Way back when… Laura Ann Branigan

Nov 2019 Way back when… Laura Ann Branigan

By Derek Mead

THIS IS a tale about Laura an American singer/songwriter who achieved much in her active years 1973-2004 and who could have achieved so much more given precious time.

Her albums and the singles from those albums enabled her to contribute so much to her world of music including ‘Gloria’ her signature song platinum certified in 1982. Together Laura and ‘Gloria’ set new boundaries for music for song and for on stage performance so here is a little about her life, her achievements and her hopes for the future – so sadly limited.

Laura Ann Branigan (Bom July 03 1952 — Died August 26 2004 aged 52) was an American singer/songwriter and actress born in New York to a family of Irish background. She lived her short musical life from 1973 -2004 to the full with genres of pop-synthpop-dance-pop rock but following her untimely death she is now quite surprisingly in the past.

She fully deserves a tribute, mainly because one of her single releases became her signature song and was one of the biggest hits of the 1980s: but, like Laura, with her strength and range of voice, the song is now almost forgotten.

After High School she attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, then joined a folk-rock band ‘Meadow’ whose debut album was unsuccessful. In April to August of 1976, she was a back-up singer for Leonard Cohen’s European tour, so her undoubted talent and name was brought to the attention of a wider public.

She was signed to Atlantic Records and eventually promoted as a pop singer. Her discography reveals that she released seven studio albums, six compilation albums, three video albums, 14 music videos, 21 singles and 22 other productions –an impressive achievement – and there is no knowing what she could have gone on to achieve had her life not been cut so short and with little or no remembrance.

However, it is Laura’s singles that must be considered here, as she became well- known for releases from 1982 onwards, and she released a nine-track debut album ‘Branigan’ in March 1982. Her first single from the album was ‘All Night with Me’, reaching just 69 on the Billboard charts in early 1982, and the album included one of the few songs written by her ‘I Wish We Could be Alone’.

But, more importantly, an Italian love song Gloria, initially recorded in 1979 by Umberto Tozzi, was released as the album’s second single, having already had success in European countries. The song was reworked and updated to provide an American feel with new English lyrics.

At first, audiences were not enthused, but after playing in dance clubs, it became one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. Laura’s on-stage on-screen performance of ‘Gloria’ was quite sensational and has never – to this day – been bettered.

To see her sing is a privilege and an experience – do not miss it! ‘

Gloria’ stayed in the US Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks ,a record for a female artist at the time, and it peaked at No.2, also reaching the Top 10 in the UK and No.1 in Australia and Canada. The album went Gold and the single was certified Platinum and there were sales of more than two million US copies.

Laura’s performance of Gloria was her only nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, with Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Juice Newton and Melissa Manchester the winners.

Then in Spring, 1983, Laura released ‘Branigan 2‘ her second album from which the French song ‘Solitaire’ with English translation which approached the top of the US charts, originally written and recorded in 1981 by French singer songwriter Martine Clemenceau. Two unknown songwriters on the second album were Diane Warren for the English translation of’ Solitaire’ and Michael Bolton’s co written ‘How Am I Supposed to Live Without You’. Laura’s version attained 12 in the Hot 100 and was No.1 for three weeks on the Billboard adult contemporary chart. So within a relatively short period of time from March, 1982, to Spring, 1983, Laura had achieved considerable success with just four titles, mainly ‘Gloria’ – an exceptional single performed by a very exceptional vocalist with an impressive on stage presentation. She was now looking further into the future and the future was not that far away.

In the height of the European synthpop era in April, 1984, Laura released her third album ‘Self Control’ with the title track topping the charts over six countries, mainly West Germany, where it spent six weeks at No 1. This followed the original version earlier in 1984 by ‘Raf, No 2 in West Germany. Laura’s version achieved more success reaching No 4 in the US and featured in the TV Series Miami Vice.

Other hits from the ‘Self Control’ album were ‘The Lucky One‘ and ‘Ti Amo’ also a No.2 dance hit in Australia for Laura, called ‘Satisfaction‘ plus Carole King’s ‘ Will You Still Love me Tomorrow’ with Laura accompanying herself on the piano. Her increasing status was attracting award winning producers and she performed a duet with John Farnham. By mid-1985 ‘Self Control‘ was a world wide success.

The fourth album ‘Hold Me’ was also released in July, 1985, with the title track becoming a US Top 40 dance hit, and the rock ballad ‘I Found Someone’ co- written by Michael Bolton and an eventual hit for Cher. Then the fifth album ‘Touch‘ (July 1987), with Laura’s active involvement, included a cover by her of Jennifer Rush’s ‘Power of Love’ which achieved Billboard Top 40. The sixth album was then ‘Laura Branigan’ (1990) and the seventh and final album was ‘Over My Fleart’ (1993).

Then, in 1990, Laura’s popularity waned in the US, although she remained popular around the world where she regularly toured. Her husband died in June, 1996, after Laura had nursed and cared for him full time.

She recorded greatest hits collections worldwide and the 13-track ‘The Best of Branigan’ (1995) included two new covers of ‘Show Me Heaven‘ by Maria McKee and ‘Dim all the Lights’ by Donna Summer. Her intended return to the stage in 2001 was delayed, but in 2002, she performed twice as Janis Joplin in ‘Love Jams‘ and she continued to record.

Then Laura died in her sleep in New York due to a long term illness and her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound. Her musical legacy continues with gatherings of fans who she adored, new compilations and a Laura Branigan Memorial Scholarship connected to the performing arts. Her connection with the NHL’s St Louis Blues who used ‘Gloria’ as their unofficial victory song continues her musical popularity and her publicity even to this date.

Laura’s Awards and Nominations.

1982 -Grammy Awards

Best pop vocal performance — female Gloria Nominated.

1983- Grammy Awards

Album of the year Imagination – Flashdance Soundtrack Nominated

1984- American Music Awards

Favorite pop/rock female video artist Self Control Nominated

1984 — Tokyo Music Festival

Grand Prix Award for Best Vocal Performance The Lucky One Won

Laura’s UK British Hit Singles 18 Dec 1982- Gloria Atlantic Peaked at 6 8 weeks in Top 40

07 Jul 1984- Self Control Atlantic Peaked at 5 12 weeks in Top 40

06 Oct 1984- The Lucky One Atlantic Peaked at 56.