Laura Branigan Explained

Laura Branigan
Background:solo_singer
Birth Name:Laura Branigan
Born:July 3, 1957
Origin:Brewster, New York, United States
Instrument:Vocals
Genre:Pop/Rock, Pop, Italo disco, Euro disco, Rock, Electronic
Occupation:Singer, Musician, Actress
Years Active:1973 - 2004
Label:Atlantic
Url:Official Website

Laura Branigan (July 3, 1957 – August 26, 2004)[1] was an American singer-songwriter and actress of Irish ancestry. She is best known for her Top-10 hit "Self Control" (1984), her biggest hit from the Platinum album of the same name. Branigan is also remembered for her other Top-10 hits, "Gloria" (1982) and "Solitaire" (1983).

Biography

Rise to celebrity

In the early 1970s, Branigan was a member of the band Meadow, which released one album in 1973 called The Friend Ship. The record was not a hit and has never been re-released. Branigan preferred not to discuss her involvement with Meadow publicly. During the years after Meadow broke up, she worked a wide variety of jobs, including a stint as one of Leonard Cohen's backup singers. She toured with Cohen throughout Europe. (It is not known if she toured any other continents with Cohen.)

In 1979 Branigan was signed by Ahmet Ertegün to Atlantic Records. The strength of her dramatic alto voice, with its four-octave range, ironically impeded her career for a couple of years while the label went through the process of categorizing her. She was finally categorized as a pop singer and a single called "Looking Out For Number One" made a brief appearance on the U.S. Dance chart. Her first solo album Branigan was released in 1982: the first single from this album was "All Night With Me", which hit #69 on the Billboard charts in early 1982. Her first reviews saw her voice compared to both Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand, both of whom had enjoyed iconic Disco hits.

Branigan, the nine-song debut album, alternated four hyper-energetic up-tempo songs with five ballads, including one of the few songs written solely by Branigan, "I Wish We Could Be Alone". "Gloria", originally an Italian love song recorded by Umberto Tozzi in 1979 (and not widely successful outside Tozzi's native Italy), was released as the album's second single. Branigan's version was reworked with Tozzi's own arranger, Greg Mathieson, who sharpened the ballad's hooks and updated its production with fellow producer Jack White to give it what Branigan called "an American kick" to match aggressive new English lyrics. American radio was not initially receptive to "Gloria"; the song's combination of American and European sound predated the imminent second "British Invasion" of popular music by several months. Embraced by dance clubs, especially gay clubs, it eventually won over American radio stations and propelled the song to become one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. The album went Gold, and the single was eventually certified Platinum (for sales of more than two million U.S. copies). Her vocal performance of "Gloria" was nominated for a Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Grammy award (alongside Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Juice Newton, and that year's winner Melissa Manchester); "Gloria" marked her first of four nominations but was the only one she received for a solo effort.

In the spring of 1983, Branigan released her second album, Branigan 2. By this time, the dramatic European synth-pop sound was on the rise, and Branigan's surging, sustained vocals propelled her English-language version of the French song "Solitaire" to the upper reaches of the U.S. charts. The original "Solitaire" was written and recorded in 1981 by French singer-songwriter Martine Clemenceau. In addition to cementing a place in pop history and ensuring she was not a one-hit wonder, her second album's two big hits began the careers for two then-unknowns, who themselves became industry legends. The English translation of "Solitaire" was the first major hit for lyric writer Diane Warren, while the album's second hit single, the ballad "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You", was the first major hit for its co-writer, Michael Bolton. Branigan's debut recording of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" reached #13 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.

The 1983 film Flashdance contained two Laura Branigan songs, "Gloria" and a new song, "Imagination". The latter song was included on the Grammy Award winning Flashdance soundtrack that hit #1 and sold more than six million copies in the U.S. alone.

