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‘Escape (The Piña Colada Song)’: Rupert Holmes Ushers In The 1980s

In December 1979, after a decade of paying dues and recording several solo albums, Holmes hit No. 1 in the US with a piece of pop escapism.

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Escape Rupert Holmes

One of the most talented songwriters to emerge in America in the 1970s was enjoying a real moment in the sun as the decade ended. Rupert Holmes was born David Goldstein in Northwich, Cheshire, but moved with his parents to New York state when he was six. On December 22, 1979, after a decade of playing sessions, paying dues and recording several solo albums, he hit No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Escape (The Piña Colada Song).”

That moment of glory came almost exactly ten years after Holmes had his first chart action as a member of Street People, whose Musicor single “Jennifer Tomkins” edged into the Top 40 at No.36 in early 1970. There was US and international success the next year as a writer when his song “Timothy” was a Top 20 hit on the Hot 100 for the Buoys. Holmes’ material was covered by many other artists, and he augmented that income as a pop jingle composer.

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Turntable success

His first solo album Widescreen followed in 1974 and included a notable single called “Our National Pastime,” which won airplay but didn’t sell as well as it deserved. Rupert didn’t see his own name on either of the main Billboard charts until “Let’s Get Crazy Tonight” became a small hit in 1978. Then came the album Partners In Crime, introduced by a tale of romantic encounter that quickly hit a nerve with the American public.

“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” made the US singles chart on October 20 and climbed steadily until it became America’s final No.1 of the 1970s. It was a Top 10 hit in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, No.1 in Canada and Top 30 in the UK, all of which attention helped Partners In Crime to go gold in the States. The album then produced another Top 10 hit with the follow-up “Him” and a lesser Top 40 hit in “Answering Machine.”

Holmes never saw that level of chart success again, but his career expanded in multiple directions, and he has gone on to be a hugely successful writer of show tunes, a playwright, television writer, novelist and more besides. At the same time, “Escape” has proved its timelessness by being featured in a series of major movie soundtracks, including Mars Attacks!, Shrek and the superhero blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy.

“Escape (The Piña Colada Song)” is on Escape…The Best of Rupert Holmes, which can be bought here.

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