COREY HART is recognized as one of Canada’s most successful singer-songwriters selling over 15 million records worldwide and amassing 9 consecutive US Billboard Top 40 Hits. He also scored an impressive 29 top 40 Hits in his native Canada including 11 Top 10′s during his career. He is also a Grammy Nominated and multiple Juno award winner.
Corey was born in Montreal, Quebec on May 31,1962. He is the youngest of 5 siblings growing up in Montreal, Spain, Mexico and Key Biscayne, Florida. Because of his upbringing in these countries, he is fluently trilingual in English, French and Spanish. Hart was raised solely by his mother Mina whom Corey shared a very close relationship with especially from the age of 10 when his parents separated. His lack of intimacy and regular contact with his father was a poignant source of sadness for Corey throughout his life.
Corey was painfully shy as a youngster. Moving from place to place created insecurity & vulnerability. This dynamic often left him without friends except for his older brother Robbie who he leaned on for emotional support. In Mexico, Corey was crying so often that the school he attended had no choice but to move him up into his brother’s grade so that they could be together. Eventually Corey found his soul refuge in Music. He spent all his free time listening to Top 40 radio singing in front of his bathroom mirror with math ruler in hand as a makeshift microphone.
“Casey Kasem was the highlight of my week. I listened to him religiously every Saturday morning memorizing all the tunes. I dreamed of one day being on the famous countdown myself”.
At age 11, Corey auditioned for singing star Tom Jones in Miami at the illustrious Fountain Bleu Hotel. He sang Michael Jackson’s ‘Ben’.
“I was so nervous that I needed to kneel on one knee while singing to keep my legs from shaking”
But despite the jitters, Jones was so impressed with the young singer he quickly introduced him to Canadian legend Paul Anka. In 1974, Corey flew to Las Vegas, Nevada recording several songs submitted to him by Anka. Corey idolized the Ottawa native who became his nascent mentor.
“I did not really know who Paul Anka was when I first met him but after that initial encounter I bought every record he ever made! I can still hear in my vocals some of his seminal influences. Many years later when I toured in Japan headlining at the famed Budokan Arena, Paul called me up in my hotel room. We had a wonderful chat. He congratulated me on all my success. ‘Kid, you made your mark’ ~ I’ll never forget that comment.It was a special moment for me as our relationship had come full circle”. Anka and Hart were to see each other socially several times later during the late 90′s in LA.
In 1980 at 19, Corey performed at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo representing Canada along with singer Dan Hill. He did not make the selected cut in the competition but it heralded the first time that Corey performed in public a song he had penned himself.
He also met popular American singer Christopher Cross who was competing in the same Festival. Corey was determined to try and convince Cross to help him land a record deal. In early 1981, Corey flew on his own to Texas in an attempt to make this a reality. Cross was polite with Corey but somewhat taken aback that the teenager would travel all the way from Canada to see him without a formally set appointment.
“Christopher invited me to come hang with him in Austin when we met in Tokyo. But I knew that it was more an off the cuff comment. I don’t think he truly imagined that I would actually just show up one day at his doorstep. It was bold of me. But I would of gone anywhere, knocked on any door to get my songs heard”.
Christopher Cross never ended up helping Hart get a record deal. But a several years later when Corey was playing a concert in Austin he sent some champagne and a hand written note of congratulation’s to the dressing room. “It was a nice, classy gesture”” recalls Corey. “I still dig ‘Sailing’ whenever I hear it on the radio”.
Back home in Montreal attending High School ,songwriting for Corey became an intense passion during those awkward teen years occupying all his time. School was not where his heart was and his grades reinforced the point. He graduated High School with an 11% in Algebra!
‘”I still need to count with my fingers” Corey says with a smile.
“At 15, I also discovered the Bee Gees & Mr. Billy Joel. I really admired Billy’s songwriting skills. He was the man for me. ‘Honesty’, ‘ Rosalinda’s Eyes’, ‘Big Shot’, the repertoire list is endless but he was the real reason I taught myself to play piano & inspired me to try & write my own songs. My first one was called ‘Thank You’ & before my 16th birthday I had already written more than 100 many sung in falsetto just like Barry Gibb! “.
In 1981, Joel was on tour playing a concert at the Montreal Forum. Corey precociously decided to send a demo of his songs to each member of his band with the hopes that they would listen and hopefully open some doors to a recording contract. Corey had bought a ticket to that concert and was seated in the audience.
As improbable as the odds were, one of the members of the band actually did listen calling Corey later that night at 2AM waking him up. He soon found himself in Long Island, NY with Billy Joel’s band backing Hart up on 4 of Corey’s songs.
“They were an awesome group of musicians. Really tight. Billy came in while we were working. He was riding a Harley Davidson wearing a leather jacket. He listened to the song playbacks and then glanced over to me remarking ‘How old are you??! ..’You got good pipes man’ “.