Height of her career

The year 1984 was the height of the European synth-pop era, and "Self Control", the title track of Branigan's third album, became her biggest hit to date. The song became her most popular international hit, topping the charts in several countries, most notably West Germany, where it spent seven weeks at #1. Another version of "Self Control", recorded few months earlier in 1984 by the song's co-writer Raffaele Riefoli (under the name Raf), held the West German number two spot during this time period; outside of Raf's native Italy, Branigan's version enjoyed more success.

Other pop, dancefloor and adult contemporary hits from Branigan's Self Control album include "The Lucky One" (which won her a Tokyo Music Festival prize), the continental ballad "Ti Amo" (another Umberto Tozzi's Italian hit, and a #2 smash in Australia) and the Dance hit "Satisfaction." The album also featured an uncharacteristically understated version of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"; as a counterpoint to all the disco production, this was a stripped-back piano version. (In concerts and television appearances throughout her career, Branigan accompanied herself on the piano for the song.) That year, Branigan's live show was recorded twice: once for a syndicated radio concert series, and a second time for a concert video. Laura was also nominated for an award at the American Music Awards of 1985 for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Video Artist (Cyndi Lauper won the award).

By the time of Branigan's fourth album, 1985's Hold Me, "Self Control" had swept the world, and territories that had not previously embraced her began to release her earlier material, from South America to the Middle East to the Pacific Islands. Lead single "Spanish Eddie" was her sixth U.S. top 40 hit in two and a half years, but failed to enter the U.S. top 20. The story was different around the world, however, as her newest hit followed its predecessors up the charts in Europe, South Africa, and South America. Subsequent release "Hold Me" was a U.S. top 40 dance hit and her introduction of the rock ballad "I Found Someone" (cowritten by Michael Bolton) scored even higher on the Adult Contemporary chart, but neither song was supported by a music video and stalled in the lower reaches of the pop charts.

Touch, which was released in 1987, marked a change in Branigan's career. Under new management and using different producers, Branigan took a more active role in her work and in the studio. Touch saw her return to dancefloors with the Stock/Aitken/Waterman-produced "Shattered Glass". The album also included a return to the Billboard top 40 with her cover of Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love", which closed out the year as one of the top 20 bestselling singles of the Christmas season for Branigan. Branigan's high-impact version of the now widely-covered ballad featured an extraordinary key change in the final chorus. The album's third single, "Cry Wolf", did not capture attention at pop radio, but it was a top-30 Adult Contemporary hit. The ballad was recorded two years later by Stevie Nicks, and more recently by writer Jude Johnstone.

During the height of her career, Branigan also made acting appearances, first in 1981 in An American Girl in Berlin for German television, and then after the success of "Gloria", guest appearances on American television series such as CHiPs, Automan and Knight Rider. She would later do independent films such as Mugsy's Girls (aka Delta Pi, 1985) with the venerable Ruth Gordon, and the Australian film Backstage. She sang on major national television and radio campaigns for products including Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola and Chrysler, which sponsored her 1985-1986 "Hold Me" tour.

An artist maturing

Branigan's 1990 self-titled album brought the singer back to the Hi-NRG charts and gay clubs with "Moonlight On Water" and scored another Top 30 Adult Contemporary hit with "Never in a Million Years." Continuing her more active role in studio production, Branigan added production to her list of credits with her cover of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco-era "Turn the Beat Around" and the atmospheric "Let Me In". It also included "Unison", which was the title track for Celine Dion's English debut CD in the same year. The album's closing track, a wistful and subdued cover of Bryan Adams' "The Best Was Yet To Come", was both produced and arranged by Branigan herself. The singer's 1990-1991 concert tour was filmed for a syndicated U.S. television show, SRO in Concert, which was also released on videocassette and laserdisc (though not on DVD.)

