Chris Isaak at the Pompano Beach Amphitheater
|Birth name||Christopher Joseph Isaak|
June 26, 1956 |
|Genres||Rock and roll, rockabilly, roots rock, surf rock|
|Occupation(s)||Singer-songwriter, musician, actor, talk show host|
|Labels||Warner Bros. Records|
Isaak was born in Stockton, California, at St. Joseph's Medical Center, the son of Dorothy (née Vignolo), a potato chip factory worker, and Joe Isaak (1929–2012), a forklift driver of Jewish heritage. (despite his last name his family was German/Russian Catholic, also known as Black Sea German from North Dakota) Isaak's mother is Italian American, from Genoa.[better source needed] Isaak attended Amos Alonzo Stagg High School in north Stockton, graduating in 1974. He was class president all three years, culminating with his election as Student Body President in his senior year, along with being the 1974 graduating class valedictorian and head of the all-male cheer squad. He subsequently attended a local college, San Joaquin Delta Community College, before transferring to the University of the Pacific, graduating with a bachelor's degree in communications in 1981.
Isaak signed a contract to Warner Bros. Records in 1984 for his first album, Silvertone. One track from the album "Dancin" was Isaak's first music video featured on MTV and two tracks from this album, "Gone Ridin'" and "Livin' for Your Lover", were featured in David Lynch's cult classic Blue Velvet. Isaak's second self-titled album, Chris Isaak, was photographed by fashion photographer Bruce Weber. Isaak's contract was renewed in 1988 when Warner Bros. moved him to their Reprise Records label. Suspicion of Love appears in the 1988 hit movie Married to the Mob starring Matthew Modine, Michele Pfeifer and Dean Stockwell.
Isaak's best known song is "Wicked Game". Though released on the 1989 album Heart Shaped World, an instrumental version of the song was later featured in the 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart. Lee Chesnut, an Atlanta radio station music director who was obsessed with Lynch films, played the vocal version and it became the station's most-requested song. Chesnut spread the word to other radio stations and the single became a national Top 10 hit in February 1991. The music video for the song was directed by Herb Ritts and was a MTV and VH1 hit; shot in black and white, it featured Isaak and supermodel Helena Christensen in a sensual encounter on the beach, caressing each other and whispering erotically in each other's ears. Another less-seen version of "Wicked Game" is directed by David Lynch and comprises scenes from the film Wild at Heart. "Wicked Game" featured as the backing music in the 2001 TV advertisement for the Jaguar X-Type in the UK. In 1995, Isaak split with longtime guitarist James Calvin Wilsey. That year's Forever Blue album and the accompanying tour featured Hershel Yatovitz on guitar.
In 1999, Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing" was featured in Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut. The song is on his 1995 Forever Blue album. The music video for the song is directed by Herb Ritts, it was shot in color and featured Isaak and French supermodel Laetitia Casta in a motel room. This was Isaak's second collaboration with Ritts.
Isaak composed a theme song for U.S. late-night television variety/talk show, The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn. In 2001, Isaak starred in his own television show, The Chris Isaak Show. It aired from March 2001 to March 2004 in the United States on the cable television network Showtime. This adult comedy show featured Isaak and his band playing themselves and the episode plots were based on fictional accounts of the backstage world of Isaak—the rock star next door. In 2004, his track "Life Will Go On" was featured on Chasing Liberty's soundtrack, which starred Mandy Moore and Matthew Goode. His track "Two Hearts" was featured in the closing credits of the 1993 film True Romance, directed by Tony Scott, written by Quentin Tarantino, and starring Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette.
Isaak's producer, Erik Jacobsen, was instrumental in his sound for 15 years. Jacobsen is known for his production work with The Lovin' Spoonful, and solo albums from Spoonful's John Sebastian and Jerry Yester. Isaak ceased working with Jacobsen on his 2002 album, Always Got Tonight. In 2007 Isaak opened for Stevie Nicks on her Crystal Visions Tour during the first leg of the tour.
In 2006, he was guested by Johnny Hallyday to cover Fats Domino's hit Blueberry Hill. The duet was recorded and issued on Johnny Hallyday's live album La Cigale (2007, Warner Music). At the end of this record you can hear Isaak thanking the French Rock'n'Roll star as "The King".
Isaak revealed in a 2002 interview with Acoustic Guitar that he uses a one-of-a-kind Gibson:
For my electric, I've got a one-off Gibson version of a Gretsch 6120, a sort of Chet Atkins thing. They made one of these things and gave it to me to see if I liked it, and I liked it so much I've been playing it ever since. People told me they thought it was a White Falcon, but it's not. It's just a white Gibson. I don't think they ever manufactured any of the things. They strung up this one prototype, scratched their heads, and said, 'Huh. Give it to Isaak.'
Isaak also plays a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar, which he uses for songwriting.
