The Biggest Comebacks in Music History


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Success can be fleeting for popular musicians. Even those artists who release a string of hits often fall out of public favor because of changing tastes, poor song choices, personality clashes, or issues caused by substance abuse, among the many other reasons.

After a hitless dry spell, only a few hardworking – and very lucky – performers have managed to recapture their fame. These rare musicians may have rebranded themselves in order to reclaim their position in the industry, or resolved personal issues, or, in some cases, simply released new music that appealed to the public, making them among the most beloved musicians.

To determine the biggest comebacks in music history, 24/7 Wall St. identified the artists with the longest periods of time between songs that have charted in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100 popular music charts from 1958 to today.

Methodology

To determine the 40 biggest comebacks in music history, 24/7 Wall St. identified the artists with the longest periods of time between singles entering the American Top 40 chart. The Top 40 chart is the 40 top spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. To be considered, an artist’s “comeback song” had to be a new release at the time it entered the chart. Older releases that became popular again years later were not included.

40. Poco
> Comeback song: “Call It Love”
> Entered Top 40: 9/30/89
> Years between hits: 10.2

Formed in 1968 by Richie Furay and Jim Messina after their former band, Buffalo Springfield, broke up, Poco had a hit in 1979 with “Crazy Love.” The band had to wait a decade for their next Top 40 entry.

39. KISS
> Comeback song: “Forever”
> Entered Top 40: 2/24/1990
> Years between Top 40 hits: 10.5

While theatrical rock band KISS is undoubtedly iconic, they failed to release a Top 40 hit for some time after 1979’s “I Was Made For Lovin’ You.” This changed with the release of power ballad “Forever” – their last Top 40 hit to date.

38. Wilbert Harrison
> Comeback song: “Let’s Work Together (Part 1)”
> Entered Top 40: 1/24/1970
> Years between Top 40 hits: 10.5

North Carolina-born rhythm-and-blues singer Harrison topped the pop charts with his interpretation of the old blues classic “Kansas City” in 1959, but he didn’t make the Top 40 again until 1970. Interestingly, Harrison originally recorded his comeback hit, “Let’s Work Together,” in 1962, under the title “Let’s Stick Together,” but it didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t until he re-recorded it, with alternative lyrics and a slightly different title, eight years later that it became a success.

37. Metallica
> Comeback song: “The Day That Never Comes”
> Entered Top 40: 9/6/2008
> Years between Top 40 hits: 10.7

Prior to their comeback song, the legendary heavy metal band’s last Top 40 hit had been in 1998 with “The Memory Remains” (with backing vocals by Marianne Faithfull). More than a decade later, after weathering various personal and creative conflicts, Metallica scored again with “The Day That Never Comes.”

36. Neil Sedaka
> Comeback song: “Laughter In The Rain”
> Entered Top 40: 11/16/1974
> Years between Top 40 hits: 10.9

Neil Sedaka is a prolific songwriter and singer who became a teen star in the 1950s. His singing career tailed off in the 1960s, and he posted his last Top 40 hit, “Bad Girl,” in 1963, before he made a comeback as a performer. Sedaka continued to write hit songs for other artists. Sedaka rebounded in 1974 with the hit “Laughter in the Rain,” his third No. 1 as an artist on Billboard Hot 100 chart. Sedaka has had nine top 10 songs.

35. Peaches & Herb
> Comeback song: “Shake Your Groove Thing”
> Entered Top 40: 1/27/1979
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.0

Peaches & Herb had a string of five Top 40 hits in 1960s, culminating with “Two Little Kids” in 1968. Subsequent releases made the Top 100, but none had cracked the Top 40 again until 11 years later with “Shake Your Groove Thing.” The song was followed shortly thereafter by their only No. 1 hit, “Reunited.”

34. Peggy Lee
> Comeback song: “Is That All There Is”
> Entered Top 40: 10/11/1969
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.0

Peggy Lee, singer and lyricist, scored a Top 40 hit with “Is That All There Is” in 1969, 11 years after her last hit, “Fever.” “Is That All There Is” received a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year. Lee, born Norma Deloris Egstrom, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. She collaborated with such talents as Duke Ellington, Steve Allen, and Dave Grusin.

33. Herb Alpert
> Comeback song: “Rise”
> Entered Top 40: 8/25/1979
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.0

Trumpeter and record company mogul Herb Alpert first hit the top of the charts in 1968, in a rare vocal recording of Burt Bacharach’s ballad “This Guy’s in Love With You.” His next Top 40 hit didn’t come along until 1979.