Branigan's seventh and final studio album, 1993's Over My Heart, was her most personal and eclectic album, seeing the singer again try her hand at producing, alongside Phil Ramone, as well as songwriting and arranging. The album, which included a cover of Roxette's song "The Sweet Hello, The Sad Goodbye", featured mature themes of transcendence over the loss of a loved one, the nature of commitment and coming to terms with life after a significant relationship was a sadly ironic presaging of the turn of events her own life would take. Not long after the album's release, Branigan left the music industry in 1994 to spend more time with her husband, Larry Kruteck, following his diagnosis with colon cancer.

During these years, Branigan's chart success cooled stateside, though she was still in demand around the world and went on several global tours. She remained especially popular in Australia, South Africa and Chile, where she began the first of several invitational performances in the late-evening slot of the Viña Del Mar music festival, televised live before an audience of thousands from an open-air arena in the coastal resort city. Branigan had several official hits collections released in South America, Japan, Germany and South Africa (where, in that country alone, she had warranted three separate volumes of hits collections by 1999); her native United States was the last territory to get its own greatest hits collection. This collection was released in 1995, the 13-track The Best of Branigan. This collection included two new covers, the shimmering "Show Me Heaven" written by Maria McKee and a cover of the Donna Summer hit "Dim All the Lights", which was also released in several remixes.

Receiving rave reviews for her live performances, Branigan's voice (her vocal coach, Carlo Menotti, also coached such legendary vocalists as Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, and Diana Ross) was surrounded on her albums by sharp, tight performances from some of the best studio musicians in the business. The likes of guitarists Steve Lukather (Toto), Dann Huff (Giant) and Michael Landau; keyboardists Greg Mathieson, Harold Faltermeyer, Michael Boddicker and Robbie Buchanan; bassists Nathan East and Dennis Belfield (Rufus); drummer Carlos Vega; percussionists Paulinho Da Costa and Lenny Castro; and guest vocalists including Joe "Bean" Esposito and background vocalist including The Waters Sisters (Maxine & Julia), James Ingram, and Richard Page & Stephen George (Mr. Mister) were all repeat guests. Early producers included Jack White, Mathieson, Buchanan and Faltermeyer. As her stature grew, she attracted Grammy-winning producers including Phil Ramone, Richard Perry and David Kershenbaum. Successful foreign artists sought to work with her, and she performed duets with Australian megastar John Farnham on the heels of his releasing the most successful Australian album to date, as well as Latin pop phenomenon Luis Miguel. She was also a favorite guest performer on several of the most popular talk and music shows of the day, with ultimately as much as a dozen appearances each on The Merv Griffin Show, Dick Clark's American Bandstand and Solid Gold. She made seven appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Three of Branigan's charting singles later became even bigger hits for other famous singers: "I Found Someone" for Cher in 1987; "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" for Michael Bolton in 1989 (Bolton, as noted above, was the original writer of the song); and "The Power of Love", a power ballad co-written and originally recorded by Jennifer Rush in 1985, which Celine Dion took to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1994.

In 2001, about to release remixes of her updated take on the 1980 ABBA hit, "The Winner Takes It All", as well as working on material for a new album, Branigan's bid to return to the stage was postponed when she broke both of her femurs in a fall from a ladder outside her Westchester County home. In 2002, she made only two performances as the "singing" Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love, Janis, before dropping out of the show. "I left Janis because the producers didn't file with Equity properly", she told the Sunday News in Lancaster, Pa. "I was sort of relieved. My voice isn't anything like Janis Joplin's, and there were 19 of her songs in the show."[2]

Also in 2002, her second official stateside hits collection, was for some a boon, with the inclusion of the long out-of-print "I Found Someone." The singer continued compiling material for a new album, and began to see the value in new media and the internet. In 2004, after she was shockingly made aware of an ongoing debate in fan circles concerning Branigan's surmised affiliation with the unauthorized website laurabranigan.com, she publicly named her sole, one and only official website as laurabraniganonline.com, and wrote letters to the public and her fans on her sole, one and only official website to emphatically clarify her unequivocal position that she had never at any time had any affiliation or relationship of any sort whatsoever with laurabranigan.com and/or its owner, thus definitively ending the so-called "website debate".[3] With her public statements clearing the air and demystifying the issues, she embarked on a new direction, taking production control of her new material outside of traditional recording companies, and forged a partnership that aligned management, production, and public relations/Internet presence under one roof, named Other Half Entertainment, the name significant to the singer's long-standing comments that her fans were her "other half".