The 20 year old Hart signed his first record deal in 1982 with Aquarius/Capitol Records His debut album was recorded in Manchester, England during the spring of 1982. “I loved ‘The Police in my late teens. I was listening to everything coming out of the UK during those years. It was an exciting time for new wave music emanating with the innovation of the Fairlight Synthesizer. Artists like Duran Duran, Eurythmics, U2, Phil Collins were particular favorites. I wanted to be in England – the mecca of cool music”. Corey worked with British Producers Jon Astley & Phil Chapman for his debut album. “Both Jon and Phil are super talented producers. Jon kindly invited me to stay in his home on my first trip over there. Everything I learned about Production came from these two gents. Phil is a true genius. He could hear everything in a song, teaching me invaluable lessons about layering musical textures tastefully in a track. He will always be very special to me” Released in Canada November 1983, ‘First Offense’ received a lukewarm response. The first single ‘Sunglasses At Night’ and accompanying trend setting video generated modest sales & airplay but it was only after the US success in the summer of 1984 that Corey Hart became a superstar in his homeland.
“It was slow going in Canada when my album was first released. It had sold around 12,000 copies. I remember sitting dolefully in the Capitol offices in Toronto with Deane Cameron [head of A&R Capitol Canada] and him making an urgent phone call to EMI in Los Angeles. He was pushing & pleading for a rep of the US label to come see me perform live. At that time, the Canadian Industry needed US validation before really giving the homegrown domestic talent their full enthusiastic support. It was frustrating for many Canadian artists who couldn’t land a deal south of the border.’
That call to Mavis Brodey in Hollywood had her soon flying to Montreal where Corey was scheduled to open for Culture Club.
“It was Boy George mania in the world at that time. I was lucky to have the coveted spot of opening for them but they had a fanatical fan base so I knew I had my work cut out for me trying to win them over”.
Corey did win over the crowds and also sealed his fate with a US deal as AR executive Mavis Brodey quickly offered him the elusive American contract he had been waiting so long for. . “Corey Hart was a rock star. I could tell from the first moment I saw him performing live on stage” recalls Brodey fondly.
‘Sunglasses At Night’ was released in May 1984 and it slowly climbed up the US Billboard Charts as Corey crisscrossed America on a press promotion & radio blitz. He then began an extensive live concert tour as an opening act for Rick Springfield and Hall & Oates. ‘Sunglasses At Night’ peaked at #7 on the US singles chart after spending 17 weeks in the Top 40. It was followed by the US Billboard Top 20 hit ‘It Ain’t Enough’. Corey Hart’s first album was certified Platinum in the US and 4 times Platinum in Canada.
His follow-up album was the chart-topping ‘Boy in the Box’ which reached Diamond status in Canada selling over One Million copies in 1986, becoming only the second Canadian album to ever do so. It featured the anthemic ballad hit ‘Never Surrender’ which spent a heady 9 consecutive weeks at Number #1 in Canada peaking at # 3 on the US Billboard Charts.
It also received US ASCAP song of the year honors in 1985 and Juno for ‘Single Of The Year’. “It was such a thrill for me because the legendary Gordon Lightfoot presented me with my award” remarked Hart.
Corey Hart was now headlining concerts to sold out Arenas across the country and Internationally. He sold out the very same Montreal Forum he had watched Billy Joel perform in 4 years earlier within 2 hours of tickets going on sale. 15,000 frenzied fans waiting to see their idol. It was the same response in Toronto July of 1985 where Corey sold out the 25,000 seat CNE Grandstand & Tokyo’s 13,000 Budokan Arena in Dec 1989.
“In retrospect, I was totally unprepared for the fan adulation. I really couldn’t go out anywhere without being mobbed or chased by my fans. The transformation from unknown artist to Rock Star was surreal & overwhelming. The power of Video certainly played a key role. It was the same for many artists of that decade like Cyndi [Lauper] , Madonna, and George Michael to name but a few”
Hart was offered an opportunity to star in many Hollywood films in the mid-1980s even turning down the opportunity to screen test for the role of Marty McFly in the successful ‘Back To The Future’ trilogy. He also passed on recording several hit songs that he did not write including ‘Danger Zone’ from the Top Gun soundtrack. “I was always of the artistic mind set, I suppose from the singer-songwriter mold that I would only record my own original compositions. Doing the odd cover was fine by me but doing someone else’s original song just didn’t feel right. I probably would of sold a ton more records If I had – but I’m a pretty stubborn dude!”.
One such recording of a cover was the 1987 hit of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ which went straight to number One in Canada and far East as The Philippines and Japan.
Corey recorded 2 more albums for EMI in 1988 ‘Young Man Running’ which included the #2 hit ‘In Your Soul’ and ‘Bang!’ in 1990 which yielded the uptempo rocker ‘A Little Love’ peaking at #10 in Canada and into the US Top 40.
