Living Colour
Living Colour in 2017
Living Colour in 2017
Background information
OriginNew York City, U.S.
DiscographyLiving Colour discography
Years active
  • 1984–1995
  • 2000–present
Past membersMuzz Skillings

Living Colour is an American rock[4] band from New York City, formed in 1984. The band currently consists of guitarist Vernon Reid, lead vocalist Corey Glover, drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Doug Wimbish (who replaced Muzz Skillings in 1992). Stylistically, their music is a creative fusion influenced by heavy metal, funk, jazz, hip hop, punk, and alternative rock. The band's lyrics range from the personal to the political, including social commentary on racism in the United States.

Living Colour has released six studio albums so far. The band rose to fame with their debut album Vivid in 1988.[5] Although they scored several hits, Living Colour is best known for their signature song "Cult of Personality", which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance in 1990 and has been consistently used as the entrance theme for professional wrestler CM Punk since 2011.[6] They were also named Best New Artist at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards and won their second Grammy Award for their follow-up album Time's Up (1990). Their third album, Stain (1993), was also well received by music critics. After disbanding in 1995,[5] Living Colour reunited in late 2000,[7] and has released three more studio albums since then: Collideøscope (2003), The Chair in the Doorway (2009) and Shade (2017). The band has been in the process of working on new material for the follow-up to Shade.[8]


Early years (1984–1986)

British-born guitarist Vernon Reid had formed several bands, and after a few years, he formed Living Colour in New York in 1984, using the British spelling of "colour".[9][10] Reid assembled several bands under the name Vernon Reid's Living Colour from 1984 to 1986.[11] Reid was well known on the downtown New York jazz scenes because of his tenure in Ronald Shannon Jackson's Decoding Society.[12]

Early band members included bassists Alex Mosely, Jerome Harris and Carl James, drummers Greg Carter, Pheeroan akLaff and J. T. Lewis, keyboardist Geri Allen, and vocalists D. K. Dyson and Mark Ledford, with Reid occasionally singing lead vocals himself. The band's sound was vastly different from the songs later in their significant label recordings. Material from this period included instrumental jazz/funk workouts, politically pointed punk rock burners, experimental excursions via Reid's guitar synth, and an early version of the song "Funny Vibe", which was reworked for their debut album Vivid.

Mainstream success (1986–1991)

Living Colour in 1993

In 1986 a stable lineup was formed, consisting of vocalist/actor Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Muzz Skillings, and drummer Will Calhoun (who had graduated with honors from Berklee College of Music).[5] After hiring managers Jim Grant and Roger Cramer, the band hired prodigy lighting designer Andy Elias in November 1986 to strengthen their live shows with explosive visual productions.[13] Soon after, the band became experienced at touring and performed regular gigs at the club CBGB. Around this time, their career also benefited from English Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger's involvement. Jagger's interest in Living Colour was piqued after Vernon Reid auditioned for Primitive Cool, then arranged to see them live at CBGBs. Jagger went on to produce two of their demos. Jagger's 'endorsement' encouraged major record labels to renew their interest in Living Colour, resulting in a recording contract with Epic Records.[14] When interviewed in 2018, Vernon Reid looked back on the deal as a bittersweet triumph; "We had to get the co-sign from a person who literally embodied what rock 'n' roll is, the fact that he had to come see us, and dig us, for us to get at the back of the line is crazy."[15]

Vivid, released on May 3, 1988, gathered sales momentum when later that year, MTV began playing the video for "Cult of Personality". The album reached #6 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. On April 1, 1989, the band performed on NBC's Saturday Night Live. Four months later, the band gained further exposure as an opening act, along with Guns N' Roses, for The Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels/Urban Jungle Tour.

In 1990 the band's second full-length album, Time's Up, featured songs in numerous musical contexts; jazz fusion, punk rock, Delta blues, hip hop (cameos by Queen Latifah and Doug E. Fresh), funk, thrash metal, jive, and hints of electronica were all represented.[16] The album reached #13 on the Billboard 200,[5] and won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance. Other guests included Maceo Parker and Little Richard.[5]

In 1991, Living Colour joined the inaugural Lollapalooza tour, and released an EP of outtakes entitled Biscuits.[5]

Second lineup and breakup (1992–1995)

In 1992, Skillings left the band and was replaced by Doug Wimbish.[5] This new lineup released their third full-length album, Stain, in March 1993. The album reached #26 in the U.S., a further drop since its debut.[5] Despite retaining their strong fan base, Living Colour disbanded in January 1995 after failing to settle on common musical goals during their fourth studio album sessions.[5] Four of these tracks were included on the compilation Pride. Following the breakup, individual band members released a variety of solo efforts.

