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OTRC: R.E.M. breaks up after 31 years, band says 'our deepest thanks for listening'

Michael Stipe performs with R.E.M. at the VooDoo Music Experience concert in October 2008 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (flickr.com/photos/clobby/)

The rock band R.E.M., known for hits such as "Everybody Hurts" and "Losing My Religion," has broken up after 31 years.

"To our Fans and Friends: As R.E.M., and as lifelong friends and co-conspirators, we have decided to call it a day as a band," the group said in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, September 21. "We walk away with a great sense of gratitude, of finality, and of astonishment at all we have accomplished."

Frontman Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck, bassist Mike Mills and drummer Bill Berry formed R.E.M. in Athens, Georgia in 1980. The band has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, including at least 15 million in the United States.

"We built something extraordinary together," Stipe, 51, said in a statement posted on the group's website on Wednesday, September 21. "We did this thing. And now we're going to walk away from it."

"I hope our fans realize this wasn't an easy decision; but all things must end, and we wanted to do it right, to do it our way," he added. "We have to thank all the people who helped us be R.E.M. for these 31 years; our deepest gratitude to those who allowed us to do this. It's been amazing."

R.E.M's first single," Radio Free Europe," was released in 1981 and was included in R.E.M.'s first studio album, "Murmur."

The group's breakout hit, "The One I Love," was released in 1987. Also that year, the band released the song "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)," which was featured in the 1996 blockbuster "Independence Day."

R.E.M. would go on to win two Grammys for the 1991 song "Losing My Religion," which was featured on the band's seventh studio album, "Out of Time." The record also earned the band a Grammy and featured another hit single - "Shiny Happy People."

R.E.M.'s ballad "Everybody Hurts" was released in 1993 and was featured on the album "Automatic for the People." The song has been featured movies and is often played at funerals.

Another track from the album, "Man on the Moon," references eccentric performer Andy Kaufman, who Jim Carrey played in a 1999 film byf the same name. R.E.M penned the movie's soundtrack, which also contains the song.

Albums released by R.E.M. in the past 10 years have not been as popular as the group's earlier work.

R.E.M's 15th studio album "Collapse Into Now," was released in March. In July, the group put out an expanded 25th Anniversary 2CD and digital edition of the band's 1986 album, "Lifes Rich Pageant," which features 19 previously unreleased demo recordings. The band members last performed together in 2008.

"During our last tour, and while making 'Collapse Into Now' and putting together this greatest hits retrospective, we started asking ourselves, 'What next'?" said Mills, 52. "Working through our music and memories from over three decades was a hell of a journey. We realized that these songs seemed to draw a natural line under the last 31 years of our working together."

"We have always been a band in the truest sense of the word," he added. "Brothers who truly love, and respect, each other. We feel kind of like pioneers in this--there's no disharmony here, no falling-outs, no lawyers squaring-off. We've made this decision together, amicably and with each other's best interests at heart. The time just feels right."

Rob Cavallo, Chairman of Warner Bros. Records, also issued a statement following news of the split.

"To call R.E.M. one of the greatest bands in contemporary music is an understatement," he said. "On behalf of everyone at Warner Bros., we have been incredibly privileged to have been associated with R.E.M., and we look forward to collaborating with them going forward as we keep the legacy of their music alive."

Check out the music video for R.E.M's song "Everybody Hurts" below.

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