Acting and other work
Isaak has appeared in numerous films, mostly playing cameo roles. He starred, however, with Keanu Reeves and Bridget Fonda in the 1993 Bernardo Bertolucci-directed Little Buddha, and played a major role in David Lynch's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). Other motion pictures include Married to the Mob (1988), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), That Thing You Do! (1996), A Dirty Shame (2004), and The Informers (2008).
Isaak starred in The Chris Isaak Show (2001–2004) playing himself and featuring actual members of his band along with actors and celebrity guests.
He guest-starred on the "The One After the Superbowl, Part One", the Super Bowl XXX edition of the television sitcom Friends; and on the HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, as astronaut Ed White, the first American astronaut to leave the confines of his spacecraft, who later died in the 1967 Apollo 1 fire.
The Biography Channel aired The Chris Isaak Hour, a one-hour music interview and performance show in 2009. The series premiere featured Trisha Yearwood, and included the first ever performance of "Breaking Apart", a duet from Isaak's new album, Mr. Lucky. Additional guests included Stevie Nicks, Smashing Pumpkins, Chicago, Glen Campbell, Michael Bublé, Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens), and Jewel.
In April 2010, Isaak was the special guest during Conan O'Brien's The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour performance at the Nob Hill Masonic Center in San Francisco, California.
In 2014, he voiced the character of "Enoch," the apparent ruler of the town of Pottsfield, in the second episode of Over the Garden Wall, "Hard Times at the Huskin' Bee."
- Silvertone (1985)
- Chris Isaak (1986)
- Heart Shaped World (1989)
- San Francisco Days (1993)
- Forever Blue (1995)
- Baja Sessions (1996)
- Speak of the Devil (1998)
- Always Got Tonight (2002)
- Christmas (2004)
- Live in Australia (2008)
- Mr. Lucky (2009)
- Live at the Fillmore (2010)
- Beyond the Sun (2011)
- Married to the Mob...The Clown (1988)
- The Silence of the Lambs...SWAT Commander (1991)
- Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me...Special Agent Chester Desmond (1992)
- Little Buddha...Dean Conrad (1993)
- Grace of My Heart...Matthew Lewis (1996)
- That Thing You Do!...Uncle Bob (1996)
- Blue Ridge Fall...Emerson Cotswold (1999)
- A Dirty Shame...Vaughn Stickles (2004)
- The Informers...Les Price (2009)
- Wiseguy...Berated lounge singer (Season ?, Episode ?, 1987)
- Friends...Rob Donnen (Season 2, Episode 12, 1996) – "The One After the Superbowl"
- From the Earth to the Moon...Astronaut Edward White II (1998)
- Melrose Place...Himself/Musical Guest (Season 7: Ep. 28 Ryan's Choice 1998)
- The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn...Himself (Season 3, Episode 40, June 29, 2001)
- The Greatest...Himself (50 Sexiest Video Moments, 2003)
- Ed...Jamie Decker (Season 3, Episode 20, 2003) – "Second Chances"
- The Greatest...Himself/Host (100 Greatest Videos, 2003)
- The Chris Isaak Show...Himself (2001–2004)
- American Dreams...Roy Orbison (Season 2, Episode 14, 2004) – "Old Enough to Fight"
- The Footy Show...Himself (Grand Final, 2004)
- The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson...Michael Caine in Space (Season 2, Episode 177, 2006)
- Great Performances Jerry Lee Lewis: Last Man Standing Live...Himself (2007)
- The Bill Engvall Show...Himself (Season 1, Episode 6, 2007)
- Australian Idol...Himself (Season 6, November 9–10, 2008)
- The Chris Isaak Hour...Himself/Host (2009–Present)
- George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight ...Himself (Season 2, Episode 23 | October 21, 2011)
- Conan ...Himself (Episode 192, January 4, 2012)
- Loose Woman ...Himself (September 28, 2012)
- The Tonight Show...Himself (January 13, 2014)
- Hot in Cleveland...Chase Jackson (one episode, 2014)
- Over the Garden Wall...Enoch (one episode, 2014)
- Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 480–481. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
- "Isaak to receive Stockton award". Recordnet. September 29, 2011.
- "Acoustic Guitar Central". What They Play: Chris Isaak. Retrieved April 26, 2007.
- Dave on (August 6, 2008). "Chris Isaak and His Gibson Guitars". Fretbase. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
- "The Biography Channel's ''The Chris Isaak Hour'' website". Biography.com. February 18, 2009. Retrieved September 24, 2010.
- "Isaak to receive Stockton award". Recordnet. September 29, 2011.
- Chris Isaak.com, official site of Chris Isaak
- Chris Isaak at the Internet Movie Database
- Chris Isaak at Recordnet.com: Page with stories, multimedia and more about Chris Isaak from The Record in Stockon, CA, Isaak's hometown.
- Chris Isaak discography at Discogs
- Chris Isaak Concert History