Billy Ocean's string of smash international hits in the '80s -- starting with 1984's "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)" and running through 1988's "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" -- tends to obscure his enduring success in his home base of the United Kingdom. Although new hits dried up for Ocean after the '90s, his '80s singles -- which also include the ballads "Suddenly" and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" along with the bouncy, inspirational "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" -- retained their popularity, allowing the singer to sustain a career into the 21st century.
A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Billy Ocean -- born Leslie Sebastian Charles on January 21, 1950 -- moved to England with his family when he was ten years old, gravitating toward music not much later. At first taken with calypso music, he soon learned to love soul and rock, then started to play clubs when he was a teenager. He released two singles as Les Charles in 1971 ("Nashville Rain") and 1972 ("Reach Out a Hand") before singing with Scorched Earth on the 1974 single "On the Run." A year later, he adopted the stage name Billy Ocean and had a number two U.K. hit with "Love Really Hurts Without You," a single that also managed to reach 22 on Billboard's Hot 100. "Love Really Hurts Without You" anchored his 1975 self-titled debut, which generated two further U.K. hits in "L.O.D. (Love on Delivery)" and "Stop Me (If You've Heard It All Before)." The non-LP single "Red Light Spells Danger" went all the way to two in 1977, but the singles from his 1979 album City Limit didn't crack the Top 40. Its two successors -- 1981's Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) and 1982's Inner Feelings -- didn't manage to generate hits in the U.K., but "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)" did make it into the U.S. R&B Top Ten in 1981.
Ocean's career truly took off in 1984, when "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)" was released as the first single from his fifth album, Suddenly. "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)," which was released as "European Queen" and "African Queen" in regional markets, rocketed into the Top Ten throughout the world, peaking at two in the U.S. and six in the U.K. Two other major hits followed in 1985 -- the rocker "Loverboy," which went to two in the U.S., and the ballad "Suddenly," which peaked at four on Billboard -- establishing Billy Ocean as an international star. Released at the beginning of 1986, Love Zone consolidated Ocean's success via the chart-topping singles "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)"; additionally, it generated the U.S. Top 20 hits "Love Zone" and "Love Is Forever." Tear Down These Walls, released in 1988, kept Ocean's momentum going thanks to the major hit "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car." This hot streak was summarized on 1989's Greatest Hits, which went platinum in the U.S., U.K., and Canada.
Ocean took a hiatus after Tear Down These Walls, returning in 1993 with the R. Kelly-produced Time to Move On. This R&B-dominated album proved to be his last for over a decade and a half. During this extended hiatus, he concentrated on raising a family, returning to action in 2007 with a worldwide tour. He followed this comeback with 2009's Because I Love You, his first album in 16 years. A year later, the U.K. hits compilation The Very Best of Billy Ocean reached 17 on the charts. In 2013, he released Here You Are, an album of covers of his favorite songs. Three years after its original release, Here You Are was repackaged with a bonus disc of greatest hits for a U.K. re-release, which was followed a year later by a U.S. release that paired the album with his five biggest hits.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine