Soft rock is the genre that defined the decades of the 1970s and 1980s.
The best soft rock genre’s characteristics like the soft sonic quality, the hooks, and choruses are an antithesis to the more abrasive sounding genre such as hard rock and punk music that are also famous in that period.
Here, we list some of the leading soft rock bands and personalities for your discovery and listening pleasure.
One of the most well-known best soft rock albums is Rumours by the soft rock band Fleetwood Mac led by Stevie Nicks, Christine McVie, and Lindsey Buckingham in vocals.
The band was originally geared towards being a blues band initially before Mick Fleetwood brought Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks to the fold, having been discovered them while he was scouting for studios in Los Angeles.
The best soft rock band’s transition from blues to a more California-cool soft pop rock was established with the release of their album Fleetwood Mac in 1975, which reached the top of the charts in the US, but nothing made them more renowned than the release of their second record titled Rumours.
It is not only the best-selling soft rock album but also the top-selling album of the entire decade.
Amidst tumultuous personal issues within and between band members who are also lovers, Rumours will go on to be one of the perfect albums that define not only that decade but the next and the next after that.
Elton John Band
The Elton John Band defines best soft rock music: songs written by the songwriters with accompaniment by a band transcending the sounds of hard rock music.
Elton John has sold over three hundred units of his album worldwide and is considered one of music’s best-selling, with his single dedicated to Princess Diana of Wales called a Candle in the Wind selling up to 33 million copies worldwide.
He is also the top adult-contemporary musician of all time, as reported by the publication Rolling Stone.
Aside from his musical genius, Elton John is also known for his fierce philanthropy regarding AIDS education and assistance for people living with the disease worldwide since the 1980s.
Because of his charitable work and musical prowess, he was knighted by the British Royal Family in 1998.
Billy Joel Band
Our next best soft rock artist is a Bronx-born New Yorker, also known as Piano Man and is one of the best-selling soft rock artists of all time, and that is Billy Joel.
Billy Joel Band’s 1985 release of his Greatest Hits Volume 1 & 2 is not just one of the top-selling compilation albums but one of the most successful soft rock albums of all time in the United States.
Being born and having lived all of his life in the city have influenced his music down to lyrics, a song such as New York State of Mind, Uptown Girl or his favorite and a staple to his concert Scenes from an Italian Restaurant.
Billy Joel is as versatile a musical artist as it gets, from the pop sound of Uptown Girl to the buzzing rock sounds of Big Shot.
He transcends genre and still manages to find his distinct sound.
Neil Diamond is one of the leading soft rock artists of the ’60s, with his chart-topping soft rock ballad Sweet Caroline.
This song of his had been inducted by the Library of Congress to the National Recording Registry for its contribution as being significant to music in general.
He has sold more than a hundred million records worldwide in his lifetime and has had 10 number one ballads on the adult contemporary charts with hits such as I’ve Been This Way Before, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, America, and many others.
Neil Diamond broke into pop music with the release of his song Crackin’ Rosie, he also worked in the soundtrack of the film Jonathan Livingstone Seagull in 1973, and his soundtrack for this movie earned him a Grammy for Best Original Film Score.
Lucky are the people named Caroline as they get to fully embody the song, ha!
Paul Simon was part of Simon & Garfunkel before the duo split up in the ’70s, and Paul Simon made a name for himself with chart-topping album release back-to-back.
Paul Simon’s soft rock ballads are some of the most beloved and successful out there, with four of his albums from Bridge Over Troubled Water to Graceland winning the Grammy award for Album of the Year award for every year they were put out and fifteen more.
Aside from releasing chart regular soft rock albums after soft rock albums, Paul Simon also added playwright to his list of achievements by writing a Broadway musical titled The Capeman in the ’90s.
His prowess as an artist and a songwriter is recognized by countless publication lists such as Time’s 100 People Who Shaped the World and awards like the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, of which he was the first recipient.
Lionel Richie started out as a lead singer for a funk act called The Commodores, but his solo adventure as a soft rock artist catapulted him to fame and made him one of the most flourishing recording artists with his adult contemporary ballads.
Lionel Richie is also a successful songwriter not just for The Commodores and for himself but also for other artists.
He wrote a song for Kenny Rogers called Lady, and his album he co-produced for him titled Share You Love topped the Country chart in the early 1980s.
Lionel Richie’s success in the ’80s bagged him multimillion records sold worldwide, at least four Grammy awards, and a passion for philanthropic works, most notably when he co-wrote the hit charity track We Are the World in 1985 for the USA for Africa initiative.
The next soft rock artist had his start as a drummer of the band Genesis before venturing on his solo career that would go on to be a worldwide success, and that is Phil Collins.
Phil Collins had the most Top 40 songs among any other artists outside of the soft rock genre in the ’80s, and he has won at least 8 Grammy Awards all throughout his career.
Phil Collins also won an Oscar for his work and composition in Tarzan’s soundtrack with You’ll Be In My Heart.
Phil Collins has enjoyed a career as a soft rock artist and is considered as having one of the most successful solo careers since he left Genesis, third to Paul McCartney and Micheal Jackson.
The next soft rock band comprises brothers Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, and they are also known as The Disco Kings because of their work in the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack that was considered a cultural shift when disco breakthrough the mainstream in the late ’70s.
The Bee Gee’s Saturday Night Fever earned the brothers five Grammy awards, including Album of the Year in 1979.
The album also enjoyed its stay on top of the chart for 24 straight weeks in 1978.
How Deep Is Your Love, Stayin’ Alive, and Night Fever by the Bee Gees are not just some of the songs that define the decade of disco, but they are also some of the most famous soft rock songs.
The Bee Gees is the third act with the most number-one song on the chart after The Beatles and The Supremes.
Here is one of the most successful female songwriters of soft rock of all time, with 118 chart-topping songs being written or co-written by her; she’s also one of the most successful soft rock artists of all time, and she is Carole King.
Carole King had her breakthrough with the release of her second album, Tapestry, in the early ’70s.
Tapestry sold over 25 million copies worldwide and earned her 4 Grammy awards in one night: Best Pop Vocal Performance and the big three Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Song of the Year.
Because of her genius in songwriting, Carole King has been honored with various awards, including the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress, which she was the first woman to be honored with.
If you want a crash course to her soft rock genius, give her album Tapestry a listen.
Chicago is one of the most successful soft rock bands in music history, with over a hundred million soft rock records sold worldwide, a win and ten Grammy nominations, and 37 albums recorded.
Chicago was formed in its namesake of Chicago, Illinois, in 1967 by a group of friends of musicians looking to put a spin on hard rock music with the addition of other non-traditional rock instruments and sounds like classical and jazz music with the use of horns.
Chicago’s 14th album titled Chicago 17 is the band’s bestselling to date, with 6 million records selling in the United States alone.
With over 54 years as a band, Chicago continues to perform sold-out concerts just like they used to in 1971 when they sold out Carnegie Hall for a week and are the first rock band to do so.
Coming up with a list with only ten soft rock personalities was almost a Herculian task because there are just so many more amazing musical artists and best soft rock bands defining the genre.
Happy soft rock music listening!