A Rockapaedia Obituary
Bands: Power Station, Duran Duran,
Robert Palmer died aged fifty-four in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack on 26th September 2003. He had been in the French capital after recording a television appearance in London for Yorkshire TV, a retrospective titled "My Kinda People". He was survived by his parents; three children from his first marriage: Anthony, Anna, and Martin ; a son, Jim, and daughter, Jane, from his second marriage; his brother, Mark; and his girlfriend, Mary Ambrose.
Robert Palmer had met his future wife Sue at Slough railway station in 1968, attracted by her style and by the science-fiction book she was reading. 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, Robert Palmer relocated to Lugano, Switzerland, after he found that the Bahamas were unsafe because of drugs and gun violence. However, he divorced Sue the same year.
Robert Palmer's father was a British naval intelligence officer stationed in Malta. Robert Palmer moved with his family from Batley, where he was born, to Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1949. Influenced as a child by blues, soul and jazz music on American Forces Radio, Robert Robert Palmer joined his first band, The Mandrakes, at the age of fifteen 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 Robert Palmer was invited to London to sing on their single "Gypsy Girl". The vocals for the album The Alan Bown Set!, originally recorded by Roden and released in the US that way , were re-recorded by Robert Palmer after the success of the single.
In 1970 Robert Palmer joined the 12-piece jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which featured singer Elkie Brooks and her husband Pete Gage. After a year, Robert Palmer, Brooks and Gage formed soul/rock band Vinegar Joe. Robert 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 in 1972, Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies in 1972 and Six Star General in 1973, before disbanding in March 1974. Elkie Brooks later said that Robert Palmer was a very good-looking guy , and that female fans were happy to find that her and him were not romantically linked.
Island Records signed Robert Palmer to a solo deal in 1974. 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. Although unsuccessful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US. Notably, "Sailin' Shoes",the album's first track, Robert 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, Robert Palmer released 'Pressure Drop', named for the cover version of the reggae hit by Toots and the Maytals, in November 1975. He toured with Little Feat to promote the reggae- and rock-infused album.
However, with the failure of follow-up album 'Some People Can Do What They Like', Robert Palmer decided to move to Nassau, Bahamas, directly across the street from Compass Point Studios.
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". 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.
Robert Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on pure rock. 1979's 'Secrets' produced his second Top 20 single with Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You". The number 14 hit also gave Robert Palmer his first Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart hit.
The 1980s saw Robert Palmer find an increasing amount of commercial success. The album Clues, produced by Robert 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". 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'.
In April 1983 Pride was released, which, while not as commercially successful as Clues, did feature the title song and Robert 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. On 31st May 1983, Robert Palmer's concert at the Hammersmith Palais was recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 1. On 23rd July 1983, Robert 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.
When Duran Duran went on hiatus, guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joined former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Robert Palmer to form the Power Station. 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" a 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. Robert 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 Robert Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the recording studio to further his solo career.
With Robert 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." 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."
Robert 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". The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-imitated music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which Robert Palmer is surrounded by a bevy of near-identically clad, heavily made-up and appropriately pouty female "musicians," either mimicking or mocking the painting style of Patrick Nagel. In September 1986, Robert Palmer performed "Addicted to Love" at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles. In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Addicted to Love". At the 1987 Brit Awards, Robert Palmer received his first nomination for Best British Male.
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). 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, Robert Palmer moved to Lugano, Switzerland in 1987 and set up his own recording studio. Producing Heavy Nova in 1988, Robert 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 Robert 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. In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible", which would later be featured in the Tony Award winning musical Contact. At the 1989 Brit Awards, Robert Palmer received his second nomination for Best British Male, and "Simply Irresistible" was nominated for Best British Single. Rolling Stone magazine voted Robert Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.
Robert Palmer expanded his range even further for his next album, Don't Explain in 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, Robert Palmer ventured further into diverse material. The 1992 album Ridin' High was a tribute to the Tin Pan Alley era.
In 1994, Robert 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".
In 1995, Robert Palmer released a greatest hits album, which reached number four in the UK. 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. Robert Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album Living in Fear in 1996.
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