One of the most important and influential rock bands of the post-punk era, R. E.M. was a key component in the rise of alternative music from the college radio scene to the mainstream, paving the way for underground groups like Sonic Youth and Nirvana to enjoy their own chart success, while wielding considerable influence upon a generation of independent-minded rock bands. Blending the sonic bash of punk rock with a roots-driven mix of garage, folk and even country music, R.E.M. charted a musical course in direct opposition to the synthesizer-driven sound of New Wave that was both fresh and immediately reminiscent of established rock music. In doing so, they appealed to both classic and alternative rock fans, which helped to elevate the band from cult favorites to one of the biggest groups in the world by the early-1990s. The sheer wear and tear of touring and recording took its toll on the group in the years that followed, resulting in the loss of drummer Bill Berry and a general decline in sales that prompted rumors of an inevitable split. R.E.M. soldiered on until 2011, enjoying a brief revival before ending their three-decade run on a positive note. As fans mourned their passage, the music industry could not help but notice the changes that their success had wrought, including the seemingly impossible feat of spawning a sea change from blues-based rock to their own eclectic sound.