The 20 Biggest Band Breakups In History

The 20 Biggest Band Breakups In History

The 20 Biggest Band Breakups In History

Regardless of the generation we belong to, many of us have been (or still are) fans of one of the many bands that have had a presence through the years. There’s something uniquely fascinating about listening to and watching the music a band performs. However, one common thing with most bands is conflicts and breakups.

Band breakups can devastate fans loyal to the music and the artists. Not all breakups are permanent, but some are forever. Many of our favorite bands have been in the spotlight for decades and remain together between clashes, brief breakups, or a hiatus to take time off from one another. We’ve compiled a collection of the 20 biggest band breakups in history.

20. Oasis

Oasis Band

Oasis was a band comprising the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel. The two surrounded themselves with talent that supported their vision for a unique approach to music. Their popularity soared in the mid-90s. The group went through ups and downs and backstage fights for twenty years, but they held it together until their final breakup in 2009. They had a turbulent relationship throughout their time as Oasis as they dealt with issues in their relationship with one another, drug use, and a revolving cast of band members. The two enjoyed profitable years in which they released a new album every two to three years and experienced amazing and successful European tours.

The group was scheduled to appear at a Parisian festival. After a physical fight, the brothers canceled the gig, and shortly after the incident, they announced their breakup. On August 28, 2009, Noel Gallagher wrote his thoughts. He shared his relief and sadness that he had officially quit the group, Oasis. He cited that he couldn’t continue working with his brother Liam. Witnesses had reported that Liam smashed one of Noel’s guitars in a rage, and then the fight was on. Sadly, the brothers have not spoken to one another since the incident occurred, and the group Oasis went down violently and permanently.

19. Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses

Guns N’ Roses is a band that has established a reputation for indiscriminate drug use and a hell-raising partying lifestyle. After releasing the Appetite for Destruction album in 1987, they enjoyed their biggest success. The band was on fire, but the good times were about to end. By 1990, the group axed the original drummer for the band, Steven Adler, because his drug addiction was getting in the way of business. While this was a positive step that helped the band to hold it together better, Axl Rose began causing problems by showing up late for scheduled performances. Slash shared that before performing one night, Axl held the band hostage by refusing to go onstage until they agreed to sign away their rights to the band’s name. He targeted Duff McKagan and Slash with these demands. Although Axl denies this, Slash and Duff remain adamant.

After the 1993 Use Your Illusion tour, Axl referred to Slash as a cancer, and the group officially broke up. Rose declined the Guns N’ Roses Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction simply because Duff and Slash would be there. Although this band makes our list for breaking up, they still perform currently under the same name but with a roster of some new members. Current band members include Axl Rose, Duff McKagan, Slash, Dizzy Reed, Richard Fortus, Frank Ferrer, and Melissa Reese.

18. The Everly Brothers

The Everly Brothers

There is a pattern of successful brother bands hitting the skids in rock and roll history. Although the two lived different lives than the Gallagher brothers of Oasis, the relationship issues were as big of a problem and led to the breakup of their group. Similarly, The Everly Brothers spent 20 successful years as a band until Don Everly was drunk as a skunk at a Hollywood show in 1973. He couldn’t keep it together well enough to give a decent performance and did a poor job of remembering the lyrics to songs he’d sung hundreds of times. It was Phil who became violent over the incident. So disgusted with Don, he broke a guitar over his brother’s head, stormed out of the venue, and left in a huff. The Everly Brothers didn’t speak again until their father died more than ten years later. They pulled it together and went on a nostalgia tour, but their relationship was still tense. They managed to come together again for a European tour in 2005 but have not performed together since then.

17. The Clash

The Clash

The Clash rose to heights of success beyond their wildest imaginations with a heyday in 1982. Their single release, “Rock the Casbah,” transformed them into a sensation as a well-loved punk band into MTV superstars almost overnight. As it turned out, their greatest success would be their undoing, as none of the group members were prepared to deal with their smashing success. The drummer for the band, Topper Headon, was responsible for writing the hit that propelled them to the top of the charts. Unfortunately, he was let go because of a serious heroin addiction that interfered with his ability to fulfill his obligations to the group. He was fired before the song was officially released and before the success that the rest of the group enjoyed from his contributions.

