|Laura Ann Branigan|
[nb 1]July 3, 1952|
Brewster, New York
August 26, 2004 (aged 52)|
East Quogue, New York
Laura Ann Branigan (July 3, 1952[nb 1] - August 26, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter, and actress. Her signature song, the platinum-certified 1982 single "Gloria", stayed on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks, then a record for a female artist, peaking at number two. It also reached number one in Australia and Canada. In 1984, she reached number one in Canada and Germany with the U.S. number four hit "Self Control".
Branigan's other singles included the top ten hit "Solitaire" (1983), the U.S. AC chart number one "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (1983), the Australian number two hit "Ti Amo (1984), and "The Power of Love" (1987). Her most successful album was 1984's platinum-selling Self Control. She also contributed songs to motion picture and television soundtracks, including the Grammy and Academy Award-winning Flashdance soundtrack (1983), and the Ghostbusters soundtrack (1984). In 1985, she won the Tokyo Music Festival with the song "The Lucky One". She died at her home in 2004 from a previously-undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.
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Branigan was born in the village of Brewster, New York, fourth of five children of Kathleen O'Hare Branigan (1921-2006) and James Branigan, Sr. (1914-1984), an account executive and mutual funds broker; they later separated. Branigan's maternal grandparents were William O'Hare, Jr. (son of William John O'Hare and Agnes B. O'Connor) and Mary Conway (daughter of Francis J. Conway and Mary Teresa McGuiness); all of them were Irish.
Branigan attended Byram Hills High School in 1966 to 1970, starring in the high school musical The Pajama Game in her senior year. Between 1970 and 1972 she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, and worked as a waitress. In 1972 she met acoustic guitarist Walker Daniels and his future wife Sharon Storm, and acoustic guitarist Chris Van Cleave, forming the folk-rock band Meadow (named as a good place for Paul McCartney's band Wings to land in). In 1973 the group, with bass player Bob Valdez, released their debut album The Friend Ship, featuring the singles When You Were Young, and Cane and Able, which featured the hook line "Throw away your cane and you are able". The record was not properly promoted and never re-released. The band broke up, after which Walker Daniels committed suicide. Branigan preferred not to discuss her involvement with Meadow publicly.
During the years after Meadow broke up, Branigan had various jobs, including a stint as one of Leonard Cohen's backup singers for his European tour in April-August 1976.
In December 1978 after meeting him at a party in Manhattan, New York earlier in the year, Branigan married Larry Ross Kruteck (1936-1996), a lawyer some years her senior, who died of colon cancer on June 15, 1996.
In 1979, after a chance meeting with manager Sid Bernstein on her return from Europe, Branigan was signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records. The strength and range of her voice actually impeded her career for several years while the label went through the process of categorizing her as a pop singer, and her 1981 single "Looking Out for Number One", from her unreleased album Silver Dreams, made a brief appearance on the U.S. dance chart, reaching No. 60. Two other early Atlantic singles, "Tell Him" and "Fool's Affair", followed. None of these three singles (or the B-side, "When") were included on her first album, but all four songs were eventually released on CD over 30 years later in 2014 as bonus cuts on a U.S. CD reissue of Branigan's first album.
Branigan's 9-track debut album, Branigan, was released in March 1982. The first single from the album was "All Night with Me", which reached No. 69 on the Billboard charts in early 1982. The album alternated four energetic up-tempo songs with five ballads, including one of the few songs written solely by Branigan, "I Wish We Could Be Alone". "Gloria", an Italian love song recorded in 1979 by Umberto Tozzi and successful in several European countries, was released as the album's second single. Branigan's version was reworked with Tozzi's own arranger, Greg Mathieson, who updated its production with fellow producer Jack White to give it what Branigan called "an American kick" to match the new English lyrics. U.S. radio stations were initially unreceptive to "Gloria" but after it was embraced by dance clubs it eventually won them over, becoming one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. The album went gold, and the single was eventually certified platinum (sales of more than two million U.S. copies).
