the up-arrow on your fave singers and who you think should be at the top of the list, and the down-arrow on any you think should be lower down on the list. Thanks for voting!
SHARING = MORE VOTES!
Please share the list so we can get as many votes as possible. Thank you! and don’t forget to check out our other music lists, such as 12 British Female Singers of the 1980’s (also votable!)
#1 George Michael (Wham! / Solo)
Born on 25th June 1963 in East Finchley, London, George Michael became one of the best-selling musicians of all time, with over 120 million records sold worldwide.
In 1981, together with Andrew Ridgeley, he formed the 1980’s band, Wham! who were one of the most loved and listened to bands of the 80’s with a string of popular hits including “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” (1984), “Last Christmas” (1984), and “Careless Whisper” (1984) - the latter topping the charts in over 20 countries. The group’s first two albums reached number one in both the UK and the US.
In the spring of 1986, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley announced their split and the breakup of Wham!, and George started off on his successful solo career, releasing his debut solo album “Faith” in 1987, which topped the UK and US charts, selling over 25 million copies. This was followed up by two more hugely successful albums – Older (1996) and Patience (2004).
Michael won many awards during his career, including 2 Grammy Awards, 3 Brit Awards, 3 American Music Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards, and 4 MTV Video Awards, and in 2015 he was ranked 45th in Billboard's "Greatest Hot 100 Artists of All Time". He was also named by The Radio Academy as the most played artist on British radio between 1984 and 2004.
George Michael died on Christmas Day in 2016 at his home in the village of Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
After his death, charities such as Childline, the Terrence Higgins Trust, and Macmillan Cancer Support revealed that Michael had been privately supporting them for many years, in some cases donating millions to their causes.
#2 David Bowie
David Bowie was born in London in 1947.
He is one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, and although a lot of his most original and influential work was in the 70's, Bowie had a number of huge hits during the 80's including his best-selling album Let's Dance (1983) which reached number one in numerous countries around the world and made Bowie a major international superstar. Its title track Let's Dance reached number 1, and "Modern Love" and "China Girl" both reached number 2 in the UK. Bowie teamed up with Queen in 1981 for "Under Pressure" which became his third number 1 single. The mid-80's saw Bowie star in the film Absolute Beginners for which he wrote the theme song "Absolute Beginners" which reached number 2 in the UK singles chart.
Over his career and lifetime Bowie won many awards for both music and film. For his role in the scifi film The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) Bowie won the Saturn Award for Best Actor. His music saw him receive six Grammy Awards and four Brit Awards which included him winning Best British Male Artist twice. His Platinum and Gold awards for his albums reached into double figures, and in 2022 it was announced that Bowie was the best-selling vinyl artist of the 21st century. During his lifetime he sold over 100 million records worldwide making him one of the best-selling artists ever.
Bowie was ranked number 29 in the BBC 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
#3 Phil Collins (Genesis / Solo)
Phil Collins was born on the 30th of January 1951, in London, England.
He had more US top 40 singles during the 1980’s than any other artist, with hits such as “In The Air Tonight”, “Against All Odds”, and “Another Day in Paradise”.
Phil started playing the drums at the age of five, and then in his late teens in 1970 joined the band Genesis as their drummer, later replacing Peter Gabriel as lead singer of the band after Gabriel left.
Collins later began his solo career at the beginning of the 1980s with albums Face Value (1981), Hello, I Must Be Going (1982), No Jacket Required (1985), and But Seriously (1989).
The album No Jacket Required (1985) was Collins’s most successful, winning him 2 Brit Awards – Best British Male, and Best British Album. It sold over 12 million copies in the US, and over a million in the UK.
Collins regrouped with Genesis in 1985 to record the album Invisible Touch which became Genesis’s biggest-selling album, with its title track reaching number one in the US, and the album itself earning Genesis a Grammy Award.
