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Five '80s Artists Who Should Compose Broadway Musicals

Category Broadway

|by Mark Robinson |

These ‘80s artists could get their second act on Broadway

The 1980s were a decade of infectious music presented by a colorful array of musicians, stretching from one-hit wonders to performers who registered hit after hit on the Billboard Charts. There is a theatricality that radiates from much of the music of this decade. Is it any wonder that ‘80s composers such as Cyndi Lauper (Kinky Boots), Sting (The Last Ship), Boy George (Taboo) and Phil Collins (Tarzan) – joined recently, with Pretty Woman’s premiere, by Bryan Adams – found themselves attracted to writing for the musical theater stage? Even as we think back on their contributions, we cannot help but consider some other ‘80s pop and rock musicians who should try their hand at composing a Broadway musical.

These ‘80s artists could get their second act on Broadway

These ‘80s artists could get their second act on Broadway

Bonnie Raitt
Did you know that Bonnie Raitt is a musical theatre legacy? Her father was John Raitt, who starred in the original Broadway productions of Carousel and The Pajama Game. Clearly she has some musical theatre in her blood; many of her songs exude a soliloquy-like expressiveness and emotional outpouring that can be likened to a Broadway showtune. Sure, Raitt’s talents span several decades (starting in the 1970s), but it was in the 1980s when her career really started to take off. Her 1989 album Nick of Time won the Grammy for Album of the Year.

Matthew Wilder
Matthew Wilder had a few hits in the 1980s, including the earworm “Break My Stride,” which rose to #5 on the Billboard Charts. Other well-known Wilder songs include “The Kid’s American” and “Bouncin’ Off the Walls.” Particularly known for his catchy melodies, Wilder was initially a member of the folk group Matthew & Peter. What people may not know about Wilder is that he wrote the music for the Disney animated musical Mulan, with David Zippel (City of Angels) penning the lyrics. Matthew, we know you can write for the musical genre, so why not unleash your melodies on a Broadway vehicle?

Lionel Richie
Lionel Richie co-composed one of the most-iconic songs of the 1980s, “We Are The World,” with Michael Jackson, but Richie’s usual style was much-more subtle and reflective. “Hello,” “Stuck On You” and “Penny Lover” each tell a different story of the in-and-outs of love, but Richie is equally capable of writing a lively dance number, such as the energetic “Dancing on the Ceiling.” Still, Richie excels at crafting songs that delve into the matters of the heart, and let’s face it: the Broadway musical loves to go there.

Jon Bon Jovi
The lead singer of the rock band Bon Jovi also happens to be one of its key songwriters. Jon Bon Jovi is one of the talents behind “You Give Love a Bad Name” and “Livin’ on a Prayer,” both blockbuster hits of the 1980s. He understands the importance of melody in a song, and how that repetitive refrain is essential for a song to ingrain itself into an audience’s collective psyche. Jon Bon Jovi’s flair for the theatrical is evident in both his writing and his performing, making him a perfect choice to write a Broadway musical score.

Billy Joel
We already know that Billy Joel’s music is a perfect fit for Broadway, having found great success with the 2002 jukebox musical Movin’ Out. Conceived by Twyla Tharp as a relentless dance piece telling a story through the songs of Joel, Movin’ Out allowed Joel’s music to lend itself perfectly to the musical theater form. Joel often creates character, mood and a story arc within his songs, so wouldn’t an original musical fueled by those inherent ingredients be both a compelling and welcome addition to Broadway? The man who wrote “The Longest Time,” “Uptown Girl” and “Goodnight Saigon” surely has a Broadway musical in him.    

Mark Robinson is the author of the two-volume encyclopedia The World of Musicals, The Disney Song Encyclopedia, and The Encyclopedia of Television Theme Songs. He maintains a theater and entertainment blog at

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