Charlene (singer)

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Birth name Charlene Marilynn D'Angelo
Born (1950-06-01) June 1, 1950 (age 68)
Origin Hollywood, California
Genres Country, pop, traditional pop
Occupation(s) Singer
Instruments Vocals
Years active 1973–present
Labels Motown
Associated acts Dionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye

Charlene Marilynn D'Angelo Duncan Oliver (born June 1, 1950, Hollywood, California) is an American easy-listening and R&B singer more commonly called Charlene. She is known mainly for her 1982 popular song "I've Never Been to Me."

Early recording career[edit]

She was born as Charlene Marilynn D'Angelo, which was later shortened to Charlene for her record label. In 1973, Charlene signed with Motown under the name "Charlene Duncan." Under that moniker, Charlene released two unsuccessful singles: "Relove/Give It One More Try" (M 1262) in July 1973;[1] and in January 1974 a cover of "All That Love Went to Waste" (M 1285) from the film A Touch of Class.[2] Charlene sought to find her niche at Motown – doing demos for other artists, writing her own songs and working with different producers and writers – before finally being paired-up with Ron Miller (songwriter).[3] She released a self-titled debut album on Motown's Prodigal label (P6 10015S1) in November 1976. The album had "Charlene Duncan" printed on the spine (and was, confusingly, titled Charlene).[4] The original release of the Charlene single, "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" (P 0632F), went to #97 in March 1977 (and #23 on the AC).

In May 1977, six months after the release of Charlene, Songs of Love (Prodigal, P610018S1) came out. She is depicted smiling wistfully behind a row of flowers in the Songs of Love cover illustration by Patrick Nagel. Songs of Love was a repackaged version of the Charlene LP; however, one song was different: "Freddie," a tribute to Freddie Prinze, who had died that year, replaced the tune "Shake a Hand."[5] "Freddie" was released as a single (P 0633F) and made it to #96 in the Hot 100 in May 1977 (and #40 on the AC).

A third single released from the Charlene/Songs of Love collection would have an unexpected chart odyssey. The original version of "I've Never Been to Me" on the Charlene LP was recorded with a controversial spoken section. On Songs of Love, her song "I've Never Been to Me", omitted the spoken bridge. Motown released the single (P 0636F) from Songs of Love (without the speech) in 1977, but it had little success, reaching #97 on the pop chart in September of that year.[citation needed] When the song was revived in 1982, the take being played on the radio was the rendition with the monologue (from the Charlene LP), so this was the version that Motown re-issued. In addition to the Charlene/Songs of Love releases, Charlene recorded another album's worth of material for Motown which never even made it into a record pressing plant.

In June 1980, the music company released one more Charlene single, "Hungry / I Won't Remember Ever Loving You" (M 1492F). The track "Hungry" was taken from the Broadway musical Daddy Goodness and both cuts on the vinyl were from the same collaborators of her biggest hit; however, this attempt failed and Motown dropped the recording artist from its label.[6]

Success of "I've Never Been to Me"[edit]

Charlene recorded "I've Never Been to Me" in 1976, and the single reached #97 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 1977. When released again in 1982, the single (1611 MF) reached #3 in the United States, and #1 by June 1982, in the UK Singles Chart.[7] The song has been her only Top 40 hit.

In 1982, Tampa, Florida, disc jockey Scott Shannon, then at WRBQ-FM, started playing the song at the behest of a girlfriend, by which time Charlene had lost her recording contract, moved to England and was working in a sweetshop in Ilford near London. Audience reaction was impressive, resulting in the song's second release with the original spoken bridge. The second release was a hit in Britain as well. When the song was released in the US in 1976, Charlene's legal name was Charlene Duncan from her marriage to record producer Larry Duncan; by the time the song was released in 1982, her name was Charlene Oliver by her subsequent marriage to Englishman Jeff Oliver.

In 1982, the single reached the top ten of the US pop and adult contemporary charts (AC #7). It even went to #60 on the Country & Western chart. The video for the song was filmed at Blickling Hall, Norfolk, England, and Charlene wore the wedding dress that she got married in. The concurrent release of her album, I've Never Been to Me (Motown 6009 ML), was also relatively successful, peaking at no. 36 on Billboard's Top 200. The LP mixed previously recorded tracks with some new material. The album features two different covers: one shows Charlene in an elegant white dress with a bow; the other uses her image in a moody pastel rendering.

