Sheena Shirley Orr in Bellshill, Scotland on April 27, 1959
Easton grew up in a working-class family with multiple siblings, raised largely by a mother who had to take over their upbringing upon the death of her husband in 1969. During her early teen years, the young, occasional singer became inspired by long-term pop diva Barbra Streisand's vocal contributions to 1973's film The Way We Were to pursue music in earnest. Interestingly, Easton can stake a claim as one of reality TV's earliest successful experiments, participating in the 1980 British series The Big Time, which chronicled the rise of an aspiring pop singer. That appearance led to a record deal soon after.
Overnight Success & Immediate Consistency:
In an entertainment field filled with overnight success stories as many as 10 or 15 years in the making, Easton stands out as a fairly genuine example of rags to riches pop music fame. Her first major hit single in both the U.K. and U.S., the catchy "Morning Train (Nine to Five)," introduced Easton's soon to be well established sexy/innocent persona, exemplified by her demure, slightly girlish vocal style. Musically, that top hit from 1981 straddled a fuzzy area between pure pop, R&B/dance music, and a subtle sort of country pop. In addition, Easton's striking and elegant look certainly didn't slow her rising profile.
Versatility Helps Easton Avoid Letdowns:
After winning the 1981 Best New Artist Grammy and placing "For Your Eyes Only," the appropriately bombastic ballad and theme from the James Bond film of the same name, on the Oscar ballot for Best Original Song, Easton was poised to reign atop pop music. But with the advent of new wave, she struggled to find her niche initially, settling ultimately on a dance-pop sound, with the exception of her successful duet with Kenny Rogers on Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight." Having admirably weathered the changing pop music landscape of the early '80s, Easton then prepared to make an even splashier seductive impact in 1984.
Prince Collaboration Makes Easton's Sex Symbol Status Official:
At the peak of his mid-'80s success, anything Prince touched turned to gold or some other kind of precious metal or jewel. Accordingly, the superstar's makeover of Easton's look and sound helped take the suggestive "Strut" and controversially titillating "Sugar Walls" (the latter penned by Prince especially for Easton) to the pop masses. This shift also advanced a sensual, vampy image for Easton on MTV, when the clips weren't banned for being too risque. Despite this accelerated success, Easton was relatively quiet during a record company hold-up of her next album, not approaching the limelight again until 1987.
'Miami Vice' & One Last Sexy Turn:
Although Easton continued her collaboration with Prince by teaming up with him on his hit single "U Got the Look," her main 1987 claim to fame was as guest star on TV's flashy, steamy cop drama Miami Vice. Despite the short-lived nature of that acting gig, Easton had increased her prominence in the public eye sufficiently to take another shot at the role of pop vixen, again striking paydirt with 1989's The Lover in Me. The title track and its video clip maximized more than ever Easton's photogenic, sultry image, and the 30-year-old finished out the '80s with a convincingly sexy flourish.
No More Chart Action, but a Pop Diva Template Is Born:
Easton may not have sustained her momentum very far into the '90s and beyond as a mainstream pop star, but she most definitely paved the way for the antics and massive paydays of '90s singers from Celine Dion and Mariah Carey to Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. That may not always seem like a good thing, but Easton was never self-conscious about trading on her alluring sexuality just as much as her more than competent vocal talents. A remarkably versatile and consistent performer, Easton will always remain a major visual icon of the '80s, her image burned upon the retinas of more than a few of us.