During his career, Phil Collins received 8 Grammy Awards, 6 Brit Awards, 6 Ivor Novello awards, an Academy Award, 2 Golden Globes, an MTV Video award and many more awards and nominations making him truly one of the most successful male artists of all time.
#4 Freddie Mercury (Queen)
Freddie Mercury (1946 - 1991) was the lead vocalist of the rock band Queen, and is regarded by many as one of the greatest rock singers of all time. He wrote many of Queen's hit songs including "Bohemian Rhapsody" which is regarded by many as one of the greatest rock songs of all time. Other hit songs written by Mercury include "Somebody to Love", "We Are The Champions", "Killer Queen", "Don't Stop Me Now" and "Crazy Little Thing Called Love".
During the 1980's, some of Queen's best known songs were released such as - Another One Bites The Dust (1980), Flash (1980), Under Pressure (1981), Radio Ga Ga (1984), I Want To Break Free (1984), A Kind Of Magic (1986), I Want It All (1989) as well as their 1981 Greatest Hits album which is the best-selling album in the UK and is certified nine times platinum in the US. Queen's performance in the 1985 Live Aid concert is known as one of the greatest performances in rock history.
Freddie Mercury gave his last performance in Auguest 1986, and died of AIDS five years later in 1991 at the age of 45.
Mercury was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001, the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2004. He also won a Brit Award for Outstanding Contribution To Music, and along with Queen was awarded an Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Song Collection.
In 2002, Freddie Mercury was voted number 58 in a BBC poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.
#5 Holly Johnson (Frankie Goes To Hollywood / Solo)
Holly Johnson was the lead vocals and frontman of the 1980's synth-pop band Frankie Goes To Hollywood, a band which saw huge success with their 1983 debut single "Relax", which, although banned by the BBC for a time, still managed to top the UK singles charts for 5 weeks in a row, and becoming the seventh best-selling UK single of all time. It won the 1985 Brit Award for Best British Single. The bands next two singles "Two Tribes" and "The Power of Love" also reached number one in the UK singles chart, making Frankie Goes To Hollywood only the second band in the UK chart history to reach number 1 with their first three singles. The other band being Gerry and the Pacemakes during the 1960's.
The groups debut album, which featured their 3 hit singles also reached number 1 in the UK Album Charts with over a million records sold in advanced sales.
Johnson, along with bandmates Mark O'Toole and Peter Gill received the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically for Two Tribes, which in 2015 was voted as Britain's 14th favourite 1980's number 1 song.
Holly Johnson left Frankie Goes To Hollywood in 1987 due to disagreements over the bands musical direction, however by 1989 he was back on the scene releasing his debut solo album Blast, which reached number 1 in the UK album charts with hits such as "Americanos" and "Love Train".
#6 Shakin’ Stevens
Born in Cardiff in 1948, Shakin' Stevens was the UK's biggest-selling singles artist of the 80's with memorable hits such as "This Ole House", "Green Door", "Oh Julie", and "Merry Christmas Everyone", all four of which reached number one either in the US or UK. Overall Stevens had 33 Top 40 hit singles making him one of the biggest and most well-known artists of the 1980's.
#7 Sir Elton John
Sir Elton John was born in 1947, Middlesex, England, and is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold over 300 million records since 1967. He has more than 50 top 40 UK hit singles and US billboard Hot 100 which includes 9 number 1 singles and 7 consecutive number 1 albums in the US. His rewritten single "Candle in the Wind" sold over 33 million and is the best-selling chart single of all time.
He had many hits during the 1980's including "I'm Still Standing", "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues", "Sad Songs (Say So Much)", and "I Don't Wanna Go On With You Like That".
His 1983 album Too Low For Zero earned Platinum, as did his next album Breaking Hearts (1984). Over his career Elton John has achieved 35 Gold albums and 25 Platinum albums. In 2019 Sir Elton John was ranked by Billboard as the greatest solo artist of all time, third overall behind the Beatles at number 1, and the Rolling Stones at number 2.