"I've Never Been to Me" was one of the year's biggest hits and experienced international success, not only reaching the #1 spot on the UK charts but also in Canada, Ireland, and Australia. It was also a Top Ten triumph in Norway, Belgium, New Zealand and the Netherlands.[8] Charlene even issued a Spanish-language version entitled "Nunca he ido a mi." "I've Never Been to Me" was also reportedly Motown's first Top Ten hit by a white woman singer.

The exposure of the number has not waned much in the subsequent decades. Memorable performances of the tune have been featured on TV shows such as Desperate Housewives and Will & Grace and in the film Shrek the Third. "I've Never Been to Me" was featured as the opening song to the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The song is mimed onstage by two Sydney drag queens at the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville, Sydney, Australia.[citation needed] Charlene's original version of the sentimental ballad is also featured on the soundtrack.

Subsequent recordings and releases[edit]

"It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" was recycled on the I've Never Been to Me LP and re-released as its second, follow-up single (1621 MF). During its 1982 venture, it bubbled under at #109 on the charts. The song was also used in the 1982 film, The Last American Virgin. Although the original album did not contain the cut, it has since been added to extended versions of the soundtrack, including 2004 and 2012 re-issues. When Charlene re-signed with Motown in 1982, Motown agreed not only to the mainstream production of a brand new album of material but also to the US release of a religious set she had already started with Chapel Lane Records in England. [9]The 1982 outing, The Sky Is the Limit (Motown 6024 ML), offers reflective gospel music with several songs penned by Charlene herself plus a cover of Lionel Richie's "Jesus Is Love." Toward the end of the year, Charlene also released a brand new single, "Used to Be" (1650 MF), a duet with Stevie Wonder which the authors-composers of "I've Never Been to Me" also wrote and composed. But this did not reach the pop top 40 chart, and it only reached #46 on the US pop charts (peaking at #31 on the AC and #35 on the R&B). However, "Used to Be" did go to #13 on the Swiss Hitparade charts in December 1982.[10]

Some of the controversial lyrics of "Used to Be," which lamented an uncaring, self-centered society, caused the single to be banned in the UK. [11] The objectionable lines targeted, delivered by Wonder, came toward the end of the first verse: "Have another Chivas Regal/You're 12-years old and sex is legal." The Used to Be album (Motown 6027 ML), which accompanied its titular single, was not as successful as her previous pop album. It peaked at no. 162 on Billboard's Top 200.[citation needed] Highlights of Used to Be included a cover of "Heaven Help Us All," originally popularized by Stevie Wonder, and a rendition of "You're Home," which had previously appeared in the Broadway musical Daddy Goodness. Both "I've Never Been to Me" and "Used to Be" were ranked the third and fourth worst records of all time by Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell in their 1991 book, The Worst Rock n Roll Records of All time.

In 1984, Charlene co-produced a new LP, Hit & Run Lover (Motown 6090 ML), which showcased primarily up-tempo dance music and separated her from perennial producer, Ron Miller, and the Miller-Hirsch writing team responsible for much of her catalog. Motown furthered its attempt to revamp her image in order to appeal to new audiences by highlighting her in a segment of the film The Last Dragon which was under development by Motown's founder Berry Gordy. She and other Motown artists, including DeBarge and Vanity, were strategically placed in the film to appeal to the MTV craze of the time. Charlene's song "Fire" was used along with a music video depicting her as a goddess. Although the film managed to improve some of the other artists' notoriety, Charlene's appearance in the film did not catch on and she was dropped from the Motown roster once again in 1985.

Attempted career revivals and most recent updates[edit]

In 1985, the release of The Last Dragon through Motown brought together Motown signed talents. Along with artists such as Vanity, they mashed her in with a catchy pop song called "Fire." While the single was a fan favorite for die-hards, the song failed to make an impact in the musical charts. By this time, Motown was turning to artists that were offering up the New Jack Swing that would dominate the late 1980s and early 1990s, leaving Charlene and many Motown artists behind.

