Chris Norman (born Christopher Ward Norman, 25 October 1950) is an English soft rock singer. Norman was the lead singer of Smokie, an English glam rock band from Bradford, which found success in Europe in the 1970s.
Life and career:
Norman was born in Redcar, North Yorkshire. His parents did not intend that he should pursue a stage career, but when he was just three years old, he decided to walk on stage and join the finale line-up for the show in which his parents were appearing.
This may have had an effect on him because with the advent of rock and roll, Norman acquired his first guitar at the age of seven. His early musical influences were Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Lonnie Donegan.
In these early years, Norman's parents moved around the country a lot which resulted in him going to nine different schools, and living in various locations around England, such as, Redcar, Luton, Kimpton and Nottingham. By 1962 however, the family had moved back to Norman's mother's home city of Bradford. Approaching his twelfth birthday, Norman started at St. Bede's Grammar School where he was to meet Alan Silson and Terry Uttley, future members of Smokie.
As teenagers, influenced by the new era of groups such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and then folk singer, Bob Dylan, Norman and Silson began meeting up and spent nearly all their spare time learning new songs on their guitars. They managed to persuade Uttley to join them and, along with a drummer friend called Ron Kelly, they formed their first band. The Yen, Essence, and Long Side Down were just some of a variety of names they called themselves before settling on "The Elizabethans".
In 1968, "The Elizabethans" had turned professional following a stint at Butlins holiday camp in Skegness. Another name change was inevitable, but during the next seven years Norman and the band gained much experience playing around the country. They performed some live radio broadcasts, including Radio 1 Roadshows. They gained a recording contract with RCA, and then Decca Records, and released three singles under their new name of "Kindness".
During this period, the band played many different styles and venues, and had a period as the backing group to Peter Noone, after he had just left Herman's Hermits.
When Ron Kelly left the group in 1973, an old friend called Pete Spencer was asked to take over on the drums, and the group, which was to become Smokie, was complete.
That same year, the group took on a new manager, Bill Hurley. Hurley set about getting them out of their recording contract with Decca Records and managed to sign them to Mickie Most's RAK record label with the songwriters Nicky Chinn / Mike Chapman as their production company.
By 1974, they had developed their own sound reflecting their close, three part, harmonies and Norman's distinctive vocal sound. The band's name was changed from Smokey to Smokie, and their debut album, Pass It Around was released in 1975.
By the summer of that year, they had their first hit with "If You Think You Know How To Love Me". This was followed by a string of hit singles including "Living Next Door To Alice". Norman completed a successful duet with Suzi Quatro, "Stumblin' In" in 1978, which gave Norman his first taste of success outside of the group.
By now Smokie were enjoying success touring all over the world, but the strain and pressure of constantly being away from home and family was beginning to tell on Norman. By the early 1980s he decided to spend more time writing and working in the studio.
Norman together with Pete Spencer, now concentrated on songs for other artists including hits for Kevin Keegan and the England football team song "This Time (We'll Get It Right)". He also worked with Agnetha Fältskog from ABBA (on her solo album), Donovan, and The Heavy Metal Kids.
In 1985, Smokie reconvened to appear in a charity show in aid of the Bradford City A.F.C. fire disaster. The show was successful and as a result the band decided to go back on the road. Tours of Germany and Australia followed, but in the latter part of that year, Norman recorded a project for a German TV movie and decided to once again concentrate on his solo career.
That part of his career took off in 1986 with the song, "Midnight Lady", which was a hit throughout Europe holding the number one spot in Germany for six weeks. Written by Dieter Bohlen (of successful Modern Talking), it sold 900,000 copies in Germany alone.
Further success followed by the songs "Some Hearts Are Diamonds", "No Arms Can Ever Hold You", "Broken Heroes", "Fearless Hearts", "Sarah" and "Baby I Miss You". In 1994, Norman was honoured by CMT Europe as their 'International Video Star of the Year'.
In 2004, he took part in the Comeback Show on the German TV station ProSieben and he performed "Stumblin' In" as a duet with C. C. Catch. In the final episode of the show, he was joined by Smokie for the final song.
On June 2, 2007, Norman performed at the Peel Bay Festival, Isle of Man. Robin Gibb and Bonnie Tyler also performed on the same night.
"With Smokie we had success all over the world, but our greatest success we always had in Germany", says Norman. "In Germany there has always been the highest interest in my solo albums".
Norman continues to this day to record and perform gigs throughout Europe and beyond.