Robert Palmer (singer)

Robert Allen Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003) was an English singer-songwriter,[1] musician, and record producer. He was known for combining soul, jazz, rock, pop, reggae, and blues.

Palmer's involvement in the music industry began in the 1960s, covered four decades and included a spell with the band Vinegar Joe.[1][2] He found success both in his solo career and with the Power Station, and had Top 10 songs in both the United Kingdom and the United States in the 1980s. Two of his hit singles, "Addicted to Love" and “Simply Irresistible”, were accompanied with stylish music videos directed by British fashion photographer Terence Donovan.[3] Palmer received a number of awards throughout his career, including two Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, an MTV Video Music Award, and two Brit Award nominations for Best British Male Solo Artist.[4][5]

Palmer died aged 54 following a heart attack on 26 September 2003.

Robert Palmer
Palmer singing into a microphone onstage
Palmer performing live at Sunset Strip Roxy in 1986
Background information
Birth nameRobert Allen Palmer
Born19 January 1949
Batley, West Riding of Yorkshire, England
Died26 September 2003 (aged 54)
Paris, France
  • Singer-songwriter
  • musician
  • record producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • bass guitar
  • drums
Years active1964–2003
Associated acts

1964–1973: Early bands

Palmer's father was a British naval intelligence officer stationed in Malta. In 1949, Palmer moved with his family from Batley, where he was born, to Scarborough. Influenced as a child by blues, soul and jazz music on American Forces Radio, Robert Palmer joined his first band, The Mandrakes, at the age of 15 whilst still at Scarborough High School for Boys. His first major break came with the departure of singer Jess Roden from the band The Alan Bown Set in 1969, after which Palmer was invited to London to sing on their single "Gypsy Girl".[6] The vocals for the album The Alan Bown Set!, originally recorded by Roden (and released in the US that way), were re-recorded by Palmer after the success of the single. According to music journalist Paul Lester, Palmer rose from northern clubs in England to become "elegant and sophisticated" and the master of several styles.[7]

In 1970 Palmer joined the 12-piece jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which featured singer Elkie Brooks and her husband Pete Gage. After a year, Palmer, Brooks and Gage formed soul/rock band Vinegar Joe. Palmer played rhythm guitar in the band, and shared lead vocals with Brooks. Signed to the Island Records label, they released three albums: Vinegar Joe (1972), Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies (1972) and Six Star General (1973), before disbanding in March 1974.[6][8] Brooks later said that Palmer "was a very good-looking guy", and that female fans were happy to find that Brooks and Palmer were not romantically linked.[9]

1974–1984: Early solo career

Island Records signed Palmer to a solo deal in 1974.[2] His first solo album Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1974, was heavily influenced by the music of Little Feat and the funk fusion of the Meters who acted as backing band along with producer/guitarist Lowell George of Little Feat.[6] Although unsuccessful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US.[6] Notably, "Sailin' Shoes" (the album's first track, and a Little Feat cover), Palmer's own "Hey Julia" and the Allen Toussaint–penned title track carry virtually the same rhythm, and were packaged on the album as a "trilogy" without a pause between them.

After relocating with his wife to New York City, Palmer released Pressure Drop, named for the cover version of the reggae hit by Toots and the Maytals, in November 1975 (featuring Motown bassist James Jamerson).[6] He toured with Little Feat to promote the reggae- and rock-infused album.[6][2]

However, with the failure of follow-up album Some People Can Do What They Like, Palmer decided to move to Nassau, Bahamas, directly across the street from Compass Point Studios.[6]

In 1978, he released Double Fun, a collection of Caribbean-influenced rock, including a cover of "You Really Got Me". The album reached the Top 50 on the US Billboard chart and scored a Top 20 single with the Andy Fraser–penned "Every Kinda People".[6] The song has been covered by other artists including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Randy Crawford and Amy Grant. It reached number 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[6]

Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on pure rock.[6] 1979's Secrets produced his second Top 20 single with Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)".[6] The number 14 hit also gave Palmer his second Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart hit.

The 1980s saw Palmer find an increasing amount of commercial success. The album Clues, produced by Palmer and featuring Chris Frantz and Gary Numan, generated hits on both sides of the Atlantic, first with the radio-friendly single "Johnny and Mary" and then "Looking for Clues".[6] Catchy music videos matching the synth-pop stylings of new wave gave him much needed exposure to a younger audience. The success was repeated with the 1982 EP release of Some Guys Have All the Luck.[6]

In April 1983 Pride was released, which, while not as commercially successful as Clues, did feature the title song and Palmer's cover of The System's "You Are in My System", with The System's David Frank contributing keyboard tracks to the latter song.[6] On 31 May 1983, Palmer's concert at the Hammersmith Palais was recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 1.[10] On 23 July 1983, Palmer performed at Duran Duran's charity concert at Aston Villa football ground, where he struck up friendships with members of Duran Duran that would spawn the supergroup the Power Station.

