Michael Bolton, (born Michael Bolotin in New Haven, Connecticut, on February 26, 1954) is arguably America’s premier pop singer and songwriter, who grew up idolizing such pioneers of R&B as Ray Charles and Otis Redding. He is a two-time Grammy Award-winning artist and a six-time American Music Award winner, and he has sold over 52 million records worldwide throughout the course of his career.
Michael recorded his first album in Tulsa. He had originally auditioned for Shelter Records in California, but the label passed and Bolotin wound up touring with Leon Russell before heading back to his native Connecticut and the RCA deal that led him to that recording studio in Oklahoma.
His self-titled, R&B-fuelled debut album was released in 1975. It was recorded with the likes of guitarist Wayne Perkins, bassist Patrick Henderson and drummer Andy Newmark. A young Marcy Levy also contributed backing vocals. She is, of course, better known now as Marcella Detroit!
A second record, Every Day of My Life, surfaced a year later. Produced by Jack Richardson, the album had a rockier feel and found Michael working with Patrick Henderson, keyboard player Jan Mullaney and guitarist Billy Elworthy. The latter would turn up in Franke and the Knockouts during the early 80s.
Unfortunately for the singer, the records were not a success and RCA would drop Michael by 1977. Having had a spell in Memphis looking for a new deal, Michael is believed to have worked with the rhythm section of bassist Willie Weeks and old drumming pal Andy Newmark on a series of demos. Bolotin then teamed himself with a fresh bunch of New York based musos to record material in a project that would ultimately transform itself into Blackjack.
With a rhythm section of ex-Carillo bassist Jimmy Haslip and drummer Sandy Gennaro, Michael initially recruited Carillo main man Frank Carillo as guitarist until one Bruce Kulick joined the fray. Bolton has claimed that Blackjack was conceived as a vehicle that gained him a recording contract with Polydor. Although signed as a solo artist, the general feeling at the time was that a band would be the best way to promote the man’s undeniable talents.
For Blackjack’s eponymous debut album, Bolotin roped in his old mate Jan Mullaney to play keyboards. Mullaney had worked with Carillo since the pair had last recorded together. Sadly, Tom Dowd’s poor production let the record down.
Eddie Offord was hired for 1980’s “Worlds Apart”, but the record failed to make an impression and Blackjack was unceremoniously dumped.
Having gone back to the drawing board, Michael chose to split the group and re-launch himself as a true solo artist once again. Teamed up with new manager Louis Levin, Michael set to work on a series of demos that would enable him to gain a new deal with CBS Records and adopt the new, improved surname of Bolton.
The Michael Bolton album launched the man as a true Hard Rock artist.
Issued in 1983, Michael Bolton revealed the vocalist to have been working with the cream of New York’s Hard Rock world. Michael had co-written material with Touch men Mark Mangold and Craig Brooks, session man Scott Zito and his old friend Patrick Henderson. Those who actually played on the album included Mangold, Brooks, Zito, Jan Mullaney, both Bruce and Bob Kulick, Bob Kulick’s Balance colleagues Doug Katsaros and Chuck Burgi, ex-Rainbow and Uriah Heep bassist Mark Clarke, Aldo Nova and even Parliament man George Clinton. Despite the undoubted quality of the material, the album failed to register and Michael Bolton was thus left to go back to the drawing board to create the even grander “Everybody’s Crazy”.
With Neil Kernon at the production desk, the 1985 released album once again found Bolton working with Mark Mangold and Jan Mullaney. The record also boasted performances from Bruce Kulick, ex-Speedway Boulevard and Balance bassist Dennis Feldman, Good Rats/ Billy Squier bassist Schuyler Deale and minor roles for erstwhile Balance men Peppy Castro and Doug Katsaros.
Again, a Bolton album failed to take off, as radio seemed unable to appreciate what the man had to offer. Ironically, Bolton would quickly become a source of hits for other artists, culminating in the Bolton / Mangold penned “I Found Someone” turning into a huge hit for Cher.
Michael Bolton was to return to the fray in 1987 with a brand new album, although it would be noticeably lacking in Hard Rock flavor, going for a more mainstream approach typified by his treatment of Otis Redding’s “The Dock of the Bay”. Nevertheless, The Hunger featured four tracks produced by Journey keyboard player Jonathon Cain. The tracks were also co-written with Cain and featured his erstwhile Journey colleagues Neal Schon, Randy Jackson and Mike Baird in a playing capacity on two of them. Indeed, Schon gets a co-writing credit on “You’re All I Need” which also features Mr. Big’s Eric Martin and Giuffrria man David Glen Eisley on backing vocals. Two other tracks on the album were co-written by Bolton with fellow cult hero Martin Briley and the record would give Bolton his first top 20 hit with “That’s What Love is All About”.
