- The Washington Times - Friday, September 26, 2003


Robert Palmer, 54, who died of a heart attack in Paris yesterday, was a gravelly voiced singer and songwriter whose four-decade career incorporated every genre of music from experimental jazz to blues, soul, calypso, reggae and the bossa nova. He is best known, however, for the pounding rock-soul classic, “Addicted to Love,” and its accompanying video, which came to epitomize the glamour and excesses of the 1980s.

By 1986, Mr. Palmer had already been established as a respected “blue-eyed soul” singer with a number of albums under his belt. But that year, with the release of “Addicted to Love,” Mr. Palmer would become forever associated with the image of an aging lothario in a designer suit.

The video featured Mr. Palmer surrounded by leggy models wearing microscopic Lycra minidresses and pouting vacantly into the middle distance. The song was immaculately produced, slick and sexy with a thumping crescendo, but it was the video that catapulted Mr. Palmer to the top of the American charts and to No. 5 in Britain.

He went on to further international success with the catchy, although less impressive, “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” and had other hits with “Simply Irresistible” and the gentle, Beatles-style ballad “She Makes My Day.”

“Addicted to Love” went platinum and earned Mr. Palmer a Grammy for best rock performance, and in 1990 the quiet-spoken and ironic Yorkshireman was voted best-dressed rock star by Rolling Stone magazine.

Robert Alan Palmer was born on Jan. 19, 1949, at Batley, Yorkshire, and spent his early years in Malta, where his father worked for naval intelligence. He was educated at a local international school, but it was from his parents that he learned about the music of Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole. His love of dressing up came from his enchantment at watching glamorous naval officers and their wives dressed up for parties. When his parents moved back to Yorkshire, he was devastated and turned to music as solace.

At the age of 15, he joined his first band, the Mandrake Paddle Steamer. In 1969, he moved to London to join the Alan Bown Band. The following year, he joined the experimental jazz-rock band Dada, singing alongside Elkie Brooks. Dada became Vinegar Joe, which released three albums and has a cult status among certain music fans.

In 1974, Mr. Palmer became a solo artist and moved to Nassau in the Bahamas, where he was to live for the next 13 years.

In 1984, Mr. Palmer joined a number of former members of the hugely popular 1980s band Duran Duran to form the ill-fated but briefly successful Power Station. Power Station’s “Some Like It Hot” was sneered at by British critics, but in America it lifted Mr. Palmer and the band into the arena league and 1.5 million copies of their album were sold. But when his solo album “Heavy Nova” produced the hits “Simply Irresistible” and “She Makes My Day,” Mr. Palmer decided to concentrate on other projects.

In 1993, Mr. Palmer settled in Lugano, Switzerland, because he found that the Bahamas had become overrun with drugs and guns.

Mr. Palmer was divorced from his wife, Sue, in 1993. He is survived by a son and a daughter from his marriage and by his companion, Mary Ambrose.

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