Jon Lucien Biography

Lucien Harrigan, 8 January 1942, Tortola, British Virgin Islands, d. 18 August 2007, Orlando, Florida, USA. One of the finest vocal stylists of his generation, Lucien’s recording career was bedevilled by changing trends and personal problems.

Raised in the British Virgin Islands in a musical family, Lucien relocated to the USA in 1965. Taking up residence in New York City, he worked the city’s blues and jazz clubs and the party circuit. His effortless baritone drew increasingly large crowds and the attention of major record labels. He signed to RCA Records and released his solo debut, I Am Now, in 1970. Featuring just one original composition, the album was designed as a showcase for Lucien’s voice on a collection of jazz and pop favourites. By the time of the follow-up Rashida in 1973, Lucien had wrested control of his career back from intrusive record company executives and completed an album comprised solely of original material. Dave Grusin added sympathetic orchestral arrangements to this strong collection, which featured the US radio hits ‘Lady Love’ and ‘Rashida’. Grusin was also on hand to help record the follow-up Mind’s Eye, which saw Lucien fusing jazz, soul and pop with Caribbean rhythms. The social awareness of songs such as ‘Ghetto Song’ and ‘Soul Chant’ indicated an awareness of the times, and was a far cry from the supper club mannerisms of his debut.

A switch of labels to Columbia Records did little to upset Lucien’s creative surge. His debut for the label, 1975’s Song For My Lady, featured a masterful reading of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Dindi’ and a reworking of the Herbie Hancock instrumental ‘Maiden Voyage’. The album failed to sell in the quantities expected by Columbia, however, a fate that had befallen all of Lucien’s recordings. For all the appreciation heaped on him by critics, he had in reality enjoyed little commercial success. When Premonition failed to halt this slump the singer was released by Columbia.

An ongoing battle with cocaine addiction and the shift in black music towards the high-energy beats of disco furthered Lucien’s drift from the mainstream. He was absent from the recording scene for most of the 80s, domiciled in the Caribbean and releasing just one lacklustre album for the Precision label in 1982. Putting his personal problems behind him, he relocated to the USA and made a tentative return to recording in the early 90s. Listen Love, released in 1991, and 1993’s Mother Nature’s Son deviated little from his 70s blueprint and enjoyed some success on American smooth jazz radio stations, with a new generation of listeners discovering the joys of Lucien’s ‘golden throat’.

Lucien battled depression following the death of his daughter Dalila in the TWA air disaster of July 1996, and dedicated the following year’s Endless Is Love to her memory. The album was his first for the Shanachie label, and 1999’s follow-up By Request saw Lucien reworking 11 of his classic cuts from the 70s. In the new millennium, Lucien launched the Sugar Apple Music label to facilitate the release of his own recordings. These releases, including his first live album, saw Lucien embracing an increasingly Caribbean direction in his music. Beset by health problems, Lucien died in August 2007 of respiratory failure and complications after kidney surgery.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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