Laura Ann Branigan (July 3, 1957 – August 26, 2004) was an American singer, songwriter and actress. She is best remembered for her 1982 Platinum-certified hit "Gloria" and for the Top Ten single "Self Control". Branigan is also remembered for the Top 10 "Solitaire" and for the number-one Adult Contemporary hit "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You", as well as several other US Top 40 hits. As well as her music, she was also known for her powerful, husky alto singing voice which spanned four octaves.
Branigan also contributed songs to notable motion picture and television soundtracks, including the Grammy and Academy Award-winning Flashdance soundtrack (1983), the Ghostbusters soundtrack (1984), and the Baywatch soundtrack (1994).
Her signature song "Gloria" stayed on the US Billboard Hot 100 for 36 weeks, at the time a record for a female artist. The song holds a place in the top 100 singles of both 1982 and 1983.
Branigan died at her home in 2004, aged 47, from a previously undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm.
In the early 1970s Branigan was a member of the band, Meadow, which recorded one album in 1973 called The Friend Ship. The record was never re-released, and Branigan preferred not to discuss her involvement with Meadow publicly. During the years after Meadow broke up, she had various jobs, including a stint as one of Leonard Cohen's backup singers for his European tour.
In 1979, Branigan was signed by Ahmet Ertegun to Atlantic Records. The strength of her alto voice, with its four-octave range, ironically impeded her career for a couple of years while the label went through the process of categorizing her. She was finally categorized as a pop singer and a single called "Looking Out for Number One" made a brief appearance on the U.S. Dance chart. Two other early Atlantic singles, "Tell Him" and "Fool's Affair", followed. None of these three singles (or the B-side "When") were included on her first album or ever reissued on any compilation LP or CD to date. Her first solo album Branigan was released in 1982; the first single from this album was "All Night With Me," which hit #69 on the Billboard charts in early 1982.
Branigan, the nine-song debut album, alternated four energetic up-tempo songs with five ballads, including one of the few songs written solely by Branigan: "I Wish We Could Be Alone". "Gloria", an Italian love song recorded by Umberto Tozzi in 1979 (and successful in several European countries), was released as the album's second single. Branigan's version was reworked with Tozzi's own arranger, Greg Mathieson, who updated its production with fellow producer Jack White to give it what Branigan called "an American kick" to match the new English lyrics. American radio was initially unreceptive to "Gloria"; the song's combination of American and European sound predated the imminent second "British Invasion" of popular music by several months. Embraced by dance clubs, it eventually won over American radio stations and the song became one of the biggest hits of the 1980s. The album went Gold, and the single was eventually certified Platinum (for sales of more than two million U.S. copies).
Branigan's vocal performance of "Gloria" was nominated for a Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female Grammy Award (alongside Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John, Juice Newton, and that year's winner, Melissa Manchester); "Gloria" marked Branigan's only solo nomination. The following year she received a second nomination as one of the various artists on the Flashdance original soundtrack album when it was nominated for Album of the Year. The album also won the Best Soundtrack Grammy but, as this award is given only to the composers, Branigan was not nominated.
In the spring of 1983, Branigan released her second album, Branigan 2. By this time, the dramatic European synth-pop sound was on the rise, and Branigan's vocals propelled her English-language version of the French song "Solitaire" to the upper reaches of the U.S. charts. The original "Solitaire" was written and recorded in 1981 by French singer-songwriter Martine Clemenceau. In addition to cementing a place in pop history and ensuring she was not a one-hit wonder, her second album's two big hits began the careers for two then-unknowns, who themselves became industry legends. The English translation of "Solitaire" was the first major hit for songwriter Diane Warren, while the album's second hit single, the ballad "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," was the first major hit for its co-writer, Michael Bolton. Branigan's debut recording of "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" reached #12 on the Hot 100 and spent three weeks at #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart.
The 1983 film Flashdance contained two Laura Branigan songs, "Gloria" and a new song, "Imagination". The latter song was included on the Grammy Award winning Flashdance soundtrack, which reached #1 and sold more than six million copies in the U.S. alone.
Height of her career
The year 1984 was the height of the European synth-pop era, and "Self Control", the title track of Branigan's third album, became her biggest hit internationally, topping the charts in over six countries, most notably West Germany, where it spent six weeks at #1. The original version of "Self Control," recorded a few months earlier in 1984 by one of the song's co-writers Raffaele Riefoli (under the name Raf), held the West German number-two spot during this time period; outside of Raf's native Italy, Branigan's version enjoyed more success. It hit #4 in the U.S.
