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Belinda Jo Carlisle (born August 17, 1958) is an American singer who gained worldwide fame as the lead vocalist of The Go-Go's, one of the most successful all-female bands of all time. The band sold 8 million albums in just three years and she later went on to have a successful solo career with hits such as "Mad About You", "I Get Weak", "Circle in the Sand", "Leave a Light On" and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", among others, which were major successes in the United Kingdom and internationally as well.
Her autobiography, Lips Unsealed, published in June 2010, was a New York Times Best Seller and received favorable reviews. On August 11, 2011, as a member of the Go-Go's, she received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Carlisle was born in the Hollywood area of Los Angeles, to Harold Carlisle, a travelling vacuum cleaner salesman, and his wife, Joanne (née Thompson), who raised the children at home. The first of seven siblings, with three brothers and three sisters, she was five years old when her father abandoned the family and upon her mother's second marriage, did not have a close relationship with her stepfather, Duke Kurczeski. She was a cheerleader at Newbury Park High School and, at the age of 19, left home.
Early career and the Go-Gos:
See also: The Go-Gos
Carlisle's first venture into music was a brief stint as drummer for the punk band Germs (band), under the name Dottie Danger. Around this time Carlisle did some back-up singing for Black Randy and the Metrosquad. Soon after leaving Germs, she co-founded the Go-Gos (originally named the Misfits), with friends and fellow musicians Margot Olavarria, Elissa Bello, and Jane Wiedlin. Olavarria and Bello were soon out of the group and the new line-up included bassist-turned-guitarist Charlotte Caffey, guitarist-turned-bassist Kathy Valentine, and drummer Gina Schock.
The Go-Go's became one of the most successful American bands of the 1980s, helping usher new wave music into popular American radio, and becoming the first all-female band who wrote their own music and played their own instruments to ever achieve a No. 1 album, Beauty and the Beat, which featured the hits "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed". The Go-Gos recorded two more studio albums on I.R.S. Records, including 1982's Vacation, which went gold. Head over Heels, from their 1984 album Talk Show, made it to No. 11.
In 1984, Carlisle made a foray into acting in the movie Swing Shift starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell.
The Go-Go's disbanded in 1985 and Carlisle embarked on a solo career.
Carlisle's first solo album Belinda was released in 1986, also on I.R.S. Records. This album was successful in North America and was certified Gold in the US and Platinum in Canada. Her summer hit "Mad About You" peaked at No. 3 in the US, topped the Canadian Singles Chart, and charted in the top 10 in Australia. "Mad About You" was followed by the Motown-influenced single "I Feel the Magic", and by a cover version of the Freda Payne song "Band of Gold". All three songs were included on her debut album. The single "Since You've Gone", co-written by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, was used only for promotion. Susanna Hoffs co-wrote the single "I Need a Disguise". Duran Duran's Andy Taylor played guitar on some album tracks and appeared in her "Mad About You" video clip.
During this time, Carlisle also had songs featured on movie soundtracks, notably "In My Wildest Dreams" from the movie Mannequin, "Shot in the Dark" from the Anthony Michael Hall thriller Out of Bounds, as well as "Dancing in the City" from the Whoopi Goldberg movie Burglar.
1987-1989: Heaven on Earth:
The musical style of 1987's Heaven on Earth eschewed the 1960s-influenced pop of Carlisle's first album in favor of slickly produced 1980s power-pop. It was released in the United States through MCA, and in the United Kingdom through Virgin (MCA later evolved into Universal Music Group, which became Virgin's parent in 2012). The album became a Top 5 bestseller in the UK and Australia, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The album's producer, Rick Nowels, previously worked with Stevie Nicks, and would later collaborate with Kim Wilde, Jennifer Rush, and Madonna. Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas; and Chynna Phillips and Carnie Wilson of Wilson Phillips sang backup for the album. Thomas Dolby played keyboard on some album tracks.
