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Michael Bolton: Soul to Swing


Michael Bolton is one of the music industry's most successful singer/songwriters. His newest release is an album of Frank Sinatra's old favorites. It's a new direction for the blue-eyed soul singer, who sold millions of records in the eighties and nineties. VOA's Larry London sat down with Michael Bolton recently and asked him about his career and his new album.

Michael Bolton reached superstar status in the late '80s with the song, "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You." This and other Bolton songs were background music for a whole generation.

"And somebody says, ‘You know, I got married to this song,’ or somebody comes up to you, a 20-something-year-old in Asia -- we have a lot of twenty-five year old, twenty-six-year-old fans, who basically grew up hearing my music all the time -- but they were becoming young men and women. They were becoming who they are now," says Bolton of his fans.

And many of his fans are a little older, live overseas, and love American culture.

"American music and American culture is surprising at first to be as predominate as it is,” he says. “Everything from our jeans to Coca-Cola, but primarily in my world, for our music. It really, just kind of, I think, destroys the barriers, any barriers -- they are kind of removed by the musical connection."

That musical connection was especially strong on a tour through Asia.

"China, amazing, you know, Beijing and Shanghi, screaming out, you know, emotionally screaming out, you know, your name, while you're singing. You know I tried to get as close to them as I could -- security is pretty tough there, you know they're all in uniform there."

Michael Bolton would like to become an ambassador of sorts in the Middle East.

"In the Arab world, I've been to Dubai, and I've performed in Dubai, and I enjoyed that and I'd like to spend a little more time. I'd like to go to Egypt. And I like being part of breaking down barriers. Music does open a lot of doors for you to do things."

Now Bolton has opened a new door in his career -- an album of Frank Sinatra songs. "Sinatra really embraced the lyrics. He was all about understanding what the composer intended."

Bolton says Sinatra songs and the big band sound will never die. “Music that moves you and moves other people, and has for five, six decades. Different generations are embracing what was my parents' music; [it] is now music that pretty much is selling and being embraced everywhere in the world.”

And Michael Bolton will be touring just about everywhere in the world next year. All in all, he says, it has been a pretty good gig. "It's amazing, it really is, if you think about it, when you're a kid and music is all you want to do, and it's your childhood dream, and it's your first passion and 20 years later you look back and, ‘Wow, I'm doing this,’ and 30 years later you look back and you say, ‘Wow.’ And it's exciting because that's what you've worked for all your life."

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