|Subject: Archive: Singer Laura Branigan, Aug. 26, 2004
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Date Posted: Monday, August 26, 03:53:35am
US rock singer whose biggest hit was the power anthem Gloria
Tue 31 Aug 2004 06.59 EDT
First published on Tue 31 Aug 2004 06.59 EDT
Laura Branigan: best known for power anthem Gloria. Photo: AP
Laura Branigan, who has died of a brain aneurysm aged 47, was a powerful singer with a five-octave range who in an earlier generation would have graced the Broadway stage. Although she appeared off-Broadway in a show based on Janis Joplin's life, Branigan's forte was the rock ballad, of which she was a leading female exponent in the 1980s.
Her first and biggest hit, in 1982, was the Grammy-nominated Gloria. It was an English language version of a then recent Italian hit sung by Umberto Tozzi composed by Tozzi and Giancarlo Bigazzi. It was given an arrangement in the power ballad style pioneered in America by Pat Benatar and the music video of the song showed Branigan, in the spirit of the Eighties, in black spandex trousers and knee-high boots with a single discoball spinning above her head. Gloria remained in the United States top 40 for 22 weeks in 1982 and peaked at number two. It was also a British top 10 hit.
Branigan was born in Brewster, New York, the fourth of five children of a stockbroker and a housewife. After playing the lead in a high school musical theatre production, she attended the Academy for Performing Arts in Manhattan. She next sought work as an actor and singer, but her breakthrough came in 1979 when she was hired as a backing singer for a European tour by Leonard Cohen.
This brought her to the attention of Atlantic Records, which signed her to a long-term contract - and the result was Gloria. The accompanying album, called Branigan, was equally successful and the prelude to a career in which she was to sell more than 10m records in the US alone.
Her popularity continued in 1983 with the hits Solitaire (co-written with Diane Warren) and How Am I Supposed To Live Without You, composed by the then unknown Michael Bolton. In 1984, Branigan recorded Self Control, a translation by Steve Piccolo of another European hit composed by Bigazzi. It was the title song of her third album, and a top 10 hit in both the US and Britain. In Germany, Branigan's version outsold Raffaele Riefole's original Italian language version.
Branigan's later hits included The Lucky One (1985), from the television drama An Uncommon Love, and Spanish Eddie (1986). The 1985 album Hold Me included I Found Someone, another Bolton song that was later to be a hit for Cher.
Branigan's final hit came in 1988 with a high velocity version of The Power Of Love. The song had already been a British and European hit for another anthemic singer, Jennifer Rush, and it was revived again by Celine Dion in 1994.
Branigan was popular with film producers. She was heard on the soundtracks of Flashdance (1983) singing Imagination, Ghostbusters (1984), where she sang Hot Night, and Coming To America (1988). In the 1990s she sang with David Hasselhoff on I Believe, a song for the soundtrack of Baywatch.
During the 1980s she toured widely in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Australia and South Africa. Branigan performed three times at Chile's Vina del Mar song festival and appeared on the Sunday Night at the London Palladium television show in 1987, singing Shattered Glass, a less successful single produced by Kylie Minogue's then production team, Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
By the 1990s Branigan's strident style was out of fashion, although a 1995 CD release of the Best Of Branigan drew qualified praise from a British reviewer who wrote of her "highly appealing belter of a voice with distinctly epic and sometimes even moving qualities".
In 1996 she temporarily retired following the death from cancer of her lawyer husband. Branigan returned to the stage in New York in 2002 in Love, Janis, a musical and biographical tribute to Janis Joplin. Branigan's renditions of such Joplin favourites as Piece Of My Heart and Me And Bobby McGee were well-received.
Branigan's final releases were a contemporary dance version of Abba's The Winner Takes It All and an album of remixed hits issued in South Africa, where she had a particularly loyal fan base.
She is survived by her mother, two sisters and brother.
· Laura Branigan, singer, born July 3 1957; died August 26 2004
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