The first release from Heaven on Earth was "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", which topped the single charts, not only in the US, but also in the UK and in several other countries (the dance mix of the song also topped the dance chart), and was considered as Carlisle's signature song. The radio-ready song was further propelled by a video, directed by Academy Award-winning American actress Diane Keaton. The second single from the album was the Diane Warren-penned "I Get Weak", which peaked at No. 2 in the US and No. 10 in the UK. The third single from the album was "Circle in the Sand", another Top 10 hit in the US, the UK, and Germany. "World Without You" was another British hit.
After the release of the Heaven on Earth album, Carlisle embarked on the 'Good Heavens' world tour during which she sold out Wembley Arena in London.
1989-1991: Runaway Horses:
Carlisle's follow-up to the success of Heaven on Earth was Runaway Horses, released on October 23, 1989. The album hit the Top 5 in both Australia and the UK, certified double platinum in Australia and platinum in the UK and in Canada. The first release, "Leave a Light On", peaked at No. 11 in the US, and became another Top 5 smash in the UK, Australia and Canada. The song features a slide guitar solo by George Harrison; he also played on the song "Deep Deep Ocean."
The second US single, "Summer Rain", reached No. 30 in early 1990. The song, which Carlisle noted was the most difficult song she had ever sung up to that point, peaked successfully at No. 6 in Australia, where it has maintained popularity. It was the final release from Runaway Horses in the UK where it was released as the album's sixth single in December 1990, peaking at No. 23 in January 1991. Further singles from the Runaway Horses album were successful as well: the title track, the summer mood influenced "La Luna", a Top 10 in Switzerland and Top 20 hit in Germany and Australia, and "(We Want) The Same Thing", reaching No. 6 in the UK. Bryan Adams contributed backup vocals for the track "Whatever It Takes".
In the late autumn of 1990, the Go-Go's reunited for a tour to support their first best-of album, Greatest, including a new recording of the cover song "Cool Jerk" (Go-Go's original cover was featured on their 1980 European EP, with a second version being released in 1982). A notable feature of the tour was an anti-fur campaign, where the band members supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, an animal rights organization.
1991-1992: Live Your Life Be Free:
In 1991, Carlisle released her fourth solo album, Live Your Life Be Free. The album marked somewhat of a return to 1960s-influenced music for Carlisle and included songs mainly written and produced by Rick Nowels but also two songs co-written by Carlisle. The single "Do You Feel Like I Feel?" was accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek video, inspired by the B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The title track, "Live Your Life Be Free", released as first single outside the US, was a Top 20 hit single in many countries reaching number 12 in the UK and No. 13 in Australia. Subsequent releases "Half the World" and "Little Black Book" (co-written by Marcella Detroit of the Shakespears Sister under her real name Marcy Levy) were also hits outside the US. The album was also a success in Europe (Top 10 in the UK and Gold certification). To date, "Do You Feel Like I Feel?" is Carlisle's final single to enter in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 73.
1992: The Best of Belinda, Volume 1:
Still active in Europe and Australia with a record contract at Virgin Records, her 1992 greatest hits album The Best of Belinda, Volume 1 reached No. 1, and was certified double platinum in the UK and platinum in Australia. This first greatest hits album included all the hits taken from the Heaven on Earth, Runaway Horses, and Live Your Life Be Free albums. The US version of the album was named Her Greatest Hits and also included songs from the first album Belinda.
Carlisle's fifth solo album, Real, was released in 1993 on the Virgin label in the US and in Europe. Produced without Nowels, the disc was a departure from Carlisle's polished pop music formula. Even the album's cover photograph featured her with little or no make-up. Carlisle co-produced and co-wrote much of the disc, collaborating heavily with friend and ex-Go-Go Charlotte Caffey. The album was Carlisle's fifth consecutive to reach the UK Top 10 peaking at number No. 9. Real peaked also at number No. 23 in Sweden. Its first single, "Big Scary Animal", peaked at No. 12 in the UK. The second single from Real was "Lay Down Your Arms", which made the Top 30 in the UK. Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals co-wrote the single "Here Comes My Baby".