As of 2012, Charlene was residing in her native California with her family, and she was still recording. Under the name Charlene Oliver, she launched a website, where her new dance/club/house music could be downloaded,[12] and which included such new releases as "Broken Women," "California Dreamin' (Dance)," "Emotional Scars," "I Wanna Be A Woman," "I Was You," "I've Never Been To Me (Dance)," "Oh Cecilia," "Sea of Tranquility," "Spirit of Woman," "Symphony For A Broken Piano," "There I'll Be," "(Why Can't) Time Stand Still," and "Used to Be," the last of which featured Stevie Wonder.[citation needed] In 2012, Charlene revamped a new video, attached to her club mix of "I've Never Been To Me," which could be found on media outlets such as YouTube. Charlene also wrote two books, which she also sold via her website.

In 2013, Charlene was scheduled to release a new album. The first single called "Heard You On The Radio," through Gotham Records became available on ITunes from October 22, 2012.[13]


Because of her one big hit, Charlene became known as a high-profile one-hit-wonder in music. She was featured on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders show, hosted by William Shatner in 2002. Her ranking on the list was #75. In 2006, "I've Never Been to Me" was released as one of the songs on SingStar Anthems, one of the popular SingStars.[citation needed] Charlene has re-released the song in the form of a dance remix via download music.[14][15]

Pandora Radio features a "Charlene" channel that includes songs such as: "Johnny Doesn't Love Here Anymore," "If I Could See Myself," "Can't We Try," "Hey Mama," and others.

Personal life[edit]

Charlene has been married twice. She has three daughters.



Year Single Album
1973 "Relove" (b/w "Give It One More Try") NA
1974 "All That Love Went to Waste" (b/w "Give It One More Try") NA
1977 "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" Charlene
1977 "Freddie" Songs of Love
1977 "I've Never Been to Me" Songs of Love
1980 "Hungry" (from the Broadway musical Daddy Goodness) NA
1982 "I've Never Been to Me" (re-release) I've Never Been to Me
1982 "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" (re-release) I've Never Been to Me
1982 "Used to Be (Featuring Stevie Wonder)" Used to Be
2002 "I've Never Been to Me Dance Version With Rap" Single
2012 "I've Never Been to Me Club/House Mix" Single
2012 "California Dreamin' Dance Remix" Single
2013 "Heard You On The Radio" ITunes


Name Year released Record company
Charlene 1976 Prodigal
Songs of Love 1977 Prodigal
I've Never Been to Me 1982 Motown
The Sky Is the Limit (Gospel) 1982 Motown
Used to Be 1982 Motown
Hit & Run Lover 1984 Motown


Name Year Song Title by Charlene
The Last American Virgin (Expanded Editions – 2004, 2012) 1982 "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down"
The Last Dragon 1985 "Fire"
The Adventures of Priscilla: Queen of the Desert 1994 "I've Never Been to Me"


  1. ^ "Motown". Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  2. ^ Productions, Global Dog. "45 discography for Motown Records". Retrieved 2017-07-10. 
  3. ^ "Charlene Oliver interview about 'I've Never Been to Me.'". Retrieved 2017-08-02. 
  4. ^ Charlene biography at AllMusic
  5. ^ "Prodigal Album Discography". Retrieved 2017-08-13. 
  6. ^ Betts, Graham (2014-06-02). Motown Encyclopedia. AC Publishing. ISBN 9781311441546. 
  7. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 100. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  8. ^ "I've Never Been to Me Charlene". Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  9. ^ "Charlene: The "I've Never Been To Me" diva's showbiz roller coaster ride – Charlene". Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  10. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". Retrieved 2017-07-04. 
  11. ^ "Charlene Oliver Interview 2017". Celebrity Radio By Alex Belfield. 2017-02-25. Retrieved 2017-05-27. 
  12. ^ "Official web site". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Radio 4 Woman's Hour – Charlene Oliver". BBC. Retrieved 2011-08-12. 
  15. ^ "Charlene-New single out – available at". Retrieved 2011-08-12. 

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