1985–1997: The Power Station and MTV success

When Duran Duran went on hiatus, guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joined former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Palmer to form the Power Station.[2] Their eponymous album, recorded mainly at the New York recording studio for which the band was named, with overdubs and mixing at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, reached the Top 20 in the UK and the Top 10 in the US. It spawned two hit singles with "Some Like It Hot" (US number 6) and a cover of the T. Rex song "Get It On (Bang a Gong)", which peaked one position higher than the original at US number 9. Palmer performed live with the band only once that year, on Saturday Night Live. The band toured, and played Live Aid, with singer Michael Des Barres after Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the recording studio to further his solo career.

With Palmer bailing on the tour, some critics referred to it as "unprofessional behaviour". In Number One magazine, he hit back at the claims he joined the band for money: "Firstly, I didn't need the money, and secondly the cash wasn't exactly a long time coming. It wasn't exactly an experience that set me up for retirement."[11][12] He also was accused of ripping off the Power Station sound for his own records. He snapped: "Listen, I gave the Power Station that sound. They took it from me, not the other way around."[12]

Palmer recorded the album Riptide at Compass Point Studios in 1985, recruiting Thompson and Andy Taylor to play on some tracks plus Power Station record producer Bernard Edwards, who worked with Thompson in Chic, to helm the production. Riptide featured the US number 1 and UK number 5 single "Addicted to Love".[13][14] "Addicted to Love" reached no. 1 in the United States.[15] The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-imitated music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which Palmer is surrounded by a bevy of near-identically clad, heavily made-up female models simulating "musicians." [6] Donovan also directed videos for the hits "Simply Irresistible" and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On".[1] In September 1986, Palmer performed "Addicted to Love" at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.[16] In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Addicted to Love". At the 1987 Brit Awards, Palmer received his first nomination for Best British Male.[4]

Another single from Riptide, his cover of Cherrelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", also performed well (US number 2, UK number 9).[6] Another song, "Trick Bag," was written by one of his major influences, New Orleans jazz artist Earl King.

Concerned about the rising crime rate in Nassau, Palmer moved to Lugano, Switzerland in 1987 and set up his own recording studio.[2] Producing Heavy Nova in 1988, Palmer again returned to experimenting, this time with bossa nova rhythms, heavy rock and white-soul balladeering. He repeated his previous success of "Addicted to Love" with the video of "Simply Irresistible", again with a troupe of female "musicians". The song reached number 2 in the US and was Palmer's final Top Ten hit there. The ballad "She Makes My Day" also proved to be a hit in the UK, peaking at number 6.[6] In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible",[17] which would later be featured in the Tony Award winning musical Contact. At the 1989 Brit Awards, Palmer received his second nomination for Best British Male, and "Simply Irresistible" was nominated for Best British Single.[4] Rolling Stone magazine voted Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.

Palmer expanded his range even further for his next album, Don't Explain (1990). It featured two UK top 10 hits with covers of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (a collaboration with UB40) and Marvin Gaye's "Mercy Mercy Me". Throughout the 1990s, Palmer ventured further into diverse material. The 1992 album Ridin' High was a tribute to the Tin Pan Alley era.[2][6]

In 1994, Palmer released Honey to mixed reviews. While the album failed to produce any hit singles in the US, he did find success in the UK with the release of three modest hit singles "Girl U Want", "Know by Now" and "You Blow Me Away".[6]

In 1995, Palmer released a greatest hits album, which reached number four in the UK.[7] In 1995 he reunited with other members of Power Station to record a second album. Bassist John Taylor eventually backed out of the project, to be replaced by Bernard Edwards. Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album Living in Fear (1996), and had just begun touring when Edwards died from pneumonia.

In 1997, Palmer performed with Rod Stewart at Wembley.[18]

Personal life

Palmer met his future wife Sue at Slough railway station in 1968, attracted by her style (silver-coloured boots and a matching mini-dress) and by the science-fiction book she was reading.[19] They married two years later, and had two children, Jim and Jane. The family moved to New York in the mid-1970s and then to the Bahamas a few years later. In 1993, Palmer relocated to Lugano, Switzerland, after he found that the islands were unsafe because of drugs and gun violence. He divorced the same year.[20]

Palmer was a heavy smoker.[21]


