Entertainment & Arts

Rock legends REM announce split

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Media captionLosing My Religion music video courtesy of Warner Bros

Members of legendary US rock band REM have announced they are splitting up after 31 years.

"We have decided to call it a day as a band," the band said. "To anyone who ever felt touched by our music, our deepest thanks for listening."

The group found fame with a string of albums, notably 90s hits Out of Time and Automatic for the People.

The band's website was briefly unavailable on Wednesday afternoon after the announcement was made.

Four of REM's albums in the 1990s went platinum in the UK, peaking with Automatic For The People, which sold more than 1.8m copies.

In the States, three of the band's albums were certified quadruple platinum - representing sales of 4m - according to the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

The group was originally made up of singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry, who left the band in 1997.

"I hope our fans realise this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way," Stipe said as he announced the split.

Asked in a BBC 6 Music interview earlier this year whether every album felt like the band's last, Stipe had said: "I put so much into the work we do that, when I'm done, I feel like I'd never be able to do it again."

Image caption Singer Michael Stipe cut a distinctive figure on stage and had a unique vocal style

In the same interview he said the band had started off without any goals.

"The fact that we were making records and touring felt like this amazing adventure to us. We didn't necessarily want to conquer the world - but then we ended up doing exactly that in some small corner of the universe that belonged to pop music and us."

Everybody hurts

REM have often used their music and power as a band to carry a message.

Everybody Hurts from album Automatic for the People, started out as a song to comfort "younger people". Its "don't give up" message has most often been associated with suicide prevention but the song has also been used to mark the Dunblane massacre, Princess Diana's death and more recently the earthquake in Haiti.

In 2009, REM was one of a number of bands to form the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, referring to the US prison in Cuba.

Many of the artists who joined the campaign were angry that their music had reportedly been used as an interrogation tool in the jail.

In a statement, REM said: "We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice. To now learn that some of our friends' music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It's anti-American, period."


Image caption REM headlined the Glastonbury festival in 1999

Over the years, REM influenced and nurtured many other bands - giving exposure to alternative rock acts like Radiohead, Wilco and 10,000 Maniacs through support slots on their tours.

Among those mourning their demise were The Strokes and The Futureheads, both of whom simply posted the message "RIP REM" on Twitter.

US rock group One Republic paid tribute to "one of the best, most enduring bands of our lifetime", adding "you guys will be missed. Your music will keep on keepin' on".

BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe said the group had been "an integral part of the modern story of rock'n'roll".

"REM never dumbed down. Look at the bands they influenced... The Smiths, Radiohead, Nirvana and so on.

"And they end with dignity. Most won't."

REM won three Grammy awards in 1992, and the best international group trophy at the Brit awards in 1993 and 1995.

The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.

Their fifteenth and final album, Collapse into Now, was released in March 2011. Record label Warner Bros is due to issue a career retrospective in November.

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