Friday, July 6, 2012

The Top Adult Contemporary Artists of the 1980's: #50 to #41

We continue now with the next 10 artists in our salute to The Top Adult Contemporary Artists of the 1980's*:

At #50, one of the founding members of the Eagles, whose solo career took flight as well:

50.    Glenn Frey

Glenn studied keyboard with concert pianist John Harrison and started playing in groups in the mid-1960's in Detroit, Michigan.  Frey first recorded in 1968, when he played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals for Bob Seger on "Ramblin' Gamblin Man".  Frey then moved to Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of the Eagles, who had one of the most remarkable chart records of the Rock Era.  Frey sang lead on "Take It Easy", "Peaceful Easy Feeling", "Tequila Sunrise", "Already Gone", "Lyin' Eyes", "New Kid in Town" and "Heartache Tonight", among others. 
Following the breakup of the Eagles in 1980, Frey began a successful solo career.  He released his debut album in 1982.  Frey had a minor AC hit with "I Found Somebody" before landing a #2 smash of four weeks with "The One You Love". 
In 1985, Frey recorded "The Heat is On" for the movie Beverly Hills Cop, then appeared on television on the show Miami Vice and recorded another #2--"You Belong to the City".  Glenn then hit #2 again with "True Love" and #5 with "Soul Searchin'".
As a member of the Eagles, Glenn won six Grammys and five American Music Awards.  The Eagles have sold over 120 million albums and were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.

Up next, a group whose story starts in the Jersey City, New Jersey projects:

49.    Kool & the Gang

The main members of this group included brothers Robert "Kool" Bell on bass and Robert Bell on tenor sax, lead singer James "J.T." Taylor, drummer George Brown, Robert Mickens on trumpet, Dennis Thomas on alto sax, Claydes Charles Smith on guitar and keyboardist Rick Westfield.  They began as teenagers, studying Miles Davis albums and James Brown singles, jamming in basements and partying for the people.  In 1969, they made their first record, which they named after themselves. 
In the beginning, the horns were the lead voice.  Kool & the Gang's breakthrough came in 1974 with "Jungle Boogie".  Their songs were featured in movies such as Saturday Night Fever and Rocky and the group earned two Grammy Awards and a gold record.  In the late 70's, they auditioned vocalists and James "J.T." Taylor was hired on the spot.  Kool & the Gang became one of the top acts of the 1980's.

Though "Too Hot" and "Celebration" (from the Multi-Platinum album Celebrate) were worldwide hits in 1980 and 1981, respectively, they only reached #11 and #34 on the Adult Contemporary chart.  But the group must have had an effect on the AC audience, for a lesser song, "Joanna", reached #2 in 1983.  The group released another Multi-Platinum album, Emergency, in 1984.  Kool & the Gang signed with Polygram Records and released "Fresh" in 1985 and then the biggest AC hit of their career, "Cherish", which spent six weeks at #1 in the fall.  The group closed out the decade with "Special Way", which reached #6 on the AC chart, and the minor hit "Stone Love".
Kool & the Gang have sold over 70 million records in their career.

Here's a star who got her start in the New Christy Minstrels with Kenny Rogers:

48.    Kim Carnes

Carnes signed a publishing deal in 1969 with producer Jimmy Bowen.  During this time, Kim shared demo-recording time with the other writers for Bowen, including Don Henley, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther.

In the early 1970's, Carnes co-wrote several songs with David Cassidy and toured the world with him.  Kim released her first album, Rest on Me, in 1972.
In 1980, Carnes' duet with Rogers--"Don't Fall in Love with a Dreamer" became a big crossover hit.  It did not reach #1 on the AC chart, but was #2 for four weeks.  Carnes and her husband Dave Ellingson wrote all of the material for Rogers' 1980 album, Gideon.  Later in the year, Carnes released her version of the Miracles song "More Love", which reached #6 on the AC chart.

Fate is an odd thing, and once Kim agreed to record the Jackie DeShannon/Donna Weiss song "Bette Davis Eyes", her career changed.  The song earned Record and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards, Carnes was nominated for Best Pop Female and the album Mistaken Identity was nominated for Album of the Year.  Despite this, the gold record only reached #15 on the AC chart.  

