Peter Brown (singer)
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July 11, 1953|
Blue Island, Illinois, United States
|Genres||Electronic, disco, post-disco, funk, classical, dance|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter and record producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, keyboards, percussion|
Peter Brown (born July 11, 1953, in Blue Island, Illinois) is an American singer-songwriter and record producer. Brown was a popular performer in the late 1970s and early 1980s with hits that included "Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me" (the original version of which was recorded in his bedroom) and "Dance With Me". He was introduced to a somewhat younger group of fans as the writer, with Robert Rans, of Madonna's smash hit signature song "Material Girl", which was later sung by Nicole Kidman as part of the "Sparkling Diamonds" medley in the 2001 Golden Globe-nominated and Academy Award-winning 20th Century Fox motion picture Moulin Rouge!.
Brown grew up in Palos Heights, a Chicago suburb. His mother, Virginia, was artistic and musically talented and gave Peter music lessons at a young age. Peter's father, Maurice, was an electronic engineer whose electronics helped Peter learn the technical aspects of recording music. He always brought home the latest technological breakthrough – which in those days included CB and ham radios, the first color television and the first stereo record player.
Maurice also purchased a number of tape recorders, which Peter played with as a child. One of these machines, a TEAC A-1200 2-track, had a feature which allowed transferring recordings on one track to a second track, while simultaneously allowing recording something new on that second track.
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Brown became serious about music in his teens and chose to learn the drums. His greatest inspirations in music at the time were Santana, Earth Wind and Fire and Chicago. He later became proficient playing timbales, conga drums, and a large number of other percussion instruments. Later, Brown was one of the pioneer users of the musical synthesizer, and for a time he was spokesman for the ARP Synthesizer company, since he used their products almost exclusively in performances and recordings. He has also been credited as being one of the founders of house music in the 1970s.
In his youth, Brown had assumed he would become a painter or a graphic artist of some kind. After High School he enrolled in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Although it was a prestigious school, professors seemed indifferent, and the facilities were rudimentary at the time.
Then Brown met Cory Wade, who eventually became his first producer. Wade encouraged Brown to give him some demo tracks for critique. At this point, Brown could use his 4-track recorder and his then-innovative synthesizer. Brown subsequently changed his career to music, but thought of being a songwriter, studio musician, or producer; however, Wade suggested that Brown become a producer. Brown assembled a group of musicians to perform his music, inspiring them with stories of his connections with Wade. Among the original members of the band was Pat Hurley, who sang and played keyboard in the band and who eventually co-write lyrics with Brown. Tom Dziallo played bass in the band bass and guitar on all of Brown's albums, and Robert Rans became Brown's lead keyboard player and primary lyric writing partner for many years. Brown's lifelong friend, Robert Vavrik, never joined the band but eventually penned some lyrics with Brown.
They created some disco music, which was popular at the time, and wanted to take the track to TK Records in Hialeah, Florida,for a possible record deal. Within days of the record having been sent, Henry Stone, the president of TK, wanted to release the song just as it was and offered Wade a deal for the single. This was followed by an album deal if the single was successful. Although excited by the offer, Brown did not want his 4-track, home made demo released as the actual record.
Henry Stone and everyone at TK Records really liked the augmented version, so Brown and Stone made the album deal and settled on a six-month deadline to write new material and record the album. Brown also photographed the album's somewhat controversial cover and revealed, in a 1978 interview in Rolling Stone, that he had created the cover's nude model out of cardboard, sheer fabric and ribbons.
Music career (1977–85)
Late in 1977, TK Records announced that sales of the 12" version of "Do Ya Wanna Get Funky With Me" had reached the million dollar mark making it the first gold 12" single in history. Before too long the album went gold as well.
Billboard Magazine's Year End #1 Awards for 1978 named Brown the #1 new male album artist, #3 new album artist and #10 pop male artist. Also #11 pop male album artist, #16 soul artists and #11 soul albums. Cash Box Magazine's Year End Awards issue for 1978 named Brown #1Top Male Single Vocalist, #1 Top New Male Single Vocalist and #2 Top Male Album Vocalist along with #3 Crossover R&B Male.
The 1978 Record World Magazine Disco Awards named Brown Outstanding New Performer, Top New Male Vocalist and Top Male Vocalist. He was also nominated by NARAS (The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) in 1978 for a Grammy Award for best R&B Vocal Performance for the song "Dance With Me". "Dance With Me" also included a guest vocal performance by Betty Wright. Also in 1978, Brown's single "Crank It Up" peaked in the Billboard Disco Chart at #4.