Death

Branigan died at her home on Long Island, New York, on August 26, 2004. Her death was attributed to a previously undiagnosed brain aneurysm. It was reported in the media that she had been experiencing headaches for a few weeks before her death but did not seek medical attention. Branigan was cremated and her ashes were distributed over Long Island Sound.

Legacy

In 2005, her management company organized a memorial for her friends and fans held on the anniversary of her death near the Long Island home in which she was caring for her mother at the time of her death. Following its initial success, the "Spirit of Love Memorial Gathering" remains an annual event in celebration of her life and the legacy of her passionate vocal performances and the heartfelt connection she made with her fans, whom she consistently referred as "my other half."

Beginning in 2006, after a concerted effort among Branigan's management/production company and her fan base (which to this day remains a very active and vocal part of her legacy), two new greatest-hits compilations were completed with Rhino/WEA. The Platinum Collection was an 18 song compilation designed primarily for the UK market and included all the major hits as well as tracks such as "Silent Partners", "Satisfaction", "All Night With Me" and "If You Loved Me", that were four relatively new additions to Branigan hits compilations. In 2007, the 1995 "The Best Of Branigan" was re-released as part of Rhino's 2007 "Greatest Hits" series of CDs. In 2008, Rhino/WEA authorized the re-release of three out-of-print Branigan albums, "Touch", "Laura Branigan" and "Over My Heart."

Controversy

In 1984, MTV initially refused to air the music video for Branigan's "Self Control", which was directed by William Friedkin, director of The Exorcist ("Self Control" was among the first music videos to have been directed by a major motion picture director). The reason for the ban cited by MTV was that the original version was too sexually suggestive and risqué for public airing. After the record label provided an edited version, the network added this revised video to its rotation.

Discography

See main article: Laura Branigan discography.

Awards

YearAwardCategorySongResult
1982Grammy AwardsBest Pop Vocal Performance - Female"Gloria"Nomination
1983Grammy AwardsAlbum of the Year"Imagination" (Flashdance soundtrack)Nomination
1983Grammy AwardsBest Soundtrack"Imagination" (Flashdance soundtrack)Won 1
1984Grammy AwardsBest Soundtrack"Hot Night" (Ghostbusters soundtrack)Nomination
1984American Music AwardsFavorite Pop/Rock Female Video Artist"Self Control"Nomination
1984Tokyo Music FestivalGrand Prix Award for Best Vocal Performance"The Lucky One"Won

1 Award was presented to the film's composers and producers and therefore was not technically awarded to Laura Branigan

Gold and Platinum records

CountryFormatTitleAwardCertification date
CanadaSingle"Gloria"GoldDecember 1, 1982
CanadaAlbumBraniganGoldJanuary 1, 1983
CanadaSingle"Gloria"PlatinumJanuary 1, 1983
U.SSingle"Gloria"GoldJanuary 7, 1983
U.SAlbumFlashdance soundtrackGoldJune 17 1983
U.SAlbumFlashdance soundtrackPlatinumJune 17, 1983
U.SAlbumBraniganGoldAugust 2, 1984
U.SAlbumSelf ControlGoldAugust 6, 1984
U.SAlbumGhostbusters soundtrackGoldAugust 15, 1984
U.SAlbumGhostbusters soundtrackPlatinumAugust 23, 1984
U.KAlbumSelf ControlSilverSeptember 1, 1984
U.KSingle"Self Control"SilverSeptember 26, 1984
U.SAlbumFlashdance soundtrackMulti-Platinum (5 million)October 12, 1984
CanadaAlbumSelf ControlGoldNovember 11, 1984
CanadaAlbumSelf ControlPlatinumNovember 11, 1984
GermanySingle"Self Control'"Gold1984
FranceSingle"Self Control'"Gold1984
U.SAlbumBranigan 2GoldSeptember 18, 1985
GermanyAlbumSelf ControlGold1993
U.SAlbumSelf ControlPlatinumMay 3, 1995
U.SSingle"Gloria"PlatinumMay 3, 1995
U.SAlbumFlashdance soundtrackMulti-Platinum (6 million)June 21, 1996