Carnes received two more Grammy nominations for Best Pop Female for the album Voyeur and Best Rock Female for the song "Invisible Hands".  Unbelievably, her song "I Pretend" did better on the AC chart than "Bette Davis Eyes".  And another recording with Rogers and James Ingram--"What About Me?"--hit #1.  Carnes also teamed up with Barbra Streisand for the #8 AC song "Make No Mistake, He's Mine".

Kim's "I'll Be Here Where the Heart Is" was included on the "Flashdance" Soundtrack, which won the Grammy for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture.  Kim participated in the U.S.A. for Africa project, "We Are the World" in 1985.  In 1987, Kim sang with Jeffrey Osborne on "My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own" for the "Spaceballs" Soundtrack.  Carnes closed the decade out with the minor hit "Crazy In Love".

The #47 Adult Contemporary Artist of the 1980's* had enjoyed some success previously, but they came into their own in the 1980's when they took control of their career: 

47.    Hall & Oates

Hall & Oates believed that the biggest problem for them had been that outside producers were brought in and that studio musicians were not familiar with their tastes and musical direction.  Thus, they began recording at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, they produced their own records and they included their touring band in the studio.

The first album produced in this phase was Voices, which helped launch them into superstardom.  The album included an excellent remake of the Righteous Brothers' classic "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'".  Also included on the album is "Everytime You Go Away", which later became a #1 song for Paul Young.  Despite this, AC fans took a "ho-hum" approach.  The Righteous Brothers remake only reached #15, "Kiss On My List" was only #16, and there were no other hits in the genre on the album.

Private Eyes in 1981 was recorded while Voices was at its peak, so the duo didn't miss a beat.  Private Eyes became their first Top 10 album.  Still, "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)" was their biggest AC hit from the album, reaching #12. 

H2O was a polished album that became Hall & Oates' most successful album, reaching #3.  Finally, their tremendous success began to be recognized on the AC chart.  Hall & Oates achieved their second Top 10 song with "One on One" and had a minor hit with "Maneater".  In 1983, the duo recorded a cover of Bobby Helms' Christmas classic "Jingle Bell Rock" and it continues to receive heavy holiday airplay.  Rock 'n Soul Part 1, the duo's greatest hits package, also contained "Say It Isn't So", which reached #8 and "Adult Education".  

The Big Bam Boom album included some of the most sophisticated equipment ever used in the studio at the time, and had an electronic, urban feel to it.  The duo scored #8 songs on the AC chart with "Out of Touch" and "Possession Obsession" and minor hits with "Method of Modern Love" and "Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid".  In 1985, Hall & Oates released their Live at the Apollo album and performed at Live Aid.

After Hall released a solo album, the duo signed with Arista Records in 1987.  Ooh Yeah! was Hall & Oates' last platinum record.  Oddly enough, it was their biggest success on the AC chart, which was a little behind the times.  "Everything Your Heart Desires" became their biggest AC hit, reaching #2, while "So Close" reached #6 and "Missed Opportunity" was #8.

Hall & Oates enjoyed seven Platinum and six Gold albums.  In 2003, the duo were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.  

In 1985, this next artist was a drummer with a soul group called FBI.  Three years later, he had a #1 song:

46.    Rick Astley 

Astley was discovered by producer Pete Waterman, who hired Rick to work at the PWL recording studio in London.

In 1988, Astley released the single "Never Gonna' Give You Up", which went Gold and reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart for three weeks.  It topped the charts in 25 countries, including the U.S., the U.K., Australia and Germany.  Rick's follow-up, "Whenever You Need Somebody" was also #1 in seven countries, but was not released in North America.  The album Whenever You Need Somebody has now sold over 15 million copies worldwide.

"Together Forever" was a strong #2 AC hit for Rick.  He then scored another #1 with "It Would Take a Strong Strong Man" and hit #5 with "She Wants to Dance with Me".  Astley was nominated for Best New Artist at the 1989 Grammy Awards.  Astley had the minor AC hits "Giving Up on Love" and a remake of the Temptations classic "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" in 1989.  Though he holds the British record by hitting the Top 10 with his first eight releases, his popularity faded and in 1993, Astley retired from the music business.  

Astley sold approximately 40 million records worldwide.

