Laura Branigan released 7 albums between 1982 and 1993. Three albums, 'Branigan' and 'Branigan 2' were certified gold hits (had sold 500,000 copies at the time of its release) and 'Self Control' went platinum. Graduated from Byram Hills High School in 1970, Laura remembered appearing in her senior class play 'The Pajama Game', "Just being up there on stage combining singing and acting was my way of communicating with people. The first time I sang to that audience, which was made up mostly of adults, I actually felt I was holding them.
"Right then I knew that this was it – this is what I had to do, and I was driven to make it. From then on, my voice just led the way." Of her senior class play, Laura told Rodney Lake of 'International Press Service' in 1985, "My music teacher, Mr Bissell, almost forced me into the audition. I used a piece from 'Oliver', you know, 'When you walk through a storm, keep your head up high,' and I got the part. The studios are starting to approach me now (in 1983). But movies or not, I'll never give up my singing. That's my wings."
In 1982, Laura recorded her biggest hit, 'Gloria', which went platinum (had sold 1.5 million copies at the time of its release), "'Gloria' was the longest for a female in the Top 40 since Debbie Reynolds' 'Tammy', I was told." 'Gloria' spent 36 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 2 after 21 weeks on the U.S. charts. Laura explained in 1986, "Gloria was a girl like all the girls who got caught up in the fast lane. People see it as an uplifting, happy, sensible song yet the message is very serious."
Bob Protzman of 'Knight News Tribune' made the observation in 1983, "There is a lustiness and emotionalism in her voice. It's a musical voice, one with a range of between 3 and 4 octaves, with considerable control." On reflection, Laura remarked, "I never knew I could sing so well but I started training about a year ago (in 1982), and since then my range has increased and I've built up my stamina, which is very important with a big voice and large range. You've got to be able to sustain it, and you can't unless you sing properly."
Insisting "you have to remember the voice is 2 pieces of flesh, not 2 steel strings," Laura told Dick Clark in 1982, "(Acting) adds a lot to your singing. Singing to me is acting. They're both along the same lines. Acting's really made me feel comfortable up there (on stage), too." Laura graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan in 1972. She told the Associated Press, "I used to dread getting up and doing a scene in front of a class. I did 'The Three Penny Opera' there. As long as I was singing, it felt great. I graduated after the 2nd year and then I hit the streets, and started auditioning for Broadway. I'd call the producer, 'I've got a great voice and you've got to see me.' Always he'd see me. I never went on a 'cattle call'. I got a lot of call backs."
Laura believed, "Talent is something that's there. You can hear it. You can feel it. It's something you feel inside. I think the trouble was that I didn't have a gimmick that would sell me. I just had to count on my voice and be able to feel a sound. And I think it takes longer for someone with that kind of talent than for someone with a more outwardly commercial talent.
"My first paying job was touring Europe (in 1977) singing background for Leonard Cohen, the folk poet ... About 600 girls auditioned. Myself and my best friend got it. I thought I'd died and went to heaven ... That was my first honest-to-God real job. I really learned a lot from that because I was behind a performer who is very big in Europe. I was on stage for the first time in front of 8000 people. I could make my mistakes behind him rather than doing it cold on my own."
After Laura returned from Europe, "I started auditioning for record companies that all said, 'You don't sound like anyone else. You don't fit in.' I had this big voice that didn't fit in anywhere. No one would sign me." Laura then did a 2-week solo act at Reno Sweeney's club in Greenwich Village in New York. It was there she met Sid Bernstein who organized The Beatles' first U.S. concert on February 12 1964 at Carnegie Hall.
Sid recalled, "She talked me into listening to her sing. She did an original song called 'A Rose and A Tear,' and I cried. I worked with Judy Garland for years and she never did that to me." Sid got Laura a contract with Atlantic Records. Laura recounted, "Ahmet Ertegun is considered a legend in the business. He’s the czar of the industry, he's really something. Ahmet Ertegun heard about me.
"He asked me to sing for him, and I sang one song, a Rickie Lee Jones song, 'Never, Never Going To Let You Go.' I sang at Nesuhi's house because he had the piano. I will treasure that moment always. After I sang it, he said, 'The audition is over.' I thought, 'Oh, well.' He said, 'I’d love you to be with Atlantic.' I couldn't believe it. I actually took a cab home that night. I thought I died and went to heaven."
'Gloria' was one of 4 songs that won Laura Grammy nominations for Best Pop Vocal Performance of the Year. She told Dick Clark, "Do you know the story of the song at all? Well, originally, it was a big European hit about 5 years ago (in 1978). It was written and recorded by Umberto Tozzi, in Italian, and it sold 30 million copies throughout Europe in all the non-English speaking countries.
"My arranger on my album 'Branigan' was Umberto's arranger on the original 'Gloria', and Jack White, my producer, is German. He was there when everyone had 'Gloria'-fever. They brought me the song, we decided to do it, and we rewrote the lyrics. The original lyrics were, 'Gloria, you're the sun, you're the moon and the stars.' We also needed to Americanize the production a bit too. It's still got that European feel though. You know it's my first album and my first hit so, no, I really couldn't imagine the response I'm getting now (in 1982). It's hard to imagine it (getting a hit single) when you've never had it."
Laura made the comment in 1987, "There's a wealth of songs in Europe that have been hits there and Americans never heard them. 'Solitaire' was French. (In concert) I have to hold a high D for 8 bars then I have to go up to E flat (for the song 'Solitaire'). The song starts out very low so I can't go to a lower key. But my voice got a lot stronger this year (1987), it seems to have grown."
Of singing European songs, 'Self Control' was another Italian song, Laura maintained, "It worked with 'Gloria'. And my producer (Jack White) has access to a lot of European songs. He's seen them be hits in different countries. He brings me songs and I pick and choose, and of course no one's ever heard them here (in the U.S.). They have great melodies, and they're great for singing. It's the American kick that we try to give them.
"'Gloria' was a big turning point for me, obviously. It was my first record out and it got into the charts. And people started calling me Gloria. But I personally think the real breakthrough came with my album 'Self Control.'" In November 1984, the album 'Self Control' was a certified platinum hit. The song, 'Self Control' was controversial at the time, "It was directed by Billy Friedkin, who directed 'The Exorcist' and 'The French Connection'. It was a real experience. He's a great film director. We worked very hard on it.
"The song was about losing your self control to the night or to someone. We had a man representing the night, wearing a mask. There were all these great dancers wearing masks by Willa Shalit. There's a shot where the man comes into my bedroom, taking me into the night. He appears and disappears. MTV didn't play it. They said it was risqué. It was played in Europe and everywhere else. I didn't think it was bad at all."
Laura told Pete Bishop of 'The Pittsburgh Press' in 1984, "I really want people to know that I am an actress. If I couldn't sing it would be a very sad thing for me. Acting and singing are so interrelated to me. They let me express what's in myself. I can create a character. You really have to be vulnerable at the moment so people feel it, and it’s a skill. I'm feeling a different emotion. A song usually is something I have related to. If I don't feel it, people won't feel it. Emotion is the most important thing for me. I love the dance songs, too. That's the celebration side. You have to cry and you have to celebrate."
By 1990, "When I started out it was like I had this voice and so much emotion. I just wanted to let it out so I sang every song like it was my last breath on earth. You can't do that all the time or you end up with no voice. With this album (her 6th 'Laura Branigan') I chose songs that would show more the finesse and agility – and have more of a street feel. I thought it was time. I didn't want to always just do the blasters, belt out a song and sing with this big strong voice."