- Robert Palmer (singer)
Infobox musical artist
Name = Robert Palmer
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Robert Allen Palmer
Born = birth date|1949|1|19
Died= death date and age|2003|9|26|1949|1|19
Batley, Yorkshire, England
Instrument = Vocals,
guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, drums
Genre = Rock,
blue-eyed soul, pop rock
Singer Songwriter Instrumentalist Record producer
Years_active = 1969 — 2003
Label = Island,
Associated_acts = Power Station Vinegar Joe
Robert Allen Palmer (
19 January 1949– 26 September 2003), born in Batley, Yorkshire, was an English singer- songwriter. He was known for his soulful voice and the eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop and blues.
1964-1973: Early bands
The son of a British serviceman stationed in
Malta, Palmer moved with his family to Scarborough, Yorkshirein 1959. Influenced as a child by blues, soul, and jazz music on American Forces Radio, Robert Palmer joined his first band, The Mandrakes, at the age of 15 while still at Scarborough Boys' High School. His first major break came with the departure of singer Jess Rodenfrom the band The Alan Bown Setin 1969, after which Palmer was invited to Londonto sing on their single "Gypsy Girl". The vocals for the album "The Alan Bown!", originally recorded by Roden (and released in the US that way), were re-recorded by Palmer after the success of the single.
In January of 1970, Palmer married Susan Eileen Thatcher. That same year, Palmer joined the 12-piece jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which featured singer
Elkie Brooks. The band lasted a year, after which Brooks and Palmer formed the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful rhythm and blues group, Vinegar Joe; Palmer sang and played rhythm guitar. Signed to the Island Recordslabel, they released three albums: "Vinegar Joe" (1972), "Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies" (1972), and "Six Star General" (1973).
1974–1984: Early solo career
On the basis of his youthful looks, strong stage presence, and soulful voice,
Island Recordssigned Palmer to a solo deal. His first solo album "Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley" recorded in New Orleans, Louisianain 1974, was heavily influenced by the music of Little Featand the funk fusion of The Meterswho acted as backing band along with producer/guitarist Lowell George of Little Feat. His first single was a cover of Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes." Although moderately successful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US. Notably, "Sailin' Shoes" (the album's first track), Palmer's own "Hey Julia" and the Allen Toussaint-penned title track carry virtually the same rhythm, and are packaged on the CD as a "trilogy" without a pause between them.
Subsequently relocating from
Londonto New York Citywith his wife, Palmer released "Pressure Drop" in 1975 (featuring famed Motownbassist James Jamerson). An album infused with his interests in reggaeand rock music, it was noted for its cover art of a nude girl on a balcony rather than any commercially successful songs. (The lead single "Give Me An Inch" did win critical plaudits for Palmer's note-perfect delivery and its chord changes, which surprised George during the recording process.) He toured with Little Feat to promote that album.
However, with the failure of the follow-up "Some People Can Do What They Like ", Palmer decided to move to the
Bahamas; after that, his "expatriate lifestyle" was likely to receive more coverage than his music in British newspapers.
In 1978, he released "
Double Fun", a collection of Caribbean-influenced rock, including a down-tempo and syncopated cover of "You Really Got Me". The album reached the Top 50 on the US "Billboard" charts and scored a Top 20 single with the Andy Fraser-penned " Every Kinda People". With its blend of Caribbean steel pan, violins and moving lyrics, "Every Kinda People". has become one of Palmer's best-loved songs, covered multiple times by other artists (including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Randy Crawfordand Amy Grant) and cited by music fans and spiritual groups for its positive message.
Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on a rockier direction. 1979's "Secrets" produced his second Top 20 single with
Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)", which like "Every Kinda People" became one of his signature tunes.
The 1980s saw Palmer find an increasing amount of commercial success. The album "Clues", produced by Palmer and featuring
Chris Frantzand Gary Numan, generated hits on both sides of the Atlantic, first with the radio-friendly single " Johnny and Mary" and then "Looking for Clues". Catchy music videos matching the synth popstylings of New Wave gave him much needed exposure to a younger audience. The success was repeated with the 1982 EP release of " Some Guys Have All the Luck".
1983 saw Palmer blend techno beats, early sampling and more of the island music of his adopted Bahamas (including steel pan) into the adventurous album "Pride". Though the album wasn't the smash "Clues" was, it did feature standout tracks in the title song and Palmer's cover of The System's "You Are In My System", with The System's David Frank contributing keyboard tracks to the latter song.
"You Are In My System" was an example of Palmer's passion for R&B covers. He jammed the song onto the "Pride" album after the other tracks were finished. Hearing the track in a Paris club, Palmer rushed back to his Bahamas hometown, where the reconvened band (co-composer Frank included) put together the number. "Esquire" magazine recounted the tale of the last-minute addition later that year. Palmer did the same in liner notes for his 1992 "Addictions Volume 2" CD, which included his re-voiced version of "You Are In My System."