His first professional performance came on the American Bandstand television show, hosted by Dick Clark. That year, Brown also took part in the filming of a television special to promote the upcoming movie Foul Play with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. He also filmed a segment for the television show 60 Minutes showing the process of how a song is actually recorded in the recording studio. Later years saw him performing on the Mike Douglas Show, American Bandstand and as a presenter on the American Music Awards. On tour in 1978, Brown and his band (now with additional members Keith Anderson, drums, Joe Guzzo, guitar, Mike Hllinger, keyboards and Wildflower, background vocals) played venues as diverse as New York's The Bottom Line and Madison Square Garden.
On Brown's second album (recorded at Studio Center and Criteria Recording studios in North Miami, Florida), Stargazer, he was joined by Laura Taylor and Dan Hartman singing background vocals on the song "It's Alright."
In 1980, Brown released another charting dance song (#6 on Billboard's Disco Chart) called "Can't Be Love – Do It To Me Anyway", which was only released as a 12" single and never appeared on an album. The initial success of his career was soon overshadowed by legal disputes and the eventual bankruptcy of TK Records. After the dust cleared he was able to sign a new record contract with Warner Brothers with the help of a new management team, Wiesner/DeMann Entertainment. The 1983 album was called Back to the Front and was produced by Brown with executive producer Bob Gaudio (The Four Seasons) and recorded at Gaudio/Valli Recording Studios in Hollywood, California. Featured are musical guests Michael Brecker (saxophone) and Michael Boddicker (synthesizers). From this album, the song Baby Gets High reached #6 on Billboard's Disco Chart. Brown remained with Freddy DeMann after he started a solo management company whose clients included Madonna and Michael Jackson.
In 1984, Brown co-wrote "Material Girl", which became one of Madonna's biggest hits and signature song. It also made Brown's music publishing company, Minong Publishing one of the year's top music publishers.
Brown also wrote a song for Agnetha Fältskog titled "Maybe It Was Magic". Peter Cetera from the group Chicago was producing her solo album I Stand Alone, and liked the song. Brown also wrote "East Meets West" for the Japanese group Sandii & the Sunsetz. Brown's final hit was "They Only Come Out at Night" which hit the number one slot on Billboard Magazine's Dance Chart in April 1984. Brown's fourth and final album was titled Snap and was recorded at Pumpkin Recording Studios in Oak Lawn Illinois, owned by Gary Loizzo, who was a former member of The American Breed and sang their hit "Bend Me Shape Me" in 1968. This album contained the song "Zie Zie Won't Dance" which spawned Brown's music video by the same name. The video, filmed in London, was nominated for best video (special effects, art direction and editing) along with videos by Madonna and Bruce Springsteen at the second MTV Music Video Awards in 1985.
In the late 1980s a severe case of tinnitus prompted Brown to quit the music business in an attempt to preserve his damaged hearing. He began a design company which headed the award-winning redesign of the Chicago Board Options Exchange Internet site, among other wide ranging design and architectural projects.
- 1977 – A Fantasy Love Affair (US #11)
- 1979 – Stargazer (US #206)
- 1983 – Back to the Front
- 1984 – Snap
- 1998 – Get Funky With Me: The Best of the TK Years
- "Do Ya Wanna Get Funky with Me" – 1977 (US #18, US R&B #3, US Dance #9, UK #43)
- "Dance with Me" – 1978 (US #8, R&B #5, US Dance #4, UK #57)
- "You Should Do It" – 1978 (US #54, R&B #54)
- "Crank It Up (Funk Town)" – 1979 (US #86, R&B #9, US Dance #4)
- "Stargazer" – 1979 (US #59)
- "Love in Our Hearts" – 1980 (US Dance #65)
- "Can't Be Love - Do It to Me Anyway" – 1980 (R&B #74, US Dance #6)
- "Baby Gets High" – 1982 (R&B #49, US Dance #6)
- "Overnight Sensation" – 1983 (US Dance #55)
- "They Only Come Out at Night" – 1984 (US Dance #1)
- "(Love Is Just) The Game" – 1984 (US Dance #2)
- "Zie Zie Won't Dance" – 1985 (US Dance #20)
- List of Number 1 Dance Hits (United States)
- List of artists who reached number one on the US Dance chart
- Information was gathered from personal records and private journals.
- Edited excerpts from Random Notes (copyright 2002, Mingong Enterprises, Inc)