Robert Palmer (singer)

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Robert Palmer
Background information
Birth nameRobert Allen Palmer
Born(1949-01-19)19 January 1949
Batley, West Yorkshire, England
Died26 September 2003(2003-09-26) (aged 54)
Paris, France
GenresRock, pop, blue-eyed soul, hard rock, blues rock
record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, drums
Years active1964–2003
LabelsIsland, EMI
Associated actsThe Power Station, Vinegar Joe, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, Duran Duran, Chic
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For other people named Robert Palmer, see Robert Palmer (disambiguation).
Robert Palmer
Background information
Birth nameRobert Allen Palmer
Born(1949-01-19)19 January 1949
Batley, West Yorkshire, England
Died26 September 2003(2003-09-26) (aged 54)
Paris, France
GenresRock, pop, blue-eyed soul, hard rock, blues rock
record producer
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, keyboards, bass guitar, drums
Years active1964–2003
LabelsIsland, EMI
Associated actsThe Power Station, Vinegar Joe, Andy Taylor, John Taylor, Duran Duran, Chic

Robert Allen Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003) was an English singer-songwriter[1] and musician. He was known for his soulful distinctive voice, eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop, reggae and blues and sartorial acumen. He found success both in his solo career and with Power Station, and had Top 10 songs in both the UK and the US.

His iconic music videos directed by British fashion photographer Terence Donovan for the hits "Addicted to Love" and "Simply Irresistible" featured identically dressed dancing women with pale faces, dark eye makeup and bright red lipstick, which resembled the women in the art of Patrick Nagel, an artist popular in the 1980s.[1] Palmer's involvement in the music industry commenced in the 1960s, covered four decades and included a spell with Vinegar Joe.[1][2]

Palmer received a number of awards throughout his career, including two Grammy Awards for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, an MTV Video Music Award, and was twice nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male.[3][4]

1964–1973: Early bands[edit]

Palmer's father was a British naval intelligence officer stationed in Malta. Palmer moved with his family from Batley to Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1959. Influenced as a child by blues, soul and jazz music on American Forces Radio, Robert Palmer joined his first band, The Mandrakes, at the age of 15 while still at Scarborough Boys' High School. His first major break came with the departure of singer Jess Roden from the band The Alan Bown Set in 1969, after which Palmer was invited to London to sing on their single "Gypsy Girl".[5] The vocals for the album The Alan Bown Set!, originally recorded by Roden (and released in the US that way), were re-recorded by Palmer after the success of the single. According to music journalist Paul Lester, Palmer rose from northern clubs in England to become "elegant and sophisticated" and the master of several styles.[6]

In 1970, Palmer joined the 12-piece jazz-rock fusion band Dada, which featured singer Elkie Brooks. The band lasted a year, after which Brooks and Palmer formed the critically acclaimed but commercially unsuccessful rhythm and blues group, Vinegar Joe; Palmer sang and played rhythm guitar. Signed to the Island Records label, they released three albums: Vinegar Joe (1972), Rock 'n' Roll Gypsies (1972) and Six Star General (1973), before disbanding in March 1974.[5][7]

1974–1984: Early solo career[edit]

Island Records signed Palmer to a solo deal in 1974.[2] 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.[5] Although unsuccessful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US.[5] Notably, "Sailin' Shoes" (the album's first track), 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, Palmer released Pressure Drop, named for the cover version of the reggae hit by Toots & the Maytals, in November 1975 (featuring Motown bassist James Jamerson).[5] An album infused with his interests in reggae and rock music,[2] it was noted for its cover art of a nude woman on the threshold of a balcony, rather than any commercially successful songs. He toured with Little Feat to promote the album.[5]

However, with the failure of follow-up album Some People Can Do What They Like, Palmer decided to move to Nassau, Bahamas, directly across the street from Compass Point Studios.[5]

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".[5] The song has been covered by other artists including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Randy Crawford and Amy Grant. It reached No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100.[5]

Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on pure rock.[5] 1979's Secrets produced his second Top 20 single with Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)".[5] The No. 14 hit also gave Palmer his first Billboard Hot 100-year end chart hit.

The 1980s saw Palmer find an increasing amount of commercial success. The album Clues, produced by 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".[5] Catchy music videos matching the synthpop 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.[5]

In April 1983 Pride was released, which, while not as commercially successful as Clues, did feature the title song and 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.[5] On 31 May 1983, Palmer's concert at the Hammersmith Palais was recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio 1.[8] On 23 July 1983, Palmer performed at Duran Duran's charity concert at Aston Villa football ground where he struck up friendships with members of Duran Duran which would spawn the supergroup Power Station.