There were disagreements among the other members of the band, who couldn’t decide on the direction the band should take. The bassist Paul Simonon was a reggae-style fan, while guitarist Mick Jones was set on hip hop. Joe Strummer was adamant about staying true to punk, all leading to verbal confrontations before they stopped talking to each other. To help salvage the situation, they agreed to take a break and went on a hiatus. When they reunited for a US Festival gig in 1983, they still couldn’t pull it together as a group, with the reunion far from good. Mick Jones was the first to announce he was leaving the group shortly after their poor performance in 1983.

16. The Police

The Police Band

The Police came together as a musical band in 1997. Stewart Copeland, drummer of the band, pulled in Gordon Sumner (known professionally as Sting) and Andy Summers to join him. It took them one short year to establish themselves as the next great rock band with the public. Even though they gained a good measure of popularity, Summers and Sumner weren’t happy about Copeland’s management of the band. They asserted that he treated them more like his employees rather than equal members of a successful rock band. Tensions rose, and within a year, there were crazy in-fightings.

The more successful the group became, the worse their relationships got. Summers put his thoughts about his experience with The Police in a memoir he wrote in 2006. In 1981, just after the release of the Ghost in the Machine LP, Sumner went off on him with a barrage of foul language and a shocking display of bad temper that shocked everyone in the room. Sumner responded later in 2007 and explained that the biggest problem the band members had was that they had nothing in common. He left the group in 1984 because he couldn’t see a future in pursuing a career with his bandmates. He confirmed that this was an action he took that was based on his gut instinct, and the group disbanded for good.

15. Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins is a rock band led by their main songwriter Billy Corgan. Other group members were displeased that Billy seemed to be the one calling the shots, with little to no allowed input from them. Corgan insisted on playing bass and guitar on the band’s hit song “Siamese Dream.” This was a problem for the bassist D’arcy Wretze. Guitarist James Iha didn’t like it either. They voiced their opinions, but Corgan was obstinate and wouldn’t give an inch for compromise. It was an issue, but Smashing Pumpkins was reaching some decent levels of success, so they managed to keep it together for three more years.

In 1996, tragedy struck the group. Their keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died from a heroin overdose. On the same night, their drummer Jimmy Chamberlin also overdosed. Although he survived, he was booted out of the band. The group allowed him to return three years later in 1999, but D’arcy called it quits shortly after in December 2000. Corgan revealed that he was fired for having a mean spirit and drug addiction.

According to Corgan, it was James Iha who was responsible for the breakup of the band. He claimed that Iha departed from their final performance as a group without speaking a word. This didn’t sit well with Corgan, and with rising tensions, disbanding became inevitable. Corgan stated that he had protected his band members the best he could, but he wasn’t willing to offer protection for anyone anymore. The group went down hard, leaving many unresolved issues and hard feelings among the members. Despite their tumultuous history, Smashing Pumpkins have managed to survive it all. Their current lineup features Corgan, Chamberlin, Iha, and guitarist Jeff Schroeder.

14. The Eagles

The Eagles Band

The Eagles survived several decades as a band, but their astronomical success did not come without a price. In the early 1980s, The Eagles were reputed to be the “biggest band in America.” As with many other outrageously successful bands, success took its toll on the individuals and the group. The originals, Glenn Frey and Don Henley, were the most highly driven members who pushed hard. Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon quit because they were tired of working in a toxic environment. Joe Walsh’s alcohol addiction caused multiple problems for the group. It didn’t help that he’d get stoned in addition to the drunkenness. Guitarist Don Felder didn’t like being treated like a lackey, but the new bassist Timothy B. Schmit was happy to take orders to be a part of the successful band.

