The term Teen Idol was used a lot in music from the 1950s-1970s, which stood for a young artist reaching stardom with a younger audience. The word “Idol” is overused today, especially thanks to those bad reality shows, but there was a time when the word was a hinder for musicians trying to shed the image of their early career. Some of the Teen Idols in music were Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, Rick Springfield, Michael Jackson, Paul Anka, and even The Beatles. However, in terms of most of these artists, they continued recording songs from their early years to later years. I want to look at a few of the Teen Idols who had a comeback on the U.S. Charts after being away from the charts for a while. I am not counting artists who went solo after being in a band in this list, but I want to list a few of my favorite Teen Idols who made comebacks in their later age (the age of the artist when they got their first hit to return are listed-give or take a year from the release of the single to the top chart appearance).
- Rick Nelson (Started age 17, returned at age 30). When discussing the term Teen Idol, you have to start with one of the first ones ever, and that was Rick Nelson, who has been termed by magazines as the first artist to be label Teen Idol. When he started on his father’s TV Show, young Ricky hit the charts with songs like “I’m Walking” (which hit #4 on the U.S. Charts in 1957) and “Poor Little Fool” (#1 in 1958). Even though he never stopped recording, The British Invasion ended his chart appearances until he hit in 1972 with “Garden Party “ (#6 U.S. Charts, #1 AC Charts). “Party” was to be Rick’s comeback as he worked on recordings, including an appearance on “Saturday Night Live” singing a remake of “Dream Lover.” However due to record company politics, the album was held on too long before being released, and hurt the momentum. Nonetheless, Nelson’s last chart appearances was 1964, and he waited until 1970 before getting on the charts, and then in 1972. I happen to love his late 1960s-1970s music, which included several Bob Dylan remakes (He actually hit the charts with “She Belongs To Me”, a Dylan song, which hit #33 in 1970, but most remember “Garden Party” as the big comeback, so I’m sticking with “Party” as the comeback song). Nelson is considered the first Teen Idol, and his talent proved he hit the charts again at a later age with the right momentum.
- Donny Osmond (Debut age-14, returned age 32). This is one of the best comeback stories in ANY form (not just in music), and sounds like a Pro Wrestling storyline. After hitting the charts with his brothers with songs like “One Bad Apple” in the 1970s, and his duets with his Sister Marie, Donny was a huge star. He had hits like “Go Away Little Girl” (#1 in 1971) and “Puppy Love” (#3 in 1972), and had a successful Variety TV Show. His resume later included being a game show host and a Broadway star. However in the 1980s, his name was basically poison when it came to making an album or single. In 1989, a New York Radio Station started playing a song called “Soldier of Love” by an unknown artist. After getting flooded by calls, the momentum continued until the song hit #2 on the U.S. Charts. Well the mystery artist was…Donny Osmond! The album had another hit, the ballad “Sacred Emotion.” Osmond still records and tours today, currently doing a Vegas Show with Marie. His 2001 Album, “This Is The Moment,” is a great album full of Broadway Songs (the album hit #64 on the charts) and his “Love Songs of the 1970s” hit #27 on the charts. Osmond has a mature voice that I like even better than his teen years, and Osmond waited from his last chart single in 1976 to 1989 (13 years) to return. His story is a great feel good inspiring tale of determination and patience.
- David Cassidy (Debut age-20, returned at age 40). Just like Donny Osmond, David Cassidy was one of the top Teen Idols in the 1970s with a TV Show and a huge following in the teen magazines and touring. He had hits with The Partridge Family, hitting #1 in 1970 with “I Think I Love You,” and solo hits like “Cherish” in 1971(#9). Cassidy had an 18 year drought until he hit with the song “Lyin To Myself” in 1990, which hit #14. Unfortunately his label Enigma Records closed shortly after the release of the self titled album. I remember getting the cassette single of “Lyin To Myself” and was fortunate to find a CD copy of the album years ago, and it is a good album that was produced by Phil Ramone. “Lyin” was one of my favorite songs of that year. Cassidy spend time on Broadway as well during his time away from the charts, but had a great comeback single. Cassidy has been in the news lately discussing health issues, but any musician my age grew up wanting to be Keith Partridge, Cassidy’s famous persona.
- Neil Sedaka (Debut age-19, returned at age 36). Many know Sedaka as one of the greatest Pop Music Songwriters of all time, but some also forget that at one time he was a Teen Idol in the 1960s. He started his chart debut in 1958 with “The Diary” (#14), and had a string of hits in the 1960s with “Calendar Girl” (#4 in 1960), “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen” (#6 in 1961), and the #1 Hit “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” in 1962. Even though he was writing for other artists, Sedaka came back onto the charts after an 11 year absence with 1974’s #1 hits “Laughter in The Rain” and “Bad Blood” (“Bad Blood” features Elton John on backing vocals). He also wrote the #1 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together” for Captain and Tennille in 1975. Sedaka made music history as being the first (and only to my knowledge) singer/songwriter to have a Top 10 hit with a different version of the same song, when he hit #1 on the AC Charts, and #8 on the Pop Charts, with “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do,” this time as a ballad. He also had another 4 year absence from 1976-1980, when he hit the charts again with “Should’ve Never Let You Go,” (#19). Sedaka wrote and performed some of the best Pop Songs in Rock Music.
- The Monkees (Debut age 21-24, returned age 41-42). People have their own opinion of The Monkees, but they were definitely Teen Idols who had great success on the charts. They debuted on the charts with “Last Train To Clarksville” in 1966 (#1) and “I’m A Believer” (#1) in 1966. They also hit #1 again in 1967 with “Daydream Believer.” After 1968, the Monkees did not hit the charts again until 1986 with “That Was Then, This Is Now” (#20), which was added to a new collection album. Even though the band only consisted of Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork when the song was released, it still gave the band the spotlight again, with their songs shown to a new generation. The video for the song was on many video shows, including MTV, and got heavy rotation throughout the country on radio. The Monkees came back in 2016 with the great “Good Times” album, the first since the death of Davy Jones. The “Good Times” Album hit #14 on the U.S. Charts, and was #1 on the Vinyl Album Charts. After the release of “That Was Then..” the band’s TV Show started getting replayed on various TV Channels. I strongly suggest getting “Good Times,” it was the best album I heard of the year.
- Dion DiMucci (Debut age 19, returned at 29). In 1958, Dion and the Belmonts hit the charts with “I Wonder Why” (#22). The group was known as one of the early Do-Wop Bands of Rock and Roll, and also charted with the smash “Teenager In Love” (#5 in 1959). Dion then went on to record hits like “Runaround Sue” (#1 in 1961) and “The Wanderer” (#2 in 1961). Even though he was still recording songs, he didn’t hit the charts again until 1968 with “Abraham, Martin, And John” (#4). Just like Neil Sedaka, many people do not remember that Dion was a Teen Idol at one time.
Many people consider the term “Teen Idol” as something that relates to Boy Bands in the 1980s, however, the term was used many decades before. In the 1970s, other “Idols” like The Bay City Rollers, Leif Garrett, Shawn Cassidy, and Andy Gibb were all over the teen magazines, however their spotlight did not last long, and they did not have another chart hit. Some music acts, just like actors, may not be able to overcome the stereotype of the term, but this list shows that there were that did overcome, and some are still putting out quality music to this day. Go back and revisit some of these acts.
Don’t forget to subscribe to help the numbers on the page! Just click the “Follow” button and you’ll get each new blog straight to your email.