British singer Robert Palmer, known for his blend of rock, soul and reggae, died in Paris on September 26. The 54-year-old performer suffered a heart attack while he was on a two-day break from recording a television program in England. Robert sold millions of albums around the world and won a Grammy Award. He was also known for his innovative music videos. VOA's Bernie Bernard tells us more about the 30-year career of Robert Palmer.
After playing with several British rock and soul bands, Robert Palmer scored solo success in the mid-1970s with tunes such as Every Kinda People and Bad Case Of Loving You. He presented a sophisticated image, with his good looks, fashionable clothes and sensuous stage presence. With the advent of cable music video channel MTV in the 1980s, Robert became one of the first video music stars. The clip for his 1986 Number One hit, Addicted To Love, featured the elegant singer with a collection of identically-dressed models, who danced and pretended to be his back-up band. He used the same formula again in the 1988 video for Simply Irresistible. Although the videos sparked protests from some feminists, they made history, and catapulted Robert to international fame. When asked to name three songs that he thought best represented his career and accomplishments over the years, Robert quickly responded.
"Every Kinda People, Johnny & Mary and Addicted To Love" he said.
In 1985, Robert Palmer joined with John Taylor and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran to form The Power Station, that scored hits in the U.S. with Communication, Some Like It Hot and Get It On.
Throughout his career, Robert Palmer experimented with diverse musical forms such as big band, R&B, hard rock and African and Caribbean dance rhythms. He was also one of the first to introduce synthesizers into pop music. Soft-spoken and shying away from publicity, Robert took a low-key approach to his music. He once admitted, "I love the music, but the excesses of rock and roll never really appealed to me at all." In a 1994 interview with VOA, Robert was asked about the inspiration behind his music and songwriting.
"I have no idea, you know. I'm just walking down the street and 'Bang!,' something comes into my head," he explained. " I wish I could switch the muse on and off, but I can do neither. I try to keep a Dictaphone [portable recording device] with me at all times, so I can grab it when it comes, and then have to wait until I have enough of these ideas to put them into sort of the hard work bit where you turn them into a song."
In the past 10 years, Robert Palmer had been rediscovering his traditional blues roots. He was asked to contribute a song for a Robert Johnson tribute album, and the soundtrack to the film Yellow Bird, which is set in New Orleans and Mississippi in the 1940s and '50s. Those projects inspired Robert's latest, blues-based album Drive, which was released earlier this year. Robert commented, "It's the first record I've made which I play for my own pleasure."
At the time of his death, Robert was promoting his album in Europe and the U.K.