Top 10 Robert Palmer Songs

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Before hitting the MTV mainstream in the 1980s with “Addicted to Love” and other hits, Robert Palmer was already several albums in and had built a cult following in the 1970s around his musical stylings, which stretched far beyond the wall of pop-rock.

Born in Yorkshire, England on January 19, 1949, Palmer was already playing in bands in the 1960s and later joined the jazz-rock group Dada before forming Vinegar Joe. Palmer continued exploring jazz, funk, and soul on his 1974 solo debut, Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, and follow-ups, Pressure Drop and Double Fun. He later teased some pop on Secrets before venturing into a more electronic and new wave sound on Clues in 1980.

Fueled by a series of hit music videos on MTV, Palmer segued straight into the mainstream by the mid-’80s with his eighth album, Riptide, and the chart-topping hits “Addicted to Love” and his Cherrelle cover “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” all the way through Heavy Nova and “Simply Irresistible” in 1988.

An innate songwriter, Palmer wrote a majority of his catalog but never shied away from interpreting or honoring the classics, and continued to cover more greats throughout the 1990s, taking on Cole Porter, Billie Holiday, Marvin Gaye, and Otis Redding, among others on later albums.

Robert Palmer’s 1974 solo debut ‘Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley’

Before Palmer’s death on Sept. 26, 2003, at the age of 54, he left behind one of the most diverse catalogs of music, including the heavier blues-rock of Drive, his 14th and final album.

“If I want to be humorous, I do calypso,” said Palmer during his final interview in 2003. “If I want to scream implications at the sky I pull out the heavy metal guitar. If I want to whisper in my girlfriend’s ear, I bring in the string. I love music across the board—barring Broadway show tunes and opera, which are over and under my head—[and] I like to use it as a means of expression.”

Now nearly two decades since Palmer’s death, here’s a chronological look at 10 songs spanning his 30-year solo career.

1. “Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley” (1974)
Written by Allen Toussaint

Though Palmer wrote the majority of his own songs, including those on his debut Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, the title track exhibited his more funk and soulful ends. “Sneakin Sally Through the Alley,” was originally written by late New Orleans R&B great Allen Toussaint and was first released by Lee Dorsey in 1970. It’s one of many odes to Toussaint by Palmer, covering his love of jazz and Dixie blues. He would later share his version of Toussaint’s “River Boat” on his second album, Pressure Drop and “Night People” on Double Fun in 1978.

I said, ah I can’t find nothing wrong with being friends cos sometimes
She lets me use the car
She said if you can’t find nothing wrong with your mind
You’d better, you’d better find something wrong with her, her
So I began to try to explain that it just wasn’t, just wasn’t what she thought oh
I’d better find something to do with my time
The fact is oh I’ve just been caught


2. “Every Kinda People” (1978)
Written by Andy Fraser

Written by the late Andy Fraser, co-founder of the former Paul Rodgers-fronted rock band Free (“All Right Now”) from the late ’60s through early ’70s, “Every Kinda People” was previously recorded by the bassist and composer but never released. Palmer later grabbed the bluesy rocker and released it on his fourth album, Double Fun, and it was his first single to break into the top 20.

Someone’s looking for a lead
In his duty to a king or to a creed
Protecting what he feels is right
Fights against wrong with his life

There’s no profit in deceit
Honest men know that
Revenge does not taste sweet
Whether yellow, black, or white
Each and every man’s the same inside

3. “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” (1979)
Written by Martin Moon

Originally written and recorded by Moon Martin in 1978, by the time Palmer’s fifth album Secrets rolled around in 1979, he turned “Bad Case of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” into a hit. The single helped Palmer climb the charts a bit more, and peaked at No. 14 on the Hot 100. The album, which slipped into the top 20 at No. 19, also features a cover of Todd Rundgren‘s 1978 song “Can We Still Be Friends.” Andy Fraser, who previously contributed “Every Kinda People” on Palmer’s Double Fun album, also wrote the Secrets track “Mean Ol’ World.”

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news
I got a bad case of lovin’ you
No pill’s gonna cure my ill
I got a bad case of lovin’ you

4. “Johnny and Mary” (1980)
Written by Robert Palmer

Recorded at Compass Point Studios in the Bahamas, where Palmer had relocated after his third album, Some People Can Do What They Like, the more new wave “Johnny and Mary” was released on his sixth album, Clues. Experimenting with more electronic and synth on the album, “Johnny and Mary” made some chart movement internationally and on the Club Play Singles chart (No. 18) and was later used in advertisements for the French car producer Renault cars in the 1980s and ’90s. Clues also feature the track “Found You Now,” which Palmer co-wrote with Gary Numan.