Branigan's performance of "Gloria" was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance alongside Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Juice Newton and that year's winner, Melissa Manchester, becoming her only solo nomination.
In the spring of 1983 Branigan released her second album Branigan 2. Branigan's vocals propelled her English-language version of the French song Solitaire toward the top of the U.S. charts. The original "Solitaire" was written and recorded in 1981 by French singer-songwriter Martine Clemenceau. Two songs included on the album began the careers for two then-unknowns: the English translation of "Solitaire" was the first major hit for songwriter Diane Warren, while the ballad "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" was the first major hit for its co-writer, Michael Bolton. Branigan's version reached No. 12 on the hot 100 and spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard adult contemporary chart.
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During the height of her career, Branigan also made acting appearances, first in 1981 in An American Girl in Berlin for West German television, and then after the success of "Gloria", guest appearances on American television series such as CHiPs ("Fox Trap", season 6, episode 16, in which she played Sarah, lead singer of the female rock band Cadillac Foxes),Automan and Knight Rider. She would later do independent films including Mugsy's Girls (aka Delta Pi, 1985) with Academy Awards winner Ruth Gordon, and the Australian film Backstage. She sang on major national television and radio campaigns for products including Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola and Chrysler, which sponsored her 1985-1986 "Hold Me" tour.
The year 1984 was the height of the European synthpop era, and "Self Control", the title track of Branigan's third album, released in April 1984 became her biggest hit internationally, topping the charts in over six countries, most notably West Germany, where it spent six weeks at No. 1. The original version. recorded a few months earlier in 1984 by one of the song's co-writers Raffaele Riefoli under the name "Raf" held the West German number 2 spot during this time period; outside of Raf's native Italy, Branigan's version enjoyed more success, hitting No. 4 in the U.S. The song was featured on episode #8 of the first season of the TV series Miami Vice titled "The Great McCarthy", which aired on November 16, 1984.
Other pop, disco, and adult contemporary hits from Branigan's Self Control album include "The Lucky One" (which won her a Tokyo Music Festival prize), the continental ballad "Ti Amo" (another Umberto Tozzi hit, and a No. 2 hit in Australia for Branigan) and the dance hit "Satisfaction". The album also featured an understated version of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"; as a counterpoint to all the dance productions, it was a bare-bones piano version. (In concerts and television appearances throughout her career, Branigan accompanied herself on the piano for the song.)
Branigan's vocal coach was Carlo Menotti, and she worked with Steve Lukather (Toto), Dann Huff (Giant) and Michael Landau; keyboardists Greg Mathieson, Harold Faltermeyer, Michael Boddicker and Robbie Buchanan; bassists Nathan East and Dennis Belfield (Rufus); drummers Carlos Vega and Doane Perry (Jethro Tull); percussionists Paulinho Da Costa and Lenny Castro; and guest vocalists including Joe "Bean" Esposito and background vocalists including The Waters Sisters (Maxine and Julia), James Ingram, and Richard Page and Stephen George (Mr. Mister). As her stature grew, she attracted Grammy-winning producers including Phil Ramone, Richard Perry and David Kershenbaum. She performed duets with John Farnham as well as Latin pop artist Luis Miguel.
In 1984 Branigan's live show was recorded twice, for a syndicated radio concert series and a concert video. Branigan was also nominated for an award at the American Music Awards of 1985 for favorite pop/rock female video artist, won by Cyndi Lauper. Also in 1985 Branigan performed the main theme song for the television mini-series Hollywood Wives, based on the novel by Jackie Collins.