Reunion and subsequent events (2000–present)

Living Colour re-formed on December 21, 2000, at CBGB as a gig billed "Head>>Fake w/ special guests". Head>>Fake was the current drum and bass project headed by Calhoun and Wimbish. Glover was on the bill to sing a few songs, and Reid came on after three songs. The reunion was followed by the release of the band's fourth studio album, Collideøscope, in 2003, their first album not to chart in the United States, although it was critically praised.[17][18] In 2005, Sony Records released Live from CBGB's, a live album recorded on December 19, 1989, as well as another best-of compilation, Everything Is Possible: The Very Best of Living Colour, with songs from Vivid to Collideøscope. On September 22, 2006, Skillings joined the band for the first time in fourteen years when they played at a private party that drummer Jack DeJohnette threw for his wife, Lydia. Wimbish could not come back from his base in London to play for the event, so Skillings agreed to take over for the special private event.

Corey Glover and Doug Wimbish (2008)
Living Colour, San Diego, California, March 2013

The band performed a week-long European Tour starting on December 12, 2006. In May 2007, the band released their first live DVD – On Stage At World Cafe Live. On July 11, 2008, the band performed at the 1980s hard rock-themed Rocklahoma festival at Pryor, Oklahoma. Once again, Skillings performed with them in August 2008 for a Black Rock Coalition Band of Gypsys tribute in Harlem. They performed "Them Changes" and "Power of Soul".

On October 25, 2008, MVD Audio and CBGB Records released CBGB OMFUG MASTERS: August 19, 2005 The Bowery Collection, a soundboard collection of songs from the Save CBGB's benefit show. On November 25, 2008, Inakustik and MVD released The Paris Concert, a DVD recorded at New Morning, in Paris, France, during their 2007 European Tour. The band released their fifth studio album, The Chair in the Doorway, on September 15, 2009, on Megaforce Records. The album sold approximately 2,800 copies in its first week and landed at #161 on the Billboard 200. This was the band's first album to chart since Stain in 1993. The band toured the world in support of the record.[19]

In 2013, Living Colour performed "Cult of Personality" live during CM Punk's entrance at WrestleMania 29 for his match against The Undertaker.[20]

On July 2, 2014, Living Colour announced on their official website that they were putting the finishing touches on their upcoming sixth album Shade, which was released on September 8, 2017.[21] "Shade is the sound of a band coming to terms with its shadows and light, From the blue pulpit of Robert Johnson to the mean red streets of Brooklyn to the golden lure of Hollywood, Shade is the next chapter of a unique American journey," Reid stated on the official website. The album includes ten originals and three covers: Robert Johnson's "Preachin' Blues", The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?" and Marvin Gaye's "Inner City Blues" available on CD, MP3, and vinyl.

On August 19, 2016, the band released a cover of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?" from an upcoming EP entitled Mixtape which was released on September 9.[22] It features appearances from Chuck D, Black Thought, Pharoahe Monch, Prodigal Sunn, and Kyle Mansa.[23] Also in 2016, the band performed "Cult of Personality" on The Howard Stern Show.[24]

By late 2018, Living Colour had begun working on new material for a possible EP or seventh full-length studio album.[8] When asked about a month after the release of Shade if fans would have to wait another four years for the follow-up album, Reid replied, "Well I don't know about all that. It's intriguing to be back in this cycle."[25]

On September 2, 2022 during a performance at Rock in Rio in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, guitarist Steve Vai joined Living Colour on stage for a rendition of "Cult of Personality."[26]

The band announced on December 10, 2022 that they had entered the studio to begin recording their seventh studio album.[27][28]

In 2023, the band embarked on a US tour with Extreme.[29]

Acclaim and legacy

Living Colour was ranked No. 70 on VH1's 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock.[30]

"Cult of Personality" was re-recorded for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, with an updated solo, as the original masters could not be used.

In October 2006, "Love Rears Its Ugly Head" was ranked and voted 303 out of the 2006 songs featured in the Triple M Essential 2006 Countdown.

Rolling Stone have called the band "funk metal pioneers."[31]

In early 2009, WWE used "Cult of Personality" in the video promoting the induction of Stone Cold Steve Austin into its Hall of Fame. Outside of his use of it in professional wrestling, CM Punk also entered to the song for his debut mixed martial arts bout at UFC 203 and subsequently at UFC 225 for his fight versus Mike Jackson.


