1980s Musicians You Probably Didn’t Know Were Still Making Music

The 1980s were amazing years for music. From heavy metal to R&B, every genre featured some of the greatest musicians of all time during this decade.

Now, 30 years later, plenty of those artists are still rocking. Here are 15 musicians from the 1980s you didn’t know are still recording new material.


Madonna speaks on stage holding a microphone in front of a black and purple backdrop

Madonna | Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images

Back when she was the Material Girl, Madonna was everywhere. After her breakout hit, “Holiday,” she released her defining album, Like a Virgin. And the rest was history.

Today, Madonna is more well-known for her business ventures and charity work than her music. Her last album, 2015’s Rebel Heart, wasn’t a major success, but many called it an improvement over her previous two records.

Guns N’ Roses

Axl Rose and Slash perform on stage

Axl Rose, the lead singer of the US rock band Guns N’ Roses | Mads Joakin Rimer Rasumssen/AFP/Getty Images

Axl Rose, Slash, and the rest of “the most dangerous band in the world” broke out on the scene in the mid-80s. These hard rockers put out “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1988.

The band faced quite a bit of turmoil in the ‘90s, and many of its members have come and gone. Currently, GNR is beginning the North American leg of its Not in This Lifetime… Tour, and is allegedly planning a new album — its first since 2008.

Duran Duran

Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran performs on stage

Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran | Suhaimi Abdullah/Singapore GP via Getty Images

The leaders of the “Second British Invasion” made it big by new technology, from the MTV video era of the mid-80s to the early days of digital downloads in the ‘90s. However, their initial fame was short-lived, and they found it difficult to regain their status after losing two of their core members.

Despite a few breaks throughout the years, Duran Duran released its 14th studio album in 2015. The band concluded their Paper Gods tour in October 2017.

Depeche Mode

Another British rock band, Depeche Mode, defined the late ‘80s with its electronic sound. Like so many groups of the time, the band struggled with drug addictions and the loss of members in the ‘90s, but experienced a resurgence in the ‘00s.

Today, Depeche Mode is touring for its 2016 album Spirit. The band and its members are nominees to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.


Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica perform onstage

Musicians Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica  | Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Arguably the most well-known heavy metal band of all time, Metallica helped define the genre in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Metallica has won several Grammys, topped the Billboard chart with multiple consecutive albums, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.

With decades of performing under its belt, the band released its 10th studio album in 2016. Metallica recently completed the North American leg of its WorldWired Tour this past summer and will continue touring in Europe through mid-2018.


Though Queen first made it big in the ‘70s with album News of the World (currently celebrating its 40th anniversary), the band continued to grow throughout the ‘80s. However, this was the peak of the group’s popularity, as the early ‘90s brought with it the death of lead singer and musical icon Freddie Mercury.

Regardless of this tragedy, and despite breaks and other struggles over the years, the band has stuck together. They continue to tour along with singer Adam Lambert and released a new song with him dedicated to Mercury this past summer.


AC/DC performing on stage

AC/DC | Donald Weber/Getty Images

First gaining success in the mid-70s, AC/DCs biggest-selling album came in the 1980s, including the hit single “You Shook Me All Night Long.” A new lead singer marked a decline period, but the end of the decade and the beginning of the ‘90s brought the band’s status back up to phenomenal levels.

As with most on this list, AC/DC has experienced numerous line-up changes over the years. But in 2016, the group scored a major win: Guns N’ Roses’ Axl Rose joined as lead vocalist for the Rock or Bust Tour. AC/DC has not put out any new music since 2014, but rumors swirled earlier this year that an album featuring Rose could be in the works.


American rock group Blondie hit the mainstream with its single “Heart of Glass” in the late ‘70s. However, the band’s music was a major part of the ‘80s landscape, despite initially breaking up in 1982.

Blondie reunited in the ‘90s and has continued to perform and record as a group ever since. The band’s 11th album, Pollinator, was released in spring 2017, and they are promoting it with a tour in both the U.S. and U.K.

Bon Jovi

 Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Phil X of Bon Jovi perform

Frontman Jon Bon Jovi and guitarist Phil X of Bon Jovi  | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Jon Bon Jovi and his band rose to prominence in the 1980s with their album Slippery When Wet. Hit songs such as “Livin’ on a Prayer” made the record one of the top 100 best-selling U.S. albums of all time.

Bon Jovi took two hiatuses in the ‘90s, but has consistently continued to produce music to this day. The band recently completed its This House Is Not for Sale Tour and was just announced as a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame nominee.

Bryan Adams

Soulful crooner Bryan Adams released his debut album in early 1980, making him a prime example of the decade of rock. He catapulted onto the music scene with his breakout hit “Summer of ‘69.” From there, he continued to make major waves throughout the ‘80s.

Adams has continued to put out music over the last three decades, all while holding down a dual career as a professional photographer. He began his tour for his 2015 album Get Up in 2016, and will complete it without a final European leg in May 2018.

Iron Maiden

With an impressive six very successful albums in the ‘80s, Iron Maiden is a staple of heavy metal from the decade that started it all. While conservative groups pushed back against the band’s “satanic” image, it clearly used this publicity to speak to a generation in need of a rebellion.

Though not putting out nearly as much material as it once did, Iron Maiden has continued to release albums, including 2015’s The Book of Souls. The world tour for this record ended in July 2017, and a live album from it is due out in November.

ZZ Top

Members of the band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill and Billy Gibbons

Members of the band ZZ Top | Sebastien Bozon/AFP/Getty Images

The soulful rockers with distinctive long beards hit mainstream success with their 1983 album, Eliminator. ZZ Top’s sound altered to include synthesizers before switching back to a guitar-based approach.

The band’s last studio album featuring new material was released in 2012, but in the years since, they have continued to perform. Allegedly, there is a new record in the works, which may tie in with the 50th anniversary of the band’s formation in 2019.

Fleetwood Mac

(L-R) John McVie, Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks, Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac | Noam Galai/Getty Images

Speaking of groups that are a half-century old, Fleetwood Mac seems to have arguably more longevity than any other modern rock band. The British-American group, which first achieved hits in the ‘70s with singles such as “Landslide,” experienced the usual ups and downs, including romantic obstacles and the pursuit of solo careers.

Though every member took time off at one point or another, five of the most well-recognized names from the Rumours era are supposedly headed out on tour in 2018. Despite continuing to perform their old material, new music hasn’t been put out under the Fleetwood Mac moniker in more than a decade, though Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie put out a duets album this past summer.

LL Cool J

LL Cool J performs onstage

LL Cool J | Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Rapper LL Cool J came onto the scene as a teenager signed by Def Jam. His first album, Radio, received critical acclaim, and his follow-up, Bigger and Deffer, launched him into the mainstream.

The ‘90s saw LL Cool J embrace varied film and TV roles while continuing to release albums regularly. G.O.A.T. 2 is allegedly in the works, but these days, the artist is busy hosting the Spike TV show, Lip Sync Battle.

Public Enemy

Rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy perform onstage

Rappers Chuck D and Flavor Flav of Public Enemy | Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images for Samsung

Renowned hip-hop act Public Enemy didn’t form until the mid-80s but hit the mainstream by the end of the decade. The group known for its politically conscious message and unique musical elements continued strong into the ‘90s, despite changes in the lineup.

Today, the best days of Public Enemy are behind it, but that doesn’t mean their run is over. The 2017 album, Nothing Is Quick in the Desert, was released for free in June, as a celebration of 30 years performing together.

Read More: The Worst Songs of the 1980s

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