Sunday, July 28, 2019

"Heartbeat" by Don Johnson

Top 10 Alert!
Song#:  2843
Date:  08/23/1986
Debut:  67
Peak:  5
Weeks:  15
Genre:  Pop, Rock

Pop Bits:  Actor Don Johnson had been working in film and television since 1970, but he didn't become a major star until he took the role of Sonny Crockett on the hit NBC series Miami Vice. That success gave Johnson leeway to do other projects and the one thing he always wanted to do was be a rock musician. Johnson sang as a kid and later taught himself guitar. He wrote an occasional song and thanks to some of his acting gigs he hung out with all kinds of rock stars. But he never dove headfirst into music and recorded an album. He finally got that chance with the money and clout he built up from his Miami Vice stardom. While that show was famous for its use of pop music, spawning three soundtrack albums, Johnson decided to not intertwine his music project with the show. He hired on Chas Sanford as producer (Keith Diamond would also contribute), secured session players, chose material and recorded tracks for a debut album titled Heartbeat. This title track would be the LP's first single. The popularity of Johnson and the show helped get the song off the ground, but soon it was catching fire and it ended up in the Pop Top 10.  It also made the Rock chart at #26. The hit helped the album sell well and get to #19. By November, the album would be certified gold. It seemed like a solid start on a path to a music career, but the song would end up being Johnson's only major hit.

ReduxReview:  Johnson's star status certainly played a role in making this a hit, but I think the song stood on its own. Johnson rocked it up fairly well and it wasn't too far from Rick Springfield territory. If another artist did this tune with the same production, I believe it still might have been a hit. It had a strong chorus, meaty production, and sounded good on the radio. Johnson had a capable voice and it worked just fine for this song. At the time, folks were kinda like "oh god - not another TV star trying to be a singer," but Johnson had enough of a musical background to make it work. It also helped that he brought along some of his famous friends to help. Both Bob Seger and Tom Petty contributed a couple of old tunes of theirs while Bonnie Raitt, Dickey Betts, and Willie Nelson made appearances. Johnson even co-wrote a couple of songs for the LP. While it wasn't a fantastic album, it wasn't all that bad either. This song was the standout and best candidate for a hit.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) This song is a remake of one originally recorded by singing star Helen Reddy. She recorded the song for 1983 synthpop effort Imagination. It was not issued out as a single. The song was written by Eric Kaz and Wendy Waldman. It was Reddy's second album for her new label MCA, but problems and restructuring at the label left Reddy hanging and with no promotion the album disappeared quickly. This tune found its way to Johnson and he turned it into a hit.  2) While this was Johnson's first go-around as a recording artist, he did grab a couple of composer credits back in the day. When Johnson was filming the 1975 action flick Return to Macon County, he happened to run into Dickey Betts, guitarist for The Allman Brothers Band. The pair became friendly and ended up co-writing some songs. Two of their efforts, "Can't Take It with You" and "Blind Love," were recorded by The Allman Brothers and put on their 1979 album Enlightened Rogues. That album would be a #9 gold seller. "Can't Take It with You" would be released as the LP's second single, but it came short of hitting the Pop chart bubbling under at #105. The album's main hit was "Crazy Love," which got to #29.


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