The Eagles made it big with multiple chart-topping hits. Still, when they began to lean towards supporting political causes, such as doing a benefit for Senator Alan Cranston, Felder was fed up. After voicing his opinion to Glenn Frey, pandemonium broke out. Frey flew into a rage. Later that night, as the group performed, their argument carried on, with the two exchanging threats through their microphones. Felder knew that Frey would pound him after the set, so he beat a hasty retreat in his limo to avoid a fistfight. Like other bands, The Eagles have continued touring despite their many difficulties. The current band members are Schmit, Leadon, Frey, Walsh, and Henley.

13. Queensryche


Queensryche is a metal band that hit it big in the 1980s. The band split on April 14, 2012, to form two factions. Tensions had been simmering until it exploded in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It came to a physical altercation as the group disagreed over the direction they would take. The wife of band frontman Geoff Tate managed the group. His account of the incident reveals that the band fired his wife from the management job. Afterward, Tate said Rockenfield told him that his family was just let go and that he would be next. Tate lost his temper and took a swing at Scott Rockenfield. Other group members pulled Tate away and denied that Scott made any comments, claiming that Tate started the fight without provocation. The split was so intense that the group had to take the matter to court to sort it all out legally. Although Queensryche continues to make music, the founding members are no longer part of the band. On October 7, 2022, the band released their latest album. The album was received well and reached the Top 20 in Germany and Switzerland and the Top 40 in the Netherlands.

12. Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine

Rage Against the Machine is considered one of the best rap/rock genre bands of the 1990s. Their chemistry was remarkable onstage, but that wasn’t the case backstage. By the decade’s end, things started falling apart for the band. They were set to hit the road touring with the Beastie Boys until Mike D’s accident forced the cancellation of the tour. The Rage Against the Machine didn’t have a problem booking their gigs, but they couldn’t agree on band-related decisions that needed to be made. There were arguments and disagreements, and the tension became so intense that lead singer Zack de la Rocha had enough. He announced leaving Rage Against the Machine on October 18, 2000.

Zack shared that the group could not make important decisions, which prompted his decision to leave. The group ended in 2000. However, they came together in 2007 for a performance but could not agree on plans for the band’s future. The other members claim that they want to move forward with touring, but Zack is the one that doesn’t want to plan or do anything. Despite these hassles, the band has made another reunion and will be inducted into the 2023 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class.

11. Queen

Queen Band

Few would argue that Freddie Mercury embodied the true spirit of the band known to the world as Queen. His intense and moving vocals and well-deserved status as a rock legend made the group one of the most well-loved and popular bands in the history of rock. However, it wasn’t an argument or fight that brought the band to its knees but the tragic death of Freddie in 1991. He died from complications due to AIDS. His death was a significant loss, and he was virtually irreplaceable. Queen members Roger Deacon, Roger Taylor, and Brian May went on tour in 2014, with Adam Lambert providing vocals in Freddie’s place. As the popular Queen hit song says, “The Show Must Go On,” Taylor and May still produce albums. They have also released a previously unheard Queen song with Mercury’s vocals, recorded over thirty years ago. The song “Face It Alone” was released on October 13, 2022.

10. The Pixies

The Pixies

The Pixies didn’t realize their full potential before calling it quits. They were on their way in the 1980s with two albums that contained great music. The Pixies were a little ahead of their time as alternative music was not yet the craze it would become in just a few short years. Band members Black Francis (frontman) and Kim Deal (bassist) didn’t get along with each other. In fact, they seldom even spoke. They came together as a band in a very generic way. They weren’t friends and hadn’t even met each other until Frances posted an ad in a newspaper, and Deal responded. Since it was Francis’ idea to start a band, it didn’t sit well when fans seemed to embrace Deal more strongly than her. Francis turned up the cold factor because of her higher popularity rating with fans. Deal responded by starting the Breeders, a band that showed promise. The Pixies opened for U2 in 1992, but it wasn’t a great tour, and by 1993 Black Francis told band members that it was over and disbanded the group. In 2004, the band reunited, but Deal later left in 2013 and was replaced by Kim Shattuck as a touring bassist. She, too, was replaced later that year by Paz Lenchantin, who became a permanent member in 2016.

