Special Report

Solo Artists Who Were More Successful Than Their Bands

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It’s hard enough making it big in the music business once, but doing it twice is something of a miracle. Nevertheless, numerous artists who first found stardom as members of groups have gone on to outreach their earlier heights as solo artists.  

For some performers, the transition from group member to solo star may have seemed preordained. Indeed, it almost goes without saying that unique talents like Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, or Michael Jackson were poised for stardom when they were still in their respective groups of Destiny’s Child, NSYNC, and The Jackson 5. (These are the 50 most popular rock stars of all time.)

On the flip side of that coin, though, are people like Joan Jett and Tina Turner, who struggled for years before getting their solo careers off the ground. (These are the most popular girl bands of all time.)

Then we have artists such as Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, both of whom enjoyed more success as solo act than with their bands – though it can’t be said that either Reed or Pop are more important to the development of music than The Velvet Underground or The Stooges, respectively. 

To determine the solo artists who were more successful than their bands, 24/7 Tempo reviewed chart performance data from Billboard. Artists were ranked based on a custom score comparing their time on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts as a solo artist versus their time spent on the charts with their group. The score is an aggregate of time spent on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts, wherein a week at No. 1 on the Hot 100 is worth 100 points, a week at No. 2 is worth 99 points, and so on, up to a week at No. 100 worth 1 point. 

Click here to see solo artists who were more successful than their bands

Artists whose scores as solo artists exceed their scores as a musical group by the largest amount are ranked the highest. Data is current through Jan. 15, 2022. Data on number of Billboard entries as solo artist and group refer to entries in the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts.

35. Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 0 songs, 4 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 3 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Voyager (2014) (1 week at No. 9)
> Biggest album with group: Under The Blacklight (2007) (1 week at No. 22)

Jenny Lewis and guitarist Blake Sennett were both working child actors before they created indie rock band Rilo Kiley. Lewis released her third solo album, “Voyager,” the same year the band split. In addition to both projects, she’s collaborated with popular acts such as Vampire Weekend and The Postal Service.

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34. Morrissey (The Smiths)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 1 song, 16 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 8 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Viva Hate (1988) (2 weeks at No. 48)
> Biggest album with group: The Queen Is Dead (1986) (1 week at No. 70)

While popular in Europe, British rock band The Smiths flew under the radar in America when active. Lead singer turned solo artist Morrissey experienced a similar trajectory, scoring regular hits in the UK but rarely charting in the states. Both acts are now considered legends by music enthusiasts and rock journalists alike.

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33. Bobby Brown (New Edition)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 13 songs, 5 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 16 songs, 9 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Don’t Be Cruel (1988) (6 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Heart Break (1988) (1 week at No. 12)

Bobby Brown was still in elementary school when he co-created the group that would become New Edition. Their career took off in the mid-1980s with a string of hits, which helped popularize the new jack swing sub-genre. His second album as a solo artist was the 1989 blockbuster “Don’t Be Cruel,” which spawned five Billboard Hot 100 top 10 singles.

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32. Lauryn Hill (Fugees)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 3 songs, 2 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 2 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998) (4 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: The Score (1996) (4 weeks at No. 1)

One of the most elusive figures in the music industry, Lauryn Hill has recorded just one official studio album since leaving The Fugees. It arrived in 1997 and became an instant smash, yielding hit songs such as “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and “Lost Ones.” The group recently reunited for a pop up show in New York, promoting a reunion tour that’s since been canceled.

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31. Björk (The Sugarcubes)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 2 songs, 13 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 3 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Debut (1993) (1 week at No. 61)
> Biggest album with group: Life’s Too Good (1988) (2 weeks at No. 54)

Together for six years, The Sugarcubes were once dubbed “the biggest rock band to emerge from Iceland” by Rolling Stone. Vocalist and keyboardist Björk Guðmundsdóttir – better known as just Björk – went solo in 1993. She’s released a slew of material in the time since, spanning multiple mediums and selling over 5 million albums in the US alone.

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30. Omarion (B2K)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 9 songs, 5 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 7 songs, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: O (2005) (1 week at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Pandemonium! (2002) (1 week at No. 10)

Boy band B2K (Boys of the New Millennium) was formed in 1998 by music producer Chris Stokes, with Omarion coming aboard the following year. As a solo artist, he’s released five studio albums to date and starred in films such as “You Got Served.” He also appeared in the reality series “Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood.”

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29. Method Man (Wu-Tang Clan)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 14 songs, 9 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 2 songs, 8 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Tical (1994) (1 week at No. 4)
> Biggest album with group: Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) (1 week at No. 41)

The Wu-Tang Clan’s earliest breakout star, Method Man is still technically a member of the seminal hip-hop outfit. He’s also an accomplished actor who’s appeared in numerous films and TV shows. An upcoming solo album called “Meth Lab Season 3: The Rehab” is reportedly in the works.