After the release of The Hunger (1987), fans and critics began to take notice of this incomparable voice and keen songwriting ability, but it was 1989’s multi-platinum Soul Provider, with hit singles like the Grammy-winning “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You” (which has been played more than four million times on the radio) and the title track, that catapulted Michael to the upper echelon of pop music luminaries.
With the release of number one Time, Love and Tenderness in 1991, Michael Bolton became an international superstar. The album sold more than eleven million copies worldwide and earned him a second Best Pop Vocal, Male, Grammy for the number one Pop/AC smash, “When a Man Loves a Woman”. He also earned two American Music Awards, including Favorite Male Artist and Favorite Male Album, and was named Best Pop Male Vocalist at the New York Music Awards.
Michael followed Time, Love and Tenderness with the number one Timeless (The Classics), a collection of the singer’s best-loved R&B and pop standards.
Then, in 1993, came the multi-platinum The One Thing, which included the multi-platinum single, “Said I Loved You . . . But I Lied”.
Having begun his career as a songwriter, it’s no surprise that Bolton’s songs have been recorded by an astonishing array of artists. Michael has written songs for Barbra Streisand (“We’re Not Making Love Anymore”); KISS (“Forever”); Joe Cocker (“Living Without Your Love”); Kenny Rogers (“Just the Thought of Losing You”); Cher (“I Found Someone”); and Kenny G and Peabo Bryson (the 1993 BMI Pop Award-winning “By the Time This Night is Over”). Other noted artists, such as Patti LaBelle, the Pointer Sisters, Gregg Allman, Lee Greenwood and Conway Twitty have also covered Bolton songs. Michael is among the scant handful of songwriters to have collaborated with Bob Dylan; their song, “Steel Bars”, is a highlight of Time, Love and Tenderness, as well as Bolton’s Greatest Hits album.
The music industry honored Bolton’s songwriting with the 1995 Hitmaker’s Award, from the National Songwriter’s Hall of Fame, and the prestigious “Million Performance Song Award” five times. (A “million performance” song is one which has received at least 50,000 hours—more than 5.7 years—of airplay!)
“Between writing, performing, recording, and everything else, far and away, performing before my audience is the best,” Michael says. From 1991 through 1995, Michael embarked on a series of international marathon concert tours including the 1991-1992 “Time, Love and Tenderness” Tour and the 1994-1995 “The One Thing” Tour. He has appeared at hundreds of concerts and performed for millions of fans; Michael’s many memorable concert experiences included several visits to the White House.
Despite his full plate of activities, Michael wouldn’t have it any other way: “I’m working on enjoying each moment a bit more. It feels like it’s always time to move onward and upward; at the same time, that means moving deeper into the gift of music. That will always take me where I want to go.”
In addition to his songwriting and vocal talents, he is a remarkable humanitarian. In 1993, he established the Michael Bolton Foundation, now the Michael Bolton Charities, Inc (MBC), to provide assistance, education and shelter to children and women at risk from poverty, as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. In partnership with Connecticut Governor John Rowland, the MBC created "Safe Space," a danger-free environment for youths, to foster self-esteem, leadership skills, job training, and awareness of social issues. Since its inception, MBC has granted well over $3.7 million in funding to local and national charities.
Bolton also serves as the honorary chairman of Prevent Child Abuse America, the national chairman for This Close for Cancer Research, and a board member for the National Mentoring Partnership and the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital.
In March, 2003, Bolton joined with Lifetime Television, Verizon Wireless, and many others to lobby on behalf of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, urging legislation to provide more assistance for victims of domestic violence, such as affordable housing options.
Bolton has received the Lewis Hine Award from the National Child Labor Committee, the Martin Luther King Award from the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor from the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce also recognized Bolton with a star on the “Walk of Fame” for his musical and charitable contributions.
Recorded over a two-year period, One World One Love (2009) was co-written and produced by Bolton and reverts to his impassioned, fervent songwriting and melodies, as well as featuring some notable collaborations with the likes of Ne-Yo and Lady Gaga. The lead single “Just One Love” is an uplifting, emotional track that shows Michael Bolton at his best.