The Go-Gos reunited in 1994 to support the retrospective double-CD Return to the Valley of The Go-Go's, their second collection, which featured three new songs, including the single "The Whole World Lost Its Head". However, the band broke up again, soon after the promotional tour.
1996-1997: A Woman and a Man:
Carlisle returned to the recording studio, and resumed working again with Rick Nowels. In 1996 she released in the UK and Australia her sixth solo album, A Woman and a Man, on the Chrysalis Records label. This album, consisting of mostly relaxed adult pop, revitalized her solo career in Europe, and included several hits. The leadoff single, "In Too Deep", returned Carlisle to the UK Top 10, for the first time in six years, reaching No. 6. "Always Breaking My Heart", written and produced by Roxette's Per Gessle, also made the UK Top 10, peaking at No. 8.
The album spawned two smaller hits in the UK: "Love in the Key of C", and "California", which featured arrangement and back-up vocals by Brian Wilson. The album reached No. 12 in the UK, and was certified gold. As a result of A Woman and A Man's UK success, the album was released in the US during the summer of 1997 on the small Ark21 label. In 1997, she recorded "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" from Walt Disney Animation Studios's Hercules as part of that movie's standard distribution in Europe, and was released as a single exclusively in France and Germany.
1999-2000: A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits:
In 1999, Carlisle released a greatest hits album in the UK, a double-disc on the Virgin label, collectively entitled A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits. Carlisle recorded three new tracks for the album's first disc, properly called The Greatest Hits, including the single "All God's Children", and the songs "A Prayer for Everyone" and "Feels Like I've Known You Forever". The second disc of the album entitled A Place on Earth, contained previously released remixes of some of her hits, plus a couple of B-sides which were previously unreleased. Some of the remixes were by William Orbit, who also worked with Madonna on her 1998 Ray of Light album. A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits was certified Gold in the UK and went on to sell an excess of one million copies worldwide. A European version was marketed with an interview CD in which Carlisle provides answers to over 40 questions sent in by fans.
2001: Go-Go's reunion:
In 2001, the Go-Go's reunited again and released an album of new material, God Bless The Go-Go's. Green Day's lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong co-wrote the only released single "Unforgiven". God Bless The Go-Go's received mixed reviews from critics. AllMusic.com wrote "Every bit as Go-Go's, that is, as their non-hits and less remarkable material. While the Go-Go's sound is intact, there is not a "We Got the Beat" or a "Head Over Heels" to be found. It is feasible that in this age of pop rebirth, the Go-Go's decided it was now or never". Allmusic wrote "The album doesn't attempt to update the band's sound with hip-hop moves or electronic frippery, for which God should bless 'em, indeed. The girls' hold on the current pop world remains so strong that Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong co-writes a song ("Unforgiven") in impeccable Go-Go's drag".
The album charted in the US Billboard 200, peaking at number No. 57.
Around the time of the Go-Go's definitive reunion tour, Carlisle appeared nude for the cover feature and a full pictorial of the August 2001 edition of Playboy.
2007-present: Voila, reissue of back catalogue and other new recordings:
In 2007, Carlisle released her seventh album, Voila, which was her first full-length solo studio album in more than ten years. The album was produced by John Reynolds and included Brian Eno on keyboard. Consisting of a mix of French pop tunes and chanson standards, including covers of Françoise Hardy and Édith Piaf classics, Voila was released via Rykodisc in the UK on February 5 and in the US the following day, February 6, 2007.
In early 2009, Carlisle was on the 8th season of Dancing with the Stars, paired with Jonathan Roberts. She was the first star to be eliminated from the competition, on March 17.
In October 2009, Carlisle took over the role of Velma Von Tussle in London's West End production of Hairspray at the Shaftesbury Theatre. She remained with the show till late January 2010 and was replaced by Siobhan McCarthy.
Carlisle toured the US with The Go-Go's, including playing to a packed house at the iconic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in August 2011 and The Hollywood Bowl in September 2012.
