Charlene (singer)

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Charlene
Birth nameCharlene Marilynn D'Angelo
Born (1950-06-01) June 1, 1950 (age 68)
OriginHollywood, California
GenresCountry, pop, traditional pop
Occupation(s)Singer
InstrumentsVocals
Years active1973–present
LabelsMotown
Associated actsDionne Warwick, Marvin Gaye
Websitehttp://CharleneSongs.com

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, she signed with Motown and, using the moniker "Charlene Duncan," 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 by writing her own songs, doing demos for other artists (including Michael Jackson's "One Day in Your Life") and working with different producers and writers before finally being teamed-up with Ron Miller.[3]

When her self-titled debut album (P6 10015S1) was released in November 1976 on Motown's Prodigal label, Charlene had dropped her surname (but, confusingly, the album still had "Charlene Duncan" printed on the spine).[4] In March 1977, the first single "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" (P 0632F) went to #97 in the Hot 100 (and #23 on the Easy Listening chart).

In May 1977, an album entitled Songs of Love (Prodigal, P610018S1) (with cover artwork by Patrick Nagel) was issued. This was a repackaged version of the Charlene LP with "Freddie" (an apparent tribute to Freddie Prinze, who had died that year) replacing "Shake a Hand" and the songs re-sequenced. Also, there is no spoken bridge in "I've Never Been To Me." [5] Freddie" was released as a single (P 0633F) and reached #96 in the Hot 100 (and #40 on the AC).[6]

A third single from the Charlene-Songs of Love collections would turn out to have not only an unusual lyrical evolution but also an unexpected chart odyssey. The lyrics to "I've Never Been to Me" were originally written by Ron Miller from a male perspective, but he rewrote them from a woman's viewpoint for Charlene, and on her debut album the ballad was recorded with a controversial narration to underscore the song's sentiment. On Songs of Love, the track omitted the spoken bridge; however, when this take was released as a single (P 0636F), it spent only three weeks in the Hot 100, peaked at #97 in October 1977 and then bounced right off the chart.[7] When the song was revived in 1982, the rendition with the monologue (from the Charlene LP) was being played on the radio, so this was the version that Motown reissued.

In 1978, a Charlene recording entitled "Are You Free," again produced by Ron Miller, appeared as a promotional single for the music label Ariola Records America.

In addition to the Charlene/Songs of Love project, Charlene recorded a full album's length of material for Motown that was never even issued. In June 1980, Motown released one more single, "Hungry / I Won't Remember Ever Loving You" (M 1492F). The track "Hungry" was taken from the stage musical Daddy Goodness[8] and both cuts on the single were from the same collaborators of her biggest hit; however, this attempt failed and Motown released the recording artist from its label.[9]

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) spent 23 weeks in the Hot 100, peaked at #3 and stayed there for three weeks.[6] It also reached #7 on the AC and #60 on the Hot Country Songs chart. The song has been her only Top 40 hit.

In 1982, Scott Shannon, a disc jockey then working at Tampa radio station WRBQ-FM, began playing the version from the Charlene album (with the original spoken bridge) at the behest of his girlfriend, and response from local listeners was such as to motivate Shannon, a former Motown employee, to alert Motown president Jay Lasker of the track's hit potential. By this time, Charlene had lost her recording contract, moved to England and was working in a sweetshop in Ilford near London. Upon locating Charlene, Lasker personally telephoned her to invite her to re-sign with Motown in order to facilitate the re-release of "I've Never Been to Me."

In 1976, Charlene's legal name was Charlene Duncan from her marriage to record producer Larry Duncan; by the time the song was re-released in 1982, her name was Charlene Oliver by her subsequent marriage to Englishman Jeff Oliver. The song's video was filmed at Blickling Hall, Norfolk, England, with Charlene appearing in her actual wedding dress.

"I've Never Been to Me" was one of the year's biggest hits and experienced international success, reaching the #1 spot in the UK, Canada, Ireland and Australia. It was also a Top Ten triumph in Norway, Belgium, New Zealand and the Netherlands.[10] Charlene even issued a Spanish-language version for Motown Latino entitled "Nunca he ido a mi" (1624LF). "I've Never Been to Me" was also reportedly Motown's first Top Ten hit by a white female singer.

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 and featured two different covers: one showed Charlene in an elegant white dress with a bow and the other used her image in a moody pastel rendering.

Over the years, memorable performances of "I've Never Been to Me" have appeared on TV shows such as Will & Grace and Desperate Housewives and in movies such as Shrek the Third in 2007 and You Were Never Really Here in 2017.[11] In the 2018 episode of Splitting Up Together entitled "Asking for a Friend," Jenna Fischer's Lena longingly begins singing the song to her children; this prompts her youngest son, Milo, to question aloud if his mother is having a nervous breakdown. A popular choice for female impersonators, "I've Never Been to Me" was spotlighted as the opening number to the 1994 film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The cinematic satire showed Hugo Weaving lip-syncing in drag to Charlene's vocals. Charlene's original version of the sentimental ballad is also included 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). The 1982 bid bubbled under at #109 and affixed an ending harmony, "It ain't easy without you," which is not on the album version. This rendition (with the extra harmony) was also used in the 1982 film, The Last American Virgin. Although the original Virgin compilation did not contain the cut, it has since been added to extended editions 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. [12] 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 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. [13] The controversial lyrics of "Used to Be," which lamented an uncaring, self-centered society, caused some radio stations in the U.S. to refuse to play the single and facilitated its actual ban in the U.K. The lines deemed most unacceptable were delivered by Wonder in the song's first verse: "Have another Chivas Regal/You're 12-years old and sex is legal." [12] [14]

