Born August 17, 1958, in Hollywood, CA; daughter of Walt (a contractor) and Joanne (a homemaker) Carlisle; married Morgan Mason (a talent agent), April 12, 1986; children: James Duke. Addresses: Home-- Hollywood, CA. Agent-- c/o William Morris Agency, Inc., 1350 Sixth Ave., New York, NY 10019. Record company-- MCA, 70 Universal City Plaza, 3rd floor, Universal City, CA 91605.
Belinda Carlisle first gained fame as the lead singer for the Go-Go's, a hugely popular all female group. The band's wholesome, fun image and lighthearted songs, including "We Got the Beat," "Our Lips Are Sealed," and "Head Over Heels," attracted legions of fans. But by 1985, the act had gone stale. The Go-Go's disbanded and Carlisle embarked on a successful solo career. "The Go-Go's was pretty much me when I was younger," she explained to Todd Gold of People. "But as I got older, I got kind of tired of being cute, bubbly and effervescent all day. I just didn't feel like being bouncy anymore."
Carlisle, the oldest of Walt and Joanne Carlisle's seven children, was raised in California's San Fernando Valley. After graduating from high school in 1976, she began frequenting Hollywood's new wave and punk rock music clubs, where she met Charlotte Caffey, Jane Wiedlin, Gina Schock, and Kathy Valentine. They formed the Go-Go's "for laughs," Carlisle told Gold. "I had never been in any other band. That was my first time singing." Eventually they acquired a manager and were booked to tour England. During the tour they recorded "We Got the Beat," a single that sold 50,000 copies in the United States. In 1981, the group signed with I.R.S. Records and later that same year released Beauty and the Beat. The debut album sold over two million copies and topped the charts for six weeks. Their next effort, Vacation, was less successful; Talk Show, released in 1984, flopped.
Wiedlin announced that she was leaving the quintet, and Carlisle and Caffey soon followed. The Go-Go's--immersed in conflict and succumbing to the pressures of fame--officially split up in May of 1985. Intent on pursuing a solo career, Carlisle decided to straighten out her personal life. While the Go-Go's enjoyed what Steve Pond of Rolling Stone called a "cotton candy image," several members of the group, including Carlisle had serious substance abuse problems.
Carlisle's plan for turning her life around included joining Alcoholics Anonymous, dieting, exercising regularly, and seeing a vocal coach three times a week. She also met the man who would become her husband, businessman and former White House staff member Morgan Mason, in 1984. The day after attending a concert together, Carlisle and Mason--the son of actors James and Pamela Mason--began sharing Mason's condo. The two embarked on an idyllic romance; married in 1986, they had their first child, James Duke, in 1992.
Inspired by her newfound love and her renewed physical state--she lost 60 pounds--Carlisle began work on her debut solo album, Belinda, which was released in 1986. An assortment of love songs, Belinda spawned the hit track "Mad About You," and also featured such tunes as "I Need a Disguise," "Shot in the Dark," and "I Feel the Magic." Former Go-Go's members Caffey and Wiedlin helped with the LP, which many critics found reminiscent of the band's early work. "If you liked the Go-Go's, you'll get a kick out of Belinda, " Jon Young noted in Creem. "Carlisle remains an optimistic bundle of energy, never less than charming."
Comparing Carlisle's solo efforts to her work with the Go-Go's, a People reviewer found that the songstress "sounds as peppy and wholesomely sexy on her own as she did with the band.... Producer Mike Lloyd helped Carlisle maintain another of the Go-Go's qualities, the ability to evoke the sound of early rock without seeming to parody it." Belinda was well received by audiences as well as critics.
Carlisle's career gained momentum in 1988, when the hit single "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" from her second solo effort, Heaven on Earth, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Another album firmly rooted in the pop tradition, it features, according to a People reviewer, "a sleeker and tougher" sounding Carlisle. The critic found that the songs on Heaven on Earth are "lacking such qualities as wit ... and aural appeal," but praised Carlisle for providing a "more aggressive, focused delivery" than in her days with the Go-Go's.
Noting that Carlisle's "passion for fluffy dance music has clearly hamstrung her," Rolling Stone critic Deborah Kirk summed up the lukewarm reception to the singer's 1991 LP, Live Your Life Be Free. The album reaffirmed Carlisle's reputation as "the high priestess of sugar pop," in Kirk's words, and had critics decrying her failure to offer meaningful lyrics and an innovative sound. Entertainment Weekly' s Stephanie Zacharek found that the LP "ultimately chokes on its aggressively friendly sound and its dribbling sentiment." Though Carlisle--having made no plans for a tour to promote Live Your Life Be Free --had her own fears about becoming "passe," her work with the Go-Go's and during her early solo career secured her a spot in the annals of the ever-changing pop music genre. "As long as pop music has a sweet tooth," surmised James Wolcott in Vanity Fair, "there'll be a place for her on the car stereo."
by Denise Wiloch
Belinda Carlisle's Career
Singer with pop group the Go-Go's, 1978-85; solo recording artist, 1985--. Has modeled for Almay cosmetics. Appeared in a stage production of Grease at a California regional playhouse, 1983, and in the film Swing Shift, 1984.
Belinda Carlisle's Awards
Grammy Award nomination for best pop vocal performance, 1988, for "Heaven Is a Place on Earth."
- With the Go-Go's
- Beauty and the Beat (includes "We Got the Beat"), I.R.S., 1981.
- Vacation I.R.S., 1982.
- Talk Show I.R.S., 1984.
- Solo albums
- Belinda (includes "Mad About You"), I.R.S., 1986.
- Heaven On Earth (includes "Heaven Is a Place on Earth"), MCA, 1988.
- (With George Harrison and others) Runaway Horses MCA, 1989.
- Live Your Life Be Free MCA, 1991.
- Greatest Hits MCA, 1992.
- Also released video Belinda Live! 1989.
- Creem, October 1986.
- Entertainment Weekly, October 25, 1991.
- Interview, July 1985.
- Los Angeles Times, May 13, 1985.
- New York, February 5, 1990.
- People, October 26, 1981; June 16, 1986; June 23, 1986; November 23, 1987; February 13, 1989; January 13, 1992; May 18, 1992.
- Rolling Stone, July 5, 1984; July 3, 1986; August 28, 1986; November 6, 1986; July 14, 1988; January 23, 1992.
- Vanity Fair, February 1992.
- Variety, May 18, 1988.