Blue-eyed Soul

Richard Bishop   

© Copyright 2014 by Richard Bishop 


Photo of Michael Bolton's Soul Provider album cover.

Wikipedia has identified this music as primarily Afro-American “rhythm and blues” but performed by white performers. The music itself was in the genre of Motown and Stax record labels. It was performed heavily in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The British used the name more than we did in the Americas but now, apparently, it has become a generic classification of music, i.e., it has generated a List Of Blue-eyed Soul performers in Wikipedia.

There are over 60 names in the list; included are such names, among others, as: Bee Gees, Michael Bolton, David Bowie, Joe Cocker, The Doobie Brothers, Elton John, Tom Jones, Dusty Springfield, Rod Stewart, and Amy Winehouse.

One artist on the list is a really successful representative of the genre. He is the American Michael Bolotin (born 26 February 1953) whose stage name became Michael Bolton. He caused a real “flap” back in 1989 when he released (as a performer): “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” in his album Soul Provider.

I remember the late Disk Jockey (and Voice-over Actor) Casey Kasem of American Top 40, in a recorded transcription for the Armed Forces Radio (AFN) that he made in California, saying something like: “Here’s this thirty-something year old white guy who sounds exactly like a forty year old black man singing: How Am I Supposed To Live Without You” as he started the disk spinning on the turntable. And the rest is history.

Six years earlier, Bolton had co-written the song for
Laura Branigan. Her album Branigan 2 went all the way to the top in 1983 while the album's second hit single, the ballad "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," became also the first major song-writing hit for its co-writers, Michael Bolton and Doug James.

Branigan's debut recording of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" narrowly missed the Top 10 by reaching #12 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary (AC) chart. In December 1989, Michael Bolton recorded his own version of the song and it became his biggest hit, reaching number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and AC charts in 1990. On the Hot 100, the song became the first #1 single of the 1990s. This marked the second time that the song had topped the U.S. AC chart and continued his being seriously regarded as a world-class songwriter and further bolstered him as an important performing artist, as well.

Michael Bolton’s performing career had already taken off big-time when he released a smash hit in 1987 in his album The Hunger with a song Otis Redding co-wrote in 1967 (and had recorded just three days before his death in a plane crash at Lake Monona, Wisconsin) entitled: (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay.

Early on, there was some controversy circulated in the media by black artists who complained about “our Soul Music being pirated by white performers” but this quickly abated when all realized that the emotions or “ feelin’s ” aroused by Soul Music were the same for everybody and that top sales of Soul Music by any one performer actually promoted all the others in a big way. An so the furor died down quietly and now in the Twenty-first Century we can sit back and enjoy such moving music performed by hundreds of artists.

The label of Blue-eyed Soul now gathers dust back up on the shelf as a interesting phenomenon and relic of the Twentieth Century (the 1970s, 80s and 90s). This is probably where it belongs; mainly because, now-a-days, all the Soul Artists “do their thing”--fearlessly--without regard to classifications or epithets or labels. And that’s the way it should be !


In the words of the late, great Paul Harvey, “So now you are about to hear (more) of the story:”

Laura Ann Branigan died August 26, 2004 from an undiagnosed aneurysm in the brain.

It’s odd, but Laura Branigan is not listed in Wikipedia’s List of Blue-eyed Soul performers. But, she is well remembered for the top-10 songs “Gloria”, “Solitaire”, and for the No. 1 Adult Contemporary (AC) hit “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You”, as well as several other U.S. top-40 songs.

Not satisfied that her AC song was co-written by Michael Bolton (who later recorded it himself and turned it into a No. 1 Hit), one denizen of U-Tube, IgorSilva (Igor Oliveira), decided that both performers would sound good singing together. Michael Bolton is listed in Wikipedia’s List of Blue-eyed Soul performers.

Igor Oliveira was not without precedence here; while she was still alive, her Record Company recorded the voice of the late Natalie Cole (*1950 - † 2015) over a track entitled “Unforgettable” originally recorded by her Father Nat King Cole. It sold over 7 million copies and won four Grammys.

And so, if you care to follow this LINK, you will be rewarded with an unofficial duet of the voices of the late Laura Branigan and Michael Bolton singing: “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You.” It is very popular on U-Tube together with a great photo of the two Artists and the 50 (or so) listener’s comments are all positive. Igor Oliveira’s splicing efforts show the recording to be well above Professional Standards for audio technology in this special (i.e., not U-Tube) enhanced audio LINK (he also includes a nice picture of the two Artists):

And if you like the song, then you’ll be interested to know that it was first performed by Lisa Hartman ( performing in her role as the singer Ciji Dunne) in the TV Series Knot’s Landing in 1983. Lisa Hartman is also not listed as a Blue-eyed Soul performer. One listener said that her version is better than the Laura Branigan version which became a hit later on in 1983. The LINK for this is:

In the words of the late, great Paul Harvey, “So now you know (more) of the story.”

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