Sting was born in Wallsend, England in 1951.
As the frontman of the new wave rock band The Police during the 70's and 80's, and then as a solo artist, Sting became one of the best-selling music artists in the world, selling over 100 million records.
The Police's signature song "Every Breathe You Take" (1983) was recognised in 2019 as the most-played song in radio history by Broadcast Music, Inc. It was the best-selling song of 1983 in the US and the 5th best-selling single of the decade. It is also on many lists of top songs of all time and was voted in 2015 as The Nation's Favourite 1980s number one in a UK poll by ITV.
The Police had some huge hits in the 70's, with two platinum selling albums which produced tracks such as "Roxanne", "So Lonely", Walking on the Moon", and "Message in a Bottle" amongst others, and then in 1980 there third album "Zenyatta Mondatta" produced the 1980s hits "Don't Stand So Close To Me", and "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", the former becoming the best-selling single of 1980 in the UK, a song which also earned them a Grammy.
Other hit singles during the 1980s soon followed with their follow up albums, hit singles such as "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" (1981), "Invisible Sun" (1981), and "Wrapped Around Your Finger" (1983).
In 1985 sting released his first solo album The Dream of the Blue Turtles which reached number 3 in the UK and number 2 in the US. His second album "...Nothing Like the Sun" was released in 1987 to critical acclaim, winning Best British Album at the 1988 Brit Awards.
During his career with The Police and as a solo artist, Sting has received many awards, including 17 Grammy Awards, 3 Brit Awards, A Golden Globe, an Emmy, and an Ivor Novello Award for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors. He also received a CBE from Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for his services to music.
#9 Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel was born in Chobham, in Surrey, England.
Another former Genesis member (along with Phil Collins on this list) Peter Gabriel left Genesis in 1975 to launch his solo career, and became one of the most successful British solo artists of the 80's with his album "So", which went triple platinum in the UK, and 5 times platinum in the US. The most successful single from the album was "Sledgehammer" which was, according to a 2011 report, the most played video of all time on MTV, winning a record 9 MTV Awards at the MTV Video Music Awards in 1987.
Sledgehammer went to number 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, knocking his former band Genesis from the top spot with their hit "Invisible Touch".
Other releases during the 80's were - the anti-apartheid song "Biko", "Games Without Frontiers", "Big Time", and his duet with Kate Bush for "Don't Give Up" which spent 11 weeks in the UK Top 75 chart.
#10 Morrissey (The Smiths)
Morrisey was born in Davyhulme, Manchester, in 1959.
The Smiths may not have had the massive chart success of the others on this list, as they weren't a mainstream band, however they are often considered to be one of the most important and influential alternative rock bands of the 80s, "the one truly vital voice of the 80s", according to Q magazine.
Their unique sound was a refreshing change to the synth-pop that was dominating the charts during the 80s, and with Morrissey's lyrics and captivating baritone voice, and Johnny Marrs brilliant guitar, the Smiths created a unique sound and style that many tuned into and still do today.
They had a massive influence on bands over the decades, such as Radiohead, The Stone Roses, The Verve and Oasis plus many more, and their songs are still hugely popular today with a cult-like status both in the Uk and overseas.
David Bowie once claimed that Morrissey is the best lyricist of his time, which is an incredible testament to the talent of Morrissey, who went on to a successful solo career after the band split in 1987 after just 5 years together, however, their music continues to gather new fans each and every decade, and remains highly influential in the world of music today.
In 1985, their second studio album "Meat Is Murder" reached number 1 in the UK, followed by another album in 86 "The Queen Is Dead" which reached number 2. Their final album was "Strageways Here We Come" (1987) which was listed at number 69 in Slant Magazines' "Best Albums of the 1980's", as it reached number 2 in the UK chart, staying in the charts for 17 weeks, and was certified gold in October 1987 and 1990.