Gilbert O’Sullivan

  • Irish mellow rock singer, keyboardist and songwriter born Raymond O’Sullivan in 1946.
  • O’Sullivan was born in Ireland and his family moved to England when he was 7 years old. He attended an art college, and played in bands while in school. After graduating, he was signed to a record contract – his manager suggested that he change his first name to Gilbert, playing off of the names of the operetta composers Gilbert & Sullivan. His earliest songs were unorthodox, and his first 3 singles were unsuccessful. He was dropped by the label, and after sending some demo tapes to another record company, he was signed to another label in 1970.
  • His first single to chart was Nothing Rhymed, which reached #8 in the UK. With the success of the single, an album was put together, and in 1971, O’Sullivan’s debut album, Himself, was released. In the U.S., it was released in 1972, with the title Gilbert O’Sullivan Himself featuring Alone Again (Naturally). As the title would suggest, the U.S. version included the single Alone Again (Naturally), which topped the Billboard Hot 100 (side note – it is one of the first 45s that I ever bought, as an 11 year old music maniac). The song was the #2 song for the year, and was the fifth most popular song of the entire decade of the 70s. The song also changed the future of hip-hop music – in 1991, hip-hop artist Biz Markie sampled the song on one of his songs, and O’Sullivan sued Markie for copyright infringement. The court ruled in favor of O’Sullivan, forcing the hip-hop industry from then on to get permission before sampling.
  • Later in 1972, he had his second major hit with Clair. The song reached #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was included on his second album, Back to Front. The real Clair is the 3 year old daughter of O’Sullivan’s manager. His final hit was in 1973, with Get Down, which reached #7 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart. It was included on his third album, I’m a Writer, Not a Fighter. O’Sullivan did not realize the meaning of “get down” in the U.S. – in the song, he writes about a girl, telling her “…get down, get down, get down, you’re a bad dog baby….” O’Sullivan claimed that in the song, a girl simply is jumping on him, and he is telling her to get down.
  • O’Sullivan released 2 more studio albums in the 70s, 4 in the 80s, 4 in the 90s, 3 in the 00s, and 3 in the 10s – his most recent was released in 2018. Essentially, these albums were appreciated by a small number of Gilbert O’Sullivan cult fans – of the 31 singles released between 1975 and 2016, only 1 charted on the U.S. Adult Contemporary chart, and a few more barely charted in the UK and Ireland.
  • He still tours occasionally with his band – he has 10 dates scheduled this summer, including performances at small venues in Philadelphia and New York City.
  • He has won 3 Ivor Novello Awards, an award given in the UK for song writing excellence – in 1973, he was chosen “Songwriter of the Year.” Those early hits resonated with me, as I was just getting into music, religiously listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. Eleven-year-old Mark sang along with Alone Again (Naturally) – and actually, I still can today! Here’s a cool performance of the song, complete with strings section, guitar solo, and over-dubbed lip syncing. So fun to watch this – amazed that I could still sing every lyric!

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