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Famous Like Me > Singer > B > Laura Branigan

Profile of Laura Branigan on Famous Like Me

Name: Laura Branigan  
Also Know As:
Date of Birth: 26th August 1957
Place of Birth:
Profession: Singer
From Wikipedia, the free Encyclopedia
Laura Branigan

Laura Branigan ( July 3, 1957-August 26, 2004 in East Quogue, New York) was a popular American singer/actress from Westchester County, New York, best known in the U.S. for the song "Gloria" (1982). She received the first of her four Grammy Award nominations for the song. Branigan introduced the ballad "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" (1983), making the song a standard, recorded by dozens of artists throughout the world in the years since. "Self Control" (1984) was her biggest-selling album and the title track became an international Number One hit. Her other hits included "Solitaire," "The Lucky One," and "The Power Of Love." She was of Irish and Italian ancestry.


Branigan studied at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and worked as a waitress while in school. She eventually got a job singing back-up vocals for Leonard Cohen, touring throughout Europe.

She was signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records in 1979, but the label was at first unsure how to categorize Branigan, given her strong dramatic voice that had a four octave range.

She eventually recorded Branigan, the album that contained "Gloria," and the song, originally a hit only in Italy, became an international hit. Interestingly, American radio was not initially receptive to "Gloria", as the song's combination of American and European sound predated pop's second "British Invasion" by several months. However, the song was embraced by dance clubs, especially gay dance clubs, and this helped to win over American radio stations and propel the song to become one of the biggest hits of the decade. The ballads "If You Loved Me" and the self-penned "I Wish We Could Be Alone" gave a surprise to Disco fans who found her as comfortable with her vulnerability as with her strength, while the pop-rock "Please Stay, Go Away" and the straight-ahead rock of "Living A Lie" is a treat for lovers of the energy and gusto of her hit. The album went gold and the single gold, and then platinum. Further heralding her arrival, her vocal performance of "Gloria" was nominated for a Grammy award.

By the time her English version of the French song "Solitaire" (1983) was climbing the charts, the dramatic European synth-pop sound was on the rise, and her stirring vocal performance drove the song to the upper reaches of the charts. In addition to cementing for Branigan a place in pop history and ensuring that she was much more than a one-hit wonder, her sophomore album's two big hits began the careers for two then-unknowns who themselves became industry legends. "Solitaire" was the first major hit for lyric writer Diane Warren, who cowrote many of Laura's early songs. The second smash hit off 1983's Branigan 2, the ballad "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," which just missed the Top Ten on the Pop charts but spent three weeks at Number One on the Adult Contemporary airplay charts, was also the first major hit for its cowriter, Michael Bolton. Bolton would later pen three more songs for the woman who made him an in-demand writer.

Ballads like "Find Me" welcomed fans of "How," while the energetic "I'm Not The Only One," with basswork by Dennis Belfield and duel vocal by Joe Esposito, and the insistent belter "Don't Show Your Love" were the answer to those calling for the "Gloria" girl to give them another reason to hit the dancefloor. But some of her most playful performances are on this album as well, from the entendre of The Who's "Squeeze Box" to the free spirited "Lucky." One of the album's most striking tracks, ushered in with synthesized whip-snaps and underpinned by a catchy, staccato guitar riff, "Deep In The Dark" takes her further into Europop territory, turning out to be a rewritten cover of Falco's "Der Kommissar," itself covered by pop group After The Fire. Laura makes it her own, coldly laughing as she emotively tells the tale of a girl's revenge, all to that killer hook. We never did figure out who Der Kommissar was, but stay away from this girl.

The year 1984 was the height of the European synth-pop era, but the striking production and sensuous, half-whispered vocals of "Self Control," the title track off her third album, took the world by storm and had people asking "Who's that?" The song became her biggest international hit, topping the charts on several continents and becoming an anthem on radios and dancefloors across the world, most notably West Germany, where she spent 7 weeks with it at number one. Further pop, dancefloor and adult contemporary hits off the album included the melodic electropop of "The Lucky One" (her soaring vocal won her a Tokyo Music Festival prize), the continental ballad "Ti Amo," and the club hit "Satisfaction." She was a favorite guest performer on several of the most popular talk and music shows of the day, with ultimately as much as a dozen appearances each on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The Merv Griffin Show, Dick Clark's American Bandstand, and Solid Gold. That year, her live show was captured no less than twice: once for a syndicated radio show, and a second time for a concert video.

