Whitesnake Biography

This UK-based heavy rock band has been led throughout its career by David Coverdale (22 September 1951, Saltburn-By-The Sea, North Yorkshire, England). The lead vocalist with Deep Purple since 1973, Coverdale left that unit in 1976 and recorded two solo albums, Whitesnake and Northwinds. Shortly afterwards, he formed a touring band from musicians who had played on those records. Entitled David Coverdale’s Whitesnake, the band included Micky Moody (b. 30 August 1950, Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, England; guitar, ex-Tramline, Juicy Lucy), Bernie Marsden (b. Bernard John Marsden, 7 May 1951, Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, England; guitar, ex-UFO), Brian Johnston (keyboards), Neil Murray (bass) and Dave Dowle (drums). Pete Solley (b. 19 October 1948, England; ex-Procol Harum) replaced Johnston before in turn making way for Deep Purple’s Jon Lord (b. 9 June 1941, Leicester, Leicestershire, England) during sessions for the Snakebite EP, which featured a cover version of Bobby Bland’s ‘Ain’t No Love In The Heart Of The City’.

For much of the late 70s Whitesnake toured in the UK, Europe and Japan (the first US tour was in 1980). During this period there were several personnel changes, with another ex-Deep Purple member Ian Paice (b. 29 June 1948, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England) joining on drums. Whitesnake’s first British hit was ‘Fool For Your Loving’ (number 13 in May 1980), composed by Coverdale, Marsden and Moody, and the double album Live... In The Heart Of The City reached number 5 the same year. Come An’ Get It climbed to number 2 in the UK album charts in April 1981, with ‘Don’t Break My Heart Again’ reaching number 17 the same month. The follow-up Saints & Sinners (1982) featured the original version of one of the band’s most famous songs, ‘Here I Go Again’.

At this point, the illness of Coverdale’s daughter and tension among the members caused a hiatus in the band’s career. When Whitesnake re-formed in 1982 only Coverdale, Lord and Moody remained from the earlier line-up. The new members were Mel Galley (b. 8 March 1948, Cannock, Staffordshire, England; guitar), ex-Back Door and Alexis Korner bass player Colin Hodgkinson (b. 14 October 1945, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England), and Cozy Powell (b. Colin Flooks, 29 December 1947, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, England, d. 5 April 1998, Bristol, England; drums). The US version of Slide It In (1984) featured additional overdubs from ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist John Sykes (b. 29 July 1959, Reading, Berkshire, England). However, this configuration lasted only briefly and by 1984 the long-serving Moody and Lord had left, the latter to join a regenerated Deep Purple.

While Coverdale remained the focus of Whitesnake, there were numerous personnel changes in the following years, including the return of Neil Murray and the recruitment of Aynsley Dunbar (b. 10 January 1946, Liverpool, Lancashire, England; drums) to join Coverdale and Sykes. These had little effect on the band’s growing reputation as one of the leading exponents of heavy rock, with unambiguously sexist record sleeves marking out their lyrical and aesthetic territory. Frequent tours finally brought a million-selling album in the USA with 1987’s Whitesnake and Coverdale’s bluesy ballad style brought transatlantic Top 10 hits with a re-mixed ‘Here I Go Again’ (US number 1, UK number 9) and ‘Is This Love’ (US number 2, UK number 9). Almost immediately there were wholesale personnel changes, with Coverdale joined by several session musicians. Most notable among these players was Adrian Vandenberg (b. 31 January 1954, Enschede, the Netherlands), who was co-writer with Coverdale on the band’s 1989 album Slip Of The Tongue, co-produced by Keith Olsen and Mike Clink. Virtuoso guitarist Steve Vai (b. Steven Siro Vai, 6 June 1960, Carle Place, New York, USA) was also a member of the band in the late 80s, while further personnel passing through the ranks during this period included bass player Rudy Sarzo, and drummers Denny Carmassi and Tommy Aldridge.

Despite headlining the Donington Festival in August 1990, Coverdale put Whitesnake on ice at the end of the year. He later joined forces with Jimmy Page for the release of Coverdale/Page in early 1993, but when Whitesnake’s recording contract with Geffen Records in the USA expired in 1994, it was not renewed. The band toured in support of the same year’s Greatest Hits set before splitting up again. Coverdale returned with a new album in 1997 with Vandenberg, Carmassi, Guy ‘Starka’ Pratt (bass), Brett Tuggle (keyboards). Restless Heart was a mellow (by Whitesnake standards) recording that helped emphasize Coverdale’s terrific range. Following its release and a farewell tour, the singer once again put the band on hold to concentrate on solo work. He revived Whitesnake in 2002 for a 25th anniversary tour that quickly turned into a more permanent reunion, with a line-up featuring a host of young musicians. After five years of touring, Coverdale returned to the studio to complete a new album, Good To Be Bad.

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

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