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28. Iggy Pop (The Stooges)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 1 song, 11 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 3 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Blah, Blah, Blah (1986) (2 weeks at No. 75)
> Biggest album with group: The Stooges (1969) (1 week at No. 106)

One of the most iconic proto-punk bands of all time, formed in 1967, The Stooges had released three albums and broken up twice by 1974. Group leader Iggy Pop worked with David Bowie on the two solo albums that followed, which are now considered masterpieces. The band reunited in 2003 and toured for a number of years, later releasing a fourth studio album.

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27. Jadakiss (The Lox)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 9 songs, 7 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 6 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Kiss Of Death (2004) (1 week at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Money, Power & Respect (1998) (1 week at No. 3)

Hailing from Yonkers, hip-hop trio The Lox broke into the mainstream when they collaborated with Sean Combs on the hit single “It’s All About the Benjamins.” Jadakiss went solo in 2001 and reunited with his former group in 2016, leading to their first studio album in 16 years. He continues to record music both with The Lox and as a solo act.

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26. Scarface (Geto Boys)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 5 songs, 15 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 7 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: The Diary (1994) (1 week at No. 2)
> Biggest album with group: We Can’t Be Stopped (1991) (1 week at No. 24)

The Southern rap outfit Geto Boys formed in Houston in 1987 and quickly underwent a handful of personnel changes. Scarface joined in 1989 and helped pen their biggest hit single to date, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me.” Still a member of the group, he’s also released 11 studio albums as a solo artist.

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25. Sting (The Police)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 20 songs, 21 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 13 songs, 11 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Brand New Day (1999) (1 week at No. 9)
> Biggest album with group: Zenyatta Mondatta (1980) (6 weeks at No. 5)

British rock trio The Police broke in the UK in 1978 and became popular in America in the early 1980s. Sting decided to pursue a solo career in the middle of a 1983 concert at Shea Stadium, releasing his debut studio album the following year. He recently sold his songwriting catalog – which includes The Police material – for an estimated $300 million.

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24. Lionel Richie (Commodores)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 20 songs, 14 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 25 songs, 18 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Can’t Slow Down (1983) (3 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Commodores (1977) (3 weeks at No. 3)

Singer Lionel Richie wrote or co-wrote a number of Commodores’ biggest hit singles before embarking on a solo career in 1982. His chart-topping and Grammy-winning sophomore effort “Can’t Slow Down” remains one of the best-selling albums of all time. He still tours to this day.

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23. Wyclef Jean (Fugees)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 10 songs, 8 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 2 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival Featuring Refugee Allstars (1997) (1 week at No. 16)
> Biggest album with group: The Score (1996) (4 weeks at No. 1)

Haitian-American artist Wyclef Jean followed the Fugees’ best-selling album “The Score” with his solo debut, “Wyclef Jean Presents The Carnival.” Hit songs such as “We Trying to Stay Alive” and “Gone till November” helped bolster his subsequent solo career.

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22. Jeff Beck (The Yardbirds)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 3 songs, 19 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 9 songs, 6 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Truth (1968) (1 week at No. 15)
> Biggest album with group: Yardbirds Greatest Hits (1967) (1 week at No. 28)

Beck was one of three legendary guitarists to pass through British rock band The Yardbirds, the others being Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page. He formed The Jeff Beck Group in 1967 with Rod Stewart on vocals for their two most successful albums. On Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists, he holds the #5 spot.

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21. Phil Collins (Genesis)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 27 songs, 12 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 22 songs, 21 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: No Jacket Required (1985) (7 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Invisible Touch (1986) (2 weeks at No. 3)

After the departure of Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel, drummer Phil Collins began honing his skills as a lead singer and songwriter. By the early 1980s, he was penning major hits for both the group and as a solo artist. He officially left the band in 1996 and later won an Oscar for the song ​​”You’ll Be in My Heart,” from the soundtrack to Disney’s “Tarzan.”

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20. Kenny Loggins (Loggins & Messina)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 21 songs, 13 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 7 songs, 9 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: High Adventure (1982) (3 weeks at No. 13)
> Biggest album with group: Sittin’ In (1972) (1 week at No. 70)

As part of the eponymous rock duo, Kenny Loggins co-wrote hit songs such as “Your Mama Don’t Dance” in the 1970s. His solo career consisted of best-selling studio albums and a number of major soundtrack contributions, most notably for the films “Footloose,” “Caddyshack,” and “Top Gun.”

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19. Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 6 songs, 23 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 2 songs, 23 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: No More Tears (1991) (1 week at No. 7)
> Biggest album with group: Paranoid (1971) (3 weeks at No. 12)

Heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath recorded eight studio albums with Ozzy as the lead vocalist before he was booted for drug and alcohol abuse. With help from Jet Records founder Don Arden and his daughter Sharon – who later became Ozzy’s wife – the singer launched a successful solo career. He’d reunite with his former band on more than one occasion and eventually record another album with them, 2013’s “13.”

