|A Tribute to Laura Branigan:
By Greg Lemieux
|If you read my story ESCAPE, you may remember that in the final scene Delores was excited about attending a Laura Branigan concert. There was a reason for that reference. Laura Branigan is my all-time favorite singer, and it seemed such a perfect way to work her into the story. Laura was indeed on tour in the early 2000's and did make a stop in New York, though I don't remember the date. And 1981 and 1982 was the height of her fame, with her songs "Gloria" ,"How am I Supposed to Live Without You?" and "Solitaire" playing on radios all over the country, so Ezekiel Stone could easily have remembered her too.
I'd found her website and checked it every few days to see if she was ever doing a concert in our area. Alas, she had not had a new concert date since June of 2003 when she played in Vegas, so the page just kept saying "Check Back Soon." But yesterday, the page didn't come up at all. I went back to her home page and saw it had a new page to display, called "Laura's Passing." I called it up and read with sadness that she had died in her sleep on Thursday night (August 26th) from a brain aneurism. She was only 47. It was at least a peaceful way to go. And she'd lost her husband of many years in the 90's, so now they are together again.
What did I love so much about her singing? I guess it was the strength and range of her voice - I've never heard one quite like hers. She could sing with so much power and energy when her songs demanded it. Yet she could also do a soft tender ballad with that same voice. She was a joy to listen to. I got a late start buying her albums, but was relieved to be able to eventually get the whole set on cassette tape by checking every music store in the city over and over. Eventually I was also able to get all but two of her albums on CD as well. I was overjoyed when her TOUCH album had a bonus track on the CD. Thus in early 2000, I got to hear a brand new song by Laura Branigan "Statue in the Rain," and it ranks as one of my favorites.
With other singers, I usually wait until they have a greatest hits album. Occasionally, I've bought albums that just had a couple of hit songs and ended up just tolerating the rest of the songs (if I was lucky - some turned out to be just awful.) But with Laura, it was different. I loved all her songs on all her albums. The closest thing she had to a bad song was a remake of the novelty song, "The Name Game." It just seemed like a silly song for her to do; but she must have been fond of it. Nevertheless, I still enjoy listening to it. And her songs always seemed to be about something - love or longing for love, feelings of loneliness or sadness, or joy and happiness. She had a knack for choosing good material - she even wrote a couple songs of her own. I was planning to play her CDs and tapes next week while driving back and forth to work, as I often do. Little did I know it would end up being a memorial to her.
She dabbled a little in acting too in a movie called MUGSY'S GIRLS. I bought a copy of it, but it was silly. And they had a soundtrack, but it never occurred to them to use even one of her songs on it - really dumb! She fared better on TV, appearing on CHIPS as a singer in a female band. (She did a duet of "Down Like a Rock" with Erik Estrada, and of course, "Gloria"). I taped that and was even able to tape her guest appearance as an endangered rock singer on AUTOMAN. (Thank you, Sci-Fi Channel!) There she sang "Satisfaction" and "Hot Night", the song she did for GHOSTBUSTERS. I had to buy the GHOSTBUSTERS soundtrack to get that song, but it was worth it. It's a really cool song! She also did the theme for HOLLYWOOD WIVES and for COCA-COLA in the 80's. The latter was pre-VCR for me, but I think I have it on one of my audio tapes somewhere.
My only regret is that I never got to hear her live in concert. She never happened to be nearby on her first tours back in the 80's. Then, she took a long time off to be with her husband as he fought cancer, but eventually lost his battle. In the late 90's and early 2000s, she had a comeback of sorts touring in various cities - but none close enough for me to travel to. I kept hoping I would eventually get my chance, but I didn't. Still, I was luckier than most. I did get to e-mail her birthday greetings one year via her website. I was going to do it again this year, but I was away on vacation last July 3rd (her birthday) and figured there would always be next year. And I did get to talk to her once. I was driving to a garage to get my car worked on one Friday morning in 1994, and there she was on the radio station - a guest of the DJ hosts. But, alas, by then I was almost to the repair shop. I went in and incredibly they said they were booked solid that day and could I come back another day. "Sure!" I said, and raced back home to listen to the rest of the show. At one point, they invited viewers to call in and my wife told me, "Why don't you try and call her?" so I did - and I got through! So I got the chance to tell her she was my favorite singer and ask if she'd be touring in the Orlando area (where I was living at the time). She said she hoped so, but sadly that never materialized. Still, it was a big thrill just to be able to talk to her that once!
So, goodbye Laura. Thanks for sharing your gift of music with me and the rest of the world. Now you can sing with the angels. And who knows, maybe someday I will get to hear you sing live after all.