Rock/Pop Stars Who Jumped the Shark

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is there any musician who jumped the shark more dramatically than Grace Slick? She was the acid rock queen of Jefferson Airplane.... and (ka-blam!) she's singing the theme song to Mannequin!

Sweet Jesus! I've heard of musicians reinventing themselves, but this is ridiculous. Starship made Christopher Cross look innovative and edgy. Their music was so synthetic, so manufactured, that I wouldn't be at all surprised if you told me "We Built This City" and "Sara" were both composed by a Commodore 64.

But enough about Slick's shark jump, what about other artists who went from incredibly cool to total lameness? A few come to mind...

1. Ozzy Osbourne
Satanic metal god... to reality show buffoon

2. Alice Cooper
King of shock rock.... to golfer who hangs with Jamie Farr

3. Rod Stewart
Sex addict rock star... to actually being more boring than Michael Bolton

4. Lionel Ritchie
"Brick House" dirty funk... to "Dancing on the Ceiling" Caucasian junk

5. Steve Winwood
Hippie prodigy with a voice that sounded like Ray Charles... to geezer with a synthesizer that sounded like John Tesh.

6. Robert Plant
I thought his Honeydrippers venture was pretty embarrassing - okay for a Bryan Adams or Elton John but not for the voice of The Hammer of the Gods, the Mighty Zep!

7. Johnny Rotten
Public Image Ltd. was tame enough to blend in with ABC and Depeche Mode... the Sex Pistols would have raped, killed and eaten ABC and Depeche Mode (and not necessarily in that order).

Perhaps it's unrealistic to expect artists to maintain their rock star cred into old age, but you don't have to jump the shark quite so magnificently as these do. Maybe there are some better examples out there - leave a comment and let me know.

[Note: I've ranted about Slick's decline before in a post called Casualties of the 80's. Don't hold it against me for repeating myself - her shark jump is so horrificly gargantuan, it needs to be brought up more than once.]


  1. AnonymousJune 03, 2009

    Bob Seger. Greatness in the 60s/early 70s, then absolute AOR crap

  2. AnonymousJune 03, 2009

    Yep, I agree on Slick. She was so cool arond 1968, just can't believe how she ended up. And as far as Ozzie, he also does TV commercials, which IMHO is one notch lower than a reality show.

  3. Despise Grace Slick

    I am going to throw Metallica out there. Different time frame than you list, but what was with that whole therapy movie?

    As for Robert Plant, I am torn on the Honeydrippers. His album with Allison Krause is pretty cool.

  4. I totally understand where you're coming from. I agree with you. There are so many artists who have changed so dramatically.

  5. I am ashamed to admit this, but I was a big fan of "We Built This City" when it came out. I was also 10 years old at the time.

    I didn't realize until much later why that song upset my mom so much and set her to grumbling about "selling out" and "how the mighty have fallen." Turns out my mom had seen Grace Slick perform in the late 60's-early 70's at the Electric Factory in Philly (the original one) painted purple from head to toe.

    Talk about a shark-jump.

  6. ffjewbacca, your mom was painted purple from head to toe?

    Alice Cooper has a pretty cool radio show on "Nights with Alice Cooper." He's got a rather droll sense of humor. At times the show is a little corny, but I like it.

    I sometimes wonder what those who died would have become. Would Jim Morrison sell his songs to Cadillac? Would Jimi Hendrix do tepid jazz? Of course we can think "NO!" but we don't really know. If Elvis had died in 1960, no one would of thought of him turning out the way he ended. I guess there's one you missed.

  7. Thanks Retro Hound. *shudder* Luckily my mom has never divulged if she too was painted purple from head to toe!!

    I did fail to mention that Ms. Slick was buck-naked while painted purple and perfoming.

  8. I think it's reasonable to expect some of these artists (Morisson, Joplin, Hendrix, etc.) to have retained their dignity and refrained from the shark jump. Look at Paul Simon, Peter Gabriel, Keith Richards, Townsend, Jimmy Page... they've gotten older and tamer, but they've never gotten close to a "We Built This City".

    BTW I'm finding the purple naked Slick thing a hard image to shake.

  9. And the Metallica therapy movie was just plain sad. They went from "Kill 'em All" to Stuart Smalley. A definite shark jump.

  10. Metallica went from "metal up your ass" to "how does metal up your ass make you feel" - I'm all for mental health, but public weep sessions are not for tough-guys.

  11. Haven't heard a lot of PiL then, I take it. I will put "Public Image", "Religion" and "The Body" up against anything the Pistols ever did.

  12. Okay, true d. merill, I have not. I've heard some of their popular stuff back in the 80's and liked it... it just seemed a far, far cry from the Pistols.

  13. David Bowie: from Ziggy Stardust to Lets Dance

    Robert Plant: Led Zeppelin legend to bluegrass with Alison Krause WTF?!

    Whitney Houston: the moment she married Bobby Brown

    just my two cents

  14. Was Bowie's "Little Drummer Boy" duet with Bing Crosby a shark jump, or was it cool? I can't tell.

  15. It sounds great, and yet when you see it, it looks like possibly one of the most awkward moments in entertainment history.

    Therefore I vote cool.

  16. Let's not forget Jacko...In 1982 there was the "Thriller" album, then in 1987 there was the aptly named "Bad" album. Instead of waterboarding as a torture technique, just play "Man in the Mirror" over and over again.

  17. AnonymousJune 06, 2009

    PIL was actually pretty good and arguably even better than the Pistols as far as the music goes (Pistols are far more influential and importnat of course).

    I also like Steve Winwood's 80s stuff - some songs sound ridiculous nowadays, but the records are fairly strong for the most part.

  18. yeah what the hell happened to her. Gawd I hate and loathe Rod Stewart, my dh is a fan of his unfortunately.

  19. I have to admit I really like the Honeydrippers album. It was Plant's homeage to his non-blues roots, like early American pop rock. He did some work inside Zep as well in these areas with songs like D'yer M'ker and Boogie With Stu, to which some royalties went to the mother of Richie Valens who wrote the original Oh oh My Head, or something. I forget exactly the details. I recall when the album came out the hard core Zepophiles hated it. I tohught it was cool and showed Planet was not going to be the Squeeze My Lemon Kid for the next 30 years.

    (p.s. I have a new proxy that allows me to post... sometimes)

  20. Ok, The Sex Pistols were a made up band and not influential or bad ass AT ALL. In fact, when The Ramones (who actually invented Punk, by the way) went to Great Britain to tour with The Sex Pistols - they were terrified to meet them, knowing The Ramones were the real thing. John Lydon has admitted that he and the rest of the band were convinced that The Ramones were probably going to beat them up when they realized that The Sex Pistols were complete fakes.

  21. What you're all forgetting is that Starship are awesome.

  22. I agree for the most part with these, but I'd like to draw attention to some misunderstood aspects.

    The difference between Grace Slick and say, someone like David Bowie is that Bowie did "change," but made contributions to the movement. Someone like Slick and Starship just followed suit - imitating what was being done by others at the time.

  23. For artists like Grace Slick as well as others on this list, their contractual agreements with their respective media moguls often placed them in compromising situations, artistically speaking. Jefferson Starship was awesome in 1974 and for many years after that. By the 80's they were no longer 'allowed' to write their own music and had a great deal of crap shoved down their throats. Once an Inc. has leverage over your life, count yourself screwed.