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The surviving band members did not think they could continue performing without Ricky Wilson. They went into seclusion and did very little promotion for the new album. During the band's period of mourning, Strickland slowly began to write music again and switched from drums to guitar.

After a three-year hiatus, Cosmic Thing was released in 1989. Many songs, such as "Deadbeat Club" (the video of which featured a cameo by R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe) and "Love Shack," celebrated the group's early days and was part of the healing process for them. The album soared to the top of the Billboard album charts, and yielded their first top 10 hits.

After this success, the band toured exhaustively and internationally for 18 months, including an Earth Day gig before nearly 750,000 people in New York City's Central Park.

In 1990 the B-52s were nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards including Video of the Year. They won two awards, Best Group Video and Best Art Direction.

The band became more overtly political during this time as well. In 1988, the B-52s filmed a public service announcement called "Art Against AIDS" and began to publicly advocate for organizations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Greenpeace. They contributed songs to albums for both organizations, and expressed their commitment to the environment in songs like "Channel Z" and "Topaz."

During the tour for Cosmic Thing in 1990, the Los Angeles show was an AIDS benefit in tribute to Ricky Wilson. The venue, crew, merchandisers, promoters, band members, and others agreed to donate all proceeds to 10 different AIDS charities. One of the groups chosen by the band to receive money was AIDS Athens, an advocacy organization in their hometown.

From 1995 to 2001, B-52s fans planned "Party Out of Bounds" dance benefits for AIDS Athens, and the band performed at the 1999 benefit.

Strickland did not feel that it was enough to merely play benefit concerts, however. Strickland, Schneider, and Ricky Wilson were always out in their personal lives, but Strickland felt that it was important to talk openly about being gay. To that end, he came out publicly in Q Magazine in 1992.

The band's Good Stuff album of 1992 continued its activism with songs about the environment ("Revolution Earth"), self-acceptance and fighting for political change ("Bad Influence" and "Tell It Like It T-I-Is"). The band also made a foray into the movies. In 1994, they sang several songs in Brian Levant's comedy Meet the Flintstones.

During this time, Cindy Wilson made an amicable departure from the band to focus on her family. Good Stuff is the only album where she does not appear as a vocalist.

In addition to becoming a mother, Cindy Wilson has since worked with artists like Dreams So Real and Kristen Hall, performed with her husband, Keith Bennett in the Cindy Wilson Band in 2002, and appeared with fellow Athens girl Dana Downs and the Debauchelors at a R.E.M. tribute concert in 2010. Continuing the Wilson sibling tradition, her two children are in a local band called "Already Taken."

Other members of the B-52s also kept busy with side projects.

Pierson, for example, memorably appeared with R.E.M., Iggy Pop, and Betty, and was one of the members of NiNa, a band that achieved huge success in Japan in 1999. In 2005, she opened the motel Kate's Lazy Meadow in upstate New York with her life partner, Monica Coleman.

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