32. Frank Sinatra
> Comeback song: “Theme From New York, New York”
> Entered Top 40: 5/31/1980
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.0

Frank Sinatra, “The Chairman of the Board,” had an 11-year hiatus between Top 40 hits before scoring with the “Theme From New York, New York” in 1980. His previous Top 40 hit was his anthem “My Way,” written by Paul Anka in 1969.

31. Paul McCartney
> Comeback song: “Take It Away”
> Entered Top 40: 7/17/1982
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.2

Despite his unparalleled success as a member of The Beatles and Wings, Paul McCartney had a prolonged break between Top 40 hits. His comeback song in 1982, “Take It Away,” became a Top 40 hit more than 11 years after “Another Day” landed on the Top 40 in 1971. “Another Day” was the first single he released after The Beatles broke up.

30. James Brown
> Comeback song: “Living In America”
> Entered Top 40: 1/11/1986
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.3

James Brown, “The Godfather of Soul,” influenced singers from Mick Jagger to Michael Jackson. Brown recorded seven top 10 hits, including his paean to the U.S., “Living in America,” that peaked at No. 4 on March 1, 1986. Before that hit, Brown’s last Top 40 success was “Papa Don’t Take No Mess (Part I)” in 1974.

29. Lulu
> Comeback song: “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)”
> Entered Top 40: 8/22/1981
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.4

You might remember Lulu for her chart-topping single “To Sir With Love” in 1967. But she scored other Top 40 hits as well. Her song “I Could Never Miss You (More Than I Do)” reached No. 18 in 1981 and was her first Top 40 hit since “Oh Me Oh My (I’m A Fool For You Baby)” reached No. 22 in 1970.

28. Ben E. King
> Comeback song: “Supernatural Thing – Part I”
> Entered Top 40: 3/8/1975
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.5

Ben E. King had many hits, both with the top ’50s and ’60s rhythm-and-blues group The Drifters and as a solo artist. He charted in the Top 40 in 1963 with “I Who Have Nothing,” a ballad based on an Italian song, “Uno dei Tanti.” It took him almost 12 years to repeat his success, this time with an unlikely comeback disco hit, “Supernatural Thing – Part 1.”

27. Yes
> Comeback song: “Owner Of A Lonely Heart”
> Entered Top 40: 11/19/1983
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.5

The venerable prog British rockers are not considered a singles-oriented band. Still, they had a Top 40 hit with “Roundabout” in 1972. They eclipsed that success in 1983, with the single “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” — their only No. 1 single. The song’s video was in frequent rotation on MTV in the 1980s.

26. Bad Company
> Comeback song: “If You Needed Somebody”
> Entered Top 40: 1/26/1991
> Years between Top 40 hits: 11.6

A British supergroup composed of members of the bands King Crimson, Free, and Mott the Hoople, Bad Company exploded on the rock scene with their biggest hit “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” in 1974. After their career cooled, they rebounded with a Top 40 hit, “If You Needed Somebody,” in 1991, about 12 years after their previous Top 40 success, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.”

25. Gladys Knight And The Pips
> Comeback song: “Love Overboard”
> Entered Top 40: 1/30/1988
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.1

Gladys Knight And The Pips emerged from African-American gospel tradition to record eight top 10 hits in the 1960s and 1970s. The Motown hit machine fell into a dry spell before returning to the Top 40 with “Love Overboard” in 1988, about 12 years after their previous Top 40 hit, “Part Time Love.”

24. Enya
> Comeback song: “Only Time”
> Entered Top 40: 9/1/2001
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.4

The Irish singer was a prominent voice of new age music, as a solo performer and a member of the group Clannad. Her career reached a high-water mark in 1989, when her atmospheric song “Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)” put her on the Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 24. She wouldn’t return to the Top 40 until 2001, when her song “Only Time” rose to No. 10. More recently, Enya has collaborated with Mario Winans and P. Diddy on the song “I Don’t Wanna Know” that climbed to No. 2 in 2004.

23. Dave Edmunds
> Comeback song: “Slipping Away”
> Entered Top 40: 7/30/1983
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.4

It was about 12 years between Top 40 hits for the Welsh-born rockabilly singer. “Slipping Away,” in which he collaborated with former Electric Light Orchestra member Jeff Lynne, was the biggest hit for Edmunds since his greatest singles success, “I Hear You Knocking,” in 1971, which reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100.

22. Cliff Richard
> Comeback song: “Devil Woman”
> Entered Top 40: 8/14/1976
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.5

The British pop star has had three top 10 hits on Billboard, and his biggest was his comeback effort “Devil Woman.” Richard’s last Top 40 success had been “It’s All In The Game,” in February 1964, just as the British invasion began.

