Richard Paul "Rick" Astley (born 6 February 1966, Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire) is an English singer-songwriter and musician. Astley is married to producer Lene Bausager and has one daughter. Astley has released or appeared on recordings that have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. He is best known for his 1987 hit single in 16 countries, "Never Gonna Give You Up".
After fading into obscurity in the 1990s, Astley made a comeback in 2007 when he became an Internet phenomenon, as his video for "Never Gonna Give You Up" became part of a popular Internet meme known as "Rickrolling". Astley was voted by Internet users "Best Act Ever" at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2008.
In 1985, Astley was playing the club circuit as a drummer with a soul band named FBI when he was noticed by the record producer Pete Waterman, who persuaded him to come to London to work at the PWL recording studio. Under the tutelage of the production team of Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman, known as Stock Aitken Waterman, Astley was taught about the recording process and groomed for his future career, supposedly starting off as the recording studio 'tea boy'.
During much of his career, due to his deep bass-baritone voice, many listeners assumed he was African-American. In one instance, the comedic entertainer Sinbad discussed him with a talk-show host, expressing his surprise that Astley was not "one of the brothers". In another, it was widely believed for years that he was the voice behind the chorus of Cathy Dennis' song "Just Another Dream", when in fact the true singer was an African-American disc jockey known as Dancin' Dan Hartzman. Even after his visual appearance, it was still popular belief that he was miming for a black American singer. His brother Mike Astley helped to refute this assertion.
His first single was the little-known "When You Gonna", released as a collaboration with Lisa Carter, but his first solo offering was "Never Gonna Give You Up", released in 1987. It became an immediate success, spending five weeks at the top of the British charts and becoming the year's highest-selling single. It was the first of 13 (worldwide) top 30 hit singles for him.
The 1987 album Whenever You Need Somebody also reached number one in the UK, and the hit singles continued, including the title track and a cover of Nat King Cole's "When I Fall in Love".
On 12 March 1988, "Never Gonna Give You Up" also topped the U.S. singles chart and was followed by a second U.S. #1 on 18 June with his second U.S. single release, "Together Forever". In 1989 he was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best New Artist of the Year. He lost to Tracy Chapman.
The group FBI, from left to right, Kevin Needham, Rick Astley, Will Hopper, Peter Dale, & Greg Smee, in 1984.
In late 1988, Astley released his second album, Hold Me In Your Arms. While the album sold well in Europe, with all its 3 singles becoming top 10 hits in the UK, his success in the US waned, with only the first single, She Wants To Dance With Me, making an impact, peaking at #6.
By the end of the decade, Astley had parted company with Stock, Aitken, and Waterman. He achieved one more major success with the 1991 ballad "Cry for Help", which reached the top 10 in both the UK and the US. The song was taken from his third album, Free, which featured a move towards soul music, leaving his synth-pop days behind. The album was not as successful as his previous two.
In 1991 the RIAA certified that two million copies of Whenever You Need Somebody had been sold. Total world sales of Astley's records (including singles, albums and compilation inclusions) have since reached 39.9 million.
His next album, Body and Soul, was released in 1993. The album did not chart in the UK but managed to make the Billboard 200, peaking at #182. The two singles, "The Ones You Love" and "Hopelessly", performed very well on the adult contemporary chart, peaking at #19 and #4 respectively. "Hopelessly" also crossed over and peaked at #31 on the Top 40 Mainstream chart.
For much of the 1990s and early 2000s, Astley remained largely out of the spotlight.
Almost 10 years after Body and Soul, Astley finally returned to the music world and released "Keep It Turned On" in 2002. The album featured the single "Sleeping", which became a minor club hit, thanks to a set of remixes from U.S. house producer Todd Terry.
In March, 2005, Astley released the album Portrait in which he covered many classic standards such as "Vincent", "Nature Boy" and "Close to You".
In early 2006, Astley withdrew unexpectedly at the eleventh hour from appearing on the BBC TV celebrity/pro duets show Just the Two of Us after committing to do so. This led to criticism from those in the entertainment industry and media. His place was filled by singer Russell Watson, who eventually won the competition. The BBC failed to explain that Astley's withdrawal was due to his girlfriend Lene Bausager being nominated for the 2006 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for the Sean Ellis film Cashback, where she was the main producer. Astley would have missed a crucial part of the show by attending the awards ceremony and so withdrew before the show began.
Astley at a festival in Singapore.
Based on various music charts in the UK, US and Canada, Astley has charted a grand total of 14 different hit singles and 6 different hit albums, as of March 2006. In April 2008, the album "The Ultimate Collection: Rick Astley" was released by Sony BMG and by early May it had reached #17 on the UK Top 40 Albums Chart.
In September 2008, Rick was nominated for the 'Best Act Ever' award at the MTV Europe Music Awards The push to make Astley the winner of the award continued after the announcement, as well as efforts to encourage MTV to personally invite Astley to the awards ceremony. On October 10, Astley's website confirmed that an invitation to the awards had been received. On November 7th, following a massive internet campaign by fans, Rick won the award in Liverpool, but was not there in person to receive it. Perez Hilton collected the prize on his behalf.
In 2008, Astley was a headlining act at the Northampton Balloon Festival. In April 2009, he wrote an article for Time Magazine about moot.