Born Richard Springthorpe, August 23, 1949, in Sydney, Australia; son of Norman James (a career officer in the Australian Army); immigrated to U.S., 1972; married; children: Liam. Addresses: Agent-- Triad Artists, Inc., 10100 Santa Monica Blvd., 16th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90067. Management-- Ron Weisner Entertainment, 9200 Sunset Blvd., Penthouse 15, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
In 1981 Rick Springfield gained a large audience in two mediums; he watched his smash hit single "Jessie's Girl" race up the charts from the vantage point of his newly landed spot as a regular on the popular television soap opera General Hospital. The pull of Springfield's musical success proved stronger than that of his soap career, however, and he left the show to follow up "Jessie's Girl" with spirited hits like "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "Affair of the Heart." As David Wild summed up in a Rolling Stone review, "Over the years [Springfield has] come up with some delectable ear candy."
Springfield was born August 23, 1949, in Sydney, Australia. His father was a career officer in the Australian Army, and the family moved around a great deal throughout Rick's childhood. Because of this, he had difficulty making friends and hated school, especially during the years his father was stationed in England. He told Edwin Miller of Seventeen, "In England, I was the Australian pig, the new kid with the funny accent. It was really traumatic. Because of the country schooling I had, I knew less than the English kids my age in the same class, and I got cut to pieces." Springfield's dislike of school, however, did not prevent him from becoming an avid reader; in fact, he would often stay home from school to read, favoring science fiction and humor. Eventually Springfield began writing stories like the ones he read.
Springfield also enjoyed listening to music and used it as a conscious form of rebellion against his parents. He tried to make his own guitars until his parents bought him one when he was 15 years old. While still in high school he formed a band called the Jordy Boys; the youngest member, he was also the least worldly. Springfield recollected in Irwin Stambler's Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul: "The other members had been in jail for things like armed robbery. They were 25 and I was 16. One time we were parked near a milk bar and they ran into it and held it up. I stayed out in the car. Lucky we didn't get caught or it might have started me on the wrong foot."
Eventually Springfield made his way into better bands, including Rock House, which even played for U.S. troops stationed in Vietnam, and Zoot, which became the most popular musical act in Australia during his tenure with the group. When Zoot split up, Springfield went solo, scoring an Australian hit in 1971 with "Speak to the Sky." As he had hoped, this recording received the attention of U.S. record companies; he was signed by Capitol Records in 1972, prompting his move to the United States.
Many of Springfield's other Australian efforts were included on his American debut album, Beginnings. "Speak to the Sky" became a minor hit in the United States, but much to Springfield's distress, he was pegged by fans and critics as a teen idol like singers David Cassidy and Donny Osmond. The following year, in hopes of circumventing Capitol's encouragement of his bubble gum rocker status, Springfield switched to Columbia Records and released Comic Book Heroes. The album failed miserably, and Columbia did not renew his contract.
Springfield's problems mounted as he became entangled in various legal disputes with his management and was forced to withdraw from the music business for a few years. When he returned, none of the major labels were interested in his demos, so he opted to record Wait for the Night on the smaller Chelsea label. Before the album could gain much exposure, however, Chelsea declared bankruptcy, dashing Springfield's plans. Still able to live off his Australian royalties, he continued to write material and record demos, convinced that the right record deal would come along.
In the meantime, Springfield followed a friend to acting class and rapidly gained enthusiasm for dramatic performance. Soon he and a girlfriend decided to produce and direct themselves in a one-act play, and, as Springfield told Seventeen' s Miller, "We invited every casting director and agent in Hollywood" to see it. Fortunately, the only one who accepted, a representative of Universal Studios, recognized the Australian's talent. Springfield was signed to a contract, which meant he got paid even when he didn't work, and soon began appearing in television programs such as Battlestar Galactica, The Rockford Files, Wonder Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and The Six-Million Dollar Man.
Though eventually dropped by Universal, Springfield was adequately consoled when RCA records, after listening to his demos, signed him to a contract in 1980. While he was recording what would become Working Class Dog, a casting director for General Hospital signed Springfield to play the role of Dr. Noah Drake, a young, eligible physician, and he began appearing on the show in 1981. The soap's audience found Springfield very appealing; he quickly became one of its most popular cast members. Then "Jessie's Girl," a song based on Springfield's experience of coveting a friend's love interest, was released as Working Class Dog' s first single. The song won him a Grammy for best male rock vocal. Another cut from the album, "I've Done Everything for You," also became a smash. Suddenly, Springfield had to balance filming with concert appearances.
Springfield's follow-up album, Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet, featuring "Don't Talk to Strangers," also proved popular; his 1983 effort, Living in Oz, which included the hits "Human Touch" and "Affair of the Heart," was favorably received as well.
Not forgetting his acting career, though, Springfield made his 1984 big-screen debut in Hard to Hold. The film portrayed a rock star, played by Springfield, who survives an automobile accident and falls in love with a children's counselor. The woman, in turn, is torn between returning the musician's love and rejecting him because of his excessive lifestyle. Critics gave Springfield lukewarm acceptance at best; the romantic tale did relatively well at the box office, however, many female fans perhaps drawn by the promise of seeing Springfield's naked buttocks for a fleeting moment as his character loses his towel in one scene.