1985–1995: Power Station and MTV success
1985 was a milestone year for Palmer. After
Duran Duranwent on hiatus, their guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joined renowned session drummer and former Chic member Tony Thompsonand Palmer to form the band Power Station. Their eponymous album, recorded mostly at the New York studio for which the band was named, reached the Top 20 in the UK and the US and spawned two hit singles with "Some Like It Hot" and a cover of the T. Rex song "Get It On (Bang a Gong)". Palmer performed live with the band only once that year, on " Saturday Night Live". The band toured, and even played Live Aid, with singer Michael Des Barresafter Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the studio to further his newly revitalized solo career. It proved to be a good choice for Palmer.
Palmer recorded the album "Riptide" in 1985, recruiting Thompson and Andy Taylor to play on some tracks and Power Station producer
Bernard Edwards, who worked with Thompson in the group Chic, to helm the production. Robert recruited his long-term drummer, Dony Wynn, for this production as well.
"Riptide" featured the #1 single "Addicted to Love". The song was originally cut with
Chaka Khansharing lead vocals but due to contractual problems Chaka was removed for the final mix. The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-parodied music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which Palmer is surrounded by a bevy of near-identically clad, heavily made-up female "musicians". The singles "Hyperactive" and his cover of Cherrelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" also performed well, with the latter being a #2 US and #9 UK hit single. Another song, "Trick Bag" was written by one of his major influences, New Orleans jazz artist Earl King. In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performancefor his song "Addicted to Love".
In 1987, Palmer moved to
Lugano, Switzerlandand set up his own recording studio. Producing " Heavy Nova" in 1988, Palmer again returned to experimenting, this time with bossa novarhythms, heavy rock, and white soul balladeering. He repeated his previous success with "Addicted to Love" with the video of "Simply Irresistible", again Palmer with a troupe of female "musicians". The ballad "She Makes My Day" also proved to be a hit in the UK, peaking at #6. In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible", which would later be featured in the Tony Award-winning musical "Contact". " Rolling Stone" magazine voted Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.
Palmer stretched his wings even further for his next album, the eclectic " Don't Explain". Released in 1990, it covered diverse musical styles including rock, R&B, jazz and Bahamian influences. It, also, featured the
Bob Dylan-penned Top 10 single " I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", in a collaboration with UB40, that secured a #6 placing in the UK and the Top 20 Marvin Gayecover "Mercy Mercy Me". Throughout the 1990s, Palmer ventured further into diverse material. The 1992 album "Ridin' High" was a tribute to the Tin Pan Alleyera.
In 1994, Palmer released the tropical album "Honey" to mixed reviews and commercial success. While the album failed to spawn any hit singles in the United States, he did find success in Britain with the release of three hit singles "Girl U Want", "
Know By Now" and " You Blow Me Away".
In 1995, Palmer reunited with other members of The Power Station to record a second album. Bassist John Taylor eventually backed out of the project (because of personal problems), to be replaced by old colleague Bernard Edwards. Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album "
Living In Fear" (released in 1996), and had just begun touring when Edwards died of pneumonia.
1996–2003: Late solo work and the blues
The next few years saw more touring and more compilations; the next release of new material, "Rhythm and Blues" (1999), contained a mixture of Little Feat influenced songs, rock, and pop. Palmer released "
True Love", a single from the album "Rhythm and Blues"; the song was a minor hit in Britain.
His final release, "Drive" (2003), was critically hailed as the grittiest and most heartfelt album of his career. Inspired by a previous collaboration with
Carl Carltonon a Robert Johnson tribute album, "Drive" featured covers of fifteen bluesstandards, plus the original track "Lucky". He also conducted smaller scale tours, mostly around the lucrative casino circuit.
Palmer's favourite author was
Jack Vanceand he was specially fond of Cugel. Jack Vance paid homage to Robert Palmer in his novel "Night Lamp", whose first lines are: "Toward the far edge of the Cornu Sector of Ophiuchus, Robert Palmer's Star shone brilliant white, its corona flaring with films of blue, red and green colour.".
Palmer, who made his home in
Lugano, Switzerlandfor his last 15 years, died in Paris, Francein 2003 of a sudden heart attackat the age of 54. He is interred at the cemetery in Lugano. With Thompson's death later that year and Edwards' back in 1996, three members of the Power Station team that helped propel Palmer to his biggest success have met untimely ends.
* [http://www.myspace.com/robertpalmer2003 MySpace Page]
* [http://www.robertpalmer.com Official website]
* [http://robert-palmer.over-blog.com/article-1514914.html Complete discography]
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3143104.stm BBC obituary]
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