Filmography

Movies

TitleCreditYear Released
FlashdanceSoundtrack, songs, "Imagination", "Gloria"1983
TouchedSong, "Find Me"1983
GhostbustersSoundtrack, song, "Hot Night"1984
Body RockSoundtrack, song, "Sharpshooter"1984
Mugsy's GirlsActress, Monica1985
Violets Are BlueSong, "One Day"1986
BackstageActress, Kate Lawrence1988
Coming to AmericaSoundtrack, songs, "Come Into My Life" Duet with Joe Esposito, "Believe In Me"1988
SalsaSoundtrack, song, "Your Love"1988

U.S. television

TitleCreditYear
CHiPs (NBC)Series, song, "A Love Until The End Of Time"1982
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (Network)Special, float performer, "Gloria"1982
Saturday Night Live (NBC)Series, musical guest, songs "Gloria", "Living A Lie"1982
In Love With An Older Woman (Network)Movie, theme song, "Don't Show Your Love"1982
CHiPs (NBC)Series, actress, Sarah; songs, "Gloria", "Down Like A Rock"1983
Love Is Forever (NBC)Movie, title song, "Love Is Forever"1983
An Uncommon Love (Network)Movie, theme song, "The Lucky One"1983
A Solid Gold Christmas (Syndicated)Special, performer, "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas"/"Santa Claus Is Coming To Town"1983
Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve (ABC)Special, performer, "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You"1983
Automan (ABC)Series, actress, Jessie Cole; songs, "Gloria", "Hot Night", "Satisfaction"1984
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC)Series, songs, "Self Control", "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" (performed live w/Doc Severinsen & The NBC Orchestra)1984
Rock Rolls On (Syndicated)Special, co-host and performer, "Self Control", "The Lucky One"1984
Miami ViceSeries, Song, "Self Control"1984
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC)Series, songs, "Spanish Eddie"", "Forever Young"1985
Cover Story (USA Cable)Celebrity bio series, 1 episode devoted to Laura interview, behind the scenes footage, videos1985
Night of 100 Stars II (Network)Special, production number1985
Hollywood Wives (ABC)Miniseries, title song, "Hollywood Wives"1985
Disney's Living Seas (ABC)Special, on-camera performer/composer, song, "If I Were A River"1986
Record Guide '88 (Syndicated)Music series, 1 episode devoted to Laura interview, videos1988
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (NBC)Series, songs, "Reverse Psychology"", "Never in a Million Years"1990
(Syndicated)Hour-long concert series, 1 episode devoted to Laura live in Atlantic City1990
Monsters (Syndicated)Anthology series, actress, Amanda1991
Baywatch (Syndicated)Series, soundtrack; end credits song, "I Believe"1994
The RuPaul Show (Cable)Series, performer, "Gloria"1998

Other notable work

Video games

TitleCreditYear Released
Soundtrack, songs, "Self Control"2002
Soundtrack, songs, "Gloria"2006

External links

Notes and References

  1. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9E00E5DF1631F933A0575BC0A9629C8B63 Laura Branigan, 47, Singer Of the Disco Hit 'Gloria' - New York Times
  2. Crisp, Marty. "Laura Branigan learns the answer to her pop query." Sunday News (Lancaster, Pa.). Aug. 18, 2002.
  3. http://www.laurabraniganonline.com/main/lfl.php/ LauraBraniganOnline.com - The Official Laura Branigan Website - Letters From Laura