R.E.M. was one of the most influential and innovative bands of the 1980s and 1990s, creating a distinctive sound that blended alternative rock, folk, and pop. The band, which consisted of Michael Stipe, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, and Bill Berry, formed in 1980 in Athens, Georgia, and soon became the quintessential college rock band, attracting a loyal fan base with their poetic lyrics, jangly guitars, and charismatic stage presence.
R.E.M. was not only a musical force, but also a social and political one. The band used their platform to raise awareness and support for various causes, such as environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, and AIDS research., and they also celebrated their own identities, with Stipe coming out as queer in 1994 and Buck embracing his Buddhist faith.
Some of R.E.M.’s songs reflected their activism and values, such as “Fall on Me”, which addressed acid rain and “Orange Crush”, which criticized the Vietnam War. Other songs captured the emotions and experiences of their listeners, such as “Losing My Religion”, which explored doubt and obsession, “Everybody Hurts”, which offered comfort and hope, and “Nightswimming”, which evoked nostalgia and innocence.
R.E.M. also experimented with different musical styles and formats, such as incorporating rap, electronica, and country elements. They also challenged the music industry norms, refusing to print lyrics with their albums until 1994, avoiding lip-syncing on television, and maintaining creative control over their work.
R.E.M. disbanded in 2011, after 31 years and 15 studio albums, leaving behind a legacy of music and social impact that inspired countless artists and fans. Their songs are still widely played and enjoyed today, and their influence can be heard in bands such as Nirvana, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, and Coldplay. R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and received numerous awards and accolades for their artistic and humanitarian achievements.
If you want to revisit some of R.E.M.’s best songs, or discover them for the first time, check out this playlist that features some of their hits and deep cuts.
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