Top 10 R&B Artists of the 1980s

In my last article – The Top RnB artists of the 1990’s – I went through some of my personal favourites. ┬áBut in this article I wanted to take it back even further, when R&B was just starting to mature. ┬áSome of the greatest R&B songs in the history of music were made in the 1980s when music was more about content than beats. It was before rap and hip-hop became mainstream, and most lovers of music leaned towards the R&B genre. In that era, the billboard charts were dominated by hot R&B singles that are still a great listen even now. These are some of the top ten R&B artists that set trends and topped charts in the 1980s.

  1. Billy Ocean

The British singer had a string of hits in the 70s and 80s. He was one of the most popular British recording artists in the 1980s and had several chart-topping songs both in the US and the UK. His worldwide hit, “Caribbean Queen”, was a crossover success and won him a Grammy award for the Best R&B Vocal Performance in the male category. He is considered as one of the greatest R&B artists of all time.

  1. Tina Turner


Despite her drama with Ike Turner, Tina Turner was one of the top R&B artists of the 1980s. She was consistent in her brand of music and gave us great hits like “What’s love got to do with it” and “Proud Mary.” This was also the decade of her great comeback in music.

  1. Luther Vandross

When he released his first solo album “Never too much” in 1981, it was clear that he was destined for success. Luther Vandross released several hit songs during the 80s and was one of the most notable male R&b artists during that period.

  1. Janet Jackson

Her brother might have dominated the music charts in the 80s, but she surely held her own. Janet Jackson was one of the most dominant female R&B artists in the 80s and fans always compared her to Whitney Houston, a factor that elicited some rivalry between the two artists. Nevertheless, she still had several hits such as “What have you done for me lately” and “When I think of you.”

  1. Stevie Wonder


He never let his disability deter him in his quest to make great music. Stevie Wonder has a list of great R&B songs to his credit and just to underscore his important place in that music genre; he has won twenty-five Grammy Awards which is the most by any male solo artist. He gave us the edgy sing-along songs “Happy Birthday” and “I just called to say I love you.” He is undoubted among the greatest R&B artists of the 80s.

  1. Chaka Khan

She has had a long and successful career in music and has inspired many artists. The rapper Kanye West paid tribute to her in his song “Through the Wire” which he did after surviving a freak road accident. The 80s was a very good era for Chaka Khan because she had so many charts topping hits. She is recognized as the first musician of the R&B genre to feature a rap artist in a single. She did so in the song “I feel for you” which was released in 1984. She also won several Grammy awards during that time to add to her credentials as a great performer.

  1. Lionel Ritchie

Lionel Ritchie was in the zone in the 80s as far as great music is concerned. Coming from a successful group to launch his solo career, he proved his versatility as an artist by the numerous hits he released. The 80s was a particularly great time for him because he released some of the best R&B songs during that period. Some of the notable hits include “Hello”, “Stuck on you,” “All night long” and “Endless love” among other hits.

  1. Diana Ross

Her musical influence in the 80s was far and wide. Dubbed the original diva, Diana Ross used her powerful vocal range to record and perform great R&B songs like “Upside down” and “Endless love” which was a duet with Lionel Ritchie.

  1. Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston introduced herself to the world in the most perfect of ways. Her debut album in 1985 became the best-selling debut album by a female solo artist in history. She was by all standards, one of the best female R&B artists of the 80s. With such hits as “How will I know” and “Saving all my love for you” she had the demeanor of a legend who would change the game. She is one of the most awarded artists in history, and many young, and upcoming female musicians still look up to her.

  1. Michael Jackson

He is known as the king of pop music but in the 80s Michael Jackson also dominated the R&B charts. He was literally in a league of his own, breaking barriers and outselling fellow artists. It was especially this time that his legendary status was cemented in the history of music. He is the top R&B artist of the 1980s.

Top R&B songs from the 80’s – Enjoy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *