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You don’t need to look too hard to see or hear the multi-dimensional influence of The B-52s…
For as loud as anthems like “Dance This Mess Around,” “Love Shack,” and “Rock Lobster” might resound, the group have quietly impacted alternative music, fashion, and culture over the course of four-plus decades. Selling over 20 million albums worldwide, the GRAMMY® Award-nominated quartet—Fred Schneider [vocals, toy piano], Kate Pierson [vocals, keyboards], Cindy Wilson [vocals, percussion], and Keith Strickland [guitar, drums, keys, programming]—ignited a legacy of innovation and inspiration that dates back to 1976.
John Lennon famously professed his fandom in Rolling Stone, and the Washington Post chronicled the moment writing, “Forty years ago ‘Rock Lobster’ launched the B-52s career – and revived John Lennon’s.” Meanwhile, Madonna, James Murphy, Michael Stipe, Dave Grohl, and many others espoused similar adoration throughout the years. Casting a wide net, Panic! At The Disco, Blood Orange, The Offspring, Pitbull, Roger Sanchez, and DJ Shadow sampled classics from the band’s discography. Seth MacFarlane’s Family Guy, The Simpsons, and more offered up covers of their own, while Sugarland joined the legends for a rousing rendition of “Love Shack” at the CMT Awards. Known for intergalactic micro-dresses long before they became high fashion, Yahoo! dubbed Pierson, “The original Katy Perry,” while it certainly wouldn’t be a stretch to trace the “Beehive”—which Pierson and Wilson pioneered—to Nicki Minaj and other modern style icons. Countless music critics have lauded Schneider as having one of the most distinctive voices in rock.
A 2017 piece in Salon posited they, “may be the most subversive band America ever gave us,” and it couldn’t be more on the mark. Agreeing with millions of rabid concertgoers, Pitchfork claimed, “From the very beginning, the B-52s were an undeniably great live act,” before adding that, “summoning up a proto-Riot Grrrl intensity at least a decade ahead of its time, Wilson sings as though her life depends on it.” Rolling Stone summed up Pierson’s voice as “Transcendent,” likening it to “a glitter bomb of joy.”
After a 16-year hiatus, The B-52’s proved as bright, bold, and boundless as ever on 2008’s Funplex. Fitting comfortably among a truly iconic discography, it bowed at #11 on the Billboard Top 200. The renaissance continued in 2011 at the sold-out Classic Center in Athens, GA. Celebrating the 34th anniversary, fans dropped in from far and wide for what became a landmark gig chronicled on the live album and video release, With The Wild Crowd! Live in Athens, GA.
The momentum only ramped up when they roamed on tour alongside Tears for Fears, Blondie, Simple Minds, The English Beat, and The Psychedelic Furs in 2015 through 2017. The 21st century takeover showed no signs of slowing or stopping with appearances on Portlandia and RuPaul’s Drag Race. Upholding a tradition of social activism, they stand in staunch support of numerous initiatives and causes such as AIDS service, LGBTQ Rights, PETA, the Student Conservation Association, Planned Parenthood, and more.