Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
(b 11 Aug. '55, Burton on Trent) Singer, pianist. Studied piano and violin as teenager, attended Royal Academy of Music. Early band Arms and Legs made three flop singles; break came with early days of punk, though his vocal style was compared unfavourably with Elvis Costello and Graham Parker. Look Sharp '79 incl. scathing 'Sunday Papers' and gave him no. 21 USA/13 UK hit with 'Is She Really Going Out With Him?' (He was a sharp dresser and the press dubbed it 'spiv rock'.) I'm The Man '79 incl. 'It's Different For Girls' (UK no. 5 '80) and impressive 'On The Radio'. Beat Crazy '80 was reggae; his cover of Jimmy Cliff's 'The Harder They Come' was praised. Jumpin' Jive '81 was a delightful surprise: a homage to the music of Cab Calloway and Louis Jordan that contributed to revival of UK interest in the jazz roots of pop. Night And Day '82 was his biggest hit: incorporated jazz flavour, but recorded in NYC also featured Jackson experimenting with R&B, salsa and funk; no. 4 album USA, 6 UK incl. transatlantic no. 6 with 'Steppin' Out', two other USA top 20 hits. He'd moved to NYC; contributed music to soundtrack of film Mike's Murder '83; Body And Soul '84 was impressive, incl. 'Happy Ending' and 'Be My Number Two'. He continued soaking up musical styles. Three-sided Big World '86 attempted to convey concert atmosphere, succeeded by two-disc Live 1980-- 86. Will Power '87 was an instrumental album, from solo piano 'Nocturne' to 50-piece treatments. He wrote soundtrack music for Coppola film Tucker; after recording it in England he remarked that he'd returned to remind himself of why he'd left, attacking the snobbery and worship of fashion of the English as they imitate American styles. Blaze Of Glory '89 was hailed as his best yet; Laughter And Lust '91 saw a switch from A&M to Virgin. Night Music '94 was followed by compilation I'm The Man, remastered tracks from '79--89; also two-CD This Is It -- The A&M Years, with 37 tracks. He also sessioned for Suzanne Vega, others. Aiming upwards, Heaven And Hell '97 on Sony Classical (who don't whine about which track is the hit single) was a concept album on the seven deadly sins, with guest vocals Jane Siberry, Suzanne Vega, Dawn Upshaw. He's also writing a book and, er, a symphony.