Rick Astley was born 6 February 1966 in Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England, UK. He came to prominence as a pop musician in the mid to late 80s and swept the nation with his indelible hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”.
Astley has been recognized as a key figure within the blue-eyed soul movement, which is a genre in which white artists perform rhythm and blues music. Apart from Astley this style has largely been popularized by contemporaries such as Wham! and Hall & Oates. Astley’s musical influence and style has ranged from early 60s classic pop, electronic dance, and towards the end of his career, soul. Though Astley’s sound was progressive and evolutionary his early 80s material was highly influenced by pop mega stars such as Madonna, Spandau Ballet, and Duran Duran.
Not unlike many pop artists Astley started his music journey singing in the local church choir at the age of 10. When Astley was in his early to mid teens he formed several bands and also played drums in a few local acts. He left school when he was 16 and gigged with bands like the cover group Give Way who primarily played songs by the Beatles and the Shadows. Astley also played in the locally acclaimed act FBI.
FBI focused mainly on soul music and wrote their own songs. The group made a name for themselves around town and ended up winning several local competitions. However the lineup experienced a dramatic shift when lead singer David Morris left. The band then recruited Astley as lead singer, which proved to be a significant turning point in Astley’s career. He was almost immediately recognized for his talent amongst record executives and was picked up as a solo artist for RCA records.
Before emerging completely as a solo artist Astley recorded his first single “When You Gonna” with Lisa Carter. Though this release did not chart his follow up single “Never Gonna Give You Up” took the pop world by storm. It remained on top of the British charts for five weeks and was 1987’s highest selling single. The song was not only an immense success in the UK, it went on to top the charts in 24 other countries. This track has remained relevant and experienced a resurgence of success, thanks due to the internet sensation “Rickrolling”.
Though Astley would never match the success he brought in with “Never Gonna Give You Up” (which is a near impossible standard to live up to) he continued to put out singles and albums to great commercial acceptance. His single “Whenever You Need Someone” was another hit. Though it did not chart in the states (due to the fact it was not released to a North American audience) it was a massive smash in Europe, going on to top the charts in 7 countries. Astley’s second full length album “Whenever You Need Somebody was a large scale success as well selling over 15.2 million copies worldwide and going No. 1 on the charts in both the UK and Australia.
For Astley’s next two albums he decided to abandon his pop star image and sound and strive for a more soul oriented and adult contemporary sound. Even in spite of his stylistic chance Astley still remained popular. His third album “Free” made it to No. 9 on the UK charts and to No. 31 on the US charts. Astley would go on to break the record for being the first male solo artist to have 8 singles chart within the UK top 10. The ballad “Cry For Help” was the song that broke the record. Before Astley announced his hiatus from music he released “Body & Soul” on 28 September 1993. It would be eight years later until Astley put out his fifth album “Keep It Turned On”. Within that time span Astley focused on his family, specifically raising his daughter. One significant contribution Astley made during his break was acting as a back up singer for the movie “The Lion King”.
In 2005 Astley released his 6th album “Portrait”, which consisted entirely of covers of classic standards. Apart from releasing new material Rick Astley jumped back into the music business touring alongside other huge 80s acts like Boy George.