By the time Branigan's fourth album Hold Me was released in July 1985, "Self Control" was a worldwide success. The hits continued with "Spanish Eddie", which was her sixth U.S. Billboard top 40 pop hit in two and a half years. The subsequent single release "Hold Me" was a U.S. top-40 dance hit, and Branigan's introduction of the rock ballad "I Found Someone" (co-written by Michael Bolton, a later hit for Cher) scored even higher on the adult contemporary chart. However, neither song was supported by a music video and stalled at the low end of the hot 100 chart. On June 13, 1985 Branigan made her fourth appearance on legendary TV music show American Bandstand, performing "Spanish Eddie" and "Hold Me". On July 4, 1985 she performed in Point State Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Branigan's fifth album Touch (released July 7, 1987) marked a change in her career. Under new management and using different producers, Branigan took a more active role in her work and in the studio, seeing her return to dance floors with the Stock-Aitken-Waterman-produced track "Shattered Glass" written by Bob Mitchell and Steve Coe, of the band Monsoon. "Shattered Glass" was performed by Branigan on the last episode of American Bandstand (hosted by Dick Clark) to be broadcast on ABC (the show would last for two more years, first in first-run syndication and finally on the USA Network) on September 5, 1987, becoming their last guest performer. The album also included a return to the Billboard top-40 with her cover of Jennifer Rush's "Power of Love", which was one of the 20 bestselling singles in the U.S. during the Christmas season. The album's third single "Cry Wolf", a top-30 AC hit, did not capture the attention of pop radio stations and stalled; the ballad was recorded two years later by Stevie Nicks, and more recently by writer Jude Johnstone.
Branigan's sixth album, Laura Branigan (March 21, 1990), brought her back to the Hi-NRG charts and gay clubs with "Moonlight On Water", and she scored a top-30 adult contemporary hit with "Never in a Million Years." Branigan added production to her list of credits with her cover of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco-era "Turn the Beat Around" and the atmospheric "Let Me In," a cover of an Eddie Money song. The album also includes '"Unison," which was the title track for Céline Dion's English debut CD in the same year. The album's closing track, a cover of Bryan Adams' "The Best Was Yet to Come," was produced and arranged by Branigan. The 1990-1991 Laura Branigan Tour, which was kicked off with an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on July 13, 1990 was followed by a performance in the Trump Regency Showroom in Atlantic City, N.J. on July 14, and filmed for a syndicated U.S. television show SRO in Concert, which was released on videocassette and laserdisc; on July 15, 1990 she performed at the Warwick Musical Theatre in Rhode Island.
On Branigan's seventh and final studio album Over My Heart (August 17, 1993), the singer again produced (with Phil Ramone), and wrote and arranged. It included "Didn't We Almost Win It All" (by Branigan and Brian BecVar) (released as the first single), a cover of Cher's song "Hard Enough Getting Over You" (released as the second single), a cover of the Patty Loveless single "How Can I Help You Say Goodbye", a cover of Roxette's song "The Sweet Hello, the Sad Goodbye", and "Is There Anybody Here But Me?" (Pessis, Wells), a smooth mid-tempo number.
After 1990 Branigan's chart success cooled in the U.S., though she was still in demand around the world and went on several global tours. In 1994, not long after the release of Over My Heart, Larry Kruteck, Branigan's husband (m. 1978), was diagnosed with colon cancer. Branigan refused to accept the medical prognosis, and left the music industry to devote her attention to him. Branigan put Kruteck on herbal treatments, eventually nursing him full time. Krutech survived for another two and a half years and died on June 15, 1996 in New York.
Branigan had official greatest hits collections released in South America, Japan, Germany, South Africa, and the U.S.; the U.S. collection was released in 1995. The 13-track The Best of Branigan included two newly-recorded covers: "Show Me Heaven" (written by Maria McKee) and the Donna Summer hit "Dim All the Lights," which Branigan released in several remixes.
On August 15, 1995, Branigan was a guest on the TV show Talking Food, hosted by Robin Leach and broadcast by the Food Network, and she promoted the album and sang the Donna Summer hit before preparing her Summer Delight pasta dish on the show.
On February 1996, she was selected to be part of the international jury at the XXXVII Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar, in Chile. Besides her duties as a jury member of this international musical competition, Branigan performed on Friday the 16th on the main stage for an audience who enthusiastically sang her greatest hits.
