Entertainment

The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s

List Rules
Vote up the bands and musicians who did the best job as musical guests on SNL from 1980 through 1989.

Saturday Night Live started the 1980s rough, but rode the decade through and celebrated its 15th anniversary in before the '80s ended.  Even with over a dozen bands appearing multiple times, there were over 180 musical guests in the '80s. If you can't remember everybody who played on the show, then refresh your memory with this list of the bands who played on SNL from 1980 through 1989, ranked from best SNL '80s musical guests to worst SNL '80s musical guests.

Some of the people who took on the role of musical guest the most often in the '80s were Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, and John Mellencamp, who each played three times on SNL. No less memorable for only playing on the show once were Queen and Prince, some of the greatest musical artists of all time.

Just like the seasons and episodes themselves, the Saturday Night Live musical guests of the 1980s range from great to grueling. Vote up the bands and musicians who did the best job as musical guests on SNL in the '80s.

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list ordered by
  • The Cars were an American rock band that emerged from the new wave scene in the late 1970s. The band originated in Boston in 1976, with singer, rhythm guitarist, and songwriter Ric Ocasek; bassist ...more
  • Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician, composer, and record and film producer who gained worldwide fame as bass player for the Beatles. His ...more
  • David Jon Gilmour ( GHIL-mor; born 6 March 1946) is an English multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter who was a member of the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. He joined the group as guitarist ...more
  • The Pretenders are an English-American rock band formed in Hereford, England, in March 1978. The original band comprised initiator and main songwriter Chrissie Hynde, James Honeyman-Scott, Pete ...more
  • Cheap Trick is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973. The band's classic lineup consisted of vocalist Robin Zander, guitarist Rick Nielsen, bassist Tom Petersson, and drummer ...more
  • Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer, songwriter, and record producer, and one of the most influential guitarists in the revival of blues in the ...more
  • The J. Geils Band was an American rock band formed in 1968, in Worcester, Massachusetts, under the leadership of guitarist John "J." Geils. The original band members included vocalist Peter Wolf, ...more
  • Huey Lewis and the News is an American rock band based in San Francisco, California. They had a run of hit singles during the 1980s and early 1990s, eventually achieving 19 top ten singles across the ...more
  • Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (alternately Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) were an American rock band from Gainesville, Florida. Formed in 1976, the band originally comprised Tom Petty (lead singer, ...more
  • William Michael Albert Broad (born 30 November 1955), known professionally as Billy Idol, is an English musician, singer, songwriter, and actor. He first achieved fame in the 1970s emerging from the ...more
  • Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer-songwriter, keyboardist, and record producer known for his distinctive, soulful voice and as a member of the bands The Doobie Brothers ...more
  • Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948) is an English singer, songwriter, and musician, best known as the lead singer and lyricist of the rock band Led Zeppelin. Plant enjoyed great success with ...more
  • Robert William Cray (born August 1, 1953) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He has led his own band and won five Grammy Awards.
  • Don Van Vliet (, born Don Glen Vliet; January 15, 1941 – December 17, 2010) was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and visual artist best known by the stage name Captain ...more
  • Todd Harry Rundgren (born June 22, 1948) is an American multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, and record producer who has performed a diverse range of styles as a solo artist and as a member of ...more
  • The B-52s (styled as The B-52's prior to 2008) is an American new wave band formed in Athens, Georgia, in 1976. The original line-up consisted of Fred Schneider (vocals), Kate Pierson (vocals, ...more
  • Morna Anne Murray (born June 20, 1945), known professionally as Anne Murray, is a Canadian singer in pop, country, and adult contemporary music whose albums have sold over 55 million copies ...more
  • Declan Patrick MacManus, OBE (born 25 August 1954), better known by his stage name Elvis Costello, is an English pop/rock musician, singer, songwriter, composer, record producer, author, television ...more
  • In architecture, a hall is a relatively large space enclosed by a roof and walls. In the Iron Age and early Middle Ages in northern Europe, a mead hall was where a lord and his retainers ate and also ...more
  • William Martin Joel (born May 9, 1949) is an American singer-songwriter, composer, and pianist. Commonly nicknamed the "Piano Man" after his first hit and signature song of the same name, he has led ...more
  • William Haislip Squier (, born May 12, 1950) is an American rock musician and singer. Squier had a string of arena rock hits in the 1980s. He is best known for the song "The Stroke", from his 1981 ...more
  • Leon Redbone (born Dickran Gobalian, August 26, 1949 – May 30, 2019) was a singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor specializing in jazz, blues, and Tin Pan Alley classics. Recognized by his Panama ...more
  • The Neville Brothers were an American R&B/soul/funk group, formed in 1977 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, producer, author, poet, and activist. The critical success of the album Shotgun Willie (1973), combined ...more
  • Delbert McClinton (born November 4, 1940) is an American blues rock and electric blues singer-songwriter, guitarist, harmonica player, and pianist.From his first professional stage appearance in 1957 ...more