At #45 for the 1980's, the artist who achieved his breakthrough in 1970 with the hit "Fire and Rain".

45.    James Taylor 

In 1981, Taylor released the album Dad Loves His Work, as usual from James, an album laced with personal themes such as his relationship with his father and the effect that he and former wife Carly Simon had on each other.  The album went Platinum and contained his duet with J.D. Souther, "Her Town Too", which reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart.   

In 1985, Taylor played at the Rock in Rio festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, performing before 300,000 people.  Playing before a wildly enthusiastic audience in a far-off land which knew specific details about his music that had only interested James seemed to bring him out of a long depression.  In short, it helped him get on track with his life.  The song "Only a Dream in Rio" was written in tribute to that night, with the line "I was there that very day and my heart came back alive."  

Taylor released the album That's Why I'm Here later that year.  James released a cover of the Buddy Holly hit "Everyday", and it became a #3 AC hit.  

Taylor also hit #3 with "Never Die Young" and #8 with the title track.  In December, Taylor married actress Kathryn Walker.  His final album of the decade was Never Die Young in 1988 but he began touring regularly.  

Taylor's Greatest Hits album has now sold over 12 million copies in the United States.  James has won five Grammys in his career and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

At #44, a duo which scored phenomenal success in a brief time:

44.    Wham

George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley met in school in Hertfordshire, England.  When their ska band the Executive split, Michael and Ridgeley eventually formed Wham!

The duo signed with CBS Records and originally promoted themselves as hedonistic youth.  They released the album Wham Rap! (Enjoy What You Do) but it had only marginal success initially.  Then, the group got an unexpected call from the BBC television program Top of the Pops.  An act had pulled out of the show and they needed a replacement. Wham's performance on the show is considered a watershed moment for a phenomenon began immediately.
The group changed their image on their next album from spokesman of a disaffected generation to sex symbols.  The first single from Make It Big, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" reached #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1984.  The second single ("Careless Whisper") was actually a solo effort by Michael but promoted as Wham!  Featuring George Michael in the U.S. so as not to confused American listeners just being exposed to Wham! for the first time.  "Careless Whisper" was an across-the-board smash, reaching #1 for five weeks and selling over two million copies.
"Everything She Wants" and "Freedom" gave the duo four Top 5 songs on the AC chart, virtually unheard of before for an album.  The video for "Freedom" used footage of Wham!'s historic tour of China, the first by a western pop group.  Later in the year, Wham! recorded "Last Christmas", kept out of the #1 spot in the U.K. only by Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?"

But Michael sought to record music targeted to a more sophisticated audience than the duo's primarily teenage fan base, and the duo officially announced the breakup of Wham!  in the spring of 1986.  They scored two more minor AC hits--"I'm Your Man" and "The Edge of Heaven" and appeared in concert for the final time at London's Wembley Stadium on June 28.
Wham!  sold 25 million albums and 10 to 15 million singles in five years of existence. Foreign Skies, the documentary of their tour of China, was the most highly-attended film premiere in history, shown to over 73,000 fans who gathered to say goodbye to the duo.

After winning a contest in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, our next artist approached former neighbor Smokey Robinson for an audition at the label with which he recorded, Motown Records.  What followed was one of the most incredible string of hits from a female performer in music history:

43.    Diana Ross 

Ross joined the Supremes and the group signed with Motown in 1961.  They racked up 12 #1 songs, a mark that would stand third only to the Beatles and Elvis Presley for over 20 years.  The group's record of five consecutive #1's is topped only by the Bee Gees six.

