September 26, 1945 in Washington, County Durham, England
Though considered an early glam rock and art rock icon of the '70s as frontman of Roxy Music, English singer-songwriter Bryan Ferry also engineered an active and stylish career throughout the '80s, mostly as a solo artist. In fact, he contributed significantly to the emerging new wave during the early part of the decade through a resurgence of his band before going exclusively solo thereafter. An enchanting, haunting and romantic vocalist and songwriter, Ferry skirted many genres with his varied pop/rock. Here's a look at Ferry's long-term musical career as both band member and solo artist.
Though born into a working-class family, Ferry leaned firmly in the direction of the arts at a relatively early age, studying fine arts and then teaching in the field briefly before getting serious about music. He had already played in bands, including the Banshees and the Gas Board, before getting together with friend Graham Simpson to form Roxy Music around 1970. The band burst onto the British rock scene with its debut album in 1972, becoming successful stars in its homeland quickly enough to allow Ferry to release his first solo record in 1973.
Roxy Music Resurfaces for the '80s:
For several years during the '70s, Ferry focused largely on his solo career, even if Roxy Music was never formally dissolved. So when the band returned with successful albums in 1979, 1980 and 1982, there was no reason to believe Ferry couldn't have it both ways. In fact, on these records Ferry seemed to be perfecting a smooth, stylishly atmospheric pop/rock sound that complemented his eclecticism. In particular, 1982's Avalon became a major commercial and critical success, even if by then the originally sprawling group had been carved down to a trio with Ferry as its clear, sophisticated leader. Nevertheless, Ferry decided to go fully solo in 1983, though some time passed before his next release on his own.
Ferry Enjoys His Greatest Solo Success:
In 1985, Ferry released Boys and Girls, his first official post-Roxy solo album, despite the fact that the most recent Roxy records had been essentially solo vehicles for his sophisticated pop sound. This record, however, struck a major chord in both the U.K. and U.S., yielding two hit single ballads in "Slave to Love" and "Don't Stop the Dance." By this point, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference between Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry solo, but that mattered little. Collaboration with Pink Floyd's David Gilmour probably didn't hurt the quality of these recordings, either.
Finishing Out the '80s & Beyond:
Ferry released one more record before the decade closed out, 1987's Bete Noire. Pop single success proved far more elusive, even if "Kiss and Tell" and "The Right Stuff" - cowritten with then-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr - barely scraped into the UK Top 40. But Ferry had been forging a singular path for so long that these minor setbacks generally escaped his notice. Throughout the '90s, he reconnected with former Roxy Music bandmate Brian Eno, released more solo material, and focused on other artistic endeavors.
Ongoing Roxy Music Reunion:
Ferry greeted the new millennium by reforming the last incarnation of Roxy Music - including guitarist Phil Manzanera and keyboard player Andy Mackay - and touring extensively in 2001. Thus, the singer had returned to his primary dual roles as solo artist and band member, and for the past decade Ferry has remained active in various forms of show business. The legacies of both Roxy Music and Ferry alone have continued to grow richer, even as the artist's range of interests and outspoken nature have kept his career wildly unpredictable.