The 1980s was an amazing era for music. Musicians were able to experiment with new sounds and take their craft in new directions. It was also the era of MTV and many musicians went on to become some of the most famous people on the planet.
Here we’ll cover some of the best black male singers of the 80s.
No list of singers from the 80s would be complete without Prince. As one of the most gifted musicians on this list, Price could play almost any instrument. Backed by his band, The Revolution, Prince became an icon of the 80s.
Prince released nine albums in the 1980s but none compared to 1999 and Purple Rain. These two albums gave Prince his superstar status. While Prince might not have had the sales of Michael Jackson, he was still one of the most influential musicians of the 1980s.
To add to his star power, Prince starred in 3 movies, Purple Rain, Under the Cherry Moon, and Sign O’ the Times. Purple Rain was praised during the 80s for its amazing soundtrack and live performances that showcased just how good a singer, composer, and musician Price was.
Leaving the Commodores to start a solo career, Lionel Richie’s voice was everywhere during the 80s.
Lionel was known for his deep and sultry voice, and he started the 80s out with a bang racking up two number one singles, “Endless Love” (with Diana Ross) and Truly. He would continue his success in the 80s with three more number 1 singles, including “All Night Long,” “Hello and Say You,” “Say Me.”
All three of his albums during the 80s were a major success. His self-titled solo album reached number 3, while follow-ups Can’t Slow Down and Dancing on the Ceiling both topped the US Billboard charts.
While Michael Jackson was known as the King of Pop, Marvin Gaye will always be known as the Prince of Soul. Spanning three decades, Marvin Gaye’s voice has blessed our ears.
While most of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits were from the 60s and 70s, Marvin released two albums in the 1980s, In Our Lifetime and Midnight Love. His biggest success of the 80s was the seductive single, Sexual Healing.
Unfortunately, Marvin Gaye passed away in 1984. To this day, Marvin Gaye’s voice is one of the most distinctive voices in the industry, and no list of best male singers can be complete without mentioning the Prince of Soul.
Luther Vandross was an incredibly busing musician during the 1980s and released five solo albums that all topped the US R&B charts.
Luther kicked off the 80s with the danceable Never Too Much but quickly grew a reputation for his love songs and ballads. Some of his key singles included “A House is not a Hime,” “Here and Now,” and “Any Love.”
While he is known for his singing, Luther Vandross was also an exceptional producer and worked with some of the biggest stars of the era including Dionne Warwick, Teddy Pendergrass, Luther Vandross, Diana Ross, and Whitney Houston.
Stevie Wonder is one of the most influential musicians of all time. From the 1960s till today, you’ll instantly recognize the voice as soon as the music starts. The 1980s were incredibly success full for Stevie, with four of his singles topping the US billboard charts.
From his critically acclaimed albums in the 70s to his massive crossover hits in the 80s, Stevie Wonder is one of the most important black male singers of all time.
He also had incredible success collaborating with some of the greatest musicians of all time during the era. His duet with Paul McCartney added a number one hit to his collection. Teaming up with Dionne Warwick, Elton John, and Gladys Knight for “That’s What Friends Are For” also reached number one on the Billboard charts.
Teddy Pendegrass was a prolific singer/songwriter in the 80s and released seven albums. He constantly produced amazing soul and R&B singles during the decade and finally hit number 1 on the US R&B charts in 1988 with Joy. This danceable tune features distinct 80s bass and synth sounds combined with fun vocals from Pendegrass.
In 1982, Teddy Pendergrass a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down, but this did not stop his music career. All his 1980s albums did extremely well with all of them reaching the top 10 on the R&B charts.
Pendergrass continued his success into the 90s as well with four more contemporary soul and R&B albums.
If you were throwing a party in the 1980s, you better make sure you added Rick James to the party mixtape. His blend of upbeat funk, disco, and pop was a mainstay at house parties and nightclubs throughout the decade. Tracks like “Give it to Me Baby” and “Super Freak” were sexually charged and dancefloor-friendly.
He also excelled as a musician and producer and found studio success with Lionel Richie, Smokey Robinson, Eddie Murphy, and Isaac Hayes during the decade.
In the 90s, “Superfreak” had a resurgence when sampled by MC Hammer for his Grammy award-winning single, “Can’t Touch This.” The bass riff for this tune has gone on to be one of the most recognizable riffs in history.
While he may have led a wild and controversial life, there is no denying the impact and influence Rick James had on the 80s and pop music.
Starting his career in the boy band, New Edition, Bobby Brown quickly grew into one of the best and most popular male singers in the 80s. His crossover sound appealed to R&B and pop fans around the world.
After some success with New Edition, Bobby Brown had an incredible solo career in the 80s and 90s. While his debut album did not have much appeal, Bobby finally broke through on his second album, Don’t Be Cruel. The album went on to top the US charts and several international charts as well.
His mix of R&B and pop danceability gave Bobby Brown a unique sound. “Don’t Be Cruel,” “My Prerogative,” and “Every Little Step” were dance-floor friendly tunes while “Roni” and “Rock Wit’Cha” showed a romantic side to Brown’s discography.
Billy Ocean was no stranger to the Hot 100 in the 1980s either. Hits like “Caribbean Queen” and “When The Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Going” were danceable and had major crossover radio appeal.
Songs like “Suddenly” and “Love is Forever” had no problem peaking at number one on the adult contemporary charts as well. Ocean was more than capable to achieve success with pop, R&B, and dance charts.
Caribbean Queen also achieved critical success by winning the Best Male R&B Vocal award at the 1985 Grammy Awards.
While much of his success wouldn’t come later until the 90s, Keith Sweat was still a major influence on R&B music in the late 1980s.
Most of Keith Sweat’s tracks can be heard on Quiet Storm radio stations around the country. This music genre features smooth and romantic elements and jazz influences.
Keith Sweat’s unique voice is perfect for this genre and helped Keith get to number 5 on the hot 100 with “I Want Her.” Success would continue into the 90s and 2000s, where Keith Sweat has continuously released albums that peak in the top 5 on the US R&B charts.
As the second member of New Edition on this list, Michael Bivins has had a huge impact on R&B and pop music since the 1980s.
With New Edition, Bivins was instrumental to the success of the band, and they reached number 4 on the Hot 100 in 1984 with “Cool It Now.”
After New Edition broke up, Bivins went on and pioneered the new jack swing sound that was incredibly popular in the 1990s. His band Bell Biv DeVoe had massive success with their debut album Poison in 1990.
As the King of Pop, Michael Jackson dominated the 80s. No other pop start could match his popularity and his record sales.
While his stardom started in the 1970s with the Jackson Five, Michael’s solo career soared to new heights in the 80s. Coming off his 1979 chart-topping hit “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough” in 1979, the album Off the Wall has since gone on to sell over 20 million copies.
But Michael didn’t become the King of Pop until the release of Thriller in 1982. Thriller is still the best-selling album of all time with a staggering 48.9 million certified copies sold. There was no stopping Jackson after that and he has gone done in history as one of the greatest black male singers in history.
Top Black Male Singers of the 80s, Final Thoughts
The 80s was a magical time for music and black musicians. The musicians of the 80s had a unique opportunity to get their music to as many different people around the world. With the introduction of MTV, black musicians shared their music with a much wider audience, and men went to reach superstar status.