Examining The Small World Of Laura Branigan

Many people will likely not remember who Laura Branigan was, especially younger people.  During the early to mid 1980’s she had three hit albums and numerous hit singles, most of them cover songs or songs that were written for her by various songwriters, that hit the Billboard Hot 100 charts and were successful internationally in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other nations.  Although I look up some of her performances (she was not big on music videos, sadly), mostly on Solid Gold, from time to time, I was prompted to write this particular entry by some thoughts that were jarred by a music reviewer who put her version of “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?” as his second worst song of 1983, one of the most legendary years of pop music of all time, no exaggeration.  How small of a world did Laura Branigan inhabit in terms of her music?  And does her place within that world help determine the way that world is viewed by others?

As most people who read my blog are aware of, I write a semi-monthly blog series about acts that belong in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame but have not yet been inducted.  Laura Branigan’s 3 gold and platinum albums puts her at the edge of that conversation, and I may write about her in the future as an underrecognized female vocalist from a period where pop and rock music has not been given much in the way of RRHOF induction as of yet.  Be that as it may, when I started looking around at the people who were associated with writing songs and producing for Laura Branigan, I realized that this particular circle deserved to be expanded a bit.  Even doing very rudimentary searches on wikipedia (albeit quite a few of them [1]) it is very easy to see at least some of the connections that Laura Branigan made and they detail a world of pop music that most people pay little attention to.  So let us start.  Let us first frame the boundaries by saying that we will look at the hit singles that Laura Branigan recorded and we will examine only those people who can be easily found from them, namely the songwriters, producers, and other people who recorded the songs.  In doing so, how many people can we place within the small world of Laura Branigan, and what similarities can we find across this particular world?

Let us look hit single by hit single.  Laura Branigan’s first single, “All Night With Me,” coincidentally peaked at #69 on the charts, and the song was written by Chris Montan, who is such an obscure writer that he has no wikipedia entry, sadly.  Her cover of “Tell Him” is so obscure that she isn’t even mentioned in that article.  However, “Gloria” was a big hit single and one that broke the lovely Branigan to both an American as well as an international audience.  This song was originally written by Umberto Tozzi and Giancarlo Bigazzi, with English translation by convicted English pederast Jonathan King, if his wikipedia page can be believed, and re-written a bit by Trevor Veitch for Branigan’s cover version.  Although Umberto Tozzi is not a familiar figure in American pop music, Branigan was impressed enough by the success of “Gloria” that she recorded several more of his songs to a high degree of success.  By Branigan 2, she was working with other hit artists and showing her awareness of European pop music, since first single “Solitaire” was co-written by Martine Clémenceau and Diane Warren after having been a minor hit for the former on the French charts and a much bigger hit in the United States.  Diane Warren, of course, is a noted songwriter who has written many, many big hits for many artists.  After that, Branigan took a rejected Air Supply song co-written by Michael Bolton (yes, that Michael Bolton) and Doug James to #12 on the pop charts.  Bolton later recorded his own version of the song to help launch his own career as an artist and not only a songwriter.

Branigan’s most successful album was her platinum selling third album, which was anchored by top 5 single “Self Control,” a piece of Italian disco co-written by Giancarlo Bigazzi, Raffaele Riefoli, and Steve Piccolo.  Bigazzi, of course, had earlier co-written “Gloria,” so she was definitely on the radar for his music after that hit single.  After that she released the top 20 hit “The Lucky One,” co-written by Bruce Roberts and appearing on a forgotten television movie “An Uncommon Love.”  “Ti Amo,” another Italian-based love song, was co-written by Bigazzi, Tozzi, and Diane Warren, showing that she had some consistent taste in songwriters.  The song wasn’t a big hit in the US but it was very successful in Australia and Canada.  “Spanish Eddie,” the lead single from her less successful fourth album, was barely a top 40 hit in the United States (and her second-to-last one), and was written by David Palmer and Chuck Cochran.  “Hold Me” was written by the little known Beth Anderson and Bill Bodine, “Maybe Tonight” written by producer Jack White with Mark Spiro, and “I Found Someone,” later covered by Cher, written by Michael Bolton and Mark Mangold, which became a top ten hit for Cher but only hit #90 for the rapidly fading Branigan.

