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6 Artists From The '70s Who Did Well In The '80s: Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, And More

by Joey DeGroot   Jul 11, 2014 15:14 PM EDT

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It may have been something in the water, but for whatever reason, the '80s were not kind to many of the genius artists of the '70s. Some of them lost their edge and went pop (Genesis) while some just completely lost their minds, and not in a good way (Neil Young). However, these six artists managed to flourish in the '80s and release some of their best work.

1. Rush

Prog-rock in the '70s was mostly contained to England, but Rush was one of the rare North American bands to tackle the genre, doing so with a hard rock intensity that Yes and Genesis often lacked. Though many of its prog peers went into the '80s with their best days behind them, Rush was cleverly morphing itself with the times, incorporating new wave into its sound to create three of its strongest albums: Permanent Waves, Moving Pictures, and Signals.

2. Bruce Springsteen

After bursting onto the scene with some very dense and progressive work in the '70s, Bruce Springsteen's '80s output simultaneously grew darker and more accessible, somehow. He opened the decade with his stellar double LP The River, which he followed with the heartbreaking acoustic classic Nebraska in 1982. In 1984, however, Springsteen would give us his biggest selling album Born in the U.S.A., making him one of the most popular artists on Earth. A case could definitely be made for Springsteen's '80s output being superior to his '70s output, in fact.

3. AC/DC

Overcoming the death of a band member is difficult enough, but the death of a lead vocalist is something that many bands never manage. AC/DC faced with this dilemma in 1980 when lead singer Bon Scott died after a night of heavy drinking, but instead of calling it quits, the band recruited singer Brian Johnson and just five months later released Back in Black, one of the top five selling albums of all time, and the best-selling hard rock album ever.

4. Michael Jackson

To say Michael Jackson did "well" in the '80s is an absurd understatement. Michael Jackson did the best in the '80s. He had been a star ever since the late '60s, but it wasn't until he maintained control of his solo career in the late '70s that he became the world's biggest pop star. 1979's Off The Wall was a huge success, but its 1982 follow-up Thriller would of course become the top selling album in history.

5. Paul Simon

For a while in the '80s, it seemed as if Paul Simon was suffering the same fate as Neil Young or Bob Dylan, a once-great talent whose best days were back in the '60s and '70s. However, in 1986 Simon released Graceland, an immaculate collection of songs inspired by South African music and recorded with South African musicians. It would prove to be his greatest solo album (he believes the title track is the best song he ever wrote) and would win Album of the Year at the Grammys.

6. Brian Eno

Since Brian Eno's priority as a musician was never mainstream acceptance, he was able to ignore all pop trends and continue releasing innovative music well into the '80s, including his ambient works On Land and Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, as well as his experimental album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts with Talking Head's David Byrne. In addition to his own music, Eno's work was able to make its way into mainstream pop when he co-produced U2's The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree with Daniel Lanois.

What other artists from the '70s did very well in the '80s? Let us know in the comments section!

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