Peaking at at no. 162 on Billboard's Top 200, Charlene's corresponding Used to Be album (Motown 6027 ML) was not as successful as the I've Never Been to Me LP. Highlights of Used to Be included a rendition of "You're Home," which had previously appeared in the stage musical Daddy Goodness[8], and a cover of "Heaven Help Us All," originally popularized by Stevie Wonder. Whereas Wonder's version of "Heaven" used the terms "black man" and "white man", Charlene's take altered the words to "poor man" and "rich man."

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. Although Charlene was offered the power ballad "We Belong", which soon after became a big hit for Pat Benatar, the song's inclusion on the album was opposed by executive producer Ray Singleton.[3]

Motown furthered its attempt to revamp Charlene's image to appeal to new audiences by highlighting her in a segment of the film The Last Dragon, which was under development by Motown 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 catchy pop 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, by this time, Motown was turning to artists that were offering up the New Jack Swing sound that would dominate the late 1980s and early 1990s, leaving Charlene and many Motown artists behind. Charlene's appearance in the film did not improve her popularity, and she was dropped from the Motown roster once again in 1985.

Attempted career revivals and most recent updates[edit]

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,[15] 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 through Gotham Records after a single called "Heard You on the Radio" became available on iTunes on October 22, 2012.[16]

Legacy[edit]

Because of her one big hit, Charlene became known as a high-profile one-hit-wonder. She was featured on VH1's 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders show in 2002, where she ranked #75. It was stated in the program that her entry "expresses the post-'70s hangover." In 2006, "I've Never Been to Me" was released on SingStar Anthems, one of the popular SingStars.[citation needed] Charlene has re-released the song in the form of a downloadable dance remix.[17][18]

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.

Discography[edit]

Singles[edit]

Year Single Catalog No & Record Co Album
1973 "Relove" (b/w "Give It One More Try") M 1262 - Motown NA
1974 "All That Love Went to Waste" (b/w "Give It One More Try") M 1285 - Motown NA
1977 "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" P 0632F - Prodigal Charlene
1977 "Freddie" P 0633F - Prodigal Songs of Love
1977 "I've Never Been to Me" P 0636F - Prodigal Songs of Love
1980 "Hungry" (from the Broadway musical Daddy Goodness) M 1492F - Motown NA
1982 I've Never Been to Me" (re-release) 1611MF - Motown I've Never Been to Me
1982 "It Ain't Easy Comin' Down" (re-release) 1621MF - Motown I've Never Been to Me
1982 "Nunca he ido a mi" 1624LF - Motown Latino NA
1982 "Used to Be" (featuring Stevie Wonder) 1650MF - Motown Used to Be
1982 "I Want to Go Back There Again" 1663MF - Motown Used to Be
1984 "We're Both in Love with You" 1734MF - Motown Hit & Run Lover
1984 "Hit & Run Lover" 1761MF - Motown Hit & Run Lover
2002 "I've Never Been to Me" (Dance Version with Rap) NA Single
2012 "I've Never Been to Me" (Club/House Mix) NA Single
2012 "California Dreamin'" (Dance Remix) NA Single
2013 "Heard You on the Radio" Gotham Records ITunes

Albums[edit]

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

Soundtracks[edit]

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"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Motown". www.soulfulkindamusic.net. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  2. ^ Productions, Global Dog. "45 discography for Motown Records". www.globaldogproductions.info. Retrieved 2017-07-10.
  3. ^ a b "Charlene Oliver interview about 'I've Never Been to Me.'". www.popentertainment.com. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  4. ^ Charlene biography at AllMusic
  5. ^ "Prodigal Album Discography". www.bsnpubs.com. Retrieved 2017-08-13.
  6. ^ a b "Charlene". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  7. ^ "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  8. ^ a b Dietz, Dan (2015-09-03). The Complete Book of 1970s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781442251663.
  9. ^ Betts, Graham (2014-06-02). Motown Encyclopedia. AC Publishing. ISBN 9781311441546.
  10. ^ "I've Never Been to Me Charlene". simplypopmusic.com. Retrieved 2017-05-27.
  11. ^ "'You Were Never Really Here' Turns a Familiar Thriller Into the Unexpected". The Ringer. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  12. ^ a b "Charlene: The "I've Never Been To Me" diva's showbiz roller coaster ride - Charlene". www.crossrhythms.co.uk. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  13. ^ Hung, Steffen. "Die Offizielle Schweizer Hitparade und Music Community". hitparade.ch. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  14. ^ "Charlene Oliver Interview". Celebrity Radio By Alex Belfield. 2017-02-25. Retrieved 2018-11-23.
  15. ^ "Official web site". CharleneSongs.com. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  16. ^ https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/heard-you-on-the-radio-single/id571292849
  17. ^ "Radio 4 Woman's Hour – Charlene Oliver". BBC. Retrieved 2011-08-12.
  18. ^ "Charlene-New single out – available at www.CharleneSongs.com/store". Charlenesongs.com. Retrieved 2011-08-12.

External links[edit]