I see where Laura Branigan died this past week. Between 1982 and 1984, she scored five straight Top 20 hits, the biggest of which was “Gloria.” “Self Control” and “Solitaire” both made the Top 10. The other two to make the Top 20 were “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You,” written with (and later demolished on record by) Michael Bolton and “The Lucky One.” (I liked “Spanish Eddie,” too, but it wasn’t a smash.)
It wasn’t obvious from listening to Branigan’s records that she was a unique talent. Sometimes, a hit record is a matter of timing, and that may have been what helped make her a star. By 1982, many of the big-name artists of the 1970s had run out of steam. MTV was just beginning to make inroads and create stars–the “second British invasion” led by video-friendly groups such as Culture Club and Duran Duran was still a year away. “Gloria,” although it’s starting to sound pretty dated now, was a fresh sound in 1982, which was a pretty grim time for the Top 40. Of the 25 songs to peak at Numbers One, Two, or Three that year, a bare half-dozen seem worth listening to now, let alone memorable. For example, nobody needs to hear “Ebony and Ivory” again, or Lionel Richie’s “Truly.” And do you remember “Heart Attack” by Olivia Newton-John or “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by Rick Springfield? Didn’t think so. So for Laura Branigan, being in the right place at the right time led to a couple years of chart success, and what sounds like a decent career after the hits stopped.