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Robert Allen Palmer (19 January 1949 – 26 September 2003), born in Batleymarker, Yorkshiremarker, was an Englishmarker singer-songwriter. He was known for his soulful voice and the eclectic mix of musical styles on his albums, combining soul, jazz, rock, pop and blues.

1964-1973: Early bands

Palmer's father was a Britishmarker naval intelligence officer stationed in Maltamarker, Palmer moved with his family to Scarboroughmarker, Yorkshiremarker 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 Londonmarker to sing on their single "Gypsy Girl". The vocals for the album The Alan Bown!, originally recorded by Roden (and released in the US that way), were re-recorded by Palmer after the success of the single.

In January 1970, Palmer married Suzan Eileen Thatcher. That same year, 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).

1974–1984: Early solo career

On the basis of his youthful looks, strong stage presence, and soulful voice, Island Records signed Palmer to a solo deal. His first solo album Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley recorded in New Orleansmarker, Louisianamarker 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. His first single was a cover of Little Feat's "Sailin' Shoes." Although moderately successful in the UK, both the album and single reached the Top 100 in the US. 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 are packaged on the CD as a "trilogy" without a pause between them.

Subsequently relocating from Londonmarker to New York Citymarker with his wife, Palmer released Pressure Drop in 1975 (featuring famed Motown bassist James Jamerson). An album infused with his interests in reggae and rock music, it was noted for its cover art of a nude girl on a balcony rather than any commercially successful songs. (The lead single "Give Me An Inch" did win critical plaudits for Palmer's note-perfect delivery and its chord changes, which surprised George during the recording process.) He toured with Little Feat to promote that album.

However, with the failure of the follow-up Some People Can Do What They Like , Palmer decided to move to the Bahamasmarker; after that, his "expatriate lifestyle" was likely to receive more coverage than his music in British newspapers.

In 1978, he released Double Fun, a collection of Caribbeanmarker-influenced rock, including a down-tempo and syncopated cover of "You Really Got Me". The album reached the Top 50 on the US Billboard charts and scored a Top 20 single with the Andy Fraser-penned "Every Kinda People". With its blend of Caribbean steel pan, violins and moving lyrics, "Every Kinda People" has become one of Palmer's best-loved songs, covered multiple times by other artists (including Chaka Demus and Pliers, Randy Crawford and Amy Grant) and cited by music fans and spiritual groups for its positive message. It reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Palmer's next album was an artistic departure, concentrating on a rockier direction. 1979's Secrets produced his second Top 20 single with Moon Martin's "Bad Case of Loving You ", which like "Every Kinda People" became one of his signature tunes. The #14 hit also gave Palmer his first Billboard Hot 100 year-end chart hit, just eking on at #99.

The 1980s saw 'Compass Point Star' 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 Atlanticmarker, first with the radio-friendly single "Johnny and Mary" and then "Looking for Clues". Catchy music videos matching the synth pop 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.

1983 saw Palmer blend techno beats, early sampling and more of the island music of his adopted Bahamas (including steel pan) into the adventurous album Pride. Though the album wasn't the smash Clues was, it did feature standout tracks in 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. Later that year on July 23rd Robert performed at Duran Duran`s charity concert at Aston Villa football ground 1983 which was a very special event which he struck up friendships with members of Duran Duran that in late 1984 helped to produced the supergroup Power Station

"You Are in My System" was an example of Palmer's passion for R&B covers. He jammed the song onto the Pride album after the other tracks were finished. Hearing the track in a Paris club, Palmer rushed back to his Bahamas hometown, where the reconvened band (co-composer Frank included) put together the number. Esquire magazine recounted the tale of the last-minute addition later that year. Palmer did the same in liner notes for his 1992 Addictions Volume 2 CD, which included his re-voiced version of "You Are In My System."

1985–1995: Power Station and MTV success

1985 was a milestone year for Palmer. After Duran Duran went on hiatus, their guitarist Andy Taylor and bassist John Taylor joined renowned session drummer and former Chic member Tony Thompson and Palmer to form the band Power Station. Their eponymous album, recorded mostly at the New York studio for which the band was named, reached the Top 20 in the UK and the Top 10 in the US and spawned two hit singles with "Some Like It Hot" (#6) and a cover of the T.Rex song "Get It On ", which peaked one position higher than the original at #9. Palmer performed live with the band only once that year, on Saturday Night Live. The band toured, and even played Live Aid, with singer Michael Des Barres after Palmer bowed out at the last moment to go back into the studio to further his newly revitalized solo career. It proved to be a good choice for Palmer.