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18. Camila Cabello (Fifth Harmony)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 18 songs, 2 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 8 songs, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Camila (2018) (1 week at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Reflection (2015) (1 week at No. 5)

After finishing third on “The X-Factor,” Fifth Harmony – 5H for short – signed a joint deal with Simon Cowell’s Syco Records and L.A. Reid’s Epic Records. While still in the group, Camila Cabello staked a name for herself through collaborations with Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly. She’s released multiple hits in the time since and also launched an acting career, playing the title role in 2021’s “Cinderella.”

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17. Dr. Dre (N.W.A)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 16 songs, 5 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 1 song, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Dr. Dre — 2001 (1999) (4 weeks at No. 2)
> Biggest album with group: Straight Outta Compton (1989) (1 week at No. 4)

As a founding member of N.W.A., hip-hop mastermind Dr. Dre helped craft the sound of West Coast gangster rap. His 1992 solo debut “The Chronic” skewered some of his previous associates while taking the controversial sub-genre mainstream. In addition to his solo material, he’s produced iconic albums for Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and 50 Cent.

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16. Lou Reed (The Velvet Underground)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 1 song, 24 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Transformer (1972) (2 weeks at No. 29)
> Biggest album with group: Vu (1985) (2 weeks at No. 85)

Now considered one of the most important bands of all time, The Velvet Underground struggled to find an audience during its initial run. Lou Reed went solo in 1970 and scored his biggest hit two years later with the single “Walk on the Wild Side.” His subsequent career underwent numerous highs and lows, peaking once again with the release of the 1989 album “New York.”

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15. Ricky Martin (Menudo)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 16 songs, 9 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 1 song, 3 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Ricky Martin (1999) (1 week at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Menudo (1985) (2 weeks at No. 100)

Formed in 1977, Puerto Rican boy band Menudo became one of the territory’s biggest success stories. Ricky Martin hopped aboard in 1984 and launched his solo career seven years later, gradually achieving international fame. He released the hit single “Livin’ la Vida Loca” in 1999 and the rest is pop history.

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14. Ice Cube (N.W.A)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 12 songs, 15 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 1 song, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: The Predator (1992) (1 week at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Straight Outta Compton (1989) (1 week at No. 4)

Contractual disputes with N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller prompted Ice Cube to leave the group and embark on a solo career. His debut album “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” – which explored pointed social themes within a gangster rap milieu – was an instant smash. Multiple hit songs and albums would follow, as would a robust career in Hollywood as an actor and filmmaker.

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13. George Michael (Wham!)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 19 songs, 11 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 9 songs, 4 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Faith (1987) (12 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Make It Big (1984) (3 weeks at No. 1)

The main talent in the musical duo Wham!, George Michael went solo in the pursuit of a more adult-oriented sound and audience. His debut album “Faith” spent 12 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 and spawned four #1 singles, among other accomplishments.

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12. Joan Jett (The Runaways)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 10 songs, 9 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 2 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll (1981) (3 weeks at No. 2)
> Biggest album with group: Queens Of Noise (1977) (1 week at No. 172)

Soon after their formation in 1975, all-female rockers The Runaways became a darling of the burgeoning punk scene. Creative differences over the band’s sound led to an irreparable split between Joan Jett and band member Lita Ford, causing the band to break up. Jett overcame multiple rejections and eventually formed her own record label when launching her subsequent solo career.

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11. Justin Timberlake (‘N Sync)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 36 songs, 5 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 12 songs, 6 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: FutureSex/LoveSounds (2006) (2 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: ‘N Sync (1998) (3 weeks at No. 2)

Boy band NSYNC were at the forefront of a thriving pop movement by the late 1990s, with their sophomore album selling over one million copies in a single day. Timberlake’s star continued to rise even as the group’s momentum waned, paving the way for an enduring career as both a singer and actor. He’s since become one of the best-selling solo artists of all time.

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10. Busta Rhymes (Leaders of the New School)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 20 songs, 9 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 0 songs, 2 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: When Disaster Strikes… (1997) (1 week at No. 3)
> Biggest album with group: T.I.M.E. (1993) (1 week at No. 66)

New York-based outfit Leaders of the New School was still together when three of its members appeared on the track “Scenario” by A Tribe Called Quest. With his unmistakable vocal style, rapper Busta Rhymes immediately became the group’s break-out star. He scored his biggest hits during the first half of his solo career and has released nine studio albums to date.

