Depeche Mode's David Gahan

Dave Gahan, the lead singer of electro-pop kings Depeche Mode,

celebrates his 36th birthday today. Despite a much-publicized suicide

attempt three years ago and a battle with heroin, Gahan is still an

active member of this English band and is currently working with Depeche Mode on a new album.

In 1980, Gahan joined Andy Fletcher (keyboards), Martin Gore

(guitars/keyboards/vocals) and Vince Clarke (keyboards) -- who had been playing

together in various incarnations -- to form Depeche Mode (loosely

translated from French as "fast fashion"). The band was one of the

first to base its sound on synthesizers, initially specializing in

dance pop. Depeche Mode began gigging around London and released a few singles

before issuing their debut album, Speak and Spell, in 1981. It

sold well, but soon after, Clarke, the band's main songwriter, quit the

group citing the pressures of fame (he went on to form Yazoo and, later,

Erasure). Gore became DM's key songwriter and Alan Wilder joined

officially after the release of the band's second album, 1982's A

Broken Frame. By 1983's Construction Time Again, DM's

music grew increasingly darker and less pop-oriented. But the next

year's Some Great Reward nevertheless was a creative and popular

breakthrough, yielding "People Are People," which became a U.S. and U.K.

hit. The album's lyrics were obsessed with religion and sex and the music

became even more industrial.

After a few more commercially successful

studio albums, the band released a 1989 live double-album, 101,

and an accompanying concert documentary directed by noted filmmaker D.A.

Pennebaker. In 1990, Violator spawned three hit singles in

the U.S., including "Enjoy the Silence" and "Personal Jesus" (RealAudio excerpt). The album was a big seller and

the band enjoyed the newfound popularity of alternative rock. Depeche

Mode were a worldwide success and were at the zenith of their career when

Songs of Faith and Devotion debuted at #1 in 1993. But there was

trouble ahead for the quartet. Wilder quit in 1995, citing

dissatisfaction with the band. Later that year, Gahan was hospitalized

in Los Angeles after slitting his wrists. In 1997, the three remaining

members of Depeche Mode, including a recovered Gahan, had hits with

"Barrel of a Gun" and "It's No Good" off of Ultra. Also in '97,

they issued a CD maxi-single with different mixes of the songs "Home"

and "Useless." Recently, the band recorded a few new songs for a singles-compilation set for an October release. They also announced plans to tour

for the first time since 1994. In the meantime, Smashing Pumpkins, God Lives Underwater and the Cure are a few of the acts who participated in For The Masses, an all-star album tribute to Depeche Mode scheduled for June.

Other birthdays: Pete Birrell (Freddie & the Dreamers), 57; Tommy Roe, 56; Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield/Poco), 54; Steve Katz (Blood, Sweat and Tears), 53; Billy Joel, 49; Paul Heaton (Housemartins/Beautiful South/Beats International), 36 ... Dave

Prater (Sam & Dave), 1937-1988.