R.E.M. breaks up after three decades: remembering the greatest hits

September 22, 2011

R.E.M., the American rock band that over three decades established itself as a fixture in the genre, announced its breakup in a statement on its Web site Wednesday. As David Malitz reported :

R.E.M., one of the great American rock bands of the last 30 years, announced it is breaking up.

A statement on the band’s Web site reads: “To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished. To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening.”

The Athens, Ga.-bred band — vocalist Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and, until 1997 drummer Bill Berry — became underground and college radio favorites in the 1980s on the strength of classic albums such as “Murmur,” “Reckoning” and “Document.” The ’90s saw them transition to chart-topping superstars thanks to hits such as “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts.” Even as their popularity declined, the band regularly released new material over the past decade, including its 15th album, “Collapse Into Now,” earlier this year.

Back in 2008 we tackled R.E.M.’s discography and ranked each of the band’s albums, from worst to best.

In his statement on the band’s Web site, frontman Michael Stipe said after a long and storied career, it was the right time to say goodbye to R.E.M. as a band. As AP related :

“A wise man once said — ‘the skill in attending a party is knowing when it’s time to leave.’ We built something extraordinary together. We did this thing. And now we’re going to walk away from it,” frontman Michael Stipe said in a statement on the website.

“I hope our fans realize this wasn’t an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way.”

The Grammy-winning group, now composed of Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills, released its debut album “Murmur” in 1983; at the time it was a quartet, with drummer Bill Berry. He left the group in 1997, two years after he suffered symptoms of an aneurysm onstage.

What do you think were R.E.M.s greatest hits? Click Track rated its best hits and sleeper cuts. Here is a selection:

David Malitz: In picking best hit single, I think that means we’re choosing from the band’s chart-topping years. In other words, “Radio Free Europe” is not eligible for this prize. For whatever reason, "Man on the Moon"has always hit me in a particularly special place. There are a bunch of neat little moments in that song — Stipe doing his Andy Kaufman-as-Elvis voice, Mike Mills with some awesome harmonies, the simple repetition of “yeah yeah yeah yeah.” But let's be real — it’s all about when that chorus kicks in. It melts me. It makes me want to hug random people.

Allison Stewart:Best sleeper cut: “Nightswimming.” I remember attending this all night video shoot for “Drive” before “Automatic For the People” came out (I don't remember why I was there but it wasn’t for work — I was still in school), and they played the album for the extras. I guess they thought a sneak peek would be a better perk than, you know, food or water. When “Nightswimming” came on everyone just stopped and stared at each other because it was so perfect and amazing. I thought it was sleep deprivation, but all these years later it still holds up.

Chris Richards: Why does everyone always hate on “Monster?” Good album! Along with the Breeders’ “Last Splash,” it’s the best dollar bin CD out there. (If you still buy CDs. And if you still believe that any album is worth one dollar.)

More from The Washington Post

R.E.M. and D.C.: Battle of the bands and keeping the streak alive

Archives: R.E.M. in the Washington Post, through the years

R.E.M., the band that pioneered a new way to be rock stars

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