Born in Trinidad and raised in England, Ocean’s mellow, soulful voice captured the ears of pop music fans worldwide.
Now, 35 years after he began, he’s rolling back around with a whole new, yet familiar sound.
Billy Ocean’s songs defined the big hair era: “When the Going Gets Tough,” “Suddenly,” “There’ll Be Sad Songs,” “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” and “Caribbean Queen” fit perfectly into the adult-contemporary demographic.
His latest album, however, takes a step away from Ocean’s original music, as well as from his pop sensibilities.
For the album, called “Here You Are,” the title track is a statement “of where all of the other songs on this album have taken me to,” he said.
By those “other” songs, he means the range of cover songs he carefully selected, many of which are almost unrecognizable as covers because of Ocean’s unique voice and the striking arrangements.
“As a boy in Trinidad, we used to hear calpyso and steel pan music,” said Ocean, whose father was also a musician. “One day he came home with a Philips radio, and I listened to American music for the first time.”
Songs like “Cry Me a River” and “A Change is Gonna Come” were some of the first to make an impression on the youthful Ocean.
His mother, a domestic worker, continued Ocean’s musical education, asking him to sing to her on Sundays while she did the ironing work.
“I would sing songs by Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, and Brook Benton,” Ocean said.
Since those days, he’s wanted to make an album using these songs that first inspired him to sing and helped him achieve his ambition to be a singer.
One of Ocean’s “must-haves” for the album was Bob Marley’s famed “No Woman No Cry.”
Also on the set are Sinatra’s “It Was a Very Good Year,” Otis Redding’s “You Send Me,” and Nat King Cole’s “Time and the River.”
You’re likely to hear most of these tracks at Ocean’s upcoming performance in Manistee, as well as those radio-ready pop songs that fueled his fame.
“I love playing live,” Ocean said. “It’s great after 35 years to be able to play to an audience and have them sing along to all the songs, and to see them having a great time.”
Ocean said that each song means something special to different people.
“I am looking forward to all of us having a party,” he said.
Billy Ocean will perform at the Little River Casino Resort in Manistee on Saturday, August 9 at 8pm. For tix and more info, visit www.lrcr.com