Baby Come Back….
Artist rise and fall. Sometime they rise again against all odds. These are some of the absolute greatest comebacks in Rock and Roll.
The Mississippi-born boy with all the intangibles, better known as “The King,” may have left a larger than life legacy in his wake, but his career wasn’t always filled with success. Following an amazing amount of hit songs and television appearances in the 1950s, Elvis Presley fell into a rut after his stint in the army of cheesy, silly movies and even cheesier and sillier soundtracks in the following decade. The weird thing is…he even knew it.
But in 1968, all that changed when Presley returned to his adopted home of Memphis to stage a comeback performance simply titled “Elvis: the ’68 Comeback Special.”
Donning black leather and looking every bit like The King of Rock and Roll, Presley returned to his roots, giving the audience the perfect reminder of the bluesy, gospel, rockabilly roots that earned him the crown. It was probably the greatest redemption in rock history, but for some reason it didn’t last. The white jumpsuit soon followed, and more silliness. But for that one night in 1968, he proved who really was “The King”.
-Tina Turner 1984
In the late 60s, Tina Turner rose to fame with her husband Ike Turner who, while almost equally talented, was also a wildly abusive drug addict. The duo hit big with hits like “River Deep Mountain High” and “Proud Mary, eventually nabbing a Grammy for Best Performance by a Duo or Group.
But following her split from Ike and their subsequent divorce in 1978, Tina kept her eye on the prize, longing to make it on her own…and she did. Releasing Private Dancer, her first solo effort, in 1984 the singer went on to achieve success as a solo artist, proving that when it came to the Ike & Tina Revue, she was the real star of the show. “What’s Ike Got To Do With It?”
-Roy Orbison 1987
In the early 1960s, Texas-born crooner Roy Orbison rode his natural baritone with a four octave range to career success, spouting out hits like “Oh, Pretty Woman,” “Crying” and “Only the Lonely.” But by late in the decade, several personal setbacks, namely a divorce from his beloved wife Claudette, and a fire in his Tennessee home killing his two eldest sons, took its toll on the singer, resulting in a string of poorly sold albums and an overall feeling of that it was all over.
In 1976 Orbison played at an auto show in Cincinnati that drew less than 100 people.
But in 1987, Orbison’s career began to take an upswing when, against his wishes, his operatic ballad “In Dreams” was used in the movie Blue Velvet, propelling him back into the limelight and beginning a full-scale career revival. Later that year, Orbison was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and earned a Grammy award for a remake of “Crying,” which was released as a duet with songstress k.d. lang for the movie Hiding Out.
Finally, in what was arguably the cleverest move in his career, Orbison joined supergroup the Travelling Wilburys, which consisted of greats like George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, and Tom Petty. The group moved fans and critics alike, nabbing multiple Grammys nominations including Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group, which they won in 1989. Sadly, Roy died of a heart attack while the album was rising on the charts. A sad end to a sad storied life.
In the 1970s, the self-proclaimed “Bad Boys from Boston” were on top of the world, especially following the re-release of debut album singles “Dream On” and “Walk this Way.” But as the band gained momentum with their bluesy staple of old-school rock ‘n roll, drug addiction took hold and by the early-1980s, Aerosmith were quickly fallen towards the moniker of “drug addled has-beens.”
Then, the hard rock legends teamed up with popular hip-hop act Run DMC for a remake of “Walk this Way,” on the rap team’s 1986 album Raising Hell. Their seamless blending of the two genres together gave way to a whole new generation of Aerosmith fans. And they jumped on the opportunity, sobering up and releasing ‘Permanent Vacation/ and ‘Pump’.
-Ozzy Osbourne 1995
Following a whirlwind of success as the front man of the heavy metal pioneers, Black Sabbath ( he was fired in 1979), and as a solo artist in the 80s, decades of fame had left Ozzy Osbourne too fried to go on. In fact, the ex Sabbath vocalist decidedly threw in the towel in 1993, coining what was supposedly his last tour venture “No More Tours,” a play off his commercially success No More Tears album. But his retirement was short-lived.
In 1995, the Osbourne created the metal-focused Ozzfest tour, an instant hit among metal heads and his most successful financial endeavor. In fact, to date, Ozzfest has grossed over $100 million, launched the careers of several up-and-coming bands, and of course, featured headlining performances by “The Prince of Darkness” himself. His success spilled over into television success with his wildly successful MTV reality show The Osbournes, which featured the entire Osbourne clan.
Hitting the music scene in the late-1960s, Santana, a rock group centered on the immensely talented guitarist Carlos Santana, sold millions of records following their breakthrough performance at 1969’s Woodstock festival. But following a departure from Columbia Records after a twenty-two year relationship with the label, the guitarist started having low records sales, eventually resulting in a drop from his newly inked deal with Polygram records at the decade’s end.
But thanks to a nudge from Arista’s Clive Davis, Santana found himself in a new contract and at the start of something big. Enlisting popular musicians like Dave Mathews, Matchbox 20, Lauryn Hill and Eric Clapton, Santana released Supernatural in 1999, a record that hit so hard on the Billboard album charts that it nabbed a staggering 9 Grammy awards and sold 15 million copies worldwide.
Since then, he has been honored in countless “Greatest of All-Time” lists, even earning a spot in the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame.
-Johnny Cash 2000
In his heyday, celebrated singer/songwriter Johnny Cash dabbled in nearly every musical genre, including rockabilly, blues, country, folk, and gospel, propelling himself to stardom with hits like “Ring of Fire” and making a name for himself as The Man in Black. But following an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, this self-imposed moniker grew thin, leading to a drop from Columbia Records, a few odd recordings and a nearly severed relationship with all of Nashville.
Then with the help of superstar producer Rick Rubin, Cash’s gave it one last go in 2000 with this third installment of the infamous American Recordings series, American III: Solitary Man, which launched his career into a juggernaut of fame. Covering songs by everyone from U2 to Danzig, American III not only earned Cash a Grammy Award, but it resurrected a career that seemed to be over.
One year before his death in 2003, Cash released the album’s follow-up, American IV: The Man Comes Around, which rose to even greater success than its predecessor, namely, on the immense success of “Hurt,” a Nine Inch Nails cover. Still, American III will always be remembered as the album that shook American awake; a welcomed reminder of the legend Cash grew to be.
Any rock and roll comebacks come to mind?