Here's some free advice for couples looking to ensure a long and happy marriage before the Big Day: don't let Stephen Bishop sing at your wedding. More specifically, don't let him sing "Separate Lives."
Bishop wrote the number and did his own take, but it's most recognizable from the version by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin, the theme from the movie White Nights. That song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart in 1985 and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, but lost to Lionel Richie's "Say You, Say Me" from the same movie.
And while the wistful and sad lyrics about a broken love affair seems like an odd choice to perform at a wedding, Collins himself had Bishop do it as his own ceremony. Twice. To two different women.
"I had done a couple of songs at his last wedding about ten years ago in Geneva, Switzerland, and was about to leave the stage," Bishop remembers.
"Phil rushed up and said in my ear 'Stephen, I want you to do 'Separate Lives.'" And I said 'But Phil, I did it at your last wedding and it didn't go so well.' He said, 'No, I want you to do it again...just don't mention last time!'"
Since that performance, Collins has gotten divorced. Again. Leaving Bishop to wonder about possible supernatural powers.
"I don't know that it's a good omen for me to sing that song at anybody's wedding!" he laughs. "But the royalties were good while they lasted!"
Bishop will be opening for Christopher Cross Thursday evening at Stafford Centre.
As a singer/songwriter/guitarist, Bishop's career stretches back to his 1976 debut, Careless, and spans more than a dozen studio, live and demo records since then. His hits include "On and On," "Save It For a Rainy Day," "Everybody Needs Love," and the theme from the movie Tootsie (which he did not write), "It Might Be You."
His most recent effort is Be Here Then, which is available on iTunes and his Web site. But he says there wasn't anything he wanted to do on purpose with this record so much different from others in his discography.
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"I never approach an album that way," he offers. "I usually put on a record just the songs I've been working on lately. And the songs that I save, I haven't recorded the way I want to." Case in point: "Promise Me the World." While a solo acoustic version has already appeared, a full-band take appears on Be Here Then.
But to some, his career has been a bit offbeat. In the liner notes to his anthology The Millennium Collection, he says, "I've always felt some people in this business could never quite figure me out...songwriter, recording person or a strange guy with weird clothes."
And though much of his best-known material leans toward ballads about love gone sour -- or yearning for it, as it does on Be Here Then -- I ask him to elaborate.
"Lots of people don't know. They judge me on the Tootsie song and think that's mostly what I do," he says. "But I do a lot of different things, and always have on my albums. I've had weird, eclectic songs with the ballads, and I'm still like that."
Tomorrow, Bishop remembers the Beatles, fun on the set of Animal House, hiding from an angry Rita Marley and how he ended up in possession of Debby Boone's Grammy for Best New Artist. He opens for Christopher Cross Thursday at Stafford Centre, 10505 Cash Rd.
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