1985–1995: Power Station and MTV success[edit]

Duran Duran went on hiatus, and their guitarist, Andy Taylor, and bassist, John Taylor, joined former Chic drummer, Tony Thompson, and Palmer to form Power Station.[2] 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" (US #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 No. 9. 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 Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the recording studio to further his solo career.

With 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."[9] 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."[9]

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 No. 1 and UK No. 5 single "Addicted to Love".[10][11] The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-imitated music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which 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.[5] In September 1986, Palmer performed "Addicted to Love" at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles.[12] In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for "Addicted to Love". At the 1987 Brit Awards, Palmer received his first nomination for Best British Male.[3]

Another single from Riptide, his cover of Cherrelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On", also performed well (US#2, UK#9).[5] 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, Palmer moved to Lugano, Switzerland, in 1987 and set up his own recording studio.[2] Producing Heavy Nova in 1988, 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 No. 2 in the US and was Palmer's final Top Ten hit there. The ballad "She Makes My Day" also proved to be a hit in the UK, peaking at No. 6.[5] In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible",[13] which would later be featured in the Tony Award winning musical Contact. At the 1989 Brit Awards, Palmer received his second nomination for Best British Male, and "Simply Irresistible" was nominated for Best British Single.[3] Rolling Stone magazine voted Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.

Palmer expanded his range even further for his next album, Don't Explain (1990). It featured two UK top 10 hits with covers of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" – collaboration with UB40 – and Marvin Gaye's cover "Mercy Mercy Me". Throughout the 1990s, Palmer ventured further into diverse material. The 1992 album Ridin' High was a tribute to the Tin Pan Alley era.[2][5]

In 1994, 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".[5]

In 1995, Palmer released a greatest hits album, which reached number four in the UK.[6] 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. Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album Living in Fear (1996), and had just begun touring when Edwards died from pneumonia.

Palmer's favourite author was Jack Vance and he was especially fond of the character Cugel. Jack Vance paid homage to Palmer in his novel Night Lamp, which begins: "Toward the far edge of the Cornu Sector of Ophiuchus, Robert Palmer's star shone brilliant white, its corona flaring with films of blue, red and green colour."

Personal life[edit]

In 1993 Palmer permanently relocated from the Bahamas to Lugano, Switzerland, after he found that the islands were unsafe because of drugs and gun violence. The same year he divorced his wife, Sue.[14]


Palmer died in a Paris hotel room from a heart attack on 26 September 2003 at the age of 54. He had been in the French capital after recording a television appearance in London for Yorkshire TV, a retrospective titled "My Kinda People".[6][15] He was survived by his parents, his son Jim and daughter Jane, and by his girlfriend Mary Ambrose.[14] Among those who paid tribute were Duran Duran, stating; "He was a very dear friend and a great artist. This is a tragic loss to the British music industry."[6]


Studio albums[edit]

YearAlbum detailsPeak chart positionsCertifications
(sales thresholds)
1974Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley------107
1975Pressure Drop
  • Label: Island
1976Some People Can Do What They Like
  • Label: Island
1978Double Fun
  • Label: Island
  • Label: Island
  • Label: Island
  • Label: Island
  • Label: Island
1988Heavy Nova172-42144713
1990Don't Explain929-85484888
1992Ridin' High
  • Label: EMI America
  • Label: EMI
1999Rhythm & Blues118[26]------
  • Label: Compendia
2012 reissues

On 24 January 2012 Culture Factory an independent label reissued Some People Do What They Like, Double Fun, Secrets and Pride in a miniature replica of the original vinyl packaging and with remastered sound. The reissues also had miniature "obi's" and the label on the CD is a replica of the original label. The reissues did not feature any bonus tracks and there were no new liner notes on the making of the albums included as part of the reissue campaign.

Live albums[edit]

YearAlbum detailsPeak chart positionsCertifications
(sales thresholds)
1982Maybe It's Live
  • Label: Island
2001Live at the Apollo
  • Label: Eagle
2010At the BBC
  • Label: Spectrum


YearAlbum detailsPeak chart positionsCertifications
(sales thresholds)
1989Addictions Volume I
  • Label: Island
1992Addictions Volume II
  • Label: Island
1995Very Best of Robert Palmer4-
1998Woke Up Laughing
  • Label: Metro Blue
199920th Century Masters – The Millennium Collection: The Best of Robert Palmer
  • Label: Island
2002At His Very Best
  • Label: Universal/Island
2002Best of Both Worlds: The Robert Palmer Anthology (1974–2001)
  • Label: Island
2005The Very Best of the Island Years
  • Label: Island
2007The Silver Collection
  • Label: Universal

With Power Station[edit]

YearAlbum detailsCertifications
(sales thresholds)
1985Power Station
  • Label: Capitol
  • US: Platinum
  • UK: Gold
1996Living in Fear
  • Label: Capitol