Other pop, dancefloor and adult contemporary hits from Branigan's Self Control album include "The Lucky One" (which won her a Tokyo Music Festival prize), the continental ballad "Ti Amo" (another Umberto Tozzi hit, and a #2 hit in Australia for Branigan) and the Dance hit "Satisfaction." The album also featured an understated version of Carole King's "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"; as a counterpoint to all the dance productions, it was a bare-bones piano version. (In concerts and television appearances throughout her career, Branigan accompanied herself on the piano for the song.) That year Branigan's live show was recorded twice, for a syndicated radio concert series and a concert video. Branigan was also nominated for an award at the American Music Awards of 1985 for Favorite Pop/Rock Female Video Artist (won by Cyndi Lauper). Also in 1985 Branigan performed the main theme song for the television mini-series Hollywood Wives, based on the novel by Jackie Collins.
By the time of Branigan's fourth album, 1985's Hold Me, "Self Control" was a world-wide success. The hits continued with "Spanish Eddie," which was her sixth US Billboard Top 40 Pop hit in two and a half years. The subsequent single release "Hold Me" was a U.S. top 40 dance hit, and Branigan's introduction of the rock ballad "I Found Someone" (cowritten by Michael Bolton, and later a hit for Cher) scored even higher on the Adult Contemporary chart. However, neither song was supported by a music video and stalled in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 chart.
Touch, which was released in 1987, marked a change in Branigan's career. Under new management and using different producers, Branigan took a more active role in her work and in the studio. Touch saw her return to dancefloors with the Stock/Aitken/Waterman-produced "Shattered Glass", written by Bob Mitchell and Steve Coe. The album also included a return to the Billboard Top 40 with her cover of Jennifer Rush's "The Power of Love," which was one of the top 20 bestselling singles in the United States during Christmas time. The album's third single, "Cry Wolf," a top 30 AC hit, did not capture attention at pop radio and stalled. The ballad was recorded two years later by Stevie Nicks, and more recently by writer Jude Johnstone.
During the height of her career, Branigan also made acting appearances, first in 1981 in An American Girl in Berlin for German television, and then after the success of "Gloria," guest appearances on American television series such as CHiPs, Automan and Knight Rider. She would later do independent films such as Mugsy's Girls (aka Delta Pi, 1985) with Academy Award winner Ruth Gordon, and the Australian film Backstage. She sang on major national television and radio campaigns for products including Dr Pepper, Coca-Cola and Chrysler, which sponsored her 1985-1986 "Hold Me" tour.
Branigan's 1990 self-titled album brought the singer back to the Hi-NRG charts and gay clubs with "Moonlight On Water", and she scored a Top-30 Adult Contemporary hit with "Never in a Million Years". Branigan added production to her list of credits with her cover of Vicki Sue Robinson's disco-era "Turn the Beat Around" and the atmospheric "Let Me In," a cover of an Eddie Money song. The album also included "Unison," which was the title track for Celine Dion's English debut CD in the same year. The album's closing track, a cover of Bryan Adams' "The Best Was Yet to Come," was produced and arranged by Branigan herself. The singer's 1990-1991 concert tour was filmed for a syndicated U.S. television show, SRO in Concert, which was also released on videocassette and laserdisc (though not on DVD, to date.)
On Branigan's seventh and final studio album, 1993's Over My Heart, the singer again produced (with Phil Ramone), wrote and arranged. The album included a cover of Roxette's song "The Sweet Hello, the Sad Goodbye," and "Is There Anybody Here But Me?" (Pessis, Wells), a smooth mid-tempo number.
Branigan was married to Larry Kruteck, a lawyer 20 years her senior, in December 1981. Not long after the Over My Heart album's release, Branigan left the music industry in 1994 to spend more time with Kruteck following his diagnosis of colon cancer. He died on June 15, 1996.
During these years, Branigan's chart success cooled in the United States, though she was still in demand around the world and went on several global tours. Branigan had official hit collections released in South America, Japan, Germany, South Africa, and the United States. The United States collection was released in 1995: The 13-track The Best of Branigan and included two newly recorded covers: "Show Me Heaven" (written by Maria McKee) and the Donna Summer hit "Dim All the Lights", which Branigan released in several remixes.
Branigan's vocal coach was Carlo Menotti and she worked with Steve Lukather (Toto), Dann Huff (Giant) and Michael Landau; keyboardists Greg Mathieson, Harold Faltermeyer, Michael Boddicker and Robbie Buchanan; bassists Nathan East and Dennis Belfield (Rufus); drummer Carlos Vega; percussionists Paulinho Da Costa and Lenny Castro; and guest vocalists including Joe "Bean" Esposito and background vocalists including The Waters Sisters (Maxine & Julia), James Ingram, and Richard Page and Stephen George (Mr. Mister). As her stature grew, she attracted Grammy-winning producers including Phil Ramone, Richard Perry and David Kershenbaum. She performed duets with John Farnham as well as Latin pop artist Luis Miguel. She also appeared frequently on various television shows, including The Merv Griffin Show, Dick Clark's American Bandstand, Solid Gold, and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
In 2001, Branigan's return to the stage was postponed when she broke both of her femurs in a fall. In 2002, she performed twice as the "singing" Janis Joplin in the off-Broadway musical Love, Janis, before dropping out of the show. "I left Janis because the producers didn't file with Equity properly", she told the Sunday News in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. "I was sort of relieved. My voice isn't anything like Janis Joplin's, and there were 19 of her songs in the show."
