In an era of increasing fragmentation of musical styles and genres, New Age solo instrumentalist, Jim Brick-man’s pop savvy, which was honed and perfected from years spent writing commercial jingles, managed to strike a responsive chord in the hearts and ears of rather diverse, and sometimes diametrically opposed, segments of the adult music, buying public in America. “Rocket to the Moon” from his debut album, No Words, became the first solo instrumental recording to ever make an appearance on the adult contemporary singles chart. His follow-up album, By Heart, yielded three songs that made the unprecedented leap from the top of the New Age chart to the top of the adult contemporary chart. Steve Vining, the president of Brickman’s record label, Windham Hill, remarked to Billboard’s Gina Van Der Vliet that “the album [Picture This, Brick-man’s third release] has just exploded and we’re all thrilled. This is one of those rare instances where someone who operates in a solo piano kind of New Age genre is able to break out of that area and go pop mainstream with massive radio play and record sales…. We’ve tapped into something pretty special here, and I think it’s just the beginning of a long, long career.”
The Cleveland, Ohio native, did not intend to embark on a career as a solo instrumental new age pianist, let alone to pursue a rather lucrative recording career. He was pursuing studies in business at Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University and was enrolled in classical composition courses at the Cleveland Institute of Music when he decided to undertake a career as a composer of music for advertising jingles. The 19 year-old Brick-man’s choice of a professional pursuit earned him the distinction of being the “black sheep of the conservatory.” The “break the rules kind of guy” was quoted in the Lifetime web site as saying that, “everybody was putting their studies to use in a very classical sense, but I was applying it to the mainstream. That’s what came naturally to me. Pop song writing.”
He set up his own company, Brickman Arrangements, to publish the commercial jingles he was writing. He explained his reasons for pursuing a career as a jingle writer to Shoot’s Robert Goldrich, “I got into commercials to make a personal connection with people through my music—to affect people when they heard my work, and for me, instruments and real people performances are the only way to do that.” Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Brickman and his company, Brickman Arrangements, worked on such prestigious and famous advertising accounts as Standard Oil, Purina Puppy Chow, the Gap, Mc Donald’s, Pontiac, 7-Up, AT&T, Revlon, Miller Beer, and Walt Disney World. He was also instrumental in composing music for the children’s television program Sesame Street and forvarious projects fortheHenson Associates. Brickman also collaborated on projects with such popular vocalists as Whitney Houston, Luther Vandross, Richard Marx, and Michael Bolton.
By 1993, Brickman was beginning to lose interest in his career as a commercial jingle writer as he related in Windham Hill web site, “Eventually, I got bored doing jingles, and it became creatively limiting because I had to fake being trendy much of the time. I realized that I never sat down at the piano, except for work. I wanted to make music that was more personal, more real and from the heart.” Further commenting on this subject to Goldrich, Brickman said that, “I purposely took a break from commercials, because while I was getting a lot of work, my clients weren’t getting the best part of me creatively. In commercials, I was starting to move into a keyboards-and-synthesizer direction, which to me wasn’t real music.” About this same time, he signed to the Windham Hill Record label and started to embark on his new career as a solo instrumental pianist.
The six song demo of Brickman’s musical interludes formed and shaped the sound of his debut release No Words. No Words, which was released in 1994, deftly married the catchy musical hooks of contemporary pop with romantic lyricism. According to the Windham Hill web site, this pop savvy earned him good sales for his debut album and widespread radio airplay on adult
Born James Brickman, c. 1962, in Cleveland, OH; attended Case Western Reserve University; the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Started working as a commercial jingle writer in the early 1980s; signed to Windham Hill in 1993; released No Words, 1994; By Heart, 1995; Picture This, 1997; The Gift, 1997.
contemporary radio stations. Brickman started to develop a devoted fan base, due in no small part to the tremendous success of the single, “Rocket to the Moon.” “Rocket to the Moon” earned the distinction of being the first solo instrumental song to ever place on the adult contemporary chart.
The following year, Brickman released the follow-up to No Words. It was called By Heart and its success even managed to outshine its predecessor. By Heart spawned two top ten adult contemporary hits: “Angel Eyes,” which peaked at number eight, and “If You Believe,” which made it to number ten.
In 1996, Brickman signed an exclusive contract with the music and sound design collective known as Endless Noise. The contract was for the exclusive rights for the commercial representation of Brickman in all of his advertising music writing endeavors. Brickman still maintained his business, Brickman Arrangements, although its focus was now on maintaining and promoting Brickman’s career as a solo recording artist. Explaining the impetus behind taking up jingle writing again and signing with Endless Noise, Brickman told Goldrich that “the attraction [of jingle writing] to me is very different than it was three years ago. I think people will think of me more for what I do best—performing on the piano and composing an organic, acoustic style of music. That’s my specialty. And my music as a performer/composer might serve as a point of reference for agencies who want a score that sounds like a cut from one of my CDs.”
Brickman’s third album, the 1997 release Picture This, served to further solidify his position as the New Age/adult contemporary cross over king. The tremendous sales of Picture This were in excess of 100, 000 its first month of release, thanks to the first single, a duet with country singer Martina Mc Bride. The duet was entitled “Valentine” and received airplay from not only adult contemporary stations but country ones as well. “Valentine” managed to crack the top 100 country singles chart besides easily making it in to the adult contemporary top ten. Picture This, the album the single was culled from, hit number 30 on Billboard’s top album chart and debuted at number one on the top New Age album chart. In sspeaking about the phenomenal success of “Valentine,” Mc Bride commented to Van Der Vliet that, “this just shows that good music of any kind can really transcend formats. I’ve sung all kinds of music in my life, including Top 40. It was fun to get to sing something a little different.”
