He was a
singer-songwriter, musician and producer born Robert Allen Palmer in
Yorkshire, to a
family where his father was stationed with the British Navy in Malta and he spent much of his childhood.
moved to Scarborough, England when he was a teenager and before long became
a member of The Mandrakes who opened for artists such as Jimi Hendrix and The Who.
In 1969 he got
a break when he was asked to sing “Gypsy Girl” with The Alan Bown Set after their lead singer had left the band. He travelled down to London to re-record the vocals for the album as
they had already been sung by Jess Roden before
he left and the US version of the album already released.
year he joined the jazz-rock band Dada where he performed with the singer Elkie Brooks.
After the band had broken up a year later the two of them put
together the R&B group Vinegar Joe. Although the band didn’t see
much commercial success they still released the three albums Vinegar Joe, Rock ‘n’ Roll
Gypsies and Six Star General
from 1972 until they went their own separate ways in 1974 and he signed up
as a solo artist with Island Records.
That same year
he recorded his debut album Sneakin’
Sally Through the Alley in New Orleans, Louisiana with the backing of The Meters and
Lowell George of Little Feat.
Although gaining little attention in the UK, it did manage to get noticed in the US and the track “Get Outside” made
its way to just outside the Billboard’s Hot 100.
In 1975 he and
his wife moved to New York and in 1975 his second album Pressure
Drop appeared. It did not
produce any successful commercial songs, only reached No. 136 in the US album chart and was known more for its
cover which included a naked woman with her back to the camera. Following the album release he went
on tour with Little Feat to promote it.
year he released Some People Can Do
What They Like but once he saw next to no success with it so he decided
to leave the US and relocate to Nassau in the Bahamas.
He found a place which looked across at Compass Point Studios where
the owner was Chris Blackwell who had established the Island Records label.
His next album
Double Fun came out two years
later in 1978. This time he saw
much more success when it reached No. 45 in the US album charts as well as charting in
other countries of the world including getting to No. 10 in The
Netherlands. The track “Every
Kinda People” made it to No. 16 on the
Billboard Hot 100 and gave him his first appearance on the UK Singles chart
where it reached No. 53. He
continued an upward trend when his next album Secrets, which came out the following year, saw him getting to
No. 14 in the Top 100 with “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)”
and making it to the top of the singles chart in Canada. Along with two other singles
released the album received Platinum status there.
The 1980s came around
and he was on the up and up and his popularity around the world was growing. The first year of the decade he
worked with Chris Frantz and Gary Numan and
released Clues with two chart
songs in the UK which were “Johnny and Mary” and “Looking
Two years later in
1982 he was seeing further chart success with his Some Guys Have All the Luck EP from his Maybe It’s Live.
His next album was Pride which appeared in 1983 and
this time the song “You Are In My System” hit the charts but to
a lesser degree than his recent hits.
In May of that same year he held a concert at London’s Hammersmith Palais
which was broadcast by BBC Radio 1 and in June he gave a performance at a
charity concert held by Duran Duran.
His acquaintance with
the members of Duran Duran turned into a new
project for him when he joined up with Andy Taylor, John Taylor and Tony
Thompson, who were on hiatus from the band at the time. The supergroup
The Power Station was formed, taking their name from the studio in New York they recorded at.
The self-titled album in was a massive hit in 1985 gaining Platinum
status in the US
and gold status in the UK. It also
yielded the hit songs “Some Like It Hot” and “Get It On
(Bang a Gong)”. With some
controversy, Palmer, however, did not perform with them at the Live Aid
concert as he was also recording his next solo album Riptide that also came out in 1985.
catapult him into major success when the track “Addicted to Love”,
with its very memorable video where he is joined by black clad heavily made
up female musicians, topped the charts in the US, was in the Top 5 in the UK and gave him multiple No. 1 and Top 5 hits throughout
the world. That one track alone
won him the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance and a
nomination for the Best British Male Brit Award in 1987. Several other tracks were released from
the album and “I Didn’t Mean To Turn You On” also
received major success though not quite reaching the No. 1 spot.
1n 1987 he left Nassau and relocated to Lugano, Switzerland, where he established his own studio. In 1988 he released his Heavy Nova
using his own production and using the same type of video as he had
previously his “Simply Irresistable” took
him to the top of the charts again in the US. It also a
won him another Grammy Award in 1989 and nominations for Best British
Single and Best British Male but strangely wasn’t as successful in
the UK. However, the track “She
Makes My Day” made it to No. 6 there and didn’t appear in the US.
When the 1990s rolled
in he was still riding high and Rolling
Stone magazine names him their 1990 Best Dressed Rock Star. That first
year of the decade also saw him releasing Don’t Explain which gve him a
further two UK hit singles with his covers of “Mercy Mercy Me” and “I’ll Be Your Baby
Tonight” with UB40.
Two years later in
1992 he decided to issue his tribute to Tin Pan Alley called Ridin’ High which reacehd No. 32 in the UK album chart.
The only single released from it was “Witchcraft” which
reached No. 50 in the UK. Neither the album or single gained much attention in the
Honey hit the shelves
in 1994 which had no chart songs in the US but did gain some interest in the UK with “You Blow Me Away”, “Know By
Now” and “Girl U Want” which all gained lesser chart
status than he had been used to.
The following year a
greatest hits compilation hit the shelves and this time he went back up the
album chart to No. 4 in the UK. He also recorded
a new album with The Power Station called Living in Fear which was issued in 1996. John Taylor was replaced by Bernard
Edwards who sadly died when they were just starting to tour.
In 1999 he released the album Rhythm & Blues which just produced the single “True
Love” which only managed to reach No. 93 in the UK
It was into the early years of the new millennium when
his next album release was Drive
in 2003. He and his partner,
Mary Ambrose, travelled on holiday together to promote it and give public
appearances. They went to Paris
for him to record an appearance to be aired on Yorkshire TV in England
but not long after he had done that he was at the Hotel Warwick Champs Elysees when he suffered a fatal heart attack in the
early hours of the morning.
His passing left him being survived by his parents,
his partner and several children as well as a huge musical legacy which is
still very much remembered and listened to today.