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

Updated April 19, 2019 1.6k votes 103 voters183 items

List RulesVote 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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  • 1
    Stevie Ray Vaughan is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    92
    2

    Stevie Ray Vaughan

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsCouldn't Stand the Weather, In Step, Texas Flood, The Essential Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, The Sky Is Crying

    Stephen Ray Vaughan (October 3, 1954 – August 27, 1990) was an American musician, singer,... more on Wikipedia
  • 2
    Robert Cray is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    26
    4

    Robert Cray

    Blues-rock, Soul blues

    AlbumsDon't Be Afraid of the Dark, Sweet Potato Pie, The Blues Collection 25: Who's Been Talkin', False Accusations, Some Rainy Morning

    Robert William Cray (born August 1, 1953) is an American blues guitarist and singer. He has... more on Wikipedia
  • 3
    Paul McCartney is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    22
    2

    Paul McCartney

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsFlaming Pie, Ram, McCartney, Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, Press to Play

    Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter, musician,... more on Wikipedia
  • 4
    The Cars is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    22
    2

    The Cars

    Bubblegum pop, Synthpop

    AlbumsCandy-O, The Cars, Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology, Heartbeat City, Panorama

    The Cars were an American rock band that emerged from the new wave scene in the late 1970s.... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Stray Cats is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    22
    2

    Stray Cats

    New Wave, Psychobilly

    AlbumsBuilt for Speed, Stray Cats, Rock This Town, Shake, Rattle and Roll: Live at TK's Place

    Stray Cats are an American rockabilly band formed in 1979 by guitarist and vocalist Brian... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Cheap Trick is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    23
    5

    Cheap Trick

    Pop punk, Glam metal

    AlbumsCheap Trick at Budokan, In Color, Dream Police, Cheap Trick, The Doctor

    Cheap Trick is an American rock band from Rockford, Illinois, formed in 1973. The band's... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    David Gilmour is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    18
    0

    David Gilmour

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsOn an Island, David Gilmour, Remember That Night, About Face, Live in Gdańsk

    David Jon Gilmour ( GHIL-mor; born 6 March 1946) is an English multi-instrumentalist, singer... more on Wikipedia
  • 8
    Michael McDonald is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    18
    2

    Michael McDonald

    Adult contemporary music, Blue-eyed soul

    AlbumsIf That's What It Takes, Through the Many Winters: A Christmas Album, Motown, The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon, The Voice of Michael McDonald

    Michael McDonald (born February 12, 1952) is an American singer-songwriter, keyboardist, and... more on Wikipedia
  • 9
    Huey Lewis & the News is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    15
    8

    Huey Lewis & the News

    Doo-wop, Blues-rock

    AlbumsSports, Fore!, Picture This, (She's) Some Kind of Wonderful, Small World

    Huey Lewis and the News is an American rock band based in San Francisco, California. They had... more on Wikipedia
  • 10
    Robert Plant is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    9
    2

    Robert Plant

    Blues-rock, Rock music

    AlbumsRaising Sand, No Quarter: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant Unledded, Walking Into Clarksdale, Mighty Rearranger, Manic Nirvana

    Robert Anthony Plant (born 20 August 1948) is an English singer, songwriter, and musician,... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Aretha Franklin is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    16
    11

    Aretha Franklin

    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsLady Soul, I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You, Young, Gifted and Black, Respect

    Aretha Louise Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018) was an American singer, songwriter,... more on Wikipedia
  • 12
    Hall & Oates is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    8
    2

    Hall & Oates

    Blue-eyed soul, New Wave

    AlbumsH2O, Maneater, Abandoned Luncheonette, Private Eyes, X-Static

    In architecture, a hall is a relatively large space enclosed by a roof and walls. In the Iron... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    George Thorogood & The Destroy is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    6
    2

    George Thorogood & The Destroyers

    Blues-rock, Boogie rock

    Albums30 Years Greatest, The Baddest of George Thorogood and the Destroyers, I Drink Alone, Anthology, 30th Anniversary Tour: Live

    George Thorogood & The Destroyers is an American blues rock band comprised of Thorogood and... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    The J. Geils Band is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    8
    5

    The J. Geils Band

    Blues-rock, New Wave

    AlbumsFreeze Frame, Monkey Island, Bloodshot, Hotline, Sanctuary

    The J. Geils Band was an American rock band formed in 1968, in Worcester, Massachusetts,... more on Wikipedia
  • 15
    Mr. Mister is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    10
    9

    Mr. Mister

    Adult contemporary music, New Wave

    AlbumsWelcome to the Real World, Broken Wings, the best of..., Go On..., The Best of Mr. Mister

    Mr. Mister was an American pop rock band most popular in the 1980s. The band's name came from... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    Joe Cocker is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    8
    5

    Joe Cocker

    Blues-rock, Blue-eyed soul

    AlbumsJoe Cocker, Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Night Calls, Sheffield Steel, Best Ballads

    John Robert Cocker (20 May 1944 – 22 December 2014), better known as Joe Cocker, was an... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Linda McCartney is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    Linda Louise McCartney, Lady McCartney (née Eastman; formerly See; September 24, 1941 – April... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Debbie Harry is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    5
    2

    Debbie Harry

    Hip hop music, Alternative hip hop

    AlbumsKooKoo, Def Dumb & Blonde, Debravation, Necessary Evil, Rockbird

    Deborah Ann Harry (born July 1, 1945), born Angela Tremble, is an American singer, songwriter,... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Eurythmics is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    8
    6

    Eurythmics

    Synthpop, New Wave

    AlbumsSweet Dreams (Are Made of This), Touch, Be Yourself Tonight, Savage, Peace

    Eurythmics were a British pop duo consisting of members Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart.... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    Parliament-Funkadelic is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    8
    6

    Parliament-Funkadelic

    Psychedelic soul, P-Funk

    AlbumsHydraulic Funk, T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership), Dope Dogs, George Clinton Family Series, Part 1: Go Fer Yer Funk

    Parliament-Funkadelic (abbreviated as P-Funk) is an American funk music collective of rotating... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Sting is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    10
    10

    Sting

    Medieval music, Classic rock

    Albums...Nothing Like the Sun, Ten Summoner's Tales, Mercury Falling, The Soul Cages, The Dream of the Blue Turtles

    Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner CBE (born 2 October 1951), known as Sting, is an English musician... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    Dolly Parton is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    10
    10

    Dolly Parton

    Ballad, Country pop

    AlbumsOnce Upon a Christmas, The Ultimate Collection, The Grass Is Blue, Home for Christmas, The Right Combination: Burning the Midnight Oil

    Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter,... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Elvis Costello is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    10
    10

    Elvis Costello

    New Wave, Rock music

    AlbumsThis Year's Model, Armed Forces, Get Happy!!, My Aim Is True, Brutal Youth

    Declan Patrick MacManus, OBE (born 25 August 1954), better known by his stage name Elvis... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Tina Turner is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    10
    10

    Tina Turner

    Rock music, Dance-pop

    AlbumsPrivate Dancer, What's Love Got to Do With It, Simply the Best, Foreign Affair, Wildest Dreams

    Tina Turner (born Anna Mae Bullock, November 26, 1939) is an internationally recognized... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    The B-52's is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Musicians Who Performed on SNL In The '80s
    6
    5

    The B-52's

    New Wave, Pop music

    AlbumsThe B-52’s, Wild Planet, Planet Claire, Time Capsule: Songs for a Future Generation, Love Shack

    The B-52s (styled as The B-52's prior to 2008) is an American new wave band formed in Athens,... more on Wikipedia
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