Palmer died from a heart attack in a Paris hotel room on 26 September 2003 at age 54. He had been in the French capital after recording a television appearance in London for Yorkshire TV, a retrospective titled My Kinda People.[7][22] He was survived by his parents, his son and daughter, his brother Mark, and his girlfriend Mary Ambrose.[20] Among those who paid tribute were Duran Duran, stating: "He was a very dear friend and a great artist. This is a tragic loss to the British music industry."[7]


  1. ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 415–416. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 307. ISBN 0-85112-072-5.
  3. ^ "Addicted to Love: fashion's favourite video for 30 years". The Guardian. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  4. ^ a b c BRITs Profile: Robert Palmer Archived 23 June 2014 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  5. ^ Profile: Robert Palmer. Rock on the Net. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Strong, Martin C. (2014). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 2–3. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  7. ^ a b c d .Singer Robert Palmer dies BBC. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  8. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 262. CN 5585.
  9. ^ "Elkie Brooks Remembers Singing With Robert Palmer - Robert Palmer : Music & Style". Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  10. ^ New Robert Palimer Live BBC Concert CD Your Way To Music. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  11. ^ Lewis, Randy (January 9, 2014). "Billboard Shakeup puts Hollywood Reporter's Janice Min in Charge". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2014.
  12. ^ a b Number One magazine, circa 1986: "Bob's Your Uncle" by Pat Thomas, pp 28–29.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  15. ^ "Robert Palmer". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  16. ^ 1986 MTV Video Music Awards Retrieved 5 December 2011
  17. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 453. CN 5585.
  18. ^ Kovats, Tom. "Rod Stewart Robert Palmer Some Boys Have All The Luck Live Songs & Visions Concert Wembley 1997". Retrieved 28 December 2017.
  19. ^ "Music: Some guys have all the luck". Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  20. ^ a b "Obituaries: Robert Palmer". The Daily Telegraph. 27 September 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  21. ^ Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior, Pop Music Critic (2003-09-27). "British rock star Robert Palmer dies at 54". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-02-27.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Parales, Jon (27 September 2003). "Robert Palmer, Singer With Image of a Pop Romeo, Dies at 54". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2013.

External links

Addicted to Love (song)

"Addicted to Love" is a song by English rock singer Robert Palmer released in 1986. It became his signature song, thanks in part to a popular video featuring high fashion models. Other artists have since released versions of it.

It is the third song on Palmer's Riptide album and was released as its second single. The single version is a shorter edit of the full-length album version.

The song entered the Billboard Hot 100 chart the week ending 8 February 1986. The song ended up topping the Billboard Hot 100, as well as the Billboard Top Rock Tracks chart. It was one of the last 45 RPM singles to receive a million-selling Gold certification. It also reached number one in Australia and number five on the UK Singles Chart.

Clues (Robert Palmer album)

Clues is the sixth solo album by Robert Palmer, released in 1980. It has a rockier, new wave edge compared to his previous releases. The album peaked at number 59 on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart and No. 31 in the UK in 1980. The album also peaked at No. 1 in Sweden, No. 3 in France, No. 15 in the Netherlands and No. 42 in Italy. Donald Guarisco of AllMusic described Clues as "one of Robert Palmer's strongest and most consistent albums", despite being somewhat short at 31 minutes.Palmer, who played percussion on Talking Heads' Remain in Light, had the favour returned when the band's drummer Chris Frantz played drums on Clues. Andy Fraser, the former bassist of Free and the author of Palmer's first breakthrough single "Every Kinda People", played bass on the album on two songs. New wave musician Gary Numan co-wrote a song with Palmer (another co-write between the two appearing on Maybe It's Live) and played keyboards on a remake of his own song "I Dream of Wires". This was first issued on CD in 1985 when Island's catalogue was issued under WEA Manufacturing. The WEA pressings are sought-after collector's items.

The video to the first track on the album, "Looking for Clues", aired on MTV's first day of broadcasting, on 1 August 1981.

The album was certified Gold in Germany by BMieV in 1992.

Give Me an Inch

"Give Me an Inch" is a song by English vocalist Robert Palmer, released in 1976 as the lead single from his second studio album Pressure Drop (1975). The song was written by Palmer and produced by Steve Smith. "Give Me an Inch" reached No. 6 on the US Billboard Bubbling Under the Hot 100 chart and No. 88 on the Cash Box Top 100 Singles chart.

Life in Detail

"Life in Detail" is a song by the English vocalist Robert Palmer, released in 1990 as a promotional single from the soundtrack of the American romantic comedy film Pretty Woman. The song was written by Palmer and Allan Powell, and produced by Palmer. It reached No. 7 on the US Billboard Top Rock Tracks, and No. 34 on the Canadian RPM Top Singles Chart."Life in Detail" had been written exclusively for the film. Powell had previously been the drummer in Vinegar Joe, which Palmer fronted, in the early 1970s. Following the band's split, Palmer and Powell continued their friendship and would write a number of songs together which Palmer recorded. According to Manchester Evening News, "Life in Detail" allowed him to buy a 40-foot sail boat to live on, which he had moored at Sausalito, California.

