The Underappreciated Voice of Paul Carrack

There were so many tremendous vocalists in the ’80s, but one of the best and most underappreciated is Paul Carrack. You might not immediately recognize the name, but I expect you would recognize his voice. In a 2008 article by Record Collector magazine, the writer made the apt comment, “If vocal talent equaled financial success, Paul Carrack would be a bigger name than legends such as Phil Collins or Elton John.” That puts it in some perspective for you. Carrack has sung lead vocals for several bands over his career and has even enjoyed some solo success as well. He was in the band Ace and sang their 1975 hit “How Long?” Carrack also wrote that song which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May of that year.

In 1981, Glenn Tilbrook recruited Carrack to join the band Squeeze at the recommendation of co-producer Elvis Costello. Carrack would end up singing lead vocals on their biggest U.S. hit. “Tempted” would be released as a single in July of 1981 and surprisingly only peaked at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in September of that year. It is one of my very favorite songs of the early ’80s. Here is the music video for “Tempted” by Squeeze

Then in 1985, Mike Rutherford would recruit Carrack to join his side project band Mike + The Mechanics. He would share lead vocals responsibility and Carrack would sing lead on one of my favorites from their debut self-titled album. “Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)” was released as a single in November of 1985 and would peak on the Billboard Hot 100 at #6 in March of 1986. The (On Dangerous Ground) part was added because the song was featured in a lesser known film of that name which was actually re-titled Choke Canyon in the U.S. Even though he is technically only considered one of “The Mechanics”, Carrack’s amazing voice shines through on this track making it special. Here is the music video for “Silent Running” by Mike + The Mechanics

Carrack’s golden voice would also be heard on the Mike + Mechanics 1989 hit single “The Living Years.” It was released in December of 1988 and became a worldwide success. “The Living Years” reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 1989. In addition to the U.S. pop charts, it also reached the Top 5 in at least five other countries. The song addresses a son’s regret over unresolved conflict with his now-deceased father. It is an emotional subject matter and Carrack’s vocals bring that emotion to the surface in a truly special way. Even if you have/had a good relationship with your father, the same sentiment relates to other situations where we shouldn’t take our limited time for granted. It won the Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically & Lyrically in 1989, and was nominated for four Grammy awards in 1990, including Record and Song of the Year as well as Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Here is the music video for “The Living Years” by Mike + The Mechanics

His outstanding vocal work as part of Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics have been highlighted so far, but in 1987 Carrack would release his most successful solo album, One Good Reason which included a single that would finally bring him some solo recognition in the U.S. “Don’t Shed a Tear” was released in November of 1987 and would peak at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks in February of 1988. I remember it getting lots of pop radio play early in 1988 and I never even realized at the time that this was the same guy who sang on “Tempted” or “Silent Running”. The song spent thirteen weeks inside the Top 40 and is another of my favorite songs of the late ’80s thanks to Carrack’s tremendous vocals. When he sings, “All that I saw in you, now I see through” it just brings chills. Here is the music video for “Don’t Shed a Tear” by Paul Carrack

Since the ’80s, Carrack has maintained a career which includes solo work, collaborations and regular work as a session musician. He really is an outstanding musician and his variety of contributions to ’80s music are quite impressive to me. I wanted to take an opportunity to recognize those contributions just in case you didn’t realize who was singing on all of those great songs. So whether it was Squeeze, Mike + The Mechanics or solo, Paul Carrack left his mark on my favorite decade and probably is not appreciated as much as he deserves.

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Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.