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Michael Sembello

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Michael Sembello
Sembello in 1983
Sembello in 1983
Background information
Birth nameMichael Andrew Sembello
Born (1954-04-17) April 17, 1954 (age 70)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • multi-instrumentalist
  • producer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • keyboards
Years active1975–present

Michael Andrew Sembello (born April 17, 1954) is an American singer, guitarist, keyboardist, songwriter, composer and producer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Sembello was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his 1983 song "Maniac", which he sang and co-wrote. The song reached number one in the United States[1] and featured in the Flashdance film soundtrack.

Early life[edit]

Sembello was born and raised in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, a western suburb of Philadelphia.[2]


Sembello began his career in music as a session musician, working as a guitarist. By age 17, he was working professionally with Stevie Wonder on electric and acoustic guitar as a studio player on Wonder's Fulfillingness' First Finale.[3] He continued the same year, chosen as one of the core artists who worked on Songs in the Key of Life, an ambitious double album that took two years to create. He was credited as lead and rhythm guitarist on most of the tracks—including the intricate jazz rock lead guitar part of the instrumental "Contusion"[4]—and shares songwriting credit with Wonder on the song "Saturn", according to the album's liner notes.

Sembello wrote the song "Mirror Mirror", a sizable hit for Diana Ross in 1981 (No. 2 on the soul singles chart and peaking at number 8 on the Billboard Hot 100) and the song "Carousel", which Michael Jackson recorded for his 1982 album Thriller, but it was replaced on the track list by "Human Nature".[5][6]

The song was included as a bonus track on Thriller 25, the 25th-anniversary edition reissue of the album; the full version was released on iTunes in 2013 as part of The Ultimate Fan Extras Collection.[7]

Sembello released his first solo album Bossa Nova Hotel in 1983. The song "Maniac" from that album, which he co-wrote with his keyboardist Dennis Matkosky, was selected for inclusion in the film Flashdance. "Maniac" was the second-best-charting song from the soundtrack (after the title track) and the ninth-biggest single of 1983. That soundtrack won a Grammy Award in 1984 for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special.[8] Sembello and Matkosky have claimed that the song was supposed to be about a vicious pet murderer after having seen a slasher flick, possibly Maniac or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.[9] In 2020, Sembello, along with Matkosky, appeared in Maniac Men, an interview included on the 4K UHD Blu-ray reissue of Maniac.[10]

Sembello produced guitarist Jennifer Batten's first solo album Above Below and Beyond in 1992.[11] In 1994, he produced Argentine singer Valeria Lynch's album Caravana de Sueños (1994), and co-wrote the title song with lyricist César Isella and composer Armando Tejada Gómez.[12]

Sembello's songs are featured in the films Cocoon, Independence Day, Gremlins, The Monster Squad and Summer Lovers. His song "Gravity" from Cocoon was accompanied by a music video directed by the film's director Ron Howard and included an appearance by Howard in a scripted fictional foreword to the video.[13][14]

In 2008, Sembello worked with saxophonist Michael Lington on his album Heat, nominated as Jazztrax Album of the Year for 2008.[15] Michael and his brother Danny Sembello penned three songs with Lington for the project.

May 2009, Sembello assembled Bruce Gaitsch (bass, guitar) and Janey Clewer (keyboards, vocals) to form the trio The Bossa Nova Hotel,[16] named after his 1983 Warner Bros. Records debut. They recorded the album Moon Island, released on EMI Japan. The album consists of American pop songs given arrangements with a strong Brazilian influence.

Shortly after The Bossa Nova Hotel's rendition of the jazz standard Manhã de Carnaval enjoyed success as the theme to the Japanese television series, LIFE!, the trio regrouped in 2016 to record a cover of Sting's Fragile.[17][18]

Sembello has recorded his vocals in six languages.[19]

Personal life[edit]

Sembello is the brother of the late songwriters Danny (1963-2015) and John Sembello (1945-2013).


