An Oscar- and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter, Stephen Bishop enjoyed success on the pop charts in the mid-1970s and 1980s with such wistful romantic ballads as "On and On," "Save it for a Rainy Day" and "It Might Be You," while also contributing numerous songs to feature films like "The China Syndrome" (1979), "Tootsie" (1982) and "White Nights" (1985). His career began as a songwriter, penning material for Barbra Streisand and Art Garfunkel, which led to a recording contract and the Grammy-nominated Careless (1976), which yielded two Top 10 hits, including "On and On." Bishop's clever, heartfelt lyrics also caught the attention of Hollywood filmmakers, who tapped him to write songs for numerous features. Two of his songs - "It Might Be You" and "Separate Lives" - were nominated for Best Song Academy Awards, which prompted Bishop to shift his focus from his solo albums to soundtracks. In the 1990s, Bishop returned to pop with several independent record releases while still reaping significant rewards from the inclusion of his early hits in films and on television. Though stardom largely eluded Bishop over the course of his four-decade career, his talent as a tunesmith produced some of the most enduring songs of the 1970s and 1980s.
Born Nov. 14, 1951 in San Diego, CA, Stephen Bishop was introduced to pop music by the Beatles' 1964 appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" (CBS, 1948-1971). Prior to the broadcast, Bishop had played clarinet and trombone while aspiring to teach history, but the Mop Top performance convinced him to pursue a career in rock-n-roll. After teaching himself to play guitar, Bishop formed a group called the Weeds, which played the fraternity house circuit in the late 1960s. After capturing second place in a Claremont, CA battle of the bands contest, where a judge proclaimed that Bishop had a promising future as a songwriter, he headed to Los Angeles to fulfill his dreams. He landed a publishing deal with E.H. Morris Publishing, where he found sporadic success until Art Garfunkel recorded two of his songs for his 1975 album Breakaway. Bishop was soon penning material for Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and the Four Tops, among others. In 1976, ABC Records released his solo debut album, Careless, which featured the Top 10 pop singles "On and On" and "Save it for a Rainy Day." The album, which featured a stellar list of contributors, including Eric Clapton, Chaka Khan, Garfunkel, and guitarists Larry Carlton and Lee Ritenour, was nominated for a Grammy and was followed by the equally well-received Bish (1978), which generated a Top 5 adult contemporary hit with "Everybody Needs Love."
In addition to his pop career, Bishop also moonlighted as an occasional actor, contributing memorable cameos in films by John Landis, including "Kentucky Fried Movie" (1977) and "Animal House" (1978), in which a rampaging John Belushi interrupted his would-be folk singer mid-warble and smashes his guitar. In 1979, he penned the single "Somewhere in Between" for the Michael Douglas thriller "The China Syndrome." It would lead to the most successful phase of Bishop's songwriting career as a frequent contributor to movie soundtracks. He earned his first Oscar nomination for "It Might Be You," the timeless love theme from 1982's "Tootsie," which topped the adult contemporary charts while also enjoying a lengthy run in the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. More soundtrack singles for films like "Unfaithfully Yours" (1984) and "Micki + Maude" (1984) preceded his second Oscar nomination for the song "Separate Lives," from Taylor Hackford's drama "White Nights." The single, sung by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, lost to Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me," from the same film.
As Bishop's stock rose in the soundtrack community, his pop efforts began to lose momentum. His third album, Red Cab to Manhattan (1980), failed to generate any substantial hits, despite another all-star lineup of contributors, including Clapton, Michael McDonald and Sting. It would be another eight years before he released his fourth album, Bowling in Paris (1988), which suffered a similar fate as its predecessor. But Bishop continued to work steadily on soundtracks, including "The Money Pit" (1986) and "The Boy Who Could Fly" (1986). He also remained an in-demand songwriter and guest vocalist on albums for Clapton, Phil Collins (.But Seriously, 1989) and David Crosby, among others, while continuing to contribute acting cameos for John Landis, including in the Belushi/Aykroyd classic "The Blues Brothers" (1980) and in the director's ill-fated segment of "Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983).
Bishop continued to mine gold from his biggest pop hits in the 1990s and beyond. "On and On," in particular, was included in a number of soundtracks from the period, including "Anger Management" (2003), "Margot at the Wedding" (2007) and even the "Star Wars"- themed "Blue Harvest" episode of "Family Guy" (Fox, 1998-2002, 2005- ). Original songs for movie soundtracks were sporadic, save for "All I Want for Christmas" (1994) and "Barney's Great Adventure" (1998). Bishop soon returned to his pop career, releasing several independent albums in the 1990s and new millennium, as well a pair of demo compilations and a holiday album, Merry Bishmas (2002). An all-acoustic album, Yardwork (2003), was followed by the Brazilian-themed Romance in Rio, in 2008.
By Paul Gaita