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Also Known As: Died: September 26, 2003
Born: January 19, 1949 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Batley, England, GB Profession:

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Though Robert Palmer achieved his greatest success with the pop-rock tracks "Addicted to Love" (1985) and "Simply Irresistible" (1986), the Grammy-winning British singer employed a diverse palette of influences throughout his four-decade career, from the New Orleans funk of "Sneakin' Sally through the Alley" (1974) and barnstorming rock of "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" (1979) to blue-eyed soul, blues, New Wave and other genres. Blessed with a voice that could roar and croon with equal skill, Palmer moved from jazz-rock with Vinegar Joe and Dada in the early '70s to soul and reggae as a solo talent. He scored his first substantive hit with "(Doctor, Doctor)," but in characteristic fashion, circled back to the roots music he loved, despite lesser returns than his radio-friendly material. His true peak came in the mid-1980s with the one-two punch of The Power Station, a supergroup that teamed him with members of Duran Duran and Chic for a revved-up take on T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," and his 1985 solo effort, Riptide. The album's hit singles, "Addicted" and "Simply," were among the biggest hits of the 1980s thanks in part to music videos featuring the sartorially splendid Palmer...

Though Robert Palmer achieved his greatest success with the pop-rock tracks "Addicted to Love" (1985) and "Simply Irresistible" (1986), the Grammy-winning British singer employed a diverse palette of influences throughout his four-decade career, from the New Orleans funk of "Sneakin' Sally through the Alley" (1974) and barnstorming rock of "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)" (1979) to blue-eyed soul, blues, New Wave and other genres. Blessed with a voice that could roar and croon with equal skill, Palmer moved from jazz-rock with Vinegar Joe and Dada in the early '70s to soul and reggae as a solo talent. He scored his first substantive hit with "(Doctor, Doctor)," but in characteristic fashion, circled back to the roots music he loved, despite lesser returns than his radio-friendly material. His true peak came in the mid-1980s with the one-two punch of The Power Station, a supergroup that teamed him with members of Duran Duran and Chic for a revved-up take on T. Rex's "Bang a Gong (Get It On)," and his 1985 solo effort, Riptide. The album's hit singles, "Addicted" and "Simply," were among the biggest hits of the 1980s thanks in part to music videos featuring the sartorially splendid Palmer against a backing "band" of sleek, eerily identical models. Later efforts failed to match the success of Riptide, though Palmer remained a popular concert draw until his death in 2003. His best material, steeped in classic soul and modern pop, preserved his status as one of rock's most polished talents.

Born January 19, 1949 in the West Yorkshire town of Batley, England, Robert Allen Palmer spent much of his childhood on the archipelago of Malta, where his father was stationed as an English naval intelligence officer. He was exposed to a steady diet of blues, soul and jazz through broadcasts by the American Forces Radio, and put to use his newfound musical vocabulary as a member of the Mandrakes, a band he joined as a teenager. In 1969, he replaced vocalist Jess Roden in the Alan Bown Set before joining a 12-piece jazz-rock fusion act called Dada. Palmer later teamed with Dada singer Elkie Brooks to form Vinegar Joe, a soul-influence rock band that released three albums on Island Records between 1971 and 1973. Though critically acclaimed, Vinegar Joe sold few albums, prompting their breakup in 1974 and the launch of Palmer's solo career. His debut album for Island, Sneakin' Sally through the Alley (1974), featured stellar support by Little Feat's Lowell George and New Orleans' legendary Meters on a slew of New Orleans-styled R&B covers and originals. Though it sold poorly in the United Kingdom, both the album and its title track broke into the Top 100 on their respective charts in the United States. Palmer then shifted gears to tackle a blend of reggae and rock on Pressure Drop (1975), which was followed by a tour with Little Feat. Unfortunately, the record and its follow-up, Some People Can Do What They Like (1976), performed only moderately well, prompting a tonal shift for his fourth album, Double Fun (1978). The record encompassed a variety of styles, including rock, soul, disco and pop, which informed its Top 20 hit, "Every Kinda People."

His next release, Secrets (1979), adopted a more rock-oriented sound, as heard on its No. 14 hit "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)." Palmer then tried his hand at synth pop for Clues (1980), which yielded two Top 20 hits with the title track and "Johnny and Mary." However, his winning streak ran out with 1983's Pride, which ran aground on the U.K. charts in the lower end of the Top 40 while failing to find any significant chart purchase in America. But Palmer rebounded as part of The Power Station, a supergroup featuring John and Andy Taylor of Duran Duran, and Tony Thompson, the impeccable percussionist for Chic. Their eponymous debut, released in 1985, featuring a high-powered cover of T. Rex's "Get it On (Bang a Gong)," which soared to No. 9 on the singles chart, as well as the original "Some Like It Hot," which reached No. 6. However, Palmer decided to focus on his solo career rather than promote the album on tour, which generated a great deal of negative publicity for the singer, who was charged by the press with joining the group for purely financial reasons. Undaunted, he proceeded with work on his eighth solo album, Riptide (1985), which proved to be his watershed release. Anchored by the crunching rock of the single "Addicted to Love" and its iconic music video, which featured Palmer performing in front of a bevy of models heavily made-up to look identical as they mime the song's instrumental parts, the album rose to No. 5, the highest chart placement of his career. "Addicted" also became his first single to reach the top of the singles charts in the States while also earning Palmer his first Grammy. A second single from the record, "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On," reached No.2.

Palmer reprised the glossy pop-rock sound of Riptide for his ninth record, Heavy Nova (1988), which generated his final Top 5 U.S. hit with "Simply Irresistible." The single, a virtual carbon of "Addicted" down to its cadre of models in the music video, brought Palmer a second Grammy, while its follow-up, a cover of the Gap Band's "Early in the Morning," peaked at No. 19. But Don't Explain (1990), which attempted to return to the eclectic mix of R&B, jazz and blues that earmarked his '70s-era career, took a precipitous plunge down the albums chart, peaking no higher than No. 88, though two singles from the record, a cover of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" with pop-reggae band UB40, and Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me," saw some chart success. The record's relative failure marked the end of Palmer's reign as a pop star, as subsequent albums, including a collection of Tin Pan Alley standards titled Ridin' High (1992) and the Afro-pop-inflected Honey (1994), landed at the bottom of the U.S. albums charts or simply failed to chart at all. A 1996 reunion with The Power Station also failed to reverse the downward trend of his career.

In 2003, Palmer released Drive, a collection of roots music covers and originals, including forays into blues, folk and '50s-era pop. The album generated some of the strongest positive reviews for Palmer's work in over a decade, and rose to No. 10 on the Billboard blues chart. But while promoting the album in Paris, Palmer, who had been a lifelong heavy smoker suffered a heart attack that claimed his life on Sept. 26, 2003. His estate was the subject of a contentious court case the following year when a former girlfriend, Mary Ambrose, claimed that the singer had changed his will to grant her the majority of his estate, which was worth an estimated £30 million. Her claim was declared without merit in 2007, and Palmer's estate was divided between his five children and UNICEF, which Palmer had supported in previous years. Palmer's biggest hits remained staples of FM radio, as well as film and television soundtracks, in the decade that followed his death.

By Paul Gaita

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Deep Blues (1991) Himself
3.
 Smile Orange (1974)
4.
 Video Killed the Radio Star (2000) Interviewee
5.
 Songs & Visions (1997)
6.
 Gershwin (1994)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

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