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Sunday, July 03, 2016

Whatever Happened to Kim Wilde?

Okay, so it has been a couple of months since I've done a Sunday Jukebox entry, and the inspiration behind this one comes from hearing a song on the radio that I hadn't heard of in years, and wondering whatever became of the singer who sang the song in the first place.

I was listening to the radio while I was working on another blog entry at the time.  It was one of those online stations that celebrate the 1980s, as I am a huge fan of music from the decade of my birth.  Anyway, in between Platinum Blonde's "Crying Over You" and Sheena Easton's "Strut", came a song that was released the very same year I was born.  Yet, it was a song that I knew very well.  Back in my high school days, the radio station of my choice was Ogdensburg's PAC-93, and while these days it is known as a talk radio station, it was a Top 40 station that played an 80s radio program every Saturday night.  It was a program that I listened to while I was studying for history tests, writing essays, or figuring out algebra assignments. 

And as it so happens, one of the songs that this station played a lot of during that 1980s program was the same song that I heard just a few days ago.  Have a listen.

ARTIST:  Kim Wilde
SONG:  Kids in America
ALBUM:  Kim Wilde
DATE RELEASED:  January 26, 1981

"Kids in America" - a song that reached the Top 30 in America, and charted at the #2 position in the United Kingdom.  At the age of 20, this single was the debut of singer Kim Wilde, the daughter of British rock-n-roller, Marty Wilde.  And, it definitely would not be the last we'd hear from her either.

In 1986, Wilde recorded a cover version of The Supremes' single "You Keep Me Hangin' On", which topped the American music charts at the beginning of 1987 and also did quite well in several other nations all over the world.

And in 1988, Wilde also had some minor success in North America when she released the single "You Came".  It just missed getting into the Top 40 (it peaked at #41), but it was a hit in dance clubs all over the world.

But after she released "You Came", Kim Wilde came and went - at least here in North America.  It's been twenty-eight years since that single was released, and after listening to "Kids in America" recently, a part of me wondered...whatever happened to Kim Wilde?

Well, as it so happens, Kim Wilde is still around.  And believe it or not, she's still recording music.  Though she has also developed other interests over the years and has found great success in a completely unrelated field to music.  I'll talk more about that a little later.

For now, let's talk about how she entered the music business and how her career - depending on the country in which you call home - varied from lukewarm to red hot.

After graduating from St. Albans College of Art and Design in 1980, Kim Wilde's career ambitions took a bit of a detour when she was signed by Mickie Most to RAK Records - a recording studio that produced records for Herman's Hermits, Suzi Quatro, and Hot Chocolate among others.  "Kids in America" was released shortly after she began recording music there, and other hits such as "Chequered Love" and "Water on Glass" were hits in Kim's native UK.

But as she released more albums during the course of the 1980s, her career in the UK seemed to stagnate - though not as badly as it had done in North America where it just plain stopped until 1986.  Though she didn't earn a whole lot of success on the UK Charts, her single "Cambodia" became a #1 hit in France.  Several other singles charted highly in France, as well as Australia, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.  And despite the international success of her singles, Wilde departed RAK Records in 1983 after the release of her third album to disappointing fanfare.

Signing with MCA in 1984, Wilde's first MCA album, "Teases & Dares" charted well in France, Germany, and Scandinavia, but once again was virtually ignored in the UK.  This definitely was not Kim's fault.  She definitely had a pleasant enough singing voice that at the time was unique, and almost all of her songs were written by her father and brother, Ricky.  But a large part of her earlier struggles could have something to do with the fact that when she first started out, she did not do any promotional tours supporting her new material (though she would start performing live in late 1982). 

Of course, by 1986, we all know that it took a reworking of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" to bring Kim Wilde back into the UK (and American) spotlight.  Amusingly enough, although the song did breathe second wind into Wilde, Wilde herself wasn't all that familiar with the song, not even knowing the lyrics!  Of course, that worked out sort of in her favour because she could interpret the song her own way. 

And by 1988, Wilde released her most successful UK album with "Close", and some of the tracks that became hits were "You Came", "Hey Mister Heartache", "Love in the Natural Way", "Four Letter Word", and "Never Trust a Stranger".  And with the release of the album came a once in a lifetime opportunity for Wilde.  She would become the opening act for a certain entertainer for his European branch of his world tour.

That person?  Michael Jackson.  How is that for knowing that you've made it!

Sadly, as the 1980s turned into the 1990s, Kim Wilde's singing career began to falter.  Her 1990 album "Love Moves" was a complete failure, and the single above, "Time" became her lowest charting single ever.  It's unfortunate, because I kind of like "Time", but keep in mind that by 1990, she was competing with Madonna, Janet Jackson, Kylie Minogue, and Whitney Houston - all of whom had come onto the scene later than Wilde. 

Her 1992 album "Love Is" produced the Top 20 UK single "Love is Holy", but the effort was once again ignored by the general public.  In fact, Wilde's career seemed to hit a permanent standstill during the 1990s.  Her final single was released in early 1996 - a cover version of Evelyn "Champagne" King's "Shame".  After that, Kim Wilde faded from the pop music scene.

So, whatever happened to Kim Wilde?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, Wilde is still recording music - though most of the efforts seem to be cover songs as opposed to brand new hits.  Her most recent offering was released just in time for the 2013 holiday season with an album entitled "Wilde Winter Songbook" - which featured the same song that she performed on a subway car exactly one year earlier!

Seriously.  Here's the proof.

But in addition to her music career, Kim Wilde has also found success in landscape gardening.  Proving to have a green thumb as rich as her vocal abilities, Wilde's interest in gardening was trigged as a result of becoming pregnant with her first child and wanting to design a garden for them to be able to play in.  She starred in a gardening television series entitled "Garden Invaders", won several gardening competitions - including a Gold Award at the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show in 2005, and even wrote a couple of books about the subject!

See...Kim Wilde is proof that you can find a second career where you might least expect it.

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