Palmer recorded the album Riptide in 1985, recruiting Thompson and Andy Taylor to play on some tracks and Power Station producer Bernard Edwards, who worked with Thompson in the group Chic, to helm the production. Robert recruited Wally Badarou, another Compass Point Star who had laid synthesizer tracks on the Power Station album, plus his long-term drummer, Dony Wynn, for this production as well.

Riptide featured the #1 single "Addicted to Love". The song was originally cut with Chaka Khan sharing lead vocals but due to contractual problems Chaka was removed for the final mix. The single was accompanied by a memorable and much-parodied music video, directed by Terence Donovan, in which Palmer is surrounded by a bevy of near-identically clad, heavily made-up female "musicians," either mimicking or mocking the painting of Patrick Nagel. Palmer was later to parody himself in the music video for the single "Decided to Change His Ways", wherein the ladies are replaced by tall thin identically dressed lady ducks, and with verse illustrations with a crazed yellow duck who has several questionable episodes that inspire him to change his ways.

The singles "Hyperactive" and his cover of Cherrelle's "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" also performed well, with the latter being a #2 US and #9 UK hit single. Another song, "Trick Bag" was written by one of his major influences, New Orleans jazz artist Earl King. In 1987, he won the Grammy Award for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance for his song "Addicted to Love".

In 1987, Palmer moved to Luganomarker, Switzerlandmarker and set up his own recording studio. 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 with "Addicted to Love" with the video of "Simply Irresistible", again Palmer with a troupe of female "musicians". The song reached #2 in the U.S. and is Palmer's most recent Top Ten hit there. The ballad "She Makes My Day" also proved to be a hit in the UK, peaking at #6. In 1989, he won a second Grammy for "Simply Irresistible", which would later be featured in the Tony Award-winning musical Contact. Rolling Stone magazine voted Palmer the best-dressed rock star for 1990.

Palmer stretched his wings even further for his next album, the eclectic Don't Explain. Released in 1990, it covered diverse musical styles including rock, R&B, jazz and Bahamian influences. It, also, featured the Bob Dylan-penned Top 10 single "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight", in a collaboration with UB40, that secured a #6 placing in the UK and the Top 20 Marvin Gaye 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 Alleymarker era.

In 1994, Palmer released the tropical album Honey to mixed reviews and commercial success. While the album failed to spawn any hit singles in the United States, he did find success in Britain with the release of three hit singles "Girl U Want", "Know By Now" and "You Blow Me Away".

In 1995, Palmer reunited with other members of The Power Station to record a second album. Bassist John Taylor eventually backed out of the project (because of personal problems), to be replaced by old colleague Bernard Edwards. Palmer and the rest of the band completed the album Living In Fear (released in 1996), and had just begun touring when Edwards died of pneumonia.

1996–2003: Late solo work and the blues

The next few years saw more touring and more compilations; the next release of new material, Rhythm and Blues (1999), contained a mixture of Little Feat influenced songs, rock, and pop. Palmer released "True Love", a single from the album Rhythm and Blues; the song was a minor hit in Britain.

His final release, Drive (2003), was critically hailed as the grittiest and most heartfelt album of his career. Inspired by a previous collaboration with Carl Carlton on a Robert Johnson tribute album, Drive featured covers of fifteen blues standards, plus the original track "Lucky". He also conducted smaller scale tours, mostly around the lucrative casino circuit.


Palmer's favourite author was Jack Vance and he was especially fond of Cugel. Jack Vance paid homage to Robert Palmer in his novel "Night Lamp", whose first lines are: "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.".


Palmer and his wife, Sue, had two children, James and Jane, who were born in 1979 and 1980 respectively. The couple divorced in 1993. Also in 1993, Palmer relocated from the Bahamasmarker to a converted mill-house in Lugano, Switzerlandmarker after he found that the islands had become overrun with drugs and guns and were no longer safe. Palmer's companion at the time of his death was Ohio-born Mary Ambrose, whom Palmer had met in the early 1990s when she was a waitress in California.


Palmer, who made his home in Luganomarker, Switzerlandmarker for his last 15 years, died in Parismarker, Francemarker in 2003 of a sudden heart attack at the age of 54. He is interred at the cemetery in Lugano.