In early 2001 Branigan's return to the stage was postponed, when she broke both of her femurs in a 10-foot fall from a ladder while she was hanging wisteria outside her three-bedroom lakeside home in Westchester County, New York, which landed her in physical therapy for six months. In 2002, she performed twice as the "singing" Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love, Janis, before dropping out of the show. "I left Janis because the producers failed to file with Equity properly," she told the Sunday News in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "I was sort of relieved. My voice isn't anything like Janis Joplin's, and there were 19 of her songs in the show."
Branigan died in her sleep at her lodge in East Quogue, New York, in 2004. The cause was attributed to a previously-undiagnosed ventricular brain aneurysm. It was reported in the media that she had been experiencing headaches for several weeks before her death, but did not seek medical attention.
Her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound.
Branigan affectionately referred to her fans many times as her "other half." On the first anniversary of her death in 2005, many fans attended the first "Laura Branigan Spirit Of Love Memorial Gathering" weekend, sponsored by Other Half Entertainment and LauraBraniganOnline.com and held near the Long Island home where she last lived, caring for her mother. The gathering then became an annual tradition.
Other Half Entertainment, Branigan's management company at the time of her death, continues to oversee her career legacy through her official website at www.LauraBraniganOnline.com, and her official MySpace and Facebook pages by taking part in various media opportunities, as well as through relationships with Warner Music Group and other entertainment industry entities, serving as the official voice for her legacy interests and keeping her artistic visions and standards at the heart of its operations.
Since 2006, Branigan's management company worked regularly with Warner Music Group entities in the production and release of various new greatest hits compilations. The Platinum Collection is an 18-song compilation including all the major hits as well as tracks such as "Silent Partners", Satisfaction," "All Night With Me," and "If You Loved Me," which were four relatively new additions to Branigan hits compilations.
In 2007, the 1995 album The Best of Branigan was re-released, as part of Rhino's 2007 "Greatest Hits" series of CDs. In 2009, Rhino/WEA authorized the re-release of three out-of-print Branigan albums: Touch, Laura Branigan, and Over My Heart. In June 2010, Shine On: The Ultimate Collection was released, which, for the first time, incorporated a PAL format DVD featuring official Atlantic music videos for 10 of Branigan's songs, in addition to an 18-track CD including "Forever Young", which made its return to the greatest hits compilations. The CD contains single edits of most songs.
|1985||Mugsy's Girls||Monica||Also known as Delta Pi|
|1982||Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade||Herself||Performer of "Gloria"|
|Saturday Night Live||Performer of "Gloria" and "Living a Lie"|
|1983||CHiPs||Sarah||Guest star in "Fox Trap" (season six, episode 16)|
|A Solid Gold Christmas||Herself||Performer of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"|
|Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve||Performer of "How am I Supposed to Live Without You" and "Solitaire"|
|1984||Automan||Jessie Cole||Guest star in "Murder MTV" (season one, episode nine)|
|Laura Branigan In Concert||Herself||Her concert live from Caesars Tahoe|
|Rock Rolls On||Co-host, performer of "Self Control" and "The Lucky One"|
|1986||Disney's Living Seas||Performer and composer of "If I Were a River"|
|1988||Record Guide '88||Interview|
|1990||SRO: In Concert||Her concert live from Atlantic City|
|1991||Monsters||Amanda Smith-Jones||Guest star in "A Face for Radio" (season three, episode 19)|
|2002||Love, Janis||Janis Joplin||Off-Broadway, New York|
|1982||Grammy Awards||Best pop vocal performance -- female||"Gloria"||Nominated|
|1983||Album of the year||"Imagination" (Flashdance soundtrack)||Nominated^|
|1984||American Music Awards||Favorite pop/rock female video artist||"Self Control"||Nominated|
|Tokyo Music Festival||Grand Prix Award for Best Vocal Performance||"The Lucky One"||Won|