Billy Ocean

  • British R&B/Soul singer and song writer born Leslie Charles in 1950 in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • His family moved to London England when he was 7 years old. Soon after moving there, he began to show interest in music – first calypso, then rock & roll. He started playing clubs when he reached his teens, and he also worked as a tailor. He was discovered by a music manager, and a single was recorded with a full orchestra backing him, but no record labels were interested in his ballad singing style, and it was not released. In 1969, he performed in clubs with a band called The Shades of Midnight. In 1971, he released a single titled Nashville Rain, followed by another single, Reach Out A Hand – he used the name Les Charles for these releases. In 1974, fronting a band called Scorched Earth, he released a single titled On the Run. None of these singles charted.
  • In 1975, he chose his stage name of Billy Ocean. He chose “Ocean” in homage to his favorite football team in Trinidad – the team was known as the Oceans 11. Suddenly he became successful. He was signed to a record label, and his debut album was released in 1976, the self-titled Billy Ocean. Three singles from the album charted in the UK, with Love Really Hurts Without You peaking at #2, and in the U.S. it charted at #22 on the Hot 100.
  • Initially, he wasn’t able to grow his success. Three albums released between 1980 and 1982 did not chart, and only 1 song had modest success in the U.S., when Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) reached #7 on the R&B chart. A couple songs co-written by Ocean were covered by LaToya Jackson during this time, with her version of Stay the Night making it onto the R&B chart.
  • His breakthrough came in 1984 with the release of his fifth studio album, Suddenly. The album reached #9 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and was certified 2x platinum. Its popularity was driven by the success of the first single from the album, Caribbean Queen (No More Love On the Run). The song was released with alternate titles – European Queen and African Queen – in different geographical markets. The song topped the Hot 100, and Ocean won the Grammy award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the song. Two other songs were hits from the album – Loverboy peaked at #2 and the title track Suddenly reached #4.
  • His follow-up album in 1986, Love Zone, also was a success, certified 2x platinum. Four songs charted in the top 20, with There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry) topping the chart, and When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Gets Going peaking at #2. A third single, the title track Love Zone, reached #10 on the Hot 100, and #1 on the R&B chart.
  • He continued his 80s success with the release of Tear Down These Walls in 1988. It included his final big hit, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car – the song reached #1 on both the Hot 100 and R&B charts, and was top 10 in over 15 other markets globally. The success of the song was helped with its innovative music video, which incorporated animation with live action scenes.
  • After supporting Tear Down These Walls with a concert tour, Ocean took a 4 year hiatus. He returned to recording in 1993, releasing Time To Move On. The album included some new musical styles – while his previous work was soulful with pop crossovers, this album included Caribbean sounds, swing and reggae, along with R&B ballads. The album failed to chart, and its 3 singles did not find an audience.
  • No longer concerned with making hit music, Ocean waited 14 years before touring again, and he released his next album in 2009, Because I Love You. Here You Are followed in 2013, and his newest effort, One World, will be released later in 2020, as Ocean celebrates his 70th birthday. A UK tour is planned starting in September 2020 (we’ll see if coronavirus allows for that), and the title track One World and several other tracks from the album can be found on streaming services now.
  • Billy Ocean is the most successful black recording artist that has come from the UK, with record sales exceeding 30 million records. In 2020, he was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for his services to music. His soul-pop sound kept him a hot artist for much of the 80s. Listening now to his 80s hits, they were very formulaic – steady, driving drum beat, crisp synth sounds, kind of “over produced” for lack of a better term. Stuff that Michael Jackson found a way to perfect, and everyone else tried to copy, but couldn’t quite pull it off. You can see for yourself – watch his video for his final #1 hit, Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car. Catchy song!

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