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Profile of English Hard Rock/Pop Metal Band Whitesnake

By

Whitesnake
George Rose/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Formed:

1977, initially as David Coverdale's solo backing band

Key '80s Group Members:

  • David Coverdale (born on September 22, 1951 in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, England) - Lead vocals, bandleader, primary songwriter
  • Micky Moody (born Michael Joseph Moody on August 30, 1950 in Middlesbrough, England) - Guitars (1976-1984)
  • John Sykes (born John James Sykes on July 29, 1959 in Reading, England) - Guitars, songwriter (1984-1987)
  • Adrian Vandenberg (born on January 31, 1954 in The Hague, the Netherlands) - Guitars (1984-1991)
  • Neil Murray (born Philip Neil Murray on August 27, 1950 in Edinburgh, Scotland) - Bass guitar (1978-1982, 1984-1987)
  • Rudy Sarzo (born Rodolfo Maximiliano Sarzo Lavieille Grande Ruiz Payret y Chaumont on November 18, 1950 in Havana, Cuba) - Bass guitar (1987-1991)
  • Tommy Aldridge (born August 15, 1950 in Nashville, Tennessee) - Drums (1987-1991)

Overview:

Names of many individuals show up in the membership log for Whitesnake, but the only constant has always been veteran British hard rock singer David Coverdale. The band he fronted, relatively consistently for a decade and a half spanning the '80s in its entirety, underwent several changes in sound from its beginning, sometimes tending more towards heavy metal and traditional hard rock and other times encompassing a more pop-centered arena rock/hair metal approach defined by power ballads. Ultimately, the latter configuration brought Coverdale and Whitesnake long-sought stardom as mainstream rock superstars.

Early Years:

The Whitesnake story begins with a very youthful Coverdale, who responded successfully to an ad in 1973 seeking a replacement lead singer for Ian Gillan in pioneer British hard rock band Deep Purple. After two successful albums with the new lineup, founding guitarist Ritchie Blackmore left the band for the oh-so-famous reason of a conflict in musical direction. Coverdale persuaded his remaining Purple bandmates to continue for one more album and tour before the band took its first lengthy hiatus. Devastated but persistent, Coverdale subsequently worked on launching a solo career.

Whitesnake's Gradual Formation:

Almost immediately into this solo career that produced two albums and inspired the eventual moniker for his (relatively) permanent band, Coverdale found a collaborator in guitarist Moody. The pair wrote songs together for several years, well into the "official" career of Whitesnake, which was in full swing by 1979 upon the release of Lovehunter, an album known more for its less than subtle, erotically provocative album cover than its music. Nevertheless, the band was poised for a long run as the '80s commenced.

Under the Radar - Early '80s:

Coverdale and his revolving roster of backing musicians were nothing if not a workhorse band during the first half of the '80s, recording four studio albums that began to attract attention in the burgeoning pop metal and arena rock scenes. This phase of Whitesnake's career culminated in 1984's Slide It In, but despite Coverdale's penchant for sexually charged double entendre, the band failed to reach a truly wide audience, especially in the rabidly growing American market. But all that was about to change - within three years anyway.

"Overnight" Success - 1987:

Coverdale found a new songwriting partner in former Thin Lizzy guitarist Sykes, and the pair wrote most of the songs that would appear on 1987's self-titled, multi-platinum smash. Even so, Coverdale would part ways with Sykes and the rest of his band before the record's spring release, enlisting a new band to reap the rewards of rising MTV stardom. The heavy Led Zeppelin-esque rock of "Still of the Night" was hugely successful, but a song from an earlier album, "Here I Go Again," became the signature Whitesnake track and a No. 1 pop hit in October 1987. Coverdale and his new lineup hadn't planned on it, but they could ride the success of this album well into the '90s.

Finishing Out the Hair Metal Era:

Despite continuing difficulty maintaining stability in membership, Whitesnake remained a huge concert draw, even if 1989's Slip of the Tongue wasn't quite as successful, especially in the singles department. Coverdale put the band on hiatus following a profitable 1990 tour to support the album, and his timing was rather fortuitous considering the way 1991's grunge explosion pretty much sounded the commercial death knell for pop metal and much '70s-styled hard rock. As vaguely as it had begun, though, Whitesnake wasn't about to end as abruptly as it then seemed.

Various Reunions & 21st Century Renewal:

Coverdale reformed his band several times during the '90s and into the '00s, and the group's 25th anniversary revival in 2002 has actually become one of its most active phases. Teaming with guitarist Doug Aldrich, Coverdale has recently engineered two legitimate studio albums in 2008's Good to Be Bad and 2011's Forevermore. Meanwhile, fans of Whitesnake's '80s heyday continue to appreciate and celebrate the band's flashy '80s legacy in nostalgic but heavy doses of pop culture.
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