21. Conway Twitty
> Comeback song: “You’ve Never Been This Far Before”
> Entered Top 40: 9/15/1973
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.6

The Mississippi-born Conway Twitty had 40 No. 1 hits on the country charts and sold more than 50 million records in the course of his career. In 1960, though, he scored two mainstream Top 40 hits, with “What Am I Living For” and “C’est Si Bon (It’s So Good) — a feat he didn’t repeat until almost 13 years later, with a song he wrote, “You’ve Never Been This Far Before.”

20. Donny Osmond
> Comeback song: “Soldier Of Love”
> Entered Top 40: 4/15/1989
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.7

Performing since he was a child, Donny Osmond had his first hit records, both as a solo artist and as part of his family group, The Osmonds, in 1971, when he was barely in his teens. He had 11 Top 40 hits in all up through his 1976 release of “C’mon Marianne” but then had to wait until 1989 to repeat the achievement.

19. Jimmy Ruffin
> Comeback song: “Hold On To My Love”
> Entered Top 40: 3/22/1980
> Years between Top 40 hits: 12.9

“Gonna Give Her All the Love I’ve Got” was an early hit for Motown star Ruffin, older brother of David Ruffin of The Temptations. But while he had three more Top 100 songs in the late 1960s and early ’70s, he didn’t reach the Top 40 again until 1980.

18. Kylie Minogue
> Comeback song: “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head”
> Entered Top 40: 2/9/2002
> Years between Top 40 hits: 13.0

Australian actress-turned-singer Kylie Minogue had 13 singles in the U.K. Top 10 in the late 1980s and early ’90s but has gotten less love from U.S. listeners. Minogue has reached the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 only twice. Her last appearance in the Top 40 before her comeback song was with “It’s No Secret” in 1989 that peaked at No. 37.

17. INXS
> Comeback song: “Pretty Vegas”
> Entered Top 40: 10/22/2005
> Years between Top 40 hits: 13.0

The Australian punk/new wave rockers enjoyed a lot of success in the 1980s and 1990s, with seven top 10 hits on Billboard, including their funky chart-topper “Need You Tonight.” They overcame the death of charismatic frontman Michael Hutchence in 1997 and scored a Top 40 hit in 2005 with “Pretty Vegas,” their first Top 40 success since “Not Enough Time” in 1992.

16. Jimmy Dean
> Comeback song: “I.O.U.”
> Entered Top 40: 5/22/1976
> Years between Top 40 hits: 13.6

Country music singer Jimmy Dean had a number of hits in the early 1960s, including the No. 1 single “Big Bad John.” After years of poorly-performing releases, Dean returned to the Top 40 with his ode to motherhood “I.O.U.”

15. Eagles
> Comeback song: “Get Over It”
> Entered Top 40: 11/12/1994
> Years between Top 40 hits: 13.7

Eagles were one of the most successful bands of the 1970s, yet this didn’t stop them from announcing a breakup in 1982. Fortunately for fans, the breakup turned out to be a temporary hiatus, and the band returned in 1994, releasing a live album and the Top 40 hit “Get Over It,” their first Top 40 since “Seven Bridges Road” in 1981.

14. Weird Al Yankovic
> Comeback song: “White & Nerdy”
> Entered Top 40: 10/14/2006
> Years between Top 40 hits: 14.4

Grammy Award-winning song parodist Weird Al Yankovic has had a long and successful career fusing music and humor. After his 1992 hit “Smells Like Nirvana,” 14 years passed before he returned with “White & Nerdy.” He’s since scored yet another Top 40 hit with “Word Crimes” in 2014.

13. Radiohead
> Comeback song: “Nude”
> Entered Top 40: 4/19/2008
> Years between Top 40 hits: 14.6

Despite their diehard fanbase, English rock band Radiohead have had limited pop success. In 1993, the band broke into the Top 40 with their song “Creep.” Mainstream audiences heard little from the band – aside from the minor hit “High And Dry” – until 2008, when they once again made the Top 40 with “Nude.”

12. Joe Cocker
> Comeback song: “When The Night Comes”
> Entered Top 40: 12/2/1989
> Years between Top 40 hits: 14.6

The raspy British rocker, caricatured by John Belushi on “Saturday Night Live,” had almost 15 years between Top 40 hits until he scored with “When The Night Comes” in 1989. His previous solo Top 40 effort had been “You Are So Beautiful/It’s A Sin When You Love Somebody” in 1975.

11. Meat Loaf
> Comeback song: “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)”
> Entered Top 40: 10/2/1993
> Years between Top 40 hits: 14.7

The singer rose to fame with a hammy theatrical style marked by songs like “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” in the 1970s. Meat Loaf’s success ebbed in the 1980s, but he rebounded with the song “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)” that became his first No. 1 in 1993, and led to a revival of his career in the 1990s. Meat Loaf’s previous Top 40 success had been “You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth” in 1979.