9. One Direction

One Direction

One Direction was the popular boy band that took the world by storm as an almost instant sensation. At the height of their popularity, problems began to besiege them. Member Zayn Malik was having quite a few personal problems. He had enjoyed the band’s amazing success equally with the other members, but he had discovered that with fame, there also comes a heavy price to pay. It was something that Malik decided he was no longer willing to do. He left One Direction and cited wanting to “be a normal 22-year-old who can relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.” No rumors of knock-down-drag-out fights or serious disagreements were circulating before the split. Life happens, and as young people mature into adults, their hopes, dreams, needs, and aspirations can change and lead them in new life directions. Undoubtedly, there’s more than one direction you can take your life.

8. Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys was one of the nation’s most popular boy bands in the 1990s. They enjoyed several years of success and fame before Kevin Richardson decided to leave the group. In 2006, he announced that he was ready to pursue other interests in his professional life. He took six years off, then returned to the group in 2012, and has remained with them ever since.

7. The Beatles

The Beatles

The Beatles became an international music phenomenon that swept the globe in the 1960s. After rising to incredible superstardom heights, John Lennon decided to leave the band in 1969. No formal announcement of this was made to the media until Paul McCartney stepped forward to announce his solo album in 1970. This was the perfect time for John Lennon to make his statement. These two major events signaled the end of the band. John Lennon had been gone for a year without leaking the information to the press.

6. Blink 182

Blink 182

Blink 182 was on the rise and gaining in popularity with fans. They had hit the big time and had the battle scars to prove it. Heavy touring to satisfy fan demand in 2004 left Tom DeLonge exhausted and unwilling to follow the group with their next project, which was launching a reality TV show. Tom made his exit from the band and forever changed Blink 182. However, the group kept churning out new music and hitting the road on tours. On October 11, 2022, the band announced that DeLonge was finally returning to the group.

5. Blondie

Blondie Band

The punk rock band Blondie was hot in the 70s and 80s. Debbie Harry decided in 1981 to pursue a solo career in rap and pop music. She was already established in punk rock, so there was a little resistance from fans to the change. She stayed away until 1997, when the band reunited and began putting out records again. The band’s current members include Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Leigh Foxx, Matt Katz-Bohen, and Tommy Kessler. The band performed at the 22nd Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April 2023.

4. Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac

The rumor mills were kept alive by the threats made by Fleetwood Mac band members of leaving. The band had its ups and downs throughout the decades, but Christine McVie made good on the threat in 1998. She cited the reasons as wanting to spend more time with her family. The rest of the group carried on in her absence. She and Mick Fleetwood toured together in 2013, and by 2014, Fleetwood Mac announced that it had officially reunited. However, after the death of Christine McVie on November 30, 2022, Fleetwood commented about the band’s future, “I think right now, I truly think the line in the sand has been drawn with the loss of Chris. I’d say we’re done, but then we’ve all said that before. It’s sort of unthinkable right now.”

3. Genesis

Genesis Band

Phil Collins became an integral part of the band Genesis as drummer and lead singer. The multi-talented artist decided to pursue his solo career in 1996 and officially left the band. Genesis called it quits in 1998, but all members, including Phil Collins, came together again in 2006 and have been making recordings as a band ever since.

2. Destiny’s Child

Destiny’s Child

Destiny’s Child has a history of splits and mended relationships up to the time that the group truly fell apart. The original members, LeToya Luckett, Farrah Franklin, and LaTavia Roberson, kicked off the group that evolved into the final three members Michelle Williams, Kelly Rowland, and Beyonce Knowles. When the original Destiny’s Child ladies went on hiatus, it gave Beyonce her shot, and she maximized the opportunity.

1. ‘N Sync

‘N Sync

Justin Timberlake’s amazing music career was launched by his inclusion in the popular boy band ‘N Sync. The band was immensely in demand and hit heights of glory in the 1990s. By 2002, Timberlake was set to release his maiden solo album. Although it seemed inevitable that he would pursue solo interests, it wasn’t until 2004 that he made his split with the group official in a media announcement.

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