Rocker Robert Palmer Dead

"Addicted to Love" singer dies of a heart attack in Paris on Friday; he was 54

By Lia Haberman Sep 26, 2003 2:15 PMTags

Rock singer Robert Palmer, the snappy dresser who fronted a band of sexy drones in the hit video "Addicted to Love," died Friday in Paris of a heart attack. He was 54.

Palmer was on a two-day sojourn in the City of Lights with his partner of 20-plus years, Mary Ambrose, following the taping of a TV special in London, according to manager Mick Carter.

"Robert's family is in a state of shock and grief. They appreciate all the love and support the public have been displaying at this sad news," said Carter in a statement. "Robert was a wonderful man, a legendary artist and will be greatly missed."

An '80s icon, Palmer rose to fame on the strength of singles like "Simply Irresistible," "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" and "Addicted to Love," whose MTV heavy-rotation clip featured the singer accompanied by a backup band of babes in shiny black outfits, slicked back hair and bright red lipstick.

A consummate musician, composer and arranger, he also moonlighted in a side band he formed with Duran Duran members John Taylor and Andy Taylor. Power Station scored three top 10 hits in the U.S.--"Communication," "Some Like It Hot" and a cover of T-Rex's "Get It On."

The son of a British naval intelligence officer, Palmer was raised in Malta, where his father was stationed, before moving back to the U.K.

A graphic designer with a musical soul, Palmer became a member of several bands in his 20s, including Vinegar Joe which opened for both the Who and the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the late '60s.

After Vinegar Joe broke up, he headed to the U.S. where he released his first solo album in 1974, the critically acclaimed Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley. He followed that up with 1979's Bad Case of Loving You, which spawned the hit title track.

But major success eluded him until the 1985 release of Riptide, which included the catchy single "Addicted to Love." The song was a major hit, winning Palmer one of his two career Grammys (the other was for "Simply Irresistible"), and was later voted into the Top 10 List of 100 Greatest Videos Ever Made at number eight, a countdown issued at the turn of the century by the staffs at MTV and TV Guide.

Incidentally, the popular video, which earned him an MTV Video Music Award in 1986, was reported to be one of Palmer's least favorites. He actually performed alone, and the girls were later digitally inserted into the video. It also attracted criticism from some feminists, which Palmer shrugged off.

"I'm not going to attach inappropriate significance to it because at the time it meant nothing. It just happened to become an iconic look," he once said of the video.

Once named the best-dressed male artist by Rolling Stone, the rock star's most recent album, the blues- and R&B-flavored Drive, was released this past May.

"The whole point of it is using music to express yourself, to keep following the muse and taking risks," Palmer said in a bio from his label, Compendia. "But whatever style I'm working with, it comes down to the fact that I have to sing it and believe in it. I can appreciate production values and musicianship and this, that and the other thing, but unless there's some soul to it, there's not much point."

Meanwhile, the special he had just filmed in London is scheduled to air on British television in November.

Palmer had spent the past 16 years living in Switzerland. He's survived by partner Ambrose, parents Les and Ann and his two children, James, 24, and Jane, 22, from his marriage to ex-wife Susan.

A private ceremony will be held next week in Switzerland. Details of any additional services will be announced next week.