Laura Ann Branigan on July 3, 1957 in Brewster, New York
August 26, 2004 in East Quogue, New York
Unfortunately, the impressive catalogue of American pop singer Laura Branigan - as well as her untimely 2004 death at age 47 - escaped the notice of some '80s music fans. However, this artist's under-the-radar bearing does not necessarily reflect her accomplishments as a versatile pop/rock singer-songwriter. Especially during the first half of the '80s, Branigan was a formidable force on the worldwide pop singles charts, and many of her compositions and performances hold up quite well as quality pop music no matter what era is being discussed.
Branigan entered the music business initially as a teenager, serving as a member briefly and not famously in a U.S. band called Meadow. She worked as a sometime backup singer for other artists during the late '70s, including a stint as a vocalist supporting Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen on tour. However, Branigan's impressive alto voice - which featured a four-octave range - didn't gain her lasting attention as a true soft rock, dance and adult contemporary threat until 1979, when she signed with Atlantic Records.
Stardom & Signature Song:
It didn't take too long for Branigan to find success as a solo artist, even if music industry folks didn't quite know how to categorize her immediately. It turned out that the artist's 1982 debut LP, Branigan, happened to contain an Italian pop song that would become an absolute '80s classic in the singer's capable care. "Gloria" had been a modest regional hit upon initial release in 1979, but Branigan's version became a worldwide Top 10 smash that spent a then-record 36 weeks on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1982-1983.
More Chart Dominance:
Branigan had been a bit of a trailblazer in terms of introducing a European dance-pop sound to North American audiences, but she also benefited from the rise of synth pop in 1983 and 1984 to give her next releases a boost. 1983's Branigan 2 and 1984's Self Control kept her name prominent on pop radio playlists, particularly on the strength of Top 10 hits "Solitaire" (another European song) and "Self Control." Even so, original recordings of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?" and I Found Someone" fared relatively poorly when compared with later smash hit versions from Michael Bolton and Cher.
Branigan continued to experience success through the remainder of the '80s and into the '90s, but at a far lesser rate than previously enjoyed. Still, even if she would be unable match her Grammy-nominated mid-'80s years, Branigan remained a strong vocalist with a keen sense of which songs were worthy of her interpretive attention. Before exiting the music industry for family reasons in 1994, Branigan was also able to rekindle her presence as a dance music chart threat. That audience helped her get her start and would respond enthusiastically to her developing legacy.
Sudden Death & Continuing Impact:
Branigan returned to her music career as the new millennium launched, but while in the midst of planning a new release she died in her sleep in August 2004 of an apparent undiagnosed brain aneurysm. Music fans have certainly felt the loss, and as a new generation of female pop singers has begun to dominate the charts, Branigan's influence as a powerful, well-rounded singer continues to inform adult contemporary and dance-infused pop music performers in the age of American Idol and similar singing competition TV programs.