By the time of 1985's Hold Me album, "Self Control" had swept the world and any territories that hadn't previously embraced her began to release her earlier material, from South America to the Middle East to the Pacific Islands. Lead single "Spanish Eddie" was her sixth top 40 hit in two and a half years, but failed to enter the top 20. A splashy video featuring a newly-svelte Branigan was a hit on the various music video programs of the day (NBC's "Friday Night Videos," TBS' "Night Tracks" and USA's "Night Flight" among the biggest), but was snubbed by MTV. Subsequent release "Hold Me" was a top 40 dance hit and her introduction of the rock ballad "I Found Someone" (cowritten by Michael Bolton) scored even higher on the AC chart, but neither song was supported by a music video and stalled in the lower reaches of the pop charts. Despite the surprising lack of sales, the album had many of her most beloved songs, and not only did she continue to perform "Spanish Eddie," but she began a lifelong tradition of closing every show with an encore of "Forever Young," the chilling ballad that was a cult hit by German band Alphaville. Ironically, the album continues to be her most sought-after today, fetching fairly high prices on auction sites, considering hundreds of thousands of copies were in the discount bins less than a year after its release.

Her chart success cooling stateside, she was still in great demand around the world, and Branigan went on several global tours, as she remained especially popular in Australia, South Africa, and Chile, where she began the first of several invitational performances in the coveted late-evening slot of the famed Viña Del Mar music festival, televised live before an audience of thousands from an open-air arena in the coastal resort city. She occasionally made acting appearances, first in 1981 for a German television movie, and then after the success of "Gloria," guest appearances on American television series shows such as CHiPs and Automan. She would later do independent films such as Mugsy's Girls (aka Delta Pi, 1985) with Ruth Gordon, and the Australian film Backstage (1988). She sang on major national television and radio campaigns for products including Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, and Chrysler, who sponsored her 1985-1986 tour.

Most of Branigan's vivid work of this time stood in sharp contrast to the popular opinion that her style of music was mechanized studio contrivance. Receiving rave reviews for her live performances, Laura's legendary voice (two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Gian-Carlo Menotti was her vocal coach) was surrounded on her albums by sharp, tight peformances from some of the best studio musicians in the business, some legends themselves. The likes of guitarists Steve Lukather (Toto), Dan Huff (Giant) and Michael Landau; keyboardists Greg Mathieson, Harold Faltermeyer, Michael Boddicker and Robbie Buchanan; bassists Nathan East and Dennis Belfield (Rufus); drummer Carlos Vega; percussionists Paulinho Da Costa and Lenny Castro; and background vocalists including The Waters Sisters (Maxine & Julia), James Ingram, and Richard Page & Stephen George (Mr. Mister) were all repeat guests. Early producers included Jack White, Mathieson, Buchanan, and Faltermeyer. As her stature grew, she attracted grammy-winning producers including Phil Ramone, Richard Perry, and David Kershenbaum. Successful foreign artists sought to work with her, and she performed duets with Australian megastar John Farnham on the heels of his releasing the most successful Australian album to date, and Latin pop phenomenon Luis Miguel.

Nineteen eighty-seven's Touch album marked a change in Branigan's career. Under new management and using a different producer, Branigan took a more active role in her work and in the studio. The Touch album also saw her return to dancefloors with the Stock/Aitken/Waterman-produced "Shattered Glass," one of her best Hi-NRG performances, and roar well into the top 40 with a thunderous cover of Jennifer Rush's minor U.S. hit, "The Power Of Love," which closed out the year as one of the top 20 bestselling singles of the Christmas season. Her exquisite "Cry Wolf," that album's third single, inspired an evocative video which captured her performance well as she moved from subdued and measured verses through a bitter chorus and ending in rage as she laments a loved one's self destruction and avows not to let it destroy her. One of the album's most organic productions and a stellar performance by Branigan, it didn't capture attention at pop radio but was a top 30 AC hit.

Laura Branigan's 1990 self-titled album scored another top 30 AC hit with "Never In A Million Years." The album also brought the singer back to the tops of the Hi-NRG charts and gay dancefloors with "Moonlight On Water" and a trendy updating of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco-era "Turn The Beat Around." The latter was the first of many songs on which she added producing to her list of credits.

