Well I’ll admit it. Michael Bolton – the white crooner with the black voice has long been a favourite here at GDM. It was his rocker phase in the early 80’s that sold many of us.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: Michael Bolton
BOOK: The Soul Of It All
PUBLISHER: Sphere Books
SERIAL: ISBN 978-0-7515-5057-3
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
WEBLINKS: Site Link
Well I’ll admit it. The white crooner with the black voice has long been a favourite here at GDM. It was his rocker phase in the early 80’s that sold many of us, but the majority of Americans never bought into Bolton’s 1983-1985 era quite the way that die-hard melodic rockers did.
There was a reason for that, and it’s explained in Michael’s long overdue book ‘The Soul Of It All’. Published in 2012, the book covers the traditional biographical template that you would expect on a celebrity such as Bolton, so expect no surprises.
It took me ages to get around to reading it, mainly due to a queued up schedule, but I managed to rip through it in several days thanks to my hour long train ride into work every week day morning and afternoon return trip.
Essentially, ‘The Soul Of It All’ is broken down into 4 key stages: 1) The early years and adolescence. 2) the struggling years (1972-1985). 3) The successful years (1987 and beyond), and 4) the Isley Brothers court-case and philanthropic endeavours and charity work.
The Early Years and Adolescence
The Bolotin family (pronounced Below-tin) were a typical Russian immigrant/Jewish household from New Haven Connecticut. Michael was bought up with two siblings: older brother Orrin and older sister Sandra. It would surprise many that Michael’s years were ripe with incidents of mischief, and that his mother found it difficult to control three high spirited kids.
Tagging along after brother Orrin, the young Michael fell into the music of the era, learning that he had a gift of voice, even if it was hidden under a haze of marijuana smoke! Yes, even more of an eye-opener was Michael’s exposure to the Greenwich Village lifestyle in his early teen years.
Still a minor, and still hanging with much older people who should’ve known better. Michael’s two best friends Marc and Ribs Friedland stuck with him through thick and thin, and formed numerous musical partnerships.
The other interesting aspect which I wasn’t aware of, was Bolton’s several excursions to California; both to San Francisco and Los Angeles. Michael’s youth was perpetuated by not having a father role model around him 24/7, as his parents separated when he was young. So a lot of Michael’s earlier life was carefree and rebellious, with life’s lessons continually sending him tests as he grew up.
The Struggling Years
Through his excursions between Connecticut and California, we gradually come to familiarise ourselves with Michael’s early struggles in becoming a professional musician. In his own words, Bolton says it took 18 years for him to pronounce himself as being a success in the industry.
It took numerous phases from his first recording experience back in the mid 60’s to get to the pinnacle. We saw him pass through bands such as Joy, Blackjack, his first solo career as Michael Bolotin, and of course his second solo career as Michael Bolton, which ultimately proved successful.
During this period, Michael hooked up with some interesting people, including organ god Leon Russell, Kris Kristofferson, who it seems phased in and out of his life like a lucky charm, and a near hookup as lead singer for the 70’s blues brass rock band Blood Sweat And Tears.
There’s not a great of time spent on his second solo stint; the one that would interest most readers of GDM. Just to say that after the release of ‘Everybody’s Crazy’, the CBS team and Bolton’s management agreed that a few tweaks were needed to Michael’s career; one that was staring at him right in the face.
Successes with his songwriting stints were endorsed by the late Laura Branigan, Cher and Kiss.. among others.
The Successful Years
Having left rock behind (though not completely) and embracing the blues and covering some classics, Michael found the right recipe that would convert his music into the superstar territory.
Working with studio greats like Walter Afanasieff, David Foster, Mutt Lange, as well as fellow songwriters Diane Warren, Desmond Child and Bob Dylan lifted Bolton into the stratosphere, where he remains to this day.
From 1987 onward, Bolton got bigger and bigger, with his operatic duo performance with the legendary Luciano Pavarotti probably being his highlight, as it was so completely outside of his comfort zone. I don’t need to go into facts and figures, his record sales and concert performances have catapulted Bolton into one of the most successful musical entities today.
The Isley Brothers court-case and philanthropy
Toward the end of the book, Bolton gets bogged down in the drama surrounding the court-case around the Isley Brothers. The court-case involved the hit song ‘Love Is A Wonderful Thing’, which the Isley’s claimed was stolen from one of their songs.
The only thing was: the Isley’s supposed song was obscure, was never released, and effectively no one had ever heard it. Yet, the case took over a decade to come to a conclusion. It seemed the trial took quite a lot out of Bolton, he was quite dissed that the people he thought were in his camp protecting his interests, were nowhere to be seen when the cards were laid bare.
Still, all during this time, Bolton was very active in the philanthropy circuit (for want of a better phrase), with participation through his MBC organisation (Michael Bolton Charities). I didn’t find this side of his life that interesting to me personally (good on him nonetheless), I was more interested in his musical achievements more than anything.
I’ve carved up this book into four sections. The first three were interesting, the fourth less so. For those of us that totally bought into his 1983-1985 era hook line and sinker, it became abundantly clear why he had to drop the black leather look and lose the heavyweight guitars.
His songwriting career was taking off. His songs were being recorded by big-time artists, and people were queueing up to record more. Rather than give them away, he was being encouraged by his management to keep his best ones for himself. And so it proved for 1987’s ‘The Hunger’ and 1989’s ‘Soul Provider’. The rest as they say, is history.
I’m pleased I read the book. and happy that it will sit among my collection of music biographies. And finally, as I’ve mentioned several times, I’m glad Bolton found the success he deserved, and I know that despite what has been said about him in the past, he didn’t really turn his back on melodic rock and AOR because that wasn’t part of his building blocks to start with. This book clearly demonstrates that.