R.E.M. Breaks up After 31 Years

 @redletterdave
on September 21 2011 2:32 PM

After 31 years together, rock band R.E.M. has decided to break up.

As lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band, says the band in a statement on their website. We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished.

The band released 15 albums, including classics like Murmur, Reckoning, Document, Out of Time, and Automatic For the People. The band released its final album, Collapse Into Now, in March this year.

Several reports claimed the band was spending time together in an Athens, Georgia studio, but there's no word yet as to what will be done with any of those sessions.

R.E.M. was founded in 1980 by singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills, and drummer Bill Berry, in Athens. The band's first single, Radio Free Europe, was released in 1981 on indie record label Hib-Tone, and two years later released its debut album, Murmur, which was met with critical acclaim.

After postpunk's demystification and New Pop's schematics, it felt liberating to listen to music rooted in mystical awe and blissed-out surrender, says music journalist Simon Reynolds in his book, Rip It Up and Start Again.

Over the years, R.E.M. achieved successes with mainstream singles, including the 1987 hit The One I Love, which appeared on the band's breakthrough album, Document. The 1988 album was the group's first to sell a million copies.

After a tour to promote the band's 1988 album Green, R.E.M. took the following year off and reconvened mid-1990 to record Out of Time, which was the band's first album to top the U.S. and UK charts. The album was buoyed by the lead single Losing My Religion, which was R.E.M.'s highest-charting single in the U.S.

The band's 1992 album, Automatic for the People, reached No. 1 and No. 2 on UK and U.S. charts, respectively, and was responsible for the band's Top 40 singles Drive, Man On The Moon, and Everybody Hurts.

After two more albums, drummer Bill Berry decided to quit the band in April 1997, which resulted in the band canceling its scheduled recording sessions.

Without Bill it was different, confusing, Mills later said. We didn't know exactly what to do. We couldn't rehearse without a drummer.

The band drafted new producers and drummers, but R.E.M.'s next album only sold two million copies worldwide.

In October 2006, R.E.M. was honored by being accepted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the band's first year of eligibility. The group was inducted by Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder before performing four songs with original drummer Bill Berry.

Collapse Into Now, the group's fifteenth album, debuted in 2011 at No. 5 on the Billboard 200, becoming R.E.M.'s tenth album to reach Billboard's top ten.

Now, the band is finally ready to call it a day.

R.E.M. will be remembered for its memorable singles, but also for its long career of social and political activism. The band, and Stipe particularly, has donated to local charities, raised funds for feminist, environmental, and human rights causes, and has volunteered to join campaigns encouraging voter registration, handgun control, and rainforest protection. 

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