Black (singer)

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Black
Colin- Vearncombe.jpg
Vearncombe in Birkenhead, March 2007
Background information
Birth name Colin Vearncombe
Born (1962-05-26)26 May 1962
Origin Liverpool, England, UK
Died 26 January 2016(2016-01-26) (aged 53)
Cork, Ireland
Genres Pop,[1] new wave[2]
Years active 1981–2016
Labels WEA Records
A&M Records Ugly Man
Nero Schwarz Records

Colin Vearncombe (26 May 1962 – 26 January 2016), known by his stage name Black, was an English singer-songwriter. He emerged from the punk rock music scene and achieved mainstream pop success in the late 1980s, most notably with the international hit single "Wonderful Life" in 1987.[1][3]

William Ruhlmann of AllMusic described Vearncombe as a "smoky-voiced singer/songwriter, whose sophisticated jazz-pop songs and dramatic vocal delivery place him somewhere between Bryan Ferry and Morrissey".[4] Michael Hann of The Guardian described his voice as a "slightly frayed baritone".[3]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Liverpool and attended Prescot Grammar School. He then enrolled on an art foundation course at Liverpool Polytechnic. Colin first aspired to become a musician after seeing Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock.[5][6]

Career[edit]

Black in the 1990s

Black's first release was the single "Human Features" on Rox Records in 1981. At this time, Black consisted of Vearncombe, Dane Goulding (formerly of Blazetroopers) on bass and Greg Leyland another school friend on drums. The single was followed by another independent release in 1982, "More than the Sun". It was then that Vearncombe formed a friendship with Dave "Dix" Dickie of the Last Chant and the two became musical collaborators and signed for WEA Records.

In 1982, Black played with the Thompson Twins on their 'Quick Step and Side Kick' tour and also supported Wah! on a UK tour. The live sound of synth/percussion/guitar and the use of reel-to-reel tapes got them noticed.

Black signed with WEA in 1984 and the next single was "Hey Presto" (1984), which got Vearncombe noticed outside the UK: the video for the song featured on the satellite music channel Music Box, and the single was also released in Australia. The second WEA single was a re-recording of "More than the Sun". After this, Black was dropped from the record label and Vearncombe and Dix went their separate ways.

In 1985 Vearncombe wrote the ironically entitled minor key song "Wonderful Life". It was released independently through Ugly Man Records, and got Black noticed by A&M Records who signed Vearncombe and launched his international career. Vearncombe said:

By the end of 1985 I had been in a couple of car crashes, my mother had a serious illness, I had been dropped by a record company, my first marriage went belly-up and I was homeless. Then I sat down and wrote this song called 'Wonderful Life'. I was being sarcastic.[7]

The song reached number eight in the British charts. "Wonderful Life" was later covered by singers including Kim Wilde and Tony Hadley. A version by Katie Melua was included on the BBC Radio 2's Sounds of the 80s compilation album, and was released as a single in aid of Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Children's Hospital Charity.[8] But its widespread popularity came from its use on several advertising commercials for brands that included Standard Life and Cadbury's chocolate. In 2015 Melua sang a version in a Premier Inn advertisement. Vearncombe suffered from the feeling of being a one-hit wonder:

Once you have had a hit, it's hard to write another song without having that in the back of your mind. For a long time, I would find myself hearing, 'I like it but it's not Wonderful Life'.[9]

At first, the single "Everything's Coming Up Roses" flopped, but the follow-up, "Sweetest Smile" became a UK top-10 hit. The third single, a re-release of "Wonderful Life", was a massive hit worldwide. The album of the same name, released in 1987, had similar success, reaping commercial and critical acclaim.

Black sold over two million records worldwide with Comedy (1988) and Black (1991). Disillusioned with having to deal with a big record company, Vearncombe founded the independent label Nero Schwarz (which is the word "black" in Italian and in German, respectively), and released one album Are We Having Fun Yet? (1993).

After a prolonged hiatus, Vearncombe returned in 1999 to release a string of recordings under his own name. Vearncombe returned to the name 'Black' to release a new recording entitled Between Two Churches in November 2005. On this album, he included a song mocking the success of his hit "Wonderful Life", where he poignantly re-asked the question, "Are you having a wonderful life?".

In 2009 he released two albums. The Given was issued on 4 July as a free download under Vearncombe's name. Water on Stone was released on 17 November as the first Black studio album in four years. In September 2011, the album Any Colour You Like was released through Black's website.[10]

In April 2014, he started a pledge fund (via the dedicated music crowd-funding site PledgeMusic) for a new album. This was the first time Vearncombe participated in a crowd-funded project. The project significantly exceeded its funding goals and he regularly expressed his surprise and gratefulness through video updates on the PledgeMusic site.[11] His experience with the process also contributed to the name of the album, Blind Faith. The album was released on 13 April 2015. In November 2015, he recorded a Catalan version of "Wonderful Life" as a fundraiser for the Catalan telethon La Marató de TV3. Vearncombe sang a Catalan translation of the original lyrics.