Studio albums[edit]

Title Details Peak chart positions

Bossa Nova Hotel 80 53
Without Walls
  • Released: 1986
  • Label: A&M
  • Format: LP, CD
Caravan of Dreams
  • Released: 1992
  • Label: Polydor
  • Format: LP, CD
Backwards in Time
  • Released: 1997
  • Label: MKD, Columbia
  • Format: LP, CD
Ancient Future
  • Released: 2002
  • Label: Legend Rec
  • Format: LP, CD

Compilation albums[edit]

  • The Lost Years (2003)

Collaboration albums[edit]

  • Moon Island (2009) with the Bossa Nova Hotel


Title Year Peak chart positions Certifications Album


"Summer Lovers" 1982 Summer Lovers
"Maniac" 1983 1 34 2 11 6 28 10 7 2 43 Bossa Nova Hotel and Flashdance
"Automatic Man" 34 49 66 Bossa Nova Hotel
"Talk" 1984 25
"Gremlins...Mega Madness" Gremlins
"Gravity" 1985 Without Walls and Cocoon
"Tear Down the Walls" 1986 Without Walls
"Wonder Where You Are"
"Heavy Weather" 1992 Caravan of Dreams
"Reach for the Dream" 1995 non-album single
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Billboard > Michael Sembello Chart History > Hot 100". Billboard. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  2. ^ "Europeans Crazy About Main Line's 'Maniac'". Ardmore-Merion-Wynnewood, PA Patch. November 27, 2012.
  3. ^ Steve Millward (April 9, 2018). Fast Forward: Music And Politics In 1974. Troubador Publishing Ltd. pp. 58–. ISBN 978-1-78589-540-1.
  4. ^ Pat Martino Documentary Michael Sembello Interview, December 10, 2009, archived from the original on December 22, 2021, retrieved November 30, 2019
  5. ^ Pirnia, Garin (May 7, 2012). "Human Nature". Rolling Stone.
  6. ^ Wheeler, Brad (May 20, 2014). "The maestro Quincy Jones and his singing Montreal protégé". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on May 21, 2014. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  7. ^ Recordings, Legacy (July 2, 2013). "Carousel". PR NewsWire.. Retrieved October 24, 2018.
  8. ^ "Jackson Claims 8 Grammys". Times-News. February 29, 1984. Retrieved December 21, 2010.
  9. ^ Tom Breihan (July 22, 2020), "The Number Ones: Michael Sembello's "Maniac"", Stereogum
  10. ^ Stephanie Prange (March 19, 2020), 'Zombie' and 'Maniac' Coming to 4K UHD Blu-ray May 26 From MVD and Blue Underground
  11. ^ Prato, Greg (December 30, 2003), "Jennifer Batten Biography", Allmusic.com, Rovi Corp, retrieved July 26, 2011
  12. ^ "Song Credits: Canción Con Todos-Valeria Lynch-From the album Caravana De Sueños", Pandora
  13. ^ Jason Gross (June 17, 2015), "Bodacious Breakdown: 'Gravity' by Michael Sembello", Rediscover the 80s
  14. ^ "Michael Sembello - Gravity (Music Video)", YouTube, May 2, 2010, archived from the original on December 22, 2021
  16. ^ "マイケル・センベロが放つ、極上ブラジリアンAORの世界 (The World of the Finest Brazilian AOR Released by Michael Sembello)", Barks Japanese Music Network, June 1, 2009
  17. ^ "Janey Clewer Music - The Bossa Nova Hotel".
  18. ^ The Bossa Nova Hotel (2016). "Fragile-Single". Apple Music.
  19. ^ Randolph Michaels (September 2005). Flashbacks to Happiness: Eighties Music Revisited. iUniverse. pp. 160–. ISBN 978-0-595-37007-8.
  20. ^ "Michael Sembello Chart History (Billboard 200)". Billboard. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  21. ^ "Michael Sembello Chart History (Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums)". Billboard. Retrieved June 28, 2024.
  22. ^ Joel Whitburn (2007). Joel Whitburn Presents Billboard Top Adult Songs, 1961-2006. Record Research Inc. p. 246. ISBN 978-0-89820-169-7.
  23. ^ Australian chart peaks:
  24. ^ "Ultratop > Michael Sembello in Ultratop Vlaanderen" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  25. ^ German singles chart peaks:
  26. ^ "The Irish Charts – All there is to know > Search results for 'Michael Sembello' (from irishcharts.ie)". Fireball Media. Retrieved October 1, 2016 – via Imgur.com.
  27. ^ "dutchcharts.nl > Michael Sembello in Dutch Charts" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  28. ^ "charts.nz > Michael Sembello in New Zealand Charts". Hung Medien. Retrieved March 14, 2019.
  29. ^ "hitparade.ch > Michael Sembello in der Schweizer Hitparade" (in German). Hung Medien. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  30. ^ "Official Charts > Michael Sembello". Official Charts Company. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  31. ^ "British certifications – Michael Sembello". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved March 18, 2023. Type Michael Sembello in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  32. ^ "Danish single certifications – Michael Sembello – Maniac". IFPI Danmark. Retrieved May 29, 2023.

External links[edit]