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Roger Chapman

Roger Chapman is best known for his barbed-wire voice, used to front British '70s rock acts Family and Streetwalkers. He began a long-awaited solo career in 1978 that led to over a dozen full-length releases. Never heard of them? It's not surprising: album-wise, he camped out in Germany for 20 years. His first album and tour got high praise in his British homeland, but critics cut into him soon after. When the hassle-free German market beckoned, Chapman began to focus his subsequent work there, where he had become a musical hero, "the working-class artist." Chapman split with his longtime writing partner, Charlie Whitney, after the breakup of Streetwalkers in 1977. He surrounded himself with ace session musicians to cut a debut solo effort, Chappo. It was an album of strong rock that catered to the singer and not the musicians. An appearance on Germany's Rockpalast TV show and the ensuing hit single, "Let's Spend the Night Together," gave Chapman the shot of success he needed, so he set up operations in Germany. Live in Hamburg was a reassuring second album, demonstrating the live energy of this experienced yet stage-crazed performer. Studio albums over the next few years blended straight power rock with funk, R&B, and soul, all topped with Chapman's characteristic vocal style. In the 1981 German Music Awards, Chapman was voted Best Singer, and his Hyenas Only Laugh for Fun won an award. Chapman and his backing band, the Shortlist, released two alter-ego albums in the early '80s as the Riff Burglars. These releases honored roots and classic rock by artists like Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, and Leiber & Stoller. A lead vocal on Mike Oldfield's 1983 hit "Shadow on the Wall" also added to Chapman's diverse repertoire. Chapman's mid-'80s foray into polished studio sounds did not fare well with his audience. When his extended partnership with guitarist Geoff Whitehorn ran its course, Chapman returned to pure rock form with 1989's Walking the Cat, which featured Alvin Lee and old friend Bob Tench. Two compilations filled a silent period in the mid '90s, but 1996's Kiss My Soul was a comeback for the guy who had never gone away. It even got attention and a pressing in Chapman's British homeland, where he often toured despite the lack of domestic releases. This was followed by 1998's A Turn Unstoned? and the two-CD Anthology; the next year saw re-releases of Chappo and Mail Order Magic. Moth to a Flame was issued in early 2001. A number of live and archival releases followed in the early 2000s, and a new studio album, One More Time for Peace, was released in 2007. In 2009 Chapman announced that he would be retiring from live performances, and his final appearance dates were subsequently announced, culminating in several festival sets in the U.K. and Germany planned for August 2010.
© Patrick Little /TiVo
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