In March 2013, Carlisle released her first U.S. single in 17 years entitled "Sun", an uptempo pop song, which was included on "ICON", a new greatest hits compilation album. The single was also released in the United Kingdom as a separate single. The song was written by Carlisle, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go's and singer-songwriter Gabe Lopez. Lopez also produced the song. While the track did not chart it received positive reviews.
In August 2013, Edsel Records remastered Carlisle's (2-5) albums. All of these remastered albums contain 3 discs each. The first disc of each set is the LP itself followed by the (7" Versions) or (Radio Edits) of each single released from that album (some versions are previously unreleased). The second disc of each set includes remixes/12" Versions of all the singles released from that album (some versions are previously unreleased). The third disc of each set is a DVD containing ALL the promotional videos released for the singles that were released off of each album.
In March 2014, a new Greatest Hits entitled The Collection was released containing 18 hits and one new song "Goodbye Just Go" along with a DVD of 18 videos which reached number 24 in the UK albums chart.
Also in March 2014, another digitally re-mastered retrospective collection titled "Anthology" was released - it is a 5 disc set: most notable inclusions are - "Dancing In The City" (previously only available on the Japanese LP/CD for the soundtrack to "Burglar" (1987) and "I Won't Say I'm In Love" (previously only available on the French CD Single release (1997)). Other highlights include all 3 singles from "Belinda" (1986) and all 4 singles from "A Woman And A Man" (1996); again, all tracks have been digitally re-mastered for this release. Later in 2014, Carlisle's three other studio albums, Belinda, A Woman And A Man and Voila were re-issued by Edsel (on CD only) though these had a number of issues with their production.
Carlisle confirmed in a radio interview in August 2015 that she has completed work on a new album, tentatively earmarked for release in January 2016. She commented that the music on the album will be partly inspired by Kundalini Yoga. Belinda began doing Yoga while pregnant in 1991/1992 and has qualified as a teacher of the practice since becoming sober in 2005.
Also In August 2015, Edsel released a box set of all Carlisle's commercially released singles from her studio albums. A bonus disc is included with the box set which features "In My Wildest Dreams" from the 1987 film Mannequin. This is the first time the song had been be released, having previously only ever been heard on the film until the full version leaked on YouTube in 2014. However, the version on the disc is not from the master copy but, in fact, a rip from the YouTube leak.
In 1986, Carlisle married politician and film producer Morgan Mason. Mason made appearances in Carlisle's music videos "Mad About You" and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth". They have a son, James Duke Mason, born in 1992, who is a politician, writer and activist. After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Carlisle and her family moved to Europe. Carlisle and her husband now live in Fréjus, France and the US.
Carlisle states in her autobiography Lips Unsealed: A Memoir that she has practiced Nichiren Buddhism as a member of the Soka Gakkai International since 2002, and she often mentions in press interviews that she chants Nam Myoho Renge Kyo daily. She told the Sydney Morning Herald that "I don't smoke anymore, I don't drink any more and I don't do drugs any more. I am very much into my Buddhism. I found turning 40 a real passage in time for me." Carlisle successfully kicked her drug and alcohol habits in 2005 at age 47.
Carlisle is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She and her band-mates were the first stars to pose for PETA's "Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign in 1990. In a 2013 interview, she talked about going back to vegetarianism after a long break stating that,
"I fell off the vegetarian wagon and never felt good about it. I wouldn't let myself think of my plate of meat as an animal, but I knew deep inside it was, and actually it was gross, especially chicken. I was full of shame. Then I started practicing yoga, which is all about nonviolence, and realized eating meat isn't compatible with that. Now I teach yoga, and I'm so full of pride not to support factory farms and to be socially responsible."
She contributed her song, "Bless the Beasts and the Children" to the album "Tame Yourself" to benefit PETA.
In 2014, Carlisle co-founded Animal People Alliance, a nonprofit organization based in Calcutta, India, that raises funds and trains impoverished women to care for street animals. "We are teaching people that animals have feelings," says Carlisle. "How to recognize a street animal in distress. There is a middle class developing and they still don't have proper vet care, so a lot of what we do will be educational. We're partnering with a hospital in Calcutta to teach about adoption and to get access to emergency rooms."