In October 2004, newspapers reported on the struggle for Palmer's estate, worth an estimated 30 million pounds, between Mary Ambrose and Palmer's two children. Although Palmer had changed his will to favor Ambrose, Swiss law does not recognize common-law wives, resulting in a battle between Ambrose and James and Jane Palmer.


Year Title Label RIAA Certification BPI Certification
1974 Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley Island - -
1975 Pressure Drop Island - -
1976 Some People Can Do What They Like Island - -
1978 Double Fun Island - -
1979 Secrets Island - -
1980 Clues Island - -
1983 Pride Island - -
1985 Riptide Island 2xMulti-Platinum Gold
1988 Heavy Nova EMI Manhattan Platinum Gold
1990 Don't Explain EMI America - Gold
1992 Ridin' High EMI America - -
1994 Honey EMI America - -
1999 Rhythm & Blues Pyramid - -
2003 Drive Compendia - -
Live Albums
1982 Maybe It's Live Island - -
2001 Live at the Apollo Eagle - -
1989 Addictions Volume I Island Platinum Platinum
1992 Addictions Volume II Island - Silver
1995 Very Best of Robert Palmer Capitolmarker - Platinum
1998 Woke Up Laughing Metro Blue - -
2002 At His Very Best Universal/Island - -
2002 Best of Both Worlds:

The Robert Palmer Anthology
Island - -
2005 The Very Best of the Island Years Island - -
With Power Station
1985 Power Station Capitol Platinum Gold
1996 Living in Fear Capitol - -


Year Title Album Chart positions
UK Australia Canada US

Hot 100


Modern Rock
1976 "Man Smart, Woman Smarter" Some People Can Do What They Like - - - 63 - -
1978 "Every Kinda People" Double Fun 53 - 12 16, US AC 22 - -
"Best of Both Worlds" - - - - - -
1979 "What's It Take" - - - - - -
"Bad Case of Loving You " Secrets 61 - 1 14 - -
"Can We Still Be Friends" - - - 52 - -
1980 "Johnny and Mary" Clues 44 - 32 - - -
"Looking for Clues" 33 - 7 - - -
1982 "Some Guys Have All the Luck" Maybe It's Live 16 - - - 59 -
1983 "You Are in My System" Pride 53 - - 78 33 -
"You Can Have It (Take My Heart)" 66 - - - - -
"Pride" - - - - - -
1985 The Power Station: "Some Like It Hot" The Power Station 14 - 9 6 34 -
The Power Station: "Get It On " 22 - 15 9 19 -
The Power Station: "Communication" 75 - 46 34 - -
"Discipline of Love" Riptide 95 - - 82 63 -
1986 "Riptide" 85 - - - - -
"Addicted to Love" 5 - 4 1 1 -
"Hyperactive" - - - 33 21 -
"I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" 9 - 13 2 3 -
"Discipline of Love" (re-issue) 68 - - - - -
1988 "Sweet Lies" Sweet Lies Motion Picture Soundtrack 58 - - 94 - -
"Simply Irresistible" Heavy Nova 44 1 2 2 1 -
"Early in the Morning" - 26 81 19 40 -
"She Makes My Day" 6 9 - - - -
1989 "Tell Me I'm Not Dreaming" - - - 60 - -
"Change His Ways" 28 38 - - - -
"It Could Happen to You" 71 - - - - -
"Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor Doctor)" (re-issue) Addictions Volume I 80 - - - - -
1990 "Life in Detail" Pretty Woman [Soundtrack] - - 34 - 7 14
"I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (Robert Palmer and UB40) Don't Explain - 4 58 - 24 6
"You're Amazing" - - 14 28 5 -
1991 "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology Song)/I Want You" 9 - 6 16, US AC 4 - -
"Dreams to Remember" 68 - - - - -
1992 "Every Kinda People" (re-recording) Addictions Volume II 43 - 26 US AC 8 - -
"Witchcraft" Ridin' High 50 - - - - -
1994 "Girl U Want" Honey 57 - - - - -
"Know by Now" 25 - 23 - - -
"You Blow Me Away" 38 - - - - -
1995 "Respect Yourself" The Very Best of 45 - - - - -
1996 The Power Station: "She Can Rock It" Living in Fear 63 - - - - -
1999 "True Love" Rhythm and Blues 94 - - - - -
2003 "Addicted to Love" (Remix) (Shake B4 Use vs. Robert Palmer) Addicted to Love (Remix) - single 42 - - - - -


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