A supergroup is a music group whose members are already successful as solo artists or as part of other groups or well known in other musical professions. Usually used in the context of rock and pop music, the term has been applied to other musical genres such as The Three Tenors in opera.
The term is sometimes applied retrospectively when several members from a group later achieve notable success in their own right. Supergroups are sometimes formed as side projects and thus not intended to be permanent, while other times can become the primary project of the members' careers. Charity supergroups, where prominent musicians perform or record together in support of a particular cause, have been common since the 1980s.
It became popular in late 1960s rock music for members of already successful groups to record albums together, after which they normally split up. Rolling Stone editor Jann Wenner created Cream, in 1966, which is considered the first supergroup; Cream is widely regarded as the archetype of the short-lived rock supergroup. Cream was composed of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker and, after three years and four albums, split up. Guitarist Clapton and drummer Baker went on to form Blind Faith, another blues rock supergroup which recruited former Spencer Davis Group and Traffic singer Steve Winwood and Family bassist Ric Grech. The group recorded one studio album before dissipating less than a year after formation.
The term may have come from the 1968 album Super Session with Al Kooper, Mike Bloomfield, and Stephen Stills. The coalition of Crosby, Stills & Nash (later Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) is another early example, given the success of their prior bands (The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, and The Hollies respectively).
In 1974, a Time magazine article titled "Return of a Supergroup" quipped that the supergroup was a "potent but short-lived rock phenomenon" which was an "amalgam formed by the talented malcontents of other bands." The article acknowledged that groups such as Cream and Blind Faith "played enormous arenas and made megabucks, and sometimes megamusic", with the performances "fueled by dueling egos." However, while this "musical infighting built up the excitement ... it also made breakups inevitable."