Billy Ocean (born Leslie Sebastian Charles; 21 January 1950) is a Trinidad-born English Grammy Award winning popular music performer who had a string of rhythm and blues international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the most popular British-based R&B singer / songwriter of the early to mid-1980s. After scoring his first four UK top 20 successes, seven years passed before he accumulated a series of transatlantic successes, including three U.S. number ones.
He was born in Trinidad and Tobago to Grenadian parents, and moved to Romford, London, England with his family at the age of eight. Ocean's musical influence came at an early age of his life, as his father was a musician, and realised he was in line to follow those ambitions as he was growing up. During his teenage years, he sang regularly in London clubs while also working as a tailor in London's Savile Row. He released his first single in 1972 on Spark Records as Les Charles.
He took his stage name from the Ocean Estate, Stepney, where he was living at the time. In 1976, he recorded his first album, Billy Ocean, with its first single release, "Love Really Hurts Without You," charting at number 2 in the UK Singles Chart and number 22 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. He enjoyed club success from the songs "Are You Ready" and "Stay The Night" from the album City Limit - both of which were later covered by La Toya Jackson (see below). More successes ensued, including "L.O.D. (Love On Delivery)". He also wrote songs for other artists. In 1981, he scored the U.S. R&B chart with "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)".
Ocean's period of greatest success began with Suddenly during 1984, and its main single, "Caribbean Queen". The song's title and lyrics were changed for different regions, such that the song is also known as "African Queen" or "European Queen". The song won Ocean the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1985 Grammy Awards. The album's title track also became a success, peaking at #4 in both the US and the UK and the song "Loverboy", while also being a #2 US success in 1985 was also featured in the very first scene of the popular UK BBC One TV series, Casualty, in 1986.
Ocean appeared at Live Aid in 1985, singing "Caribbean Queen" and "Loverboy", from the JFK Stadium in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
His 1986 album Love Zone also sold well. It included the successful singles "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" (the theme from the film The Jewel of the Nile); this was a number one success in the UK and a number two in the U.S.; and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" (a U.S. number one, and also a major UK success). Also included were the title track and "Love Is Forever", which were #10 and #16 U.S. successes for Ocean, respectively.
In February 1986, Ocean's video of "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" was banned by the BBC, owing to non-union members (including Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito) miming to backing vocals.
Ocean's next album, Tear Down These Walls (1988) featured another number one single, "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car", while the album was certified platinum.
His 1993 album Time to Move On failed to produce any major successes, but his 1989 Greatest Hits collection has been a steady seller over the years, and his 1997 compilation Love Is For Ever made #7 on the UK album chart. Ocean's last studio album for Jive Records was Time to Move On, which he recorded in Chicago with R&B star R. Kelly. It turned out that R. Kelly had been a long-time admirer of the way Ocean was able to mix the more emotive soul style with a crossover popular style.
In 2002, the University of Westminster in London awarded Ocean an honorary doctorate of music. The awards ceremony took place in the Barbican Centre, in London. He continues to tour and record in Europe. He lives in Sunningdale, Berkshire with his wife of 27 years, Judy; and their three children Cherie, Antony and Rachel. Ocean is now a patron for Tech Music Schools in London, made up of Drumtech, Vocaltech, Guitar-X and Keyboardtech. He regularly visits to hold clinics and seminars for the students.
In 2004, "Caribbean Queen" was re-released as a digital single for its 20th anniversary, shooting up to #25 on the Billboard digital singles chart and garnering radio play across the US and UK. A remix of the single by Will.I.Am was released in 2005, and it later appeared on Pitchfork's "Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s" countdown, at #87.
In October 2007, Ocean commenced his first UK tour in over 15 years. In February and March 2008 he toured Australia and the Far East. His album, Because I Love You was released on 2 February 2009. To coincide with this tour and album launch, Ocean worked with Adoseof Design on a revision of Ocean's website.
In April 2010, an eighteen track compilation album was released in the UK by Sony Music entitled The Very Best of Billy Ocean, to tie in with a thirty date tour of the UK and Ireland. Featuring Ocean's biggest hits, the album debuted in the UK Albums Chart at number 17.
On 20 October 2010, Ocean was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MOBO Awards.
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