Leslie Sebastian Charles on January 21, 1950 in Fyzabad, Trinidad
Known as one of the most successful black British recording artists of all time, Caribbean-born Billy Ocean ruled the mid- to late-'80s on both sides of the Atlantic as a smooth adult contemporary favorite. Though an undercurrent of R&B certainly played a role in some of Ocean's music, his forte always remained his aptitude for soft ballads and highly commercial dance-pop. A staple of the '80s on pop charts around the world, Ocean didn't retain much music-scene significance beyond the decade of his prime. Nevertheless, his career is a memorable signpost of the era.
As a child, Ocean moved to England with his Grenadian parents, following relatively soon after in his father's musician footsteps. He spent much of the '70s singing around London and its environs, scoring a deal with Britain's GTO records and releasing his self-titled debut album in 1976. Despite four consecutive Top 20 U.K. singles to start his career, Ocean failed to secure much of a foothold outside his adopted home country even into the early '80s. However, patience and perseverance would soon pay off handsomely for the singer-songwriter.
U.S. Breakthrough & Genuine Stardom:
Fellow Brit George Orwell may have assigned some ominous expectations for the year 1984, but Ocean experienced no such shadows at that point of his now-veteran career. In fact, that year's LP, Suddenly, became an instant smash - particularly in North America - on the strength of three consecutive U.S. Top 5 Billboard pop singles. The bouncy, sultry "Caribbean Queen" claimed the top spot in late 1984, followed by slightly lesser showings for "Loverboy" and the album's romantic title track. A Grammy award in 1985 helped lead to an important Hollywood blockbuster soundtrack appearance.
Sustained American Success:
Ocean would release two more albums to round out the '80s, 1986's Love Zone and 1988's Tear Down These Walls. Both generated multiple U.S. hits, in part because of Ocean's favorable association with the '80s romantic adventure film The Jewel of the Nile. That blockbuster film's theme, the affable if slight "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going," became a worldwide mid-tempo smash and an MTV favorite. Ocean wisely sprinkled in the strong ballads "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" and "Love Is Forever," which helped sustain his tremendous 1986.
Commercial Decline, Continuing Solo Career:
Ocean's final international mega-hit, 1988's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car," fell short of defining the singer as a serious pop or R&B artist. Even worse for Ocean's continuing career, he has not managed to return to the charts in the ensuing half-century of a sporadic recording career. Even so, the name Billy Ocean (as well as the artist's sophisticated look and distinctively warm vocal style) remain fond memories for music fans of an era steeped in nostalgia. The evocative stage name certainly never hurt, either.