Former members


Main article: Living Colour discography


MTV Video Music Awards

Grammy Awards


  1. ^ The following sources refer to Living Colour as hard rock:
    • Chuck Klosterman (November 1, 2007). Fargo Rock City: A Heavy Metal Odyssey in Rural North Dakota. Simon and Schuster. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-4165-8952-5.
    • Chuck Klosterman (September 14, 2010). Chuck Klosterman on Rock: A Collection of Previously Published Essays. Simon and Schuster. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4516-2449-6.
    • Martha Bayles (May 15, 1996). Hole in Our Soul: The Loss of Beauty and Meaning in American Popular Music. University of Chicago Press. p. 338. ISBN 978-0-226-03959-6.
    • "Living Colour: Keeping The Music Alive". All Things Considered. NPR. December 6, 2009. Archived from the original on April 29, 2016. Retrieved April 29, 2017.
  2. ^ The following sources refer to Living Colour as funk metal:
  3. ^ The following sources refer to Living Colour as alternative metal:
  4. ^ The following sources refer to Living Colour as a rock band:
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 580–581. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  6. ^ Wilkening, Matthew (August 20, 2021). "Why Living Colour's 'Cult of Personality' Is CM Punk's Theme Song". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  7. ^ Dustin Schoof (March 29, 2013). "Living Colour singer Corey Glover looks back on 25 years of 'Vivid'". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016.
  8. ^ a b "Interview: Corey Glover of Living Colour Talks Oz Tour". December 12, 2018. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  9. ^ James, Joseph (April 30, 2017). "Cult of Personality: An interview with Will Calhoun (Living Colour)". Will Not Fade. Archived from the original on June 16, 2019. Band founder Vernon Reid is English, so made a deliberate choice to spell 'colour' correctly with the 'U' included. But most Americans spell many words incorrectly out of ignorance. It's not much of an issue.
  10. ^ Burgess, Mick (September 25, 2017). "We chat to Corey Glover from Living Colour ahead of Newcastle Riverside gig". ChronicleLive. Archived from the original on November 9, 2017.
  11. ^ David Fricke (November 1, 1990). "Living Colour's Time Is Now". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on September 12, 2017.
  12. ^ Fricke, David (September 24, 1987). "Back in Black". Rolling Stone Magazine. Retrieved May 20, 2021.
  13. ^ Panebianco, Julie. "Living Colour Rock The Ritz." East Village Eye, December 1986, p 6.
  14. ^ "Living Colour's Vernon Reid on the band's formation, Mick Jagger, and reaching audiences through "Grand Theft Auto"". October 24, 2013.
  15. ^ "How Living Colour Reignited Rock's "Cult of Personality"". May 3, 2018.
  16. ^ Greg Prato. "Living Colour Time's Up". AllMusic. Archived from the original on August 6, 2015. Retrieved August 21, 2015.
  17. ^ Davey Boy (March 4, 2009). "Review: Living Colour Collideoscope". Sputnikmusic.
  18. ^ Dave Mount (March 6, 2008). "Living Colour Collideoscope". Prefixmag. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015.
  19. ^ Living Colour Back With Fifth Studio Album Archived April 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine Retrieved on July 8, 2009.
  20. ^ Mirmina, Graham (March 29, 2017). "WWE WrestleMania 33: 5 Most underrated musical performances in the event's history". Sportskeeda. Retrieved April 13, 2023.
  21. ^ "LIVING COLOUR To Release 'Shade' Album In September; Cover Artwork Unveiled". May 12, 2017. Archived from the original on May 15, 2017. Retrieved May 14, 2017.
  22. ^ "LIVING COLOUR To Release 'Mixtape' Featuring Reinvention Of NOTORIOUS B.I.G.'s 'Who Shot Ya'". August 19, 2016. Archived from the original on August 22, 2016. Retrieved August 22, 2016.
  23. ^ "Living Colour Enlist Chuck D, Black Thought, More for Notorious B.I.G. "Who Shot Ya" Remake: Listen – Pitchfork". August 18, 2016. Archived from the original on November 22, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  24. ^ "Living Colour "Cult of Personality" on the Stern Show (2016)". May 1, 2021. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  25. ^ "INTERVIEW: Living Colour's Vernon Reid Navigates the Shadows and Light". October 25, 2017. Retrieved February 28, 2020.
  26. ^ "Living Colour - Cult Of Personality w/ Steve Vai at Rock In Rio 2022". YouTube. September 15, 2022. Retrieved August 20, 2023.
  27. ^ "LIVING COLOUR Check In From The Studio (Video)". Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles. December 10, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  28. ^ "Living Colour Is in the Studio, Album Could Be Out in 2023". Ultimate Guitar. December 12, 2022. Retrieved December 14, 2022.
  29. ^ "Extreme Announce 2023 U.S. Tour With Living Colour, Reveal Two New Songs". April 20, 2023. Retrieved August 15, 2023.
  30. ^ "VH1 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock – YouTube". YouTube. Archived from the original on May 21, 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  31. ^ Fricke, David (November 13, 2003). Living Colour: Collideoscope : Music Reviews : Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 12, 2009. Retrieved February 1, 2012.