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Rick Springfield

A rocker with a flair for a hardened pop hook, Rick Springfield became an overnight sensation with "Jessie's Girl," a 1981 smash whose reign on the charts coincided with his buzzy role as Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. "Jessie's Girl" wasn't Springfield's first hit, either in America or his native Australia. "Speak to the Sky," a bright, bouncy piece of AM candy, brought him to the top of the charts in both countries in 1972 but instead of turning into a star, Springfield spent the next decade working hard, attempting different styles, following fashion, and honing his personal style. At the dawn of the '80s, he crafted a hybrid of album rock and radio-ready pop, a sound that was adjacent to power pop but designed for the airwaves and MTV. Springfield spent the first half of the '80s mining this vein, racking up a number of big hits -- "I've Done Everything for You,' "Don't Talk to Strangers," "Affair of the Heart," and "Love Somebody" among them -- before transitioning toward contemplative arena rock by the end of the decade. The evolution helped him sustain a career. Springfield continued to regularly deliver thoughtful, muscular rock records into the 2020s, occasionally adding afew modern flourishes to the production but always drawing from the same brawny melodic source that fueled his big hits. Born Richard Lewis Springthope on August 23, 1949, in the Sydney suburb of Guildford, Rick Springfield is the son of an Australian Army career officer. He moved often during his childhood as his father received various posts in Australia and England. Springfield learned guitar as he entered adolescence, playing in bands while his father was stationed in England, continuing his pursuit of his music after the family returned to Australia in 1963. Rockhouse, a rock & roll revival group that was an offshoot of the pop band MPD Ltd, was his first serious band in 1967. After a year as Rockhouse, the group reverted to the name MPD Ltd and toured South Vietnam, which turned out to be the last hurrah for the band; they split shortly afterward. With MPD Ltd drummer Danny Finley in tow, Springfield formed a band called Wickedy Wak. They released a single, "Billie's Bikie Boys," before Springfield split to join Zoot, a pop group signed to Columbia/EMI. Zoot carried the albatross of a publicity campaign dubbed "Think Pink" -- for the first year of their existence, the group always sported pink -- that earned them derision among many Australian rock fans. The band broke from the prefabricated image in 1970 with "Hey Pinky," a Springfield-written heavy rocker that mocked their own image. A loud, churning cover of the Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" gave them a hit in early 1971 but by that point the band's fate was sealed: they broke up by May of that year. After Zoot's breakup, Springfield immediately signed a solo contract with Sparmac Records, which released the ebullient "Speak to the Sky" in October. "Speak to the Sky" climbed into the Top Ten in Australia, so Springfield quickly cut his debut album, Beginnings, then headed to America. The single also was a hit in the U.S., peaking at 14 and taking Beginnings into the Top 40. Springfield's rapid ascent hit a snag with the release of his second album, Comic Book Heroes. Pitched halfway between glam and bubblegum, Comic Book Heroes was sold as teen idol record but didn't find an audience in 1973. Springfield then courted kids through his work for Mission: Magic, a Saturday morning cartoon that featured a different new song from the rocker every week. The tunes were later collected on the Mission: Magic! album. Columbia pushed Springfield to record the novelty "Streakin' Across the USA" but it didn't click. Neither did "American Girls," a propulsive rocker taken from a prospective second Columbia record that the label decided to shelve in 1975; Iconoclassic released it as Springfield in 2023. A year later, he signed with Chelsea Records and released Wait for Night, a clean, punchy AOR record distinguished by the single "Take a Hand," which nearly cracked the Top 40. Despite this success, Springfield still had a hard time gaining traction as a pop star so he started a side career as an actor. After landing a role in an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man, he appeared in episodes of The Rockford Files, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Battlestar Galactica, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and CHiPs. All this led to Springfield being cast as Dr. Noah Drake on the daytime soap opera General Hospital in 1981. Springfield joined the cast after he closed a deal with RCA Records, which had already planned to release the loud, hooky Working Class Dog in 1981. "Jessie's Girl," a moody power pop number about jealousy, became a smash hit in early 1981, climbing all the way to number one and taking its parent album into the Top Ten while spiking the ratings for General Hospital. After nearly a decade of work, Rick Springfield was finally a major star. He capitalized on his success, staying with General Hospital through 1983 as he cranked out hit after hit, pulling Sammy Hagar's "I've Done Everything for You" from Working Class Dog and rushing out Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet, a 1982 sequel that featured the number two Billboard hit "Don't Talk to Strangers." Thanks to the singles "Affair of the Heart" and "Human Touch," Living in Oz kept Springfield's hot streak running through 1983, giving him space to leave General Hospital and star in his first feature film, Hard to Hold. Released in April 1984, Hard to Hold spawned a soundtrack featuring the pounding "Affair of the Heart," which went to five on the Billboard charts. In 1985, he released the serious, synth-heavy Tao, whose singles "Celebrate Youth" and "State of the Heart" peaked in the 20s. Rock of Life continued in this artistic and commercial direction, closing out Springfield's record contract in 1988. Springfield stepped away from music in the late '80s, turning his attention to raising a family while working as an actor. Over the next few years, he worked steadily in TV movies, attempting to get a couple of series off the ground before finally succeeding with High Tide, a syndicated detective show that ran from 1994 through 1997. Once that wrapped up, Springfield returned to music, working with guitarist Tim Pierce and keyboardist Bob Marlette in Sahara Snow. After that group released an eponymous album in 1997, Springfield recorded Karma, a 1999 effort that was his first solo album in 11 years. Karma found Springfield blending the sound of his '80s arena rock with searching, sometimes somber, subject matter, a direction he continued to pursue on 2004's Shock/Denial/Anger/Acceptance. A covers album called The Day After Yesterday followed in 2005; that year, he also returned to General Hospital, starting a recurring run that lasted through 2008. The seasonal Christmas with You arrived in 2007, setting the stage for Venus in Overdrive, a collection of original material from 2008, and the 2009 release of his children's album, My Precious Little One: Lullabies for a New Generation. After publishing his memoir Late, Late at Night in 2010, he signed with Universal's Hip-O in 2012 for a new album called Songs for the End of the World. In early 2013, Springfield's profile got a boost when he appeared in Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City, in which Springfield spoke of his experiences recording at the Los Angeles studio that gave the film its name. Springfield also appeared on the film's companion album, Sound City: Real to Reel, performing "The Man That Never Was" with members of Grohl's band Foo Fighters. Springfield looked back at his career on 2015's Stripped Down, an album of songs and stories, but the record was overshadowed by his acclaimed performances in the second season of True Detective, and especially his role in Jonathan Demme's Ricki & the Flash, where he held his own with Meryl Streep. Next up was the February 2016 release of Rocket Science, a studio album that featured songwriting collaborations with Jay DeMarcus of Rascal Flatts and Tad Kubler of the Hold Steady. Springfield returned in January 2018 with Snake King, a heavy blues album on Frontiers. For 2019's Orchestrating My Life and its 2021 live companion, he adapted an album's worth of his best-known songs for strings and brass. Springfield returned to rock with the 2023 album Automatic.
© Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo


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