Randy VanWarmer

Randy VanWarmer

Randy VanWarmer (March 30, 1955 – January 12, 2004) was an American songwriter and guitarist. His biggest success was the pop hit, "Just When I Needed You Most". It reached #8 in the UK Singles Chart and #4 in the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1979. There are several cover versions of this song, including those by Dolly Parton and Smokie.

VanWarmer wrote several songs for the group The Oak Ridge Boys including "I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes." The song appeared on VanWarmer's 1981 album "Beat Of Love", which also included VanWarmer's 1980s style pop tune "Suzi Found A Weapon", which hit #55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981.

He was born Randall Van Wormer, in Indian Hills, Colorado. He grew up in Colorado. Three years after the death of his father in an automobile accident, at the age of fifteen, he moved with his mother to Cornwall, England in 1970. In a 1989 interview with "Release", a now-defunct independent paper run out of Stanford, California, he said he remembered it as a depressing place, economically downtrodden, with long, dark and rainy winters. When he was still a teenager, a girlfriend from the United States came to England, spent several months with him, then returned to the U.S. VanWarmer had been writing songs and playing in South England folk music clubs for a while, and the experience with the American girl ultimately became his one hit song. In VanWarmer's mind, he has said, the song is really about the weather. "It's not hard to write a really sad song in the winter in Cornwall," Release quoted him as saying.

In 1979, after struggling in obscurity for a few years, Bearsville Records in New York released a VanWarmer single, "Gotta Get Out of Here," a mildly catchy pop tune. "Just When I Needed You Most" was the B-side of the single. Somewhere, on a whim, a DJ decided to play the flip side instead, and it slowly rose to the Top 10 in a market saturated with disco. As VanWarmer told Release, Albert Grossman, the head of Bearsville, who was acting as VanWarmer's manager, would not let him do television or tour the United States, a strategy that did not prove successful.

His follow-up album, "Terraform", was dark and (compared to his previous work) almost alternative. As Release described the record, it included a song relating the bitter post-death ruminations of a paranoid drowned man; a funny anti-love song; and a lengthy, catchy, metaphorical, almost epic pop piece about the destruction of the Earth and humankind's uncertain attempts to survive. According to Release, "Terraform" received some airplay on a Manhattan progressive rock radio station, where VanWarmer lived at the time; and it sold moderately in Japan and Australia; but in the United States it sank. Bits of it turned up elsewhere (most notably on Laura Branigan's debut album), but VanWarmer would later publicly rue his decision to turn away from dreamy ballads. He made two more records at Bearsville - "Beat of Love", and "Things That You Dream". "Beat of Love" included the single, "Suzie's Got a Weapon", a tribute to a Bearsville P.R. rep whom VanWarmer would later woo and marry, and which went to #1 in Alaska, and gained a certain amount of post mortem acclaim (for example, a rave by James A. Gardner in his "All Music Guide"). But Grossman died soon thereafter, and VanWarmer's future was in doubt.

According to Release, in the mid 1980s, Suzie VanWarmer mailed a song called "It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes" from "Beat of Love" to a friend at MCA, who sent it to Ron Chancey, the producer of the Oak Ridge Boys. His wife loved it, and she asked the Oaks to record it just for her. They did, and liked it enough to put it on their next album. Eventually it came out as a single, and hit number one on the country charts. Charley Pride recorded a song of his, so did Michael Johnson. Moving to Nashville, VanWarmer saw a recording of his song, "I'm in a Hurry (And Don't Know Why)", also hit number one on the country charts by the group Alabama.

VanWarmer continued to write music for others and for his own recordings, which continued to be artistically successful but commercially unsuccessful. He also helped other younger artists with their own songwriting efforts.

His final album was released posthumously only in Japan and was a tribute to Stephen Foster. It was not only a respectful tribute to a songwriter he clearly admired but was also an unexpectedly innovative and at times witty one-man show (according to the CD's liner notes, VanWarmer played all the instruments). That he completed work on the record a few days after learning of his illness, and that he was destined to die on the anniversary of Foster's death (both according to the CD's liner notes), gave the recording an additional element of depth and poignancy.

He died of leukemia, aged 48. In line with one of his greatest loves, his cremated remains were sent into space in 2007.


*"Warmer" - 1979
*"Terraform" - 1980
*"Beat of Love" - 1981
*"The Things That You Dream" - 1983
*"I Am" - 1988
*"Every Now and Then" - 1990
*"The Third Child" - 1994
*"The Vital Spark" - 1994 (Alternate title: "I Will Whisper Your Name")
*"Sun, Moon and Stars" - 1996
*"Sings Stephen Foster" - 2006


*"Just When I Needed You Most" - US # 4 - June 1979 - AC # 1, 1979 UK # 8.
*"Call Me" - Did not chart
*"Gotta Get Out Of Here" - Did not Chart
*"Whatever You Decide" - US # 77 - August 1980
*"Hanging Onto Heaven"
*"Doesn't Matter Anymore" - Did not chart
*"All We Have Is Tonight" - Did not chart
*"Suzi Found A Weapon" - US # 55 - July 1981
*"I Will Hold You" - US C&W # 53 - March 1988
*"Where The Rocky Mountains Touch The Morning Sun" - US C&W # 72 - September 1988

External links

* [http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Music/01/14/obit.vanwarmer.ap/ CNN Obituary]
* [http://www.randyvanwarmer.com Official Site]

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