Christopher Cross's star rose quickly in 1980. Both "Ride Like the Wind" and "Sailing" ascended the charts rapidly, and his self-titled debut sold millions of records. But no one, including Cross, was prepared for the young singer's sweep at the 1981 Grammy Awards ceremony. Over the span of the evening he won five awards, and is one of only two artists to sweep the "big four" categories: record of the year, album of the year, song of the year, and best new artist. Christopher Cross and Michael Omartian also won a Grammy for best arrangement for "Sailing." In 1981 Cross also won a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar for the co-written "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)." In 1983 he released his sophomore effort, Another Page, and "All Right," "No Time for Talk," and "Think of Laura" all placed on the charts.
Cross's meteoritic rise to fame, however, came to an abrupt halt after 1983. While several of his songs entered the charts in 1984, none rose to the top ten; after 1986, his chart success came to an end. Cross nonetheless continued to record and tour, and was determined to pursue his craft and make sure that his new songs would be heard by a wider audience. "I'm not bitter," Cross later told Sue Merrell in the Grand Rapids Press, of his quick rise and fall. "I'm blessed to have had the success I have."
Cross was born Christopher Geppert in San Antonio, Texas, on May 3, 1951. His father was a U.S. Army doctor, and Cross lived in Japan for five years as a child. As a teen in Texas, a friend invited him to go sailing, an activity that helped Cross escape from his problems. Later, these sailing expeditions served as an inspiration for his best known song, "Sailing." As he later confessed to radio talk show host Howard Stern, if his friend had taken him bowling instead, he probably would have written a song about bowling. In the 1970s Cross played in a band called Flash, in Austin, Texas, before signing a solo contract with Warner Brothers in 1978.
In 1979 Warner Brothers released Christopher Cross, and both "Ride Like the Wind" and "Sailing" quickly climbed the charts. "Soft rock albums hardly ever came better than this," noted Stephen Thomas Erlewine in All Music Guide, "and it remains one of the best mainstream albums of its time." After "Sailing" reached number one, two more songs from the album, "Never Be the Same" and "Say You'll Be Mine," appeared on the charts. "Christopher Cross was a huge, runaway success, the kind of success that either kicks off or derails an entire career," noted the website Jefito. Cross's phenomenal chart success in 1980 paved his way to five Grammy Awards in 1981, a feat that would not be repeated until 2003 with Norah Jones.
Cross returned to the charts in 1981 with "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," for the Dudley Moore film Arthur, co-written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Baer Sager, and Peter Allen. The song reached number one, and earned Cross a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar. Following his rapid rise to fame in 1980–81, Cross was ready for some time away from the stage lights and pressures of stardom. Personal problems, including a divorce, also complicated his life. "I got into auto racing for a while and did some things to escape the expectations and pressure of all that," he told Nick Krewen in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record.
Cross released his sophomore effort, Another Page, in 1983, three years after his debut. "By the time Another Page came out in 1983," noted Jefito, Cross's label "was faced with the unenviable task of reintroducing him as an artist." Whereas his debut had been an eclectic recording, featuring both upbeat material and ballads, the follow-up relied heavily on ballads. Both "All Right" and "No Time for Talk" reached numbers 12 and 33 respectively on Billboard's Pop Singles chart, and Another Page reached number eleven on Billboard's Pop Albums and achieved gold status. Later in 1983, "Think of Laura" from Another Page became another number one hit on the Adult Contemporary chart, after the soap opera General Hospital began playing the song to accompany a plot line featuring a character named Laura. Many listeners mistakenly believed that the song had in fact been written about the character. Instead, "Think of Laura" was about an acquaintance who had been killed by a stray bullet while driving.
In 1985 Cross released Every Turn of the World, an album that added a new rock element. But his third release never reached higher than 158 on the Billboard 200, and the single "Charm the Snake" did poorly on the charts. Cross followed with Back of My Mind in 1988, concentrating once again on ballads, but the album failed to chart and Warner Brothers dropped him from the roster. After leaving Warner, Cross remained out of the spotlight, although he recorded four subsequent albums: Rendezvous (1993), Window (1995), Walking in Avalon (1998), and The Red Room (2000).
While commentators have been quick to call attention to the rise and fall of Cross's popularity, the singer is unbothered by his career trajectory. He has continued to tour on weekends, playing both his hits from the early 1980s and his later, less familiar material. "I've got to keep touring so fans can hear these other songs," he told Merrell. After one 2005 concert, Rachel Recker noted in Michigan's Grand Rapids Press that Cross's vocals remained strong, and "sounded just like their initial recordings." He has also, she noted, kept his sense of humor, joking about the "sweet young thing[s]" that arrive backstage to ask for autographs—for their grandmothers.
While he continues to record, he admitted to Krewen that his primary focus had changed. "It's just I've got other priorities. I've got kids and I want to spend time with them. And the public isn't clamoring for a record. That's just the way it is." Even short-lived fame, however, makes Cross a familiar figure today. "Sailing" and "Ride Like the Wind" continue in heavy rotation on Oldies' radio. "I had a nice 15 minutes," Cross told Krewen. "A nice byproduct of that is that my name is somewhat known. Most people on the street, if you ask them who I am, they'll say, 'Oh yeah, he did that Sailing song,' so I have some legacy."
For the Record …
Born Christopher Geppert on May 3, 1951, in San Antonio, Texas; son of Leo Joseph and Edith Ann (Guderman) Geppert; married Jan Coker, May 14, 1988; children: Rain, Madison; one child from previous marriage, Justin.
Performed in Flash, 1970s; signed to Warner Brothers, 1978; released Christopher Cross, 1980; co-wrote "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)," for Arthur, 1981; issued Another Page, 1983; "Think of Laura" adapted for a plotline on General Hospital, 1983; released Every Turn of the World, 1985, and Back of My Mind, 1988; dropped from Warner Brothers; issued Rendezvous (1993), Window (1995), Walking in Avalon (1998), and The Red Room (2000).
Awards: Grammy Awards, Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Instrumental Arrangement, 1981; Golden Globe Award, Best Original Song, 1981; Oscar, Best Original Song, 1981.
Addresses: Record company—Warner Brothers Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505-4694, phone: 818-846-9090, website: http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com/.
Christopher Cross, Warner Brothers, 1980.
Another Page, Warner Brothers, 1983.
Every Turn of the World, Warner Brothers, 1985.
Back of My Mind, Warner Brothers, 1988.
Rendezvous, BMG, 1993.
Window, Priority, 1995.
Walking in Avalon, CMC International, 1998.
Red Room, CMC International, 2000.
Grand Rapids Press (Michigan), August 10, 2005; August 12, 2005.
Kitchener-Waterloo Record, December 1, 2005.
"Christopher Cross," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (June 9, 2006).
"Complete Idiot's Guide to Christopher Cross," Jefito, http://www.jefitoblog.com/ (June 9, 2006).
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