It’s Robert Cray’s birthday today.
Born in 1953 in Columbus, Georgia, Cray is widely acknowledged as being responsible for the blues revival of the 1980s, with the platinum-selling and Grammy Award-winning Strong Persuader (1986) proving to be his breakthrough album in terms of its mainstream success. He followed it two years later with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and two years on from that with Midnight Stroll, both of which featured the Memphis Horns.
With his soulful voice and prominence in glossy promotional videos, which went down well on the blossoming MTV, accusations of ‘selling out’ were never far away, with blues traditionalists irritated by his slick crossover into the realms of mainstream and increasingly corporate pop music. Yet the fact remains that most of his albums – and he continues to be prolific, with a release almost every other year since his 1980 debut – have either been nominated for, or won, a Grammy Award. Fender observed his loyalty to their brand by introducing a custom Stratocaster in 2003.
I’d like to know which of Robert Cray’s songs or albums you most enjoy. ‘I Wonder’, ‘Move a Mountain’ and ‘The Score’ are among my favourite tracks, as well as the more recent, poignant ‘Twenty’, from the 2005 album of the same name.
Here he is with one of his most famous songs, ‘Right Next Door (Because Of Me)’.
I also thought it would be nice to honour at the same time all the Roberts, Robertses and Robertsons out there, not forgetting the Robs, Bobs and Rabs, Robertos, Robertas, even the Robins and the Ruperts.
Here are ten that I particularly appreciate – or appreciated – but don’t go googling ‘Best Bobs’ to help refresh your memory because you’ll only end up with this:
– Bobby: 2006 film about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
– Roberto Carlos: Brazilian footballer, scorer of this memorable and quite exquisite free kick
– Robertson Davies: Canadian novelist and essayist
– ‘Doctor Robert’ by The Beatles, from their 1966 Revolver album
– Bob Dylan: genius singer-songwriter
– Robert Ludlum: author who, within the space of a decade, created The Bourne Trilogy
– Paul Robeson: actor, activist, singer
– Robin, Batman’s dependable sidekick
– ‘Mrs Robinson’ by Simon & Garfunkel, a 1968 hit single
– The Rupert River in Quebec, Canada (once wild, now dammed to provide hydroelectric power)
I leave you with a quick quiz to test your knowledge of famous Roberts.