Branigan's hit "Gloria" was first in a long line of covers that Laura recorded which far outdid the success of the originals and were considered by many to be the quintessential versions of those songs. Ironically, three of Branigan's hit singles later became even bigger hits for other famous singers, despite their lack of her vocal prowess: "I Found Someone" for Cher in 1987; "How Am I Supposed to Live without You?" for Michael Bolton in 1989; and "The Power of Love" for Céline Dion in 1994.

Nineteen ninety-three saw her most personal and eclectic album to date, with Over My Heart, which saw her again try her hand at producing, alongside the legendary Phil Ramone. While a lead single, the Gloria Estefan-penned "Love Your Girl," aimed for the clubs that made her famous, the album was a boon for ballad lovers, including the exquisitely understated opener "How Can I Help You To Say Goodbye," the Spanish-language "Mujer Contra Mujer," "Mangwane (The Wedding Song)," sung in the south African language Sotho with the Mmabana Children's Choir, and several of her own compositions, including the touching "Didn't We Almost Win It All" and the steely "Over You." The album's mature personal themes of transcendance over the loss of a loved one, the nature of commitment, and coming to terms with life after a significant relationship was a sadly ironic presaging of the turn of events her own life would take in subsequent years. She largely left the music industry in 1994 to spend more time with her husband, Larry Kruteck, following his diagnosis with colon cancer. He died in 1996 and it was some years before Branigan was ready to fully return to the public sphere.

The United States was the last territory to get its own greatest hits collection, a 13-track The Best Of Branigan, in 1995, including two new covers, the shimmering "Show Me Heaven," far exceeding any version before or since as the perfect pop production and a truly sublime vocal; and a fun "Dim All The Lights," which was also released in several great remixes. This followed several official hits collections from South America, Asia, Germany, and South Africa, where alone she had warranted three separate volumes of hits collections as of 1999.

In 2001, about to release remixes of her updated take on the 1980 ABBA hit, "The Winner Takes It All," and working on material for a new album, Branigan's bid to return to the stage was postponed when she broke both of her femurs in a fall from a ladder outside her Westchester County house. In 2002, she made a comeback as Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love, Janis. The same year, her second official stateside hits collection, The Essentials: Laura Branigan was for some a boon, with the inclusion of the long out-of-print "I Found Someone." Largely comprising similar tracks as her earlier collection, however, and with five of her seven studio albums now out of print, for many fans the definitive collection has yet to be released. In 2004, she enjoyed a final return to a Billboard top ten chart, for Dance Singles Sales, with a 20th anniversary re-recording of her own Italodisco smash, "Self Control".

Her sudden death on August 26, 2004 was attributed to a brain aneurysm, which also caused the deaths of her father and her paternal grandfather.

In 2005, a memorial for her friends and fans was held on that date near the Long Island home in which she was caring for her mother at the time of her death. Its success has led to plans for it becoming an annual event, and in future years it is expected to turn into a celebration of her life and the legacy of her passionate vocal performances and the heartfelt connection she made with her fans, whom in several interviews and from the stage she would refer to as "my other half."


In the early 1970's, Branigan was briefly a lead singer in a band named "Meadow," cowriting and singing a few songs on the band's album The Friend Ship (released 1973). This was before Branigan toured with Leonard Cohen and by the 1980's, she refused to acknowledge that she ever had any connection with the band Meadow or the 1973 album.

In the spring of 1984, academy award-winning film director William Friedkin (French Connection, The Exorcist) became one of the first major directors to shoot a music video, Branigan's "Self Control." Tame not only by today's standards but even by those of a few months later, MTV nevertheless refused to air the clip, despite the song's massive, multiformat popularity (top 5 pop, dance, and adult contemporary), demanding it be re-edited. Branigan stood up against this censorship and for the artistic vision she and auteur Billy Friedkin had conceived, taking to the media to press her case. MTV kept their ban in place all summer long until the song had peaked and fallen from the top 10. While Branigan's record company recut the video against her better judgement, MTV only aired the version they had requested a handful of times before dropping it from their playlist. That Christmas on the channel, Madonna was writhing on the floor in a bustier, wedding dress over her head, and being ravaged by lion-headed men in the canals of Venice in "Like A Virgin," and Duran Duran's loinclothed "Wild Boys" were ravaging each other. MTV never apologized, never ceased lowering its threshold of decency, and never promoted a video of Laura Branigan's again. Mirroring the song's lyrics, the video follows Laura as she prepares for a night out, then walks along stylized city streets, followed by a mysterious man in a white mask. Entering through a door, she is led down a flight of stairs and into a club where an odd cast of characters are caught in something between a dance and an orgy, though all remain fully clothed. Laura, drawn into the crowd for a moment, flees from--or chases--her desires down a hallway filled with doors and ultimately into a room where the masked man pulls her to him. At the end of the song, Laura wakes up in bed next to the man, still masked; as the sun streams through the window, he vanishes.

