BILLY Ocean is one of Britain’s biggest recording artists, selling over 30 million records in a career lasting almost 40 years, and he will be performing all his greatest hits in Leeds on Friday.
Born in Trinidad 65 years ago, his family moved to England when Ocean was seven and he was brought up in Romford.
His big break came in the mid-70s when he signed for GTO Records and his second single was the number two smash hit Love Really Hurts Without You. More hits followed with Love On Delivery and Red Light Spells Danger.
Ocean was also successful in America, with a lot of his singles charting across the pond.
Originally a fan of calypso music, Ocean’s influences came from many sources.
“I grew up with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Who. Plus there was all the Tamla Motown artists like Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations.
“Add to that the music from the Stax label and there was no shortage of influences.”
But Ocean didn’t actually copy any of those trends, as he explains.
“It happens subconsciously, and you form your own personality from what you hear.”
“After all,” he smiles, “You have to learn from somewhere.”
In 1985, Ocean released the Suddenly album which proved to be his greatest success.
The album went double-platinum (triple in Canada), and spawned the mega-hits Caribbean Queen (for which he won a Grammy Award), Loverboy and the title track.
At the time of recording Ocean was aware of how special the album was.
“Oh yeah, we knew. You should know if it’s a good piece of work, and this was.”
In 1986, Ocean had another monster hit with When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going from the film Jewel of the Nile.
More hits followed and he became one of the hardest working musicians around, constantly touring the world.
After a break to spend time with his young family, Ocean returned in 2007 to continue where he left off.
“I think I do more shows now than I did before,” he says. “And I really enjoy it. I enjoy singing all my songs live and I think it would be bad if you didn’t enjoy it.”
He does have a few favourites from his catalogue.
“I get a big buzz when someone tells me that they played Suddenly at their wedding, and Caribbean Queen is good too. And going way back, I really like Red Light and Love Really Hurts.
For the show in Leeds, Ocean has a nine-piece band.
“I don’t have a horn section, but I have a sax player and some backing singers. I play about an hour and a half with all the hits and some songs from my latest album.
“And, of course, it’s the 30th anniversary of the Suddenly album, so we’ll celebrate that.”
Billy Ocean, with special guest Yolanda Brown, will be appearing at the O2 Academy in Leeds on Friday, July 10. For details visit http://www.o2academyleeds.co.uk/event/74943/billy-ocean-tickets