Brickman explained his appeal and success to Van Der Vlietas “I knew that a lot of the right things were in place. If you believe enough in what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, then it’s very welcome. So, it’s not terribly surprising, but I feel very fortunate that it’s happening.”
Later that same year, Brickman released his first Christmas album, The Gift. Like its predecessors, it was received warmly and with a good deal of acclaim. In the Windham Hill web site, Brickman offered his interpretation of why he has struck such a nerve with his audience. He said that “everyone has a different concept of what my music means to them, so they can paint their own pictures … Also, there’s my desire to reach those listeners and say ‘O, come see what I’m doing, let me share a part of myself with you.’ Again, the key is to be pure and honest.”
No Words (includes “Rocket to the Moon”), Windham Hill, 1994.
By Heart (includes “Angel Eyes” and “If You Believe”), Windham Hill, 1995.
Picture This (includes “Valentine”), Windham Hill, 1997.
The Gift, Windham Hill, 1997.
Billboard, December 28, 1996; March 8, 1997.
Shoot, February 2, 1996.
“Weddings of a lifetime,” http://www.lifetimetv.com/connections/weddings/jim_brickman.html (January 22, 1998).
“Jim Brickman,” http://www.windham.com/artists/Jim_Brickman.html (January 22, 1998).
—Mary Alice Adams
"Brickman, Jim." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/brickman-jim
"Brickman, Jim." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 16, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/brickman-jim
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Genre: New Age
Best-selling album since 1990: Picture This (1997)
Hit songs since 1990: "Valentine," "The Gift," "You"
Composer/performer Jim Brickman mines the taste for romance with his pop-influenced, sentimental piano instrumentals. His discerning use of guest vocalists helped propel him further into the world of pop music. After enjoying success as a composer of commercial jingles, Brickman's dogged determination, strong marketing acumen, and gift for creating melodies enabled his pop music success.
While growing up in Cleveland, Brickman began studying music early after his mother put him in piano lessons at the age of four. He showed a propensity for improvising pop songs early on and he later studied music at the Cleveland Institute of Music while taking classes in business at another nearby institution. After college, he formed Brickman Arrangements, which focused on creating music for advertising campaigns, known in the industry as "jingles." Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Brickman wrote music for a variety of national advertising accounts such as McDonalds, the Gap, AT&T, Miller beer, Revlon, and Standard Oil. Brickman eventually tired of the jingle business and cut some piano instrumentals, which he actively marketed to radio stations and record companies. Most were unreceptive but Brickman was undeterred. Finally, Windham Hill, a label known for producing a variety of instrumental artists such as George Winston and Yanni, offered Brickman a record contract.
His first release, No Words (1994), sold well, partly due to the mood-creating acoustic piano melodies and partly due to Brickman loading his car with No Words CDs and personally distributing them to radio stations all across the country. A single from the album, "Rocket to the Moon," was the first solo instrumental song to ever land on the adult contemporary music chart. He built on that success the following year by releasing By Heart: Piano Solos (1995), which surpassed most recordings in its genre by landing on the Billboard 200 chart. What ensued was a flurry of successful recordings starting with Picture This (1997), his most successful seller, and The Gift (1997), a Christmas album on which Kenny Loggins sings the title song.
Brickman stepped into the role of producer with Visions of Love (1998), a compilation of twelve songs written and performed by a variety of established artists such as Stephen Bishop, Janis Ian, and Peabo Bryson. Brickman composed one instrumental for the album and plays piano accompaniment on select songs.
Love Songs and Lullabies (2002), Brickman's ninth solo release since 1994, contains eight solo piano pieces mixed with four songs that feature guest vocal appearances from the group All-4-One and actress Jane Krakowski of television's Ally McBeal, who displays her ample singing skills on the ballad "You."
In addition to recording and keeping up with a 150-city touring schedule each year, Brickman hosts a three-hour weekly radio program, Your Weekend with Jim Brickman. The show features Brickman doing celebrity interviews and presenting music from the adult contemporary hit list. It airs on over 170 radio stations across the United States. He also collaborated with writer Cindy Pearlman on the self-help book, Simple Things (2001). The book focuses on how to gain appreciation for all that life offers in the face of today's hurried existence. It became a bestseller in its category.
From his productive days of writing advertising jingles, Brickman discovered how to create melodies that sell, an art he now applies to his catalog of romantic pop music.
No Words (Windham Hill, 1994); By Heart: Piano Solos (Windham Hill, 1995); Picture This (Windham Hill, 1997); The Gift (Windham Hill, 1997); Visions of Love (Windham Hill, 1998); Destiny (Windham Hill, 1999); If You Believe (Windham Hill, 1999); My Romance (Windham Hill, 2000); Simple Things (Windham Hill, 2001); Love Songs and Lullabies (Windham Hill, 2002).
"Brickman, Jim." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 16, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brickman-jim
"Brickman, Jim." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved January 16, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/brickman-jim