Live at the Apollo (Robert Palmer album)

Live at the Apollo is a live recording of a 1988 performance by Robert Palmer released in 2001.

All the hits, recorded at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City at the final date, December 15, 1988, of the tour promoting the Heavy Nova album.

Maybe It's Live

Maybe It's Live is a live album by Robert Palmer, released in 1982. It combines six live tracks of old songs with four new songs recorded in the studio, including "Some Guys Have All the Luck", which was a hit for Palmer in the UK, peaking at No. 16 on the UK Singles Chart.

The album peaked at No. 23 in Sweden and No. 92 in the Netherlands.


Rhythm (from Greek ῥυθμός, rhythmos, "any regular recurring motion, symmetry" (Liddell and Scott 1996)) generally means a "movement marked by the regulated succession of strong and weak elements, or of opposite or different conditions" (Anon. 1971, 2537). This general meaning of regular recurrence or pattern in time can apply to a wide variety of cyclical natural phenomena having a periodicity or frequency of anything from microseconds to several seconds (as with the riff in a rock music song); to several minutes or hours, or, at the most extreme, even over many years.

In the performance arts, rhythm is the timing of events on a human scale; of musical sounds and silences that occur over time, of the steps of a dance, or the meter of spoken language and poetry. In some performing arts, such as hip hop music, the rhythmic delivery of the lyrics is one of the most important elements of the style. Rhythm may also refer to visual presentation, as "timed movement through space" (Jirousek 1995) and a common language of pattern unites rhythm with geometry. In recent years, rhythm and meter have become an important area of research among music scholars. Recent work in these areas includes books by Maury Yeston (1976), Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff (Lerdahl and Jackendoff 1983), Jonathan Kramer, Christopher Hasty (1997), Godfried Toussaint (2005), William Rothstein (1989), Joel Lester (Lester 1986), and Guerino Mazzola.

Ridin' High (Robert Palmer album)

Ridin' High is an album by British musician Robert Palmer. It was his eleventh solo studio album, released in 1992 and reached number 32 in the UK Albums Chart and number 173 on the US Billboard 200. This album contains music heavily influenced by vocal and jazz standards and featured the minor hit "Witchcraft", which reached number 50 in the UK. The album featured three tracks from Palmer's Don't Explain album two years earlier.

Simply Irresistible (song)

"Simply Irresistible" is the first single released by English rock singer Robert Palmer from the 1988 studio album Heavy Nova and is presented in one of the most distinctive and memorable music videos of the 1980s.

In 1988, the song reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart (behind "Sweet Child o' Mine" by Guns N' Roses) and was #1 on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart for three weeks. It also earned Palmer his second Grammy Award the following year, and the song was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Single.Along with "Addicted to Love" and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", "Simply Irresistible" is among Palmer's most recognized songs, in part because of the iconic music video by renowned British fashion photographer Terence Donovan, famously parodied in a Pepsi commercial in 1989, which in turn was parodied again in another Pepsi commercial during Super Bowl XXXVI featuring Britney Spears, and in 2014 it was parodied in Ingrid Michaelson's single "Girls Chase Boys". The video was also parodied in an episode of the television show Northern Exposure.

The videos show Palmer surrounded by enigmatic women, styled in the manner of the artist Patrick Nagel. The video featured the leading supermodels and leading dancers that he met while visiting the Kentucky Derby (Karen Aubrey McElfresh, Kim Jones and Cheryl Day); Donovan's lighting and direction set the style for that era of music videos.

"Simply Irresistible" later appeared in the 1999 Tony Award-winning musical Contact. It later featured in the 2000 cult drama picture American Psycho. The song was recently used in the 2013 animated special Madly Madagascar and in the video game Saints Row IV, as well as the show Happy Endings.

Some People Can Do What They Like

Some People Can Do What They Like is the third solo album by Robert Palmer, released in 1976. It includes "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" which peaked at number 63 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart and number 46 in the UK in 1977. The album peaked at number 68 in the US. The album was dedicated to Mongezi Feza. The model on the front cover, engaging Palmer in a game of strip poker, is Playboy magazine's April 1976 Playmate of the Month, Denise Michele.

Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)

"Tell Me I'm Not Dreamin' (Too Good to Be True)" is a song by Jermaine Jackson featuring his younger brother Michael Jackson, taken from Jermaine Jackson's eponymous album. Jason Elias of Allmusic called this song "percolating and infectious."

Robert Palmer
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