Johnny thinks the world would be right
If it could buy the truth from him
Mary says he changes his mind
More than a woman
But she made her bed
Even when the chance was slim

5. “Pride” (1983)
Written by Robert Palmer

Hey Olivia Newton-John / What you say? sings Robert Palmer in “Pride,” reflecting on the early 1980s infatuation with fitness and weight loss fueled by Jane Fonda’s famed workout videos—The style in the discotheque / Is cheap and nice / Please tell Ms Fonda / To reduce her price—and Newton-John’s leotard-laden “Physical.” The title track off Palmer’s seventh album, “Pride” is a fetching calypso-pop tongue-in-cheek poke at the obsessiveness of physical appearance.

You want her attention
Well you’ll have to wait
She’s in the gymnasium
Reducing weight

In shorts of a leotard
Despite her age
The girl’s gonna exercise
Your life away

6. “Want You More” (1992)
Written by Robert Palmer

Also released on Pride, “Want You More” is a brooding processional of unrequited love. Never officially released as a single, “Want You More” was one song Palmer would later revisit and rerelease on his 1992 jazz-inspired album Ridin’ High.

Close my eyes, oh there you are
Stop before we go too far
Every move I recall,
Shouldn’t dream that you’re here because it
Only makes me want you more

7. “Addicted to Love” (1985)
Written by Robert Palmer

Also recorded at Compass Point Studios, Palmer’s eighth album, Riptide, caused more waves with the hit single “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” (see below), while satiating MTV viewers with a new model format. The video, directed by Terence Donovan and featuring a sharp-dressed Palmer backed by a uniform band of raven-haired mannequin-like models inspired by Patrick Nagel paintings, helped turn the song into a No. 1 hit.

Originally written as a duet with Chaka Khan, who is credited with the vocal arrangements on the track, “Addicted to Love” shot to No. 1 and earned Palmer his first Grammy for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

The lights are on, but you’re not home
Your mind is not your own
Your heart sweats, your body shakes
Another kiss is what it takes
You can’t sleep, you can’t eat
There’s no doubt, you’re in deep
Your throat is tight, you can’t breathe
Another kiss is all you need

8. “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” (1985)
Written by James “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Lewis

Palmer’s next Riptide hit, “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On,” was originally written by the songwriting duo of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and recorded by R&B singer Cherrelle in 1984. Palmer’s sultrier version bumped the song up to No. 2 on the Hot 100. Former Duran Duran guitarist Andy Taylor, and Palmer’s The Power Station bandmate, also plays on the track.

When I took you out
I knew what you were all about
But when I did
I didn’t mean to turn you on

Now I bring you home
You told me goodnight’s not enough for you
I’m sorry baby
I didn’t mean to turn you on
No, I didn’t mean to turn you on

9. “Some Like it Hot” (1985)
Written by Robert Palmer, Andy Taylor, John Taylor

By the mid-1980s Duran Duran was breaking off into side projects with frontman Simon Le Bon forming Arcadia with bandmates keyboardist Nick Rhodes and drummer Roger Taylor. Bassist John Taylor and former Duran guitarist Andy Taylor also co-founded the pop supergroup The Power Station with Palmer and former Chic drummer Tony Thompson.

Though The Power Station only released two albums—their 1985 self-titled debut, Living in Fear, in 1996—they left behind one lasting mega-hit. “Some Like It Hot” is classic Palmer, backed by one of the most memorable and inimitable bass and drum pulses in pop.

We want to multiply, are you gonna do it
I know you’re qualified, are you gonna do it
Don’t be so circumscribed, are you gonna do it
Just get yourself untied, are you gonna do it

Feel the heat pushing you to decide
Feel the heat burning you up, ready or not

10. “Simply Irresistible” (1988)
Written by Robert Palmer

The third video featuring Palmer’s backing model musicians, which had become synonymous with the artist at this point, “Simply Irresistible” was an instant hit, reaching No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. “Simply Irresistible” also earned Palmer his second Grammy award.

Her loving is so powerful, huh
It’s simply unavoidable
The trend irreversible
The woman is invincible
She’s a natural law, and she leaves me in awe
She deserves the applause, I surrender because
She used to look good to me, but now I find her

Simply irresistible

Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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