Robert Palmer is a British singer and songwriter known for his smooth, but soulful voice and gentlemanly demeanor. He found chart success in the 1980s with such songs as "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" and "Addicted to Love." He was born in England but grew up on the island of Malta where his father was an officer in the British Navy. Palmer had Top 10 songs in both the US and the UK.
Singer, songwriter. Born on January 19, 1949, in Batley, England. Known for smooth, but soulful voice and gentlemanly demeanor, Robert Palmer found chart success in the 1980s with such songs as “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” and “Addicted to Love.” Although born in England, he grew up on the island of Malta where his father was an officer in the British Navy. At 19 years old, Palmer returned to England and soon started playing and singing in a number of bands, including Dada and Vinegar Joe.
In 1974, Palmer released his first solo album, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley. While it was not a huge commercial success, it did provide him with an opportunity to work with some members of funk and boogie-influenced rock group Little Feat as his backup musicians. He even covered one of their songs, “Sailin’ Shoes.” A versatile performer, Palmer showed not only could he handle funk and R&B but reggae as well in his next album, Pressure Drop (1976). In 1978, he finally made the charts with “Every Kinda People” off his Double Fun album.
By the end of the 1970s, Palmer’s sound was beginning to evolve, becoming a little rougher sounding and more driving than his earlier, more laid-back recordings. Secrets (1979) featured the hit “Bad Case of Lovin’ You (Doctor Doctor).” As the 1980s began, Palmer changed directions, tackling the popular synthesizer-dominated sound of New Wave music in Clues (1980).
In the early 1980s, Palmer joined with drummer Tony Thompson of Chic and guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor of Duran Duran to form the Power Station. Their sleekly produced self-titled album was released in 1985 and quickly climbed up the charts, driven in part by the success of such tracks as “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On (Bang a Gong).”
Palmer continued on the rock success path with his next solo effort, Riptide (1985). With its driving rhythm and catchy chorus, the single, “Addicted to Love,” reached the top of the charts. And the video for the song, which featured Palmer nattily dressed in a suit and surrounded models with heavy makeup and identical outfits, was a favorite on MTV for months.
Maintaining his suave image for Heavy Nova (1988), he continued with his successful modern rock formula with “Simply Irresistible,” which reached as high as number two on the charts. “Early in the Morning” also did well. But for his next effort, Don’t Explain (1990), he began to explore other genres, from R&B with a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me” and popular standards with “People Will Say We’re in Love” by Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. While this album and his consequent recordings failed to match his earlier level of success, Palmer continued to experiment with different musical styles.
His final album, Drive (2003), was perhaps his most bluesy recording. It featured a number of cover tunes, including “Mama Talk to Your Daughter,” “I Need Your Love So Bad,” and “Hound Dog.” He toured parts of Europe to promote the album. Taking a break, he and his longtime partner, Mary Ambrose, took a brief vacation together in Paris. On the night of September 26, after going to dinner and a movie, Palmer suffered a fatal heart attack in his room at the Warwick Hotel.
Many of his friends in rock mourned his passing. Andy Taylor from Duran Duran told the Associated Press that Palmer “was just one of the greatest British acts and a really close friend.” His body was taken to his adoptive hometown of Lugano, Switzerland, for burial. He had lived there for 16 years before his death. Palmer was survived by Ambrose, his parents, and two children from a previous marriage.
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