Death[edit]

On 10 January 2016, Vearncombe was involved in a road traffic accident, near Cork Airport in Ireland, and placed in a medically-induced coma after sustaining serious head injuries. He died from his injuries at the intensive care unit of Cork University Hospital on 26 January 2016, at the age of 53.[12] Vearncombe left a widow, Swedish opera singer Camilla Griehsel, and three children.[6][13][14]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Studio albums (released under Black)[edit]

List of studio albums, with selected chart positions and certifications
Title Album details Peak chart positions Certifications
UK
[15]
AUS
[16]
AUT
[17]
GER
[18]
NLD
[19]
NZ
[20]
SPA
[21]
SWE
[22]
SWI
[23]
Wonderful Life 3 34 6 9 11 21 8 30 5
Black
Comedy
  • Released: 1988
  • Label: A&M Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
32 38 10 37 24
  • BPI: Silver[24]
  • PROMUSICAE: Platinum[26]
Black
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: A&M Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
42
Are We Having Fun Yet?
  • Released: 1993
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Between Two Churches
  • Released: 2005
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD
Water on Stone
  • Released: 2009
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD
Blind Faith
  • Released: 2015
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD
"—" denotes items that did not chart or were not released.

Studio albums (released under Colin Vearncombe)[edit]

Title Album details
The Accused
  • Released: 1999
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Abby Road Live
  • Released: 1999
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Water on Snow
  • Released: 2000
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Live at the Bassline
  • Released: 2001
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Smoke Up Close
  • Released: 2002
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
The Given
  • Released: 2009
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette

Compilation albums[edit]

Title Album details
Master Series
  • Released: 1996
  • Label: A&M Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Millennium Edition
  • Released: 2000
  • Label: A&M Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
The Collection
  • Released: 2000
  • Label: Spectrum Music
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Live at the Bassline
  • Released: 20011
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Black: C.V.
  • Released: 2007
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette
Any Colour You Like
  • Released: 2011
  • Label: Nero Schwarz Records
  • Formats: CD, LP, Cassette

Singles[edit]

List of singles as lead artist, with selected chart positions and certifications, showing year released and album name
Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album
UK
[15]
AUS
[16]
AUT
[17]
FRA
[27]
GER
[28]
IRE
[29]
NLD
[19]
NZ
[20]
SPA
[21]
SWI
[23]
"Human Features" 1981 Non-album singles
"More Than The Sun" 1982
""Hey Presto"" 1984
"More Than The Sun"
"Wonderful Life" 1986 42 30 Wonderful Life
"Everything's Coming Up Roses" 1987 76 8 8
"Sweetest Smile" 8 38 8 40 41 29
"Wonderful Life"
(1987 re-issue)
8 23 1 2 2 7 10 7 2
"I'm Not Afraid" 78
"Paradise" 1988 38
"The Big One" 54 43 Comedy
"You're A Big Girl Now" 86
"Now You're Gone" 1989 66
"Feel Like Change" 1991 56 72 Black
"Here It Comes Again" 70
"Fly Up to the Moon"
((feat. Sam Brown))
"Don't Take the Silence Too Hard" 1993 Are We Having Fun Yet?
"Wishing You Were Here"
"Just Like Love"
"—" denotes items which were not released in that country or failed to chart.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Jason Ankeny. "Artist Biography by Jason Ankeny". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  2. ^ Name * (2016-01-26). "Colin Vearncombe, aka Black, RIP - uDiscover". Udiscovermusic.com. Retrieved 2016-07-09. 
  3. ^ a b Hann, Michael (25 June 2015). "Black: Blind Faith review – marvellous Euro balladry from Colin Vearncombe". The Guardian (London, UK). Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  4. ^ William Ruhlmann. "Wonderful Life – Black | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  5. ^ The Times Obituary – Colin Vearncombe, 8 February 2016. p48
  6. ^ a b "Colin Vearncombe obituary". The Guardian. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  7. ^ The Daily Telegraph, [paper only] (28 Jan 2016), p.27
  8. ^ nero (3 September 2015). "Katie Melua – Wonderful Life Single". Colinvearncombe.com. Retrieved 30 January 2016. 
  9. ^ Daily Telegraph, ibid., p.27
  10. ^ "Black – aka Colin Vearncombe". Colinvearncombe.com. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  11. ^ "Black: New Album "Blind Faith"". Pledgemusic.com. 28 February 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  12. ^ Michael Hann. "Colin Vearncombe, the voice of Black, dies, aged 53". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 January 2016. 
  13. ^ "Wonderful Life singer Colin Vearncombe dies after car crash". BBC News. 26 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  14. ^ "Colin Vearncombe, singer-songwriter – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 27 January 2016. Retrieved 28 January 2016. 
  15. ^ a b "Black" (select "ALBUMS" tab). Official Charts Company. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  16. ^ a b "Discography Black". australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Discographie Black" (in German). austriancharts.at. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  18. ^ Peak positions in Germany:
  19. ^ a b "Discografie Black". dutchcharts.nl (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "Discography Black". charts.org.nz. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  21. ^ a b Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
  22. ^ "Discography Black". swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  23. ^ a b "Hitparade.ch. Black" (in German). swisscharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  24. ^ a b "British album certifications – Black". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 12 March 2016.  Enter Black in the field Search. Select Artist in the field Search by. Select album in the field By Format. Click Search
  25. ^ a b "Gold-/Platin-Datenbank (Black)" (in German). Bundesverband Musikindustrie. Retrieved 12 March 2016. 
  26. ^ a b "Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano: Certificados 1979–1990". Solo Exitos 1959–2002 Ano A Ano. 
  27. ^ "Discographie Black" (in French). lescharts.com. Hung Medien. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  28. ^ Peak positions in Germany:
  29. ^ "The Irish Chart: Search the Charts" (type the name of the song in the title tab). Irish Recorded Music Association. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 
  30. ^ "Les Certifications depuis 1973". Infodisc. Retrieved 13 March 2016. 

Secondary Source[edit]

  • Obituaries (28 January 2016). "Colin Vearncombe". The Daily Telegraph. 

External links[edit]