Anyone that knows me knows that I am a big fan of 80s music. The soundtrack of my childhood included Tears for Fears, Peter Gabriel, Wham! and Cyndi Lauper. But there was always one singer that stood out to me and still has an affect on me today and that person is Rick Astley. The soulful blue-eyed man always found his way onto my CD compilations, my iPod and eventually, my wedding. “Never Gonna Give You Up” was the song my wedding ceremony ended with and also began the wedding reception, giving Rick Astley a permanent place in my life.
Every so often over the last few years, Rick Astley’s name or music would make its way into relevant pop culture leading me to wonder, “Where has he been?” Not as popular today as he once was during the late 80s, Astley has managed to leave a huge mark in the music industry and is working on a comeback.
Rick Astley was born in a small town in England, Newton-Le-Willows on February 6, 1966. Music was always a part of his life as he was a member of a number of bands, with “FBI” being the one credited for showcasing his talent of singing. During the first year he and his band mates were together and performing, it was very clear that his natural talent far surpassed theirs. Soon, Astley had connected with big-time producers Stock, Aitken & Waterman for PWL Studios. He was well on his way to recording and producing music with the best in the business.
According to the official Rick Astley website, he recorded his debut single, “Never Gonna Give You Up” on New Years Day, 1987. It was released the summer of the same year and flew to the #1 spot on the Britain’s music chart. He continued to crank out hits that sped up the UK album charts including “Whenever You Need Somebody,” and selling 15.2 million copies of the album worldwide. In 1988, Astley won the Best Single Award at the UK’s BPI Awards for “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
During the late 1980s, Rick Astley could do no wrong and found success on tour, as well. He decided to part ways with Stock, Aitken & Waterman to pursue his vision as a musician. Signing with RCA/BMG Worldwide, Astley had much more control of his work and co-produced an album named “Free.” With the release of his next single, “Cry For Help,” Astley was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the first male solo artist to have 8 singles reach the Top 10 in the UK. He still holds this title.
Rick Astley followed up the success of “Free” with his new album, “Body & Soul.” This album was important because Astley wrote all the songs on this album himself. The marketing and selling of this album differed from previous albums due to the birth of his daughter. During this time, Astley decided to pull back from singing and focus on his family life.
In 2001, Rick Astley reentered the entertainment world with the single, “Sleeping” to the album titled, “Keep It Turned On.” It was awarded the “Radio 2’s Gold Album of the Week” by the BBC, which meant the tracks on the album would be played a number of times throughout the day that week. In 2004, Astley went on tour with surprise tour dates extending into 2005. During this time he signed with SonyBMG, releasing an album that contained covers of Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Dean Martin and Elvis.
During 2008, Rick Astley joined the 80s Tour called “The Here & Now Tour,” performing the songs that made him famous during the late 80s. Soon after that, the viral phenomenon called “Rick-rolling” surfaced and took over the internet. The fun of this craze was to lead someone to click a link on the internet with the link leading them to a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up,” showcasing Astley’s dance moves in the video. The popularity of this prank made the video for “Never Gonna Give You Up” one of the most viewed videos on YouTube. Groups began forming to meet in public places to perform the “Rick-roll.” The ultimate “Rick-roll” perhaps was by Astley himself during the Macy’s Day Parade in 2008 when Astley showed up on the float for Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and sang “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
One thing is for sure, Rick Astley is here to stay. His popularity came from his natural talent of singing. He continues to make strides in the music world and whether a generation of people knows Astley because of the “Rick-roll” phenomenon or the days of the late 80s, he will always have fans who adore his music and are ready to “Rick-roll” at a moment’s notice.