YearTitleAlbumChart positions
Hot 100
Modern Rock
1975"Get Outside"Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley105
"Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley"
1976"Give Me An Inch"Pressure Drop106
"Which of Us Is The Fool"
"Man Smart, Woman Smarter"Some People Can Do What They Like9063
1978"Every Kinda People"Double Fun5382126351622
"Best of Both Worlds"36
1979"What's It Take"919
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)"Secrets6113192014
"Can We Still Be Friends"52
1980"Johnny and Mary"Clues4420328712
"Looking for Clues"3323763105
1982"Some Guys Have All the Luck"Maybe It's Live16416524959
1983"You Are in My System"Pride538352277833
"You Can Have It (Take My Heart)"66
1985The Power Station: "Some Like It Hot"The Power Station149168634
The Power Station: "Get It On (Bang a Gong)"22153716919
The Power Station: "Communication"754634
"Discipline of Love"Riptide958263
"Addicted to Love"5144211
"I Didn't Mean to Turn You On"9261382323
"Discipline of Love" (re-issue)68
1988"Sweet Lies"Sweet Lies Motion Picture Soundtrack58894
"Simply Irresistible"Heavy Nova44121057621
"Early in the Morning"26811940
"She Makes My Day"69647
1989"Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming"60
"Change His Ways"2838622129
"It Could Happen to You"71
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)" (re-issue)Addictions Volume I80
1990"Life in Detail"Pretty Woman [Soundtrack]34714
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (Robert Palmer and UB40)Don't Explain645825146124
"You're Amazing"14285
1991"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" / "I Want You"96733833164
"Dreams to Remember"68
1992"Every Kinda People" (remix)Addictions Volume II43268
"Witchcraft"Ridin' High50
1994"Girl U Want"Honey57
"Know by Now"2523551
"You Blow Me Away"38
1995"Respect Yourself"The Very Best of45
1996The Power Station: "She Can Rock It"Living in Fear63
1999"True Love"Rhythm and Blues94
2003"Addicted to Love" (Remix) (Shake B4 Use vs. Robert Palmer)Addicted to Love (Remix) – single42


  1. ^ a b c d Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 415–416. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f Roberts, David (1998). Guinness Rockopedia (1st ed.). London: Guinness Publishing Ltd. p. 307. ISBN 0-85112-072-5. 
  3. ^ a b c BRITs Profile: Robert Palmer. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  4. ^ Profile: Robert Palmer. Rock on the Net. Retrieved 14 April 2012
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s Strong, Martin C. (2014). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 2–3. ISBN 1-84195-017-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d Singer Robert Palmer dies BBC. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  7. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 262. CN 5585. 
  8. ^ New Robert Palimer Live BBC Concert CD Your Way To Music. Retrieved 19 April 2012
  9. ^ a b Number One magazine, circa 1986: "Bob's Your Uncle" by Pat Thomas, pp 28–29.
  10. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2006). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits. Billboard Books
  11. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums. London: Guinness World Records Limited
  12. ^ 1986 MTV Video Music Awards Retrieved 5 December 2011
  13. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 453. CN 5585. 
  14. ^ a b "Obituaries: Robert Palmer". The Telegraph. 27 September 2003. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  15. ^ Parales, Jon (27 September 2003). "Robert Palmer, Singer With Image of a Pop Romeo, Dies at 54". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 December 2013. 
  16. ^ a b c "Chart Stats – Robert Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  17. ^ "Discography Robert+Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  18. ^ "The World's Music Charts (Album artist 456 – Robert Palmer". 
  19. ^ "Discografie Robert Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  20. ^ "Discography Robert Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  21. ^ "Discography Robert Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-22. 
  22. ^ a b c "Chart Stats – Robert Palmer". Retrieved 2011-11-21. 
  23. ^ a b c d "Certified Awards Search". Music Canada. Retrieved on 2011-11-22. Note: User needs to enter "Robert Palmer" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  24. ^ a b c d e f "Certified Awards Search". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved on 2011-11-21. Note: User needs to enter "Robert Palmer" in the "Search" field, "Artist" in the "Search by" field and click the "Go" button. Select "More info" next to the relevant entry to see full certification history.
  25. ^ a b c "Searchable Database". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 2011-11-21.  Note: User must define 'Artist' search parameter as "Robert Palmer".
  26. ^ "Chart Log UK: Rodney P. – The Pussycat Dolls". Retrieved 2012-04-18. 
  27. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 433. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  28. ^ "The World's Music Charts (Song artist 368 – Robert Palmer)". 
  29. ^ Steffen Hung. "New Zealand charts portal". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 
  30. ^ Steffen Hung. "The Power Station – The Power Station". Retrieved 2012-04-03. 

External links[edit]