Michael Stipe

Michael Stipe Biography

Songwriter, Singer, Activist, Music Producer (1960–)
Michael Stipe is best known as the frontman of the influential alternative rock band R.E.M.


Born in Georgia in 1960, Michael Stipe met Peter Buck, Bill Berry and Mike Mills while he was enrolled at the University of Georgia, and the four young men formed the alternative rock band R.E.M. They released their debut album, Murmur, in 1983 on IRS Records. The group then moved to Warner Brothers and released 1991's Out of Time, including the hit single "Losing My Religion." R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Early Life

Born John Michael Stipe on January 4, 1960, in Decatur, Georgia, singer, songwriter and producer Michael Stipe is best known as the frontman for the influential rock group R.E.M. With his father in the military, Stipe spent his formative years moving from base to base around the country. Though quiet as a child, he emerged from his shell in high school, using his musicality and appreciation of punk music to his social advantage.

After returning to Georgia and finishing high school, in 1978, Stipe enrolled at the University of Georgia, where he studied art. He soon hooked up with a record store clerk named Peter Buck, and the two decided to start a band. Together with drummer Bill Berry and bassist Mike Mills, they formed R.E.M. in 1980. Known for their unique sound, the alternative rock group played their first concert in Athens, Georgia, that same year.

Success With R.E.M.

R.E.M. attracted some attention with their debut single, "Radio Free Europe," in 1981. The song generated enough buzz for the band to land a deal with I.R.S. Records. They released their first album, Murmur, in 1983; the project featured a new version of "Radio Free Europe." They put out a few more critically acclaimed albums before scoring their first pop hit with the song "The One I Love" off of 1987's Document.

In June 1988, the band switched labels, signing with Warner Brothers. They released their most successful albums Out of Time in 1991 and Automatic for the People in 1992. The video for Out of Time's "Losing My Religion" became one of MTV's all-time most popular videos. They followed the releases with an ambitious world tour, during which Berry suffered a cerebral hemorrhage onstage. After the albums Monster (1994) and New Adventures in Hi-Fi (1996), Berry decided to quit the band. Now a threesome, R.E.M. released Up in 1998 to mixed reviews.

In the 1990s, Stipe began to turn his attention to filmmaking. His talents as a visual artist were first demonstrated through his inventive music videos, and he eventually launched a film company called Single Cell Productions. In 1999, Single Cell released two acclaimed films—the documentary American Movie and the darkly comic Being John Malkovich, which earned its director, Spike Jonze, an Academy Award nod.

R.E.M. was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and the band released another album, Accelerate, the following year. The trio officially announced that they were splitting up in 2011, the same year they dropped their final album, Collapse into Now.

Recent Projects

Over the years since R.E.M. parted ways, Stipe has focused more on making art than music. "I wake up in the morning thinking of sculpture, not lyrics," he explained to The Wall Street Journal in 2012. Stipe has also taken his unique visual sensibility to Tumblr with a blog called "Confessions of a Michael Stipe."

Still, Stipe hasn't abandoned music completely. Among his recent projects, he teamed up with Courtney Love for a track on the collection Son of Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs and Chanteys, released in 2013.

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