Also in 2002, her second official United States hits collection, The Essentials: Laura Branigan, was released, including the long out-of-print hit "I Found Someone".
Branigan died in her sleep at her lodge in East Quogue, New York, on August 26, 2004. The cause was attributed to a previously undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm. It was reported in the media that she had been experiencing headaches for several weeks before her death but did not seek medical attention. Her ashes were scattered over Long Island Sound.
Other Half Entertainment, Branigan's management company at the time of her death, continues to oversee her career legacy through her official website, www.LauraBraniganOnline.com, her official MySpace and Facebook pages, by taking part in various media opportunities, as well as through relationships with Warner Music Group and other entertainment industry entities. Other Half Entertainment serves as the comprehensive, official voice for her legacy interests, while keeping her artistic visions and standards at the heart of its operations.
In 2005, Other Half Entertainment organized a memorial for Branigan's friends and fans, held on the anniversary of her death, near the Long Island home in which she was caring for her mother at the time of her death. Following its initial success, the "Spirit of Love Memorial Gathering" remains an annual event in celebration of her life and the legacy of her passionate vocal performances and the heartfelt connection she made with her fans, whom she consistently referred to as "my other half".
Between 2006 and the present, Branigan's management company worked regularly with Warner Music Group entities in the production and release of various new greatest hits compilations. The Platinum Collection is an 18-song compilation including all the major hits as well as tracks such as "Silent Partners", "Satisfaction", "All Night With Me" and "If You Loved Me", that were four relatively new additions to Branigan hits compilations. In 2007, the 1995 "The Best of Branigan" was re-released as part of Rhino's 2007 "Greatest Hits" series of CDs. In 2008, Rhino/WEA authorized the re-release of three out-of-print Branigan albums, Touch, Laura Branigan and Over My Heart. In June 2010, Shine On: The Ultimate Collection was released, which for the first time, incorporated a PAL, DVD featuring official Atlantic music videos to 10 of Branigan's songs in addition to an 18-track CD including Forever Young which made its return to the greatest hits compilations. The CD contains edited versions of most songs.
At Byram Hills High School in Armonk, New York, the Laura Branigan Memorial Scholarship is given annually to a senior for excellence in the Performing Arts.
- Branigan (1982)
- Branigan 2 (1983)
- Self Control (1984)
- Hold Me (1985)
- Touch (1987)
- Laura Branigan (1990)
- Over My Heart (1993)
|1985||Mugsy's Girls||Monica||Also known as Delta Pi|
|1982||Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade||Herself||Performer of "Gloria"|
|Saturday Night Live||Herself||Performer of "Gloria" and "Living a Lie"|
|1983||CHiPs||Sarah||Guest star in "Fox Trap" (Season 6, Episode 16)|
|A Solid Gold Christmas||Herself||Performer of "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" and "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"|
|Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve||Herself||Performer of "How am I Supposed to Live Without You" and "Solitaire"|
|1984||Automan||Jessie Cole||Guest star in "Murder MTV" (Season 1, Episode 9)|
|Laura Branigan In Concert||Herself||Her concert live from Caesars Tahoe|
|Rock Rolls On||Herself||Co-host, Performer of "Self Control" and "The Lucky One"|
|1986||Disney's Living Seas||Herself||Performer and composer of "If I Were a River"|
|1988||Record Guide '88||Herself||Interview|
|1990||SRO: In Concert||Herself||Her concert live from Atlantic City|
|1991||Monsters||Amanda Smith-Jones||Guest star in "A Face for Radio" (Season 3, Episode 19)|
|2002||Love, Janis||Janis Joplin||Off-Broadway, New York|
Awards and nominations
|1982||Grammy Awards||Best Pop Vocal Performance — Female||"Gloria"||Nominated|
|1983||Album of the Year||"Imagination" (Flashdance soundtrack)||Nominated^|
|1984||American Music Awards||Favorite Pop/Rock Female Video Artist||"Self Control"||Nominated|
|Tokyo Music Festival||Grand Prix Award for Best Vocal Performance||"The Lucky One"||Won|
- ^ This nomination was not awarded to Laura Branigan alone.
- at the Internet Movie Database
- at AllMovie