Corey & Julie Masse
In 1993, while attending the Juno awards in Toronto, Corey was introduced to young Quebec chanteuse Julie Masse. Julie had achieved instant stardom in Quebec with her first two French language Albums led by her debut single ‘C’est Zero’. Her manager, Serge Brouillette, had quietly set his sights on the lucrative International English market which had recently been opened up by Celine Dion’s meteoric success transition from French to English recordings. When seeing the two of them together that night he had the sudden epiphany of asking Corey to write & produce some songs for Julie’s forthcoming English Album.
In early June of 1994 Corey and Julie began work on this project at Morin Heights, Quebec. The two fell deeply in love and by summer’s end both of their previous marriages were over. Corey had been married for four years to his longtime girlfriend Erika Gagnon and Masse recently married to Cinematographer Sylvain Brault. Erika remains a very special person in Corey’s life. They are still close friends.
While Julie secretly yearned for a life away from the music spotlight. Corey had emotionally nurtured since being a young man, the deeply rooted desire of fatherhood. Perhaps in a bittersweet irony of fate Corey sought to be the parent he had always longed for unrequited within his own childhood.. Their intense love for each other and the children have been a unifying purpose to their life’s journey together. Julie and Corey moved to the Bahamas in 1996 and share 4 beautiful children together. Three daughters: India, born in 1995, Dante, in 1997, River, in 1999 and their son Rain in 2004. Corey signed a new record contract with Sony Music in 1995 and released in 1996 what is arguably for his fans the best album of his career. It was simply entitled ‘Corey Hart’ . The album was certified Platinum in Canada and saw Corey return to the stage for his first coast to coast Canadian tour since 1987. The album signaled a renewed confidence and maturity in his songwriting, production and vocal performances. “My first album with Sony remains in my opinion my best work to date. The songs are honest and cohesive in style.’Third Of June’ an ode for Julie’s birthday. ‘India’ for our first precious baby girl and ‘Black Cloud Rain’ is a song I am extremely proud of.” As fatherhood became the focal point in Corey’s life, music was relegated to second place. His last album was released in 1998 entitled ‘Jade’ which featured the French hit song ‘La Bas’ a duet with Julie. “Following the birth of our third daughter River in Nov 1999 I realized that I was facing a serious crossroads in my life. All I had ever wanted or known since I was a boy was to be creating Music. But I couldn’t continue to record or tour if I aspired to be a 24/7 father to our children. The two worlds simply collide. I am only speaking about how I feel, not judging others who seemingly can balance the two. In my reality there is no substitute for time. Raising children within a vortex of the all consuming surreal existence of recording artist and it’s extension of ‘Rock Star’ are simply irreconcilable forces. So I chose to step away from my career in order to be with my children”.
In the summer of 2002, legendary Sire Records President Seymour Stein reached Corey at his home in Nassau with a brave, surprising new idea. Stein had always championed Corey’s musical talents since the 80′s. Upon hearing the two songs Corey had written and produced for Celine Dion’s 1997 Multi Platinum ‘Let’s Talk About Love’ CD, Stein immediately flashed on an idea for him. ‘Corey is an amazing talent. says Stein from his Rockefeller Plaza Sire Offices. ‘I have been a fan ever since Sunglasses At Night. I thought it would be great for him to have his own label and good for Warner. Corey is fearless’
“Seymour was the architect of Siena Records. says Hart. ‘When he first began to describe the deal I wasn’t totally comfortable with the concept as I don’t see myself as a business mogul type. However, I soon realized that my role was to be creative. The financing, marketing and distribution would flow through my partners at Warmer Music Canada. I am eternally grateful that Seymour did reach out to me. Siena has evolved into one of the most exciting and fulfilling projects of my career”. The label was formed in 2003 with Warner Music Canada President Steve Kane and VP Steve Blair. Corey named it Siena Records after one of his favorite cities in the world Siena, Italy. Thus began the long process of finding the right artistic fit for Corey Hart & Siena. From 2003 – 2006 Hart worked with several potential artists but none of them were that ineffable musical match. One rainy November afternoon in 2006, Corey was chatting with Montreal based musician producer friend Michael Litresits about how frustrating the journey had been to date finding the right artist to launch Siena with. Mike quickly replied “Hang tight Spikeyman, I’ve got something for you to hear. I’m sending you an MP3 of an amazing undiscovered singer named Marie-Christine”. That one song demo sent by Litresits was Marie-Christine performing Aretha Franklin’s “Natural Woman”. So after four years of nurturing,writing,waiting,producing,laughing,crying but forever seeking the magical gift of all things creative, Marie-Christine’s ‘Walk In Beauty’ is finally set for it’s debut to the world in April, 2011. Enjoy! by Holden Patrick,NYC.