Although Branigan would not have any more hits in the United States after the mid 1980’s, she still recorded singles that demonstrated her awareness of hit songs from the United States and other places.  “Shattered Love” was produced by hitmakers Stock Aitken Waterman (responsible for Rick Astley, among many others) and written by Bob Mitchell and Steve Coe after it had been a mismanaged radio hit for Scottish singer Ellie Warren in 1980.  “Power Of Love” was written by Gunther Mende, Candy DeRouge, Jennifer Rush, and Mary Susan Applegate, peaking at #26 for her final top 40 hit, and was later recorded by a young Celine Dion, whose version hit #1.  After her version of songwriter Jude Johnstone’s “Cry Wolf” didn’t go anywhere on the charts, it was later covered by Stevie Nicks as well as by the songwriter.  Her version of Steve Kipner and Andy Goldmark’s “Moonlight On Water” only bettered the obscure Kevin Raleigh’s chart performance by one slot, being a #59 hit as a cover instead of a #60 hit for its original artist.  Even though the hits had stopped coming, Branigan covered a song that Michael Bolton and Doug James had originally written for Cher in “Hard Enough Getting Over Year” as a single from her final studio album, although it did not chart in 1993, by which point Branigan had been largely forgotten by fans and critics alike, which remained true until her untimely death at the age of 52 from a cerebral aneurysm.

From what we have said so far, it appears that there are a few things that we can say about the connections of Laura Branigan’s career.  For one, she was an astute student of dance music and had been able to gain quite a few hits by performing songs from then obscure songwriters or songs that had been moderate hits in the United States or in various European countries like the UK, France, and Italy.  Whether Laura Branigan or someone else located these songs for her, Branigan certainly benefited in the early part of her career at least from the fact that she had some very catchy songs as well as somewhat torchy songs to sing, which she took full advantage of as a vocalist.  She clearly belongs to a group of vocalists like Celine Dion and Cher and Michael Bolton who are able to wring out a great deal of emotion from a song and achieve popular success if not necessarily a great deal of critical appeal.  She had plenty of songwriters she was comfortable working with and kept trying to comeback nearly a decade after the hits started drying up through cover tracks of songs that she hoped were fresh enough to give her another chance on the radio.  By jumpstarting Michael Bolton’s and Diane Warren’s career as songwriters and helping indirectly to launch Cher on one of her many comebacks, Laura Branigan deserves to be remembered.  If she was by no means a great songwriter herself, she certainly had good taste in the songs of others, and that is certainly a worthwhile thing.

[1] See, for example:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Branigan_discography

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Night_with_Me

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloria_(Umberto_Tozzi_song)#Laura_Branigan_version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_King

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solitaire_(Laura_Branigan_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Am_I_Supposed_to_Live_Without_You

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self_Control_(Raf_song)#Laura_Branigan_version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lucky_One_(Laura_Branigan_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ti_amo#Laura_Branigan_version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Eddie

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Found_Someone

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shattered_Glass_(Laura_Branigan_song)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Love_(Jennifer_Rush_song)#Laura_Branigan_version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moonlight_on_Water#Laura_Branigan_version

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_Enough_Getting_Over_You

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laura_Branigan

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_songs_written_by_Diane_Warren (sort list by earliest date and look at how many early Diane Warren songs were sung by Laura Branigan)

 

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Examining The Small World Of Laura Branigan

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    I loved Laura Branigan’s voice and viewed her early death as a loss to the music industry–and those of the listening public who were discerning enough to recognize her unique talent. She was definitely one of a kind.

    • Yes, she had a very good voice and a good knowledge of the sort of song that would work well for her, and, as I noted, a close relationship with a small set of producers and songwriters who appreciated the way she could popularize a song through her performances. It is a tragedy that she died so young herself and that even in her short life she had lost so many productive years because of taking care of a sick husband before that. I would consider her on the fringes of my criteria for the rock & roll hall of fame, but I may write about her more for that series.

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