By the late 1990's, a website was made using the name Laura Branigan. However, after several years it was apparent to many Branigan fans (some of whom call themselves "Branifans" or "Fanigans") that this website had no connection to the singer herself. Another website was created in 2002 and by 2004, Laura Branigan designated this latter website as her official website. Despite Branigan's passing in August 2004, both websites continue to exist, with only the one being her personally approved and endorsed official website.


U.S. albums

Title Label Year Released
Branigan Atlantic 1982
Branigan 2 Atlantic 1983
Self Control Atlantic 1984
Hold Me Atlantic 1985
Touch Atlantic 1987
Laura Branigan Atlantic 1990
Over My Heart Atlantic 1993
The Best of Branigan Atlantic 1995
The Essentials: Laura Branigan Atlantic/Warner Strategic 2002

Selected singles

Title Year US Pop Peak US AC Peak US Dance Peak Cashbox ARC Wkly Top 40
"Gloria" 1982-3 2 28 4 1 1
"Solitaire" 1983 7 16 28 8 6
"How Am I Supposed to Live without You" 1983 12 1 ~ 13 10
"Self Control" 1984 4 5 2 5 2
"The Lucky One" 1984 20 13 10 22 16
"Ti Amo" 1984-5 55 22 ~ 54 38
"Satisfaction" 1984-5 ~ ~ 24 ~ ~
"Spanish Eddie" 1985 40 29 26 37 32
"Hold Me" 1985 82 ~ 39 79 -
"I Found Someone" 1986 90 25 ~ 81 -
"Shattered Glass" 1987 48 27 13 51 -
"The Power of Love" 1987-8 26 19 ~ 29 17
"Cry Wolf" 1988 - ~ -
"Moonlight On Water" 1990 59 ~ 44 (NRG 4) 58 -
"Never In A Million Years" 1990-1 - 22 ~ -
"Dim All The Lights" 1995 - - 36 -
"Self Control 2004" 2004 ~ ~ 10 ~ ~

Figures are for Billboard charts unless otherwise noted

~ (Title unreleased in that format)



Title Credit Year Released
Flashdance Soundtrack, songs, "Imagination," "Gloria" 1983
Ghostbusters Soundtrack, song, "Hot Night" 1984
Body Rock Soundtrack, song, "Sharpshooter" 1984
Mugsy's Girls Actress, Monica 1985
Violets Are Blue song, "One Day" 1986
Backstage Actress, Kate Lawrence 1988
Coming To America Soundtrack, songs, "Come Into My Life" [Duet with Joe Esposito], "Believe In Me" 1988
Salsa Soundtrack, song, "Your Love" 1988


Title Credit Year
CHiPs (NBC) song, "A Love Until The End Of Time" 1982
Saturday Night Live (NBC) Musical Guest 1982
CHiPs (NBC) Actress, Sarah; songs, "Gloria," "Down Like A Rock" 1983
Love Is Forever (NBC) Movie, title song, "Love Is Forever" 1983
Automan (ABC) Actress, Jessie Cole; songs, "Gloria," "Hot Night," "Satisfaction" 1984
Cover Story (USA Cable) Celebrity bio series, 1 episode devoted to Laura interview, behind the scenes footage, videos 1984
Hollywood Wives (ABC) Miniseries, title song, "Hollywood Wives" 1985
Disney's Living Seas (ABC) Special, On-Camera Performer/Composer, song, "If I Were A River" 1986
Record Guide '88 (Syndicated) Music series, 1 episode devoted to Laura interview, videos 1988
SRO: In Concert (Syndicated) Hour-long concert series, 1 episode devoted to Laura live in Atlantic City 1990
Baywatch (Syndicated) Soundtrack; End credits song, "I Believe" 1994

Other notable work


Title Credit Year
Love, Janis (Off-Broadway, NYC) Singer Janis Joplin 2002

Video games

Title Credit Year Released
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Featured Artist 2002

This content from Wikipedia is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Laura Branigan