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9. Chaka Khan (Rufus)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 25 songs, 21 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 11 songs, 11 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: I Feel For You (1984) (3 weeks at No. 14)
> Biggest album with group: Rags To Rufus (1974) (1 week at No. 4)

When still a member of Rufus, “Queen of Funk” Chaka Khan became such a dominant force that the band changed their name to Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. She scored a huge solo hit in 1978 with her debut single “I’m Every Woman” and left the group soon after. Still active, she recently appeared on “American Idol” and “The Masked Singer.”

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8. Tina Turner (Ike & Tina Turner)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 17 songs, 12 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 17 songs, 12 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Private Dancer (1984) (11 week at No. 3)
> Biggest album with group: Workin’ Together (1970) (1 week at No. 25)

The relationship between rock progenitors Ike and Tina Turner was famously tumultuous behind the scenes. Tina finally went solo around the same time she filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. She struggled for years before staging a major comeback with the release of 1984’s “Private Dancer,” which included her smash hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It.”

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7. Diana Ross (The Supremes)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 40 songs, 44 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 45 songs, 37 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Diana Ross And The Supremes Greatest Hits (1967) (5 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Where Did Our Love Go (1964) (4 weeks at No. 2)

Pop vocal group The Supremes were a marginalized entity at Motown Records until they broke out with the hit single “Where Did Our Love Go.” Their subsequent rise peaked in the mid-1960s when they rivaled The Beatles in terms of chart dominance. Diana Ross went solo in 1970 and has sold more than 75 million albums over the course of her decades-spanning career.

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6. Van Morrison (Them)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 11 songs, 51 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 3 songs, 3 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: The Best Of Van Morrison (1990) (2 weeks at No. 41)
> Biggest album with group: Them (1965) (1 week at No. 54)

“You can’t take something like that, put it in a box and place a neat little name on it, then try to sell it,” Van Morrison would later say on the break-up of Them. His former rock band remains best known for the songs “Gloria,” “Baby Please Don’t Go,” and “Here Comes the Night.” As a solo artist, Morrison has fused various musical genres into a wide range of iconic songs (like “Brown-Eyed Girl”) and albums (for instance, “Astral Weeks”).

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5. Beyoncé (Destiny’s Child)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 65 songs, 12 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 14 songs, 9 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Beyoncé (2013) (3 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: The Writing’s On The Wall (1999) (1 week at No. 5)

What began as Girl’s Tyme eventually became Destiny’s Child, which released its final studio album as a trio in 2005. Beyoncé recorded her solo debut during a 2003 hiatus and it contained the smash singles “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy.” She’s now the most awarded singer and female artist (respectively) in Grammy history, with 11 chart-topping singles to her name.

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4. Neil Young (Buffalo Springfield)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 11 songs, 65 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 5 songs, 5 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: After The Gold Rush (1970) (5 weeks at No. 8)
> Biggest album with group: Retrospective/The Best Of Buffalo Springfield (1969) (3 weeks at No. 42)

Formed in 1966, Buffalo Springfield scored a top 10 hit with the protest song “For What It’s Worth.” Members Neil Young and Stephen Stills both embarked on wildly successful careers, occasionally reuniting for live tours and studio albums. As a solo act or with a backing band, Young has released over 40 albums to date.

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3. Cher (Sonny & Cher)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 33 songs, 30 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 18 songs, 12 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Believe (1998) (1 week at No. 4)
> Biggest album with group: Look At Us (1965) (8 weeks at No. 2)

The husband and wife team of Sonny (Bono) and Cher followed a string of hit singles and albums with two similarly popular TV shows. Cher launched her solo career while still active in the duo and later, after splitting personally and professionally from Bono (who died in a skiing accident in 1998), broke chart records for a female artist. Her comeback hit “Believe” is one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Source: Larry Busacca / Getty Images

2. Eric Clapton (Cream)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 23 songs, 45 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 5 songs, 9 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Unplugged (1992) (3 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Disraeli Gears (1967) (2 weeks at No. 4)

Cream was one among a number of seminal rock bands to count Clapton as a member throughout the 1960s into the early 1970s (The Yardbirds and Blind Faith were two others). He grappled with various personal issues at the start of his solo career, which didn’t stop him from achieving massive success. His best-selling 1992 single “Tears in Heaven” was written about the death of his four-year-old son.

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1. Michael Jackson (Jackson 5)
> Billboard entries as solo artist: 51 songs, 30 albums
> Billboard entries with group: 31 songs, 26 albums
> Biggest album as solo artist: Thriller (1982) (37 weeks at No. 1)
> Biggest album with group: Moving Violation (1975) (1 week at No. 36)

Upon signing with Motown, The Jackson 5 became the first group in history to debut with four consecutive chart-topping singles on the Billboard Hot 100. He became a teen idol soon afterwards and released his first solo album – “Got to Be There” – in 1972. He’s now considered the Most Successful Entertainer of All Time, according to Guinness World Records.

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