Robert Palmer, Singer And Style Icon, Dies Aged 54

Publié le par olivier

Singer and songwriter Robert Palmer, the boy from Batley who became a style icon of the 1980s, died yesterday, after apparently suffering a heart attack.
Palmer, 54, was born in Batley in 1949, but his father was in the Royal Navy and the family moved to Malta when he was small.
He was 12 when they returned to England and settled in Scarborough. His father, Leslie, was based at Fylingdales and his mother, Anne, ran a guest house. They still live in Scarborough, in the house he bought them when he became wealthy. His brother, Mark, joined the RAF.
At 16, Palmer went to Scarborough School of Art & Design and another student there, Alan Hydes, now a professional artist, based in Leeds, became a lifelong friend.
But Palmer gave up on the idea of a career in art, and Yorkshire journalists remember him as a skinny teenage technician, with bleached hair, in the photographic department of the Scarborough Evening News – until police found the stub of a cannabis "joint" in a raid on his bedsit and he lost the job.
He was singing with a Scarborough band called The Mandrakes when a 1960s blues outfit called The Alan Bown Set found itself without a singer for a show at the Spa, borrowed him for the night and kept him. Until then, he was Alan Palmer, but he changed to Robert to avoid confusion with the name of the band.
By 1970 he was fronting jazz outfit Da Da and the following year he and other band members formed blues band Vinegar Joe. Palmer shared lead vocals with Elkie Brooks, but despite some critical acclaim and a contract with Island Records, they didn't have a hit.
Island boss Chris Blackwell realised Palmer's potential, however, and gave him a solo deal, which led to some minor hits and then a big one, in 1982, with Some Guys Have All The Luck. Three years later, Palmer scored internationally again with Addicted To Love, which was his own song. His back catalogue became valuable, and he went from being overdrawn at the bank to multi-millionaire status in those few years.
At the time, his friend from home, Alan Hydes, was working as a reporter for Thames TV and wearing Yves St Laurent suits.
Hydes said yesterday: "Robert had this stage outfit that made him look like a bell boy and Chris Blackwell asked me to talk to him about clothes. Robert's first reaction was that you never saw a rock star in a suit, but he started wearing one and suddenly he was the world's best-dressed man."
Palmer then had some success in The Power Station, with Duran Duran's John and Andy Taylor and Chic drummer Tony Thompson. After that, he faded from the public eye but continued to write, to produce albums which sold well and to guest star with the likes of James Brown.
"Even at art college, he sounded like Otis Redding," says Hydes. "He was quite an influential musician."
His last album, Drive, composed with his 22-year-old son, James, a drummer, has been getting good reviews and looked like the start of a comeback.
Palmer also had a daughter, Jane, by his wife Sue, who was a London art student when he met her. The marriage broke up in 1993, however, and Palmer was with his most recent partner, Mary Ambrose, when he collapsed in Paris early yesterday.
They lived in Lugano, Switzerland, and Nassau, in the Bahamas.
Palmer loved cigarettes and malt whisky, which contributed to his gravelly vocals, but was looking "fabulously fit, lean and healthy" the night before he died, according to Yorkshire TV journalist and Calendar presenter Christine Talbot, who interviewed him at Ronnie Scott's jazz club in London, just before he flew to Paris.
"It's a terrible shock," she said last night. "He was on great form, very excited about his new album and touring again."
(Yorkshire Post - Septembre 2003)