Despite his successes, which counted fans from many age groups, Springfield continued to be most popular with young girls--a curse that had always undermined his credibility with music critics. Perhaps to combat the teen idol image, he released a more ambitious album in 1985. But Tao was dismissed by Rolling Stone' s Wild as "an overwrought, misguided bid for respectability." Voicing similar concerns, Stereo Review contributor Steve Simels explained what he viewed as "production overkill" by suggesting that Springfield may have had "lingering suspicions that he's a pretty face rather than a musician." Still, Simel did note that "when he's dealing with relationships, Springfield is capable of writing with a fair amount of verbal facility and genuine feeling." Springfield's 1988 album, Rock of Life, fared much better with critics; Wild praised the cut "Honeymoon in Beirut," and People reviewer Ralph Novak pointed out that "even [Springfield's] standard romantic tunes get away from romantic cliches."
Springfield continued to act, landing roles in various short-lived television series, including Nick Knight and in 1992, ABC's The Human Target. The latter was based on a DC comic book and starred Springfield as Christopher Chance, the "target"--a hero who aids crime victims by physically assuming the identity of whomever he's helping. Chance's sidekicks are a special-effects expert, a research assistant, and a chauffeur/bodyguard; all travel in Chance's rocket ship. Said Entertainment Weekly' s Ken Tucker of the program, "If I were a kid, I guess I'd like all the nifty disguises, but to a grown-up, The Human Target seems campy in a dumb way, with stilted dialogue and stiff action scenes." Tucker gave the show a C-. People also coughed up a C-, complaining about the "truly dopey" dialogue, and exclaiming, "The summer wouldn't be complete without one really ludicrous, entirely implausible action series. Here it is!"
Objections to The Human Target seemed geared mostly toward the program itself, rather than Springfield's acting ability. In fact, Springfield has also found occasion to appear in made-for-television movies--a venue in which he has garnered a modicum of respect. For example, in 1990 he had a hefty part in the USA network's Dead Reckoning, which focused on a love triangle. David Hiltbrand commented in People that "all hands turn in good performances--particularly Springfield as the snake in the saw grass." Of particular interest has been Springfield's choice of characters; he's played good guys, bad guys, and even the in-between, as in Lifetime's Silent Motive, which cast him, in the words of New York' s John Leonard, as "a hairy nut."
As for Springfield's music career, he has never indicated that his recording hiatus is permanent. Given his versatile talent, Springfield is bound to please his fans wherever and whenever he pops up; for them, the adoration is truly an "Affair of the Heart."
by Elizabeth Wenning and Lorna Mabunda
Rick Springfield's Career
Singer, songwriter, actor. Joined group Jordy Boys, c. 1964; performed with 1950s revival group Rock House; member of band Zoot, c. 1971; solo recording artist, 1971--, signed with Capitol Records, 1972. Actor in television programs, including Battlestar Galactica, The Rockford Files, The Six-Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, Nick Knight, General Hospital, and The Human Touch; actor in films, including Hard to Hold, 1984, and made-for-cable productions Dead Reckoning, USA, 1990, and Silent Motive, Lifetime, 1992.
Rick Springfield's Awards
Grammy Award for best male rock vocal performance, 1981.
- Selective Works
- Beginnings (includes "Speak to the Sky"), Capitol, 1972.
- Comic Book Heroes Columbia, 1973.
- Wait for the Night Chelsea, 1976.
- Working Class Dog (includes "Jessie's Girl" and "I've Done Everything for You"), RCA, 1981.
- Success Hasn't Spoiled Me Yet (includes "Don't Talk to Strangers"), RCA, 1982.
- Living in Oz (includes "Human Touch" and "Affair of the Heart"), RCA, 1983.
- Hard to Hold RCA, 1984.
- Tao RCA, 1985.
- Rock of Life (includes "Honeymoon in Beirut"), RCA, 1988.
- Rick Springfield's Greatest Hits RCA, 1989.
October 2005: Springfield rejoined the cast of ABC's General Hospital, for a minimum of four appearances. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, October 19, 2005.
- Stambler, Irwin, Encyclopedia of Pop, Rock, and Soul, St.
- Martin's, 1989.
- Periodicals Chicago Tribune, July 26, 1985; March 20, 1988.
- Dance Magazine, May 1986.
- Entertainment Weekly, July 17, 1992.
- High Fidelity, May 1988.
- Los Angeles Times, May 19, 1985; November 25, 1985; July 20, 1992.
- New York, October 21, 1991.
- People, August 17, 1981; March 21, 1988; May 28, 1990; May 18, 1992; July 20, 1992.
- Rolling Stone, May 5, 1988.
- Seventeen, April 1982.
- Stereo Review, September 1985; July 1988.
- Variety, August 30, 1984; August 7, 1985; May 23, 1990; July 20, 1992.