Instantly recognizable even today, the song “Love Shack” was by far the most popular most memorable and best-selling hit by 80s’ rock act The B-52’s. What many don’t realize, however, is that it also signifies a remarkable comeback for a band who suffered a setback in the mid-1980s that almost ended their career.
Originally established in the late 1970s, The B-52’s had seen modest chart success with their first three albums and were on their way to mainstream success. Unbeknownst to the band, guitarist Ricky Wilson (brother of vocalist Cindy Wilson) was suffering from HIV/AIDS, and kept it a secret from the band. When he died from the disease in 1985 while the band were tracking their record Bouncing Off the Satellites, they were understandably devastated. The album was released, but tour plans were called off and the band went into hiatus.
In 1988, the remaining band members decided to start writing and recording again. The resulting album Cosmic Thing rocketed the band into the global mainstream; the single “Love Shack,” their first Top-40 hit, shot to No. 3 on the charts and became their first platinum-seller.
The song itself was inspired by an actual tin-roof cabin outside the band’s home stomping grounds of Athens, GA—a cabin where vocalist Kate Pierson once lived and where the band wrote “Rock Lobster” from their first, self-titled album. (The cabin is referenced by the trademark shout-out from Cindy Wilson at the end of the song: “Tin roof…rusted!”) In keeping with the band’s retro vibe, the music video plays like a 1960’s dance party in the middle of nowhere.
The cabin burned down in 2004. The song lives on. Enjoy!