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Billy Ocean was one of the first Caribbean singers to be embraced by MTV, resulting in a string of Top Ten hits during the mid-'80s. Born Leslie Charles in Trinidad on January 21, 1950, Ocean moved to England at the age of eight, and by his teenaged years, was singing regularly in London clubs. During this time, Ocean paid the bills by working at Ford Motors, but continued to pen songs and perform, as he issued an obscure debut single in 1974 under the name of Scorched Earth. But by 1975, the singer had dropped his alias and was going by Billy Ocean, resulting in a self-titled debut that spawned the singer's first hit single, "Love Really Hurts Without You," peaking on the singles chart at number two in the United Kingdom and number 22 in the United States. Ocean continued to issue albums (1980's City Limit, 1981's Nights (Feel Like Getting Down), and 1982's Inner Feelings) plus further singles, with "L.O.D. (Love on Delivery)" and the title track from Nights (the latter of which crossed over onto the U.S. R&B charts) being sizeable hits; as he also began penning songs for other artists, including a track on LaToya Jackson's 1980 self-titled debut.
But breakthrough success was just around the corner for Ocean, as he scored a massive hit single in 1984 with "Caribbean Queen," a track that shot to the top of the charts worldwide. Depending on the region, the song's title and lyrics were changed slightly, resulting in the tune being known as "African Queen" and "European Queen" in other parts of the world, while the album it was taken from, Suddenly, was eventually certified double platinum (a few other singles, "Loverboy" and the ballad "Suddenly," were also successful). Ocean's winning streak continued with 1986's Love Zone (another double-platinum hit), which spawned a pair of hit singles: "When the Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" (which was used as the theme song to the movie Jewel of the Nile), which peaked at number two, and the number-one "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)." 1988 saw Ocean score another number-one single with "Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car," taken from the platinum album Tear Down These Walls. But afterward, the hits dried up for Ocean (although his 1989 collection, Greatest Hits, has been a steady seller over the years), as such further albums as Time to Move On, L.I.F.E., and Showdown failed to spawn hits.
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Leslie Sebastian Charles
21 January 1950 in Fyzabad, Trinidad, West Indies
'70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s