After leaving the Supremes, Ross began a superstar solo career that also included successful forays into film and Broadway.  In 1976, Billboard magazine named Diana the Female Entertainer of the Century.  She had enjoyed four more #1's as a solo artist in the 70's.
In 1980, Ross released the album Diana, which proved much more successful overall than on the Adult Contemporary format. She did achieve a minor AC hit with "Upside Down".  Diana then recorded the theme for the movie It's My Turn, which reached the Top 10.  
In 1981, Ross and Lionel Richie recorded "Endless Love" from the movie of the same name.  It became a classic multi-format hit, reaching #1 on the AC chart for three weeks and selling over two million copies.     By this time, however, Ross was disenchanted with Motown and signed with RCA Records.  Diana's debut on RCA, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, yielded the #2 title track and the minor AC hit "So Close".  On January 24, 1982, Diana sang the U.S. National Anthem at Super Bowl XVI. 
In 1984, Ross hit paydirt again with her album Swept Away.  The #4 song "Missing You", a tribute to the late Marvin Gaye, led the way and "All of You", a duet with Julio Iglesias, reached #2.  In 1985, Ross appeared with U.S.A. for Africa on "We Are the World", which sold over 20 million copies worldwide, with proceeds going to fight famine in Africa. 
Ross has won seven American Music Awards, was given the 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, ans has won a Golden Globe and a Tony Award. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide. Diana has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame--one as a solo artist and the other as a member of the Supremes. In 2007, Ross received the Kennedy Center Honors.

In December of 1967, this artist arrived early for a show to watch a band called the Big Thing.  Impressed by their use of a horn section to complement rock & roll, he left his group to join them within two weeks.  It was a good career move, for he became the lead singer of the group that would change their name to Chicago.

42.    Peter Cetera

Cetera established himself as having one of the most distinctive voices of the Rock Era while singing for Chicago.  No matter what anyone tells you, Chicago without Peter Cetera is not the same.  In 1985, the group's extensive touring schedule proved to be too much for Cetera, who insisted on taking a break so he could work on a solo album and spend more time with his family.

After the band refused Peter's offer to stay in the band while recording a solo album (similar to the arrangement that Phil Collins had with Genesis at the time), in July of 1985 Cetera and Chicago went their separate ways.
From this point on, Cetera continued his success while Chicago was moving in the opposite direction.  In 1986, Peter was invited to sing the theme to the movie The Karate Kid, Part II.  "Glory of Love" was a smash AC hit, reaching #1 for five weeks.  It won the ASCAP Award for Most Performed Song from a Motion Picture and a similar award from BMI.  The song was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture and earned a Grammy nomination for Cetera for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Male Artist.

Cetera's album Solitude/Solitaire sold over a million copies.  His second single, "The Next Time I Fall", was a duet with Amy Grant, which also reached #1 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.
In 1988, Cetera released the album One More Story, which contained another #1 song of four weeks, "One Good Woman", as well as the minor AC hit "Best of Times".  The following year, Cetera scored his fourth #1 AC hit of the decade, a duet with Cher called "After All".  It was #1 for four weeks on the Adult Contemporary chart, was certified Gold, and featured in the movie Chances Are.
Cetera came up with some of the finest AC songs of the decade.  He ranks as the #42 Adult Contemporary Artist of the 1980's*.

With both a bachelor's and a master's degree, the #41 Artist could have done many things, but he was blessed with a remarkable voice, and he chose to follow that path:

41.    Al Jarreau 

Jarreau graduated in 1962 with a Bachelor in Science degree in Psychology and earned a master's degree in vocational rehabilitation from the University of Iowa.  After graduation, Al moonlighted with a jazz trio led by George Duke.
In 1968, Jarreau chose jazz as his primary occupation.  He performed at clubs such as The Troubadour in Los Angeles and appeared on shows by Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore and Davis Frost.  Al also began performing at The Improv between shows of such rising comics as Bette Midler and John Belushi.
In 1975, Jarreau was spotted by Warner Brothers Records and shortly after released his debut album, We Got By.  In 1981, he proved he could cross over with the album Breakin' Away.  Besides the underrated title track, the album contained "We're in This Love Together". 
In 1983, Al had a #2 song of three weeks, "Mornin'" and followed that up with the #10 "Trouble in Paradise" and the #6 "After All".  Jarreau also wrote and performed the Grammy-nominated theme to the television show Moonlighting, which became a #1 song, and his remake of Lenny Welch's hit "Since I Fell for You" also hit the Top 10 on the AC chart.    Like many of The Top 100 Adult Contemporary Artists of the 1980's*, Al sang on "We Are the World" in 1985. 
Jarreau became famous for the ability to imitate guitar, bass and percussive instrumentation. It has been said about Jarreau that he has a whole orchestra in his throat. Jarreau won seven Grammys over his great career.

We're getting closer to the cream of the crop and tonight at midnight, we'll premiere the next 10 artists.

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