‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ singer Rick Astley reinvents and returns

April 17, 2018

‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ singer Rick Astley reinvents and returns

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The man who was “Never Gonna Give You Up″ gave it up at 27.

Rick Astley became a rich man in 1987 when the dance hit rose to No. 1 worldwide. He pushed through for a while, but finally had enough. Let’s just say he was always healthy, then became wealthy and eventually wise.

Ben Franklin would be proud.

“I think it just burns you out,″ said Astley, who revived his career 10 years ago and will be at the House of Blues on Sunday, April 22. “If you’re in pop music, unless you’re Madonna, you don’t get too many years.

“I just felt it was time to quit [because] I wasn’t loving it anymore,″ said Astley in a call to his home outside London.

So he hung it up to become a fulltime dad to his only child, daughter Emilie, who was born in 1992.

“We’ve only got one child, and that put things in perspective,″ he said. “Truthfully, if you want to stay in that pop song world, you’ve got to tie into everything and give it all your time, all your everything.

“Best to walk away gracefully,″ he said.

The music business is, for all its glitz and glamor, a potentially ugly business, and he recognized that, Astley said.

“On the one side, it’s absolutely incredible,″ Astley said, insisting that he wasn’t “moaning.″

“I didn’t do it for that reason,″ he said. “I wasn’t going insane. I just had enough of it.″

Then there’s his fear of flying, necessary especially in the United Kingdom and Europe, more than in the United States, where you can just hop aboard a tour bus and go all over the country.

That fear of flying is one reason he underwent a bit of therapy, but it was more in an effort essentially to see the world as it really is, not as it’s presented when you’re a “star.″

“Nothing is real,″ he said. “It’s really hard to do anything in an everyday normal way when one part of your life is a box of fireworks going off in your head,″ Astley said of his time in therapy. “I was one of those crazy kids that became very wealthy in my very early 20s, but saw a lot of the world in a very unrealistic way.″

So he essentially dropped out of the public world . . . but not out of music. “Never Gonna Give You Up,″ obviously his biggest hit, was written by someone else. “I just sang it,″ is how he put it.

So Astley, who was always a songwriter himself even before the single, put together a nice home studio and went about learning the art from all sides.

“It’s different being a pop singer and being an artist,″ Astley said. “I’m not being derogatory to myself or anybody in that position. Elvis [Presley], I don’t think he wrote a song. Go back to [Frank] Sinatra, I don’t think HE wrote a song.″

In the end, it was what was supposed to be a one-off gig in Japan that got him back into business.

“To be honest, my wife and daughter press-ganged me to going to Japan,″ he said. “I had lots of offers to come back and sing the old hits, but I didn’t feel like I wanted to do it.″

So, when the Japan opportunity surfaced, he turned it down . . . until wife Lene Bausager and daughter Emilie started to work their magic, saying they wanted to go to the country, and this was a nice way to get someone else to pay for it.

“I walked out on that stage and said, ‘Welcome to the biggest karaoke bar in Tokyo tonight,’ ″ he said.

Astley “had a conversation with myself onstage″ and realized he missed performing, so now he’s back at it. Only it’s not singing the danceable stuff of “Never Gonna Give You Up,″ although that song remains in his setlist. He’s become a soulful R&B singer, with a deeper and more “lived-in″ voice. That especially shows in his latest album, “50,″ which celebrates – natch – his own turning 50.

“I’m not one of those musicians who can jump on a piano or keyboard and start playing in a dark room,″ he said. “I think because of that, and my own limitations, my songs are simple, and dare I say gospel-inspired?″ he said.

“I’m not trying to compare writing songs and being onstage to a religious experience, but there are songs I cried while writing them,″ he said. “They mean more because I’ve had years on the planet.″

And yet, he refuses to dismiss his old hits.

“A record label wouldn’t have bothered to put out ’50′ if I hadn’t had those hits, so I can embrace that music and have fun with it,″ Astley said. ”“Wherever I am, I know it brings back some memories to people.″

Memories no one wants to give up.

Rick Astley When: 8 p.m. Sunday, April 22. Where: House of Blues Cleveland, East Fourth and Euclid Avenue. Tickets: $32 to $45, plus fees, at the box office, online at houseofblues.com/Cleveland and ticketmaster.com and by phone at 216-523-2583 and 1-800-745-3000.