Leslie Sebastian Charles, (born 21 January 1950), known professionally as Billy Ocean, is a Trinidadian-English recording artist who had a string of R&B international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the most popular Trinidad–British R&B singer-songwriter of the early to mid-1980s. After scoring his first four UK Top 20 successes, seven years passed before he accumulated a series of transatlantic successes, including three US No. 1's. His 1985 hit "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" reached No. 1 in the UK and No. 2 in the US. In 1985, Ocean won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his worldwide hit "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)" and in 1987 was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist. His 1988 hit "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car" reached No. 1 in the US and No. 3 in the UK. His 1986 hit "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" also reached No. 1 in the US.
In 2002, the University of Westminster, London, awarded Ocean an honorary doctorate of music. In 2010, Ocean was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MOBO Awards. On 29 July 2011, Ocean became a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, presented to him by Sir Paul McCartney. He is a member of the Rastafari movement.
Ocean was born in Fyzabad, Trinidad and Tobago, to Hainsley Charles, a Grenadian musician and his wife Violet. His family moved to Romford, London, England, when he was ten years old in 1960, just before Trinidad and Tobago became independent. He was exposed to music at an early age. During his teenage years, he sang regularly in London clubs while also working as a tailor in London's Savile Row. He was discovered by his first manager, John Morphew, who recorded a double A-side single at Pye Studios in London with a full orchestra. However, the ballad singing style of Les was going out of fashion and Morphew was unable to get any major label to release it. It remains unreleased. Les's father—who had countersigned the management contract as Les was underage—asked Morphew to release him from contract, which he did without penalty. In 1969, he joined a local band, The Shades of Midnight, playing in the Shoreditch area of London. He recorded his first single, "Nashville Rain", backed with "Sun in the Morning" in 1971 for Spark Records as Les Charles, and for two years fronted a studio band called Scorched Earth, with whom he released "On the Run" backed with "Let's Put Our Emotions in Motion" in 1974.
In an interview with Myf Warhurst on ABC Radio Melbourne, Ocean stated that the story of him having taken his stage name from the local "Ocean Estate", Stepney in London's East End, where he was living at the time, was in fact not correct. According to the interview, the name was derived from a local football team that was in his home town in Trinidad and Tobago, who called themselves "Oceans 11". In 1976, he recorded his first album, Billy Ocean, with its first single release, "Love Really Hurts Without You", charting at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart and No. 22 in the US Billboard Hot 100. He enjoyed club success from the songs "Are You Ready" and "Stay The Night" from the album City Limit — both of which were later covered by La Toya Jackson. More successes ensued, including "L.O.D. (Love on Delivery)". He also wrote and composed songs for other artists. In 1981, he scored the US R&B chart with "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)."
Between 1976 and 1982, Ocean released four albums (Billy Ocean, City Limit, Nights (Feel Like Getting Down) and Inner Feelings) through his record label GTO, the albums none of which scored success on any musical charts aside from his biggest single up to that point, 1976's "Love Really Hurts Without You", which was a top 40 and a top 10 hit in both the UK (#2) and the US (#22).
As Sony Music acquired GTO Records in 1978, Ocean was shifted to Jive from Epic, in which he received a second breakthrough in his career in the early 1980s. The fall of 1984 saw the release of his fifth studio album Suddenly and its main single, "Caribbean Queen (No More Love on the Run)" becoming successes on the charts. "Caribbean Queen" became Ocean's first number-one single on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Black Singles charts in late 1984, and the album debuted in the top ten, peaking at number nine on both the US Billboard 200 and the UK Albums Chart simultaneously in the US and UK. Suddenly reached gold in the UK, and was certified double platinum by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America). He also recorded with Scott Walker in 1984, singing on his album Climate of Hunter.
The single scored Ocean two Grammy Award nominations, and won the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1985 Grammy Awards. Ocean was later presented his award by Shalamar group member Jeffrey Daniel on 620 Soul Train, a UK incarnation of the American music dance show Soul Train. The album's title track also became a success, peaking at No. 4 in both the US and the UK and the song "Loverboy", while also being a No. 2 US success in 1985 was also featured in the first scene of the popular UK BBC One TV series Casualty, in 1986. Ocean appeared at Live Aid in 1985, singing "Caribbean Queen" and "Loverboy", from JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.
His 1986 album Love Zone also sold well. It included the successful singles "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going", the theme from the film The Jewel of the Nile; this was a No. 1 success in the UK and a No. 2 in the United States; and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" (a US No. 1, and also a major UK success). Also included were the title track and "Love Is Forever", which were No. 10 and No. 16 US successes for Ocean, respectively. It also earned Ocean a second nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1987 Grammy Awards.
In February 1986, Ocean's video of "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" was banned by the BBC, owing to such non-union members as the American actors Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, all three of whom were cast members of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile, miming to the backing vocals. At the 1987 Brit Awards, Ocean was nominated for the Brit Award for Best British Male.
Ocean's next album, Tear Down These Walls (1988), featured another No. 1 single, "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car", while the album was certified platinum.
Ocean's 1993 album Time to Move On failed to produce any major successes, but his 1989 Greatest Hits collection has been a steady seller over the years, and his 1997 compilation Love Is For Ever made No. 7 on the UK album chart. Ocean's last studio album for Jive Records was Time to Move On, which he recorded in Chicago with R&B star R. Kelly.
In 2002, the University of Westminster in London awarded Ocean an honorary doctorate of music. The awards ceremony took place in the Barbican Centre, in London. He continues to tour and record in Europe. Ocean is now a patron for Tech Music Schools in London, made up of Drumtech, Vocaltech, Guitar-X and Keyboardtech. He regularly visits to hold clinics and seminars for the students.
In 2004, "Caribbean Queen" was re-released as a digital single for its 20th anniversary, shooting up to No. 25 on the Billboard digital singles chart and garnering radio play across the United States and UK. A remix of the single by will.i.am was released in 2005.
In October 2007, Ocean commenced his first UK tour in more than 15 years. In February and March 2008 he toured Australia and the Far East. His album Because I Love You was released on 2 February 2009.
In April 2010, an 18-track compilation album was released in the UK by Sony Music titled The Very Best of Billy Ocean to tie in with a 30-date tour of the UK and Ireland. Featuring Ocean's biggest hits, the album debuted in the UK Albums Chart at No. 17.
On 20 October 2010, Ocean was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MOBO Awards in London. On 29 July 2011, Ocean became a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. His title was presented by former Beatle Paul McCartney.
In 2012, Ocean made a cameo appearance in the British comedy movie Keith Lemon: The Film as Lemon's father. In January 2016, Ocean appeared on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to perform some of his classic hits as part of a promo tour for his new album. Ocean toured the UK during March and April 2017.
Ocean recorded a new album in mid-2019, working again with producer Barry Eastmond as co-writer. The album, One World, was to be released on 17 April 2020. It then got pushed back to 4 September 2020.
Ocean lives in Sunningdale, Berkshire, England, with his wife Judy, and has done so since 1978. They have three children. His son played rugby sevens at the 2014 Commonwealth Games for Barbados.
Ocean decided to become vegetarian after the loss of his mother in 1989, who died from ovarian cancer.
Ocean was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2020 New Year Honours for services to music.
Billy Ocean has been nominated three times for a Grammy Award, with one win.
Media related to Billy Ocean at Wikimedia Commons
And you realise you're doing a public service in making people happy - as a musician you can give people something a doctor, a lawyer, a politician cannot give them that. It's not scientific. It's spiritual - a good feeling. And although you don't know them personally, the audience are like your friends.