10. Guns N’ Roses
> Comeback song: “Chinese Democracy”
> Entered Top 40: 11/29/2008
> Years between Top 40 hits: 16.1

Guns N’ Roses fans waited about 15 years for the band’s “Chinese Democracy” album. The album – which cost a whopping estimated $13 million to produce – put the band back on the charts, with its title track reaching #34 on the Billboard Hot 100, their first Top 40 hit since “November Rain” in 1992.

9. Barry White
> Comeback song: “Practice What You Preach”
> Entered Top 40: 11/5/1994
> Years between Top 40 hits: 16.4

The deep-voiced Barry White had nine Top 40 hits — including the No. 1 smash “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” in 1974 — before making “Oh What a Night for Dancing” No. 10 in 1978.

8. Del Shannon
> Comeback song: “Sea Of Love”
> Entered Top 40: 1/23/1982
> Years between Top 40 hits: 16.8

Del Shannon burst onto the pop scene in 1961 with the song that remained his biggest hit, “Runaway.” In 1965, “Stranger in Town” was his eighth Top 40 hit. He never reached the Top 40 again until “Sea Of Love” in 1982. Shannon committed suicide in 1990.

7. New Kids On The Block
> Comeback song: “Summertime”
> Entered Top 40: 7/12/2008
> Years between Top 40 hits: 17.8

Before the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC there was New Kids on the Block. The boy band enjoyed 10 Top 40 hits in the late ’80s and early ’90s before disbanding in 1994. The band reconvened in 2008 and released the single “Summertime,” which peaked at No. 36, their first Top 40 hit since “Tonight” in 1990.

6. David Cassidy
> Comeback song: “Lyin’ To Myself”
> Entered Top 40: 10/27/1990
> Years between Top 40 hits: 18.0

David Cassidy enjoyed early career success as a member of “The Partridge Family” and as a teen idol in the 1970s. After an 18-year absence, Cassidy returned to the Top 40 with “Lyin’ to Myself” in 1990, his first Top 40 success since “Rock Me Baby” in 1972.

5. The Monkees
> Comeback song: “That Was Then, This Is Now”
> Entered Top 40: 8/2/1986
> Years between Top 40 hits: 18.0

From the mid- to late-1960s, few American pop rock acts had more success than The Monkees. The band had six top 10 hits on Billboard and three went to No. 1. Interest was revived in the band in the 1980s, and it helped make the song “That Was Then, This Is Now” a Top 40 hit in 1986. That success came 18 years after the group’s last Top 40 hit, “D.W. Washburn,” in 1968.

4. Gary U.S. Bonds
> Comeback song: “This Little Girl”
> Entered Top 40: 5/2/1981
> Years between Top 40 hits: 18.8

Buoyed by longtime admirer Bruce Springsteen, Gary U.S. Bonds resurrected his career with the album “Dedication,” and from that collection came the Top 40 hit “This Little Girl.” It was his first Top 40 success since “Seven Day Weekend” in 1962. Bonds has had three top 10 hits on BIllboard.

3. Roy Orbison
> Comeback song: “You Got It”
> Entered Top 40: 2/18/1989
> Years between Top 40 hits: 22.7

Roy Orbison found tremendous success in the early 1960s, during which period he landed nine singles in Billboard’s Top 10. He would achieve one final hit with “You Got It,” released in 1989, almost 23 years after his last Top 40 song “Twinkle Toes.” Unfortunately, Orbison died of a heart attack about two months before the release of the song, at the age of 52.

2. Jimmy Cliff
> Comeback song: “I Can See Clearly Now”
> Entered Top 40: 12/4/1993
> Years between Top 40 hits: 23.8

Reggae artist Jimmy Cliff scored a couple of crossover hits on the Hot 100 in 1970 with “Come Into My Life” and “Wonderful World, Beautiful People.” It would take almost 24 years for him to return with “I Can See Clearly Now,” a Johnny Nash song that Cliff covered for the movie “Cool Runnings.”

1. Aaron Neville
> Comeback song: “Everybody Plays The Fool”
> Entered Top 40: 8/24/1991
> Years between Top 40 hits: 24.5

Silk-throated Aaron Neville went the longest between Top 40 hits of any artist on our list. Neville, out of the fertile music scene in New Orleans, returned to the Top 40 in 1991 with the song “Everybody Plays The Fool.” His previous Top 40 effort had been “Tell It Like It Is,” which reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967.


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The Biggest Comebacks in Music History

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