Billy Ocean is a soul superstar whose feel-good songs have reached out to people across the world. Rosanna Rothery finds out more about the singer who has notched up record sales of more than 30 million.
HIS radio-friendly blend of catchy Caribbean soul, funk, pop and R'n'B has made Billy Ocean the most successful black recording star Britain has ever produced. His infectious heartwarming soul and melodious pop have become synonymous with a laid-back classy, cool yet buoyant Eighties vibe.
Next month there's a rare chance to hear this Grammy, Brit and Mobo award-winning singer in Barnstaple as he heads to the Queen's Theatre as part of a UK tour.
He certainly sounds like he is looking forward to it: "You can expect a fun night, I will be singing all of my hits plus more," he said.
"At the smaller venues you get a really good atmosphere. I can see the audience all the way at the back.
"It makes for a party vibe."
A calypso-crazy kid from sun-soaked Trinidad, Ocean first moved to London's East End at the age of seven. It was here he began to hear a different sort of music and was soon drinking in the influences of soul singers such as Sam Cooke and Otis Reading, as well as the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
His first taste of success came in the mid Seventies with pop smashes Love Really Hurts Without You and Red Light Spells Danger.
However, it was not until he signed to Jive Records in 1984 that he really shot to fame with the million-selling Number 1 single Caribbean Queen for which he won a Grammy. It was the first of many killer ballads including Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car, Suddenly and There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry).
So what makes a great song according to the man who has had so many smash hits?
"A great song is one that you can dance and sing along to, with a message that you can relate to. There is no set formula for writing a song – sometimes it just happens, sometimes you have to work at it."
He's known for his classy vocals yet being able to sing is not a talent he takes for granted.
"My voice is a natural gift, but you have to work at it to keep it at its best," he admits.
The singer, who always comes across as humble, seems remarkably unaffected by his own fame. He had a rest from the music business in the early Nineties to spend more time with his young family. In 2007 he returned to a very different industry where people were now becoming famous overnight on talent shows.
"The problem today is that it all happens so fast for the new acts," he said. "They don't get given the time to learn how to cope with success.
"They need to realise that you are the same person after a hit as before."
He tells those people heading to his Barnstaple show to expect something of a party.
"When people come to a show it's the opportunity to forget all that's going on in the outside world and for a couple of hours just have a great time singing and dancing along with a crowd that are all there for the same reason – to have fun!"
Billy Ocean is at the Queen's Theatre, Barnstaple on Thursday, September 4, 7.45pm. Tickets: £29. Box office: 01271 324242.