Wednesday, April 13, 2011

'80s' Flashback: Corey Hart

Corey Hart scored in North America with his first single release, the synthesizer-driven "Sunglasses At Night," in 1984, which reached No. 7 in America and made the handsome, pouty-lipped Canadian a seeming overnight star. But he actually got his start in show business at the age of 13, singing with Tom Jones and Paul Anka, then recording demos with Billy Joel and Eric Clapton before signing with a major label at 20.

Popular legend has it that he turned down the role of Marty McFly in the "Back To the Future" films, which went to fellow Canadian Michael J. Fox. Instead, he recorded debut album "First Offense," which was completed in 1983—sans "Sunglasses," which the label added at the last minute. The song was No. 10 for 1984 on the Taylor Top 100.

Corey's follow-up single "It Ain't Enough" reached No. 17 in the States—and No. 20 on my year-end chart, ultimately fostering a Grammy nomination for Best New Male Artist in 1985.

It's around this time that I saw Hart perform live at the Bethesda, Md., Cinema & Draft with my college pal and roommate Lesa Swoope. I must have been right on the cusp of coming out, because I recall admiring those full lips, his brooding James Dean-esque demeanor and masculine chest hair... silently... and hanging his picture on my bedroom wall (below)... without public comment.Hart's 1985 album "Boy in the Box" catapulted him to superstar status. I remember him doing a radio interview with WAVA-FM in D.C. to premiere launch single "Never Surrender." It reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 and No. 15 for the year on my chart. In Canada, the track hit No. 1 and won the Single of the Year Juno.

Unfortunately, that's where Corey's career peaked. Follow-up singles "Boy in the Box" and "Everything in My Heart" grazed the top 40, while third album "Fields of Fire" produced only one top 40 hit, a tepid remake of Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love." He had two more minor hits stateside—remaining a major hitmaker in Canada with a total of 26 top 30 hits, selling 10 million albums worldwide between 1984 and 1990.

Just before the millennium, his career was reborn as a major songwriter. He likely made more money penning hits for fellow Sony act Celine Dion during her heyday than as a solo act. He wrote & produced the beautiful "Miles To Go (Before I Sleep)," for her No. 1 CD "Let's Talk About Love," which sold 31 million copies worldwide and is the 19th bestselling album in history. The song reached the top 40 at AC radio in Canada.

Celine returned the favor by having Corey Hart as a warm-up act on the North American leg of her tour supporting the album in 1998.

Hart also wrote & produced "Where Is the Love" on "Let's Talk About Love"; and wrote "Prayer" for No. 1 U.S. album "A New Day Has Come"; as well as two songs for "Garou's" debut album (a Canadian act catapulted from the Celine camp) and a pair for French act Cherie, who dusted success in the States in 2004.

Today, Hart, now 47, lives in Nassau, Bahamas, with his second wife and four kids.