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Bruce Hornsby was born November 23, 1954 in Williamsburg, Virginia.A singer, virtuoso pianist, accordion player, and songwriter, Bruce Hornsby is best known for his 1980s signature song "The Way It Is", the top five hits "Mandolin Rain" and "The Valley Road", and for being an irregular member of the Grateful Dead. Later in his career, Hornbsy moved in a less commercial musical direction.
Bruce Hornsby is a distant relative of baseball great Rogers Hornsby, and in later years would sometimes perform with a bust of the player on his piano.
Bruce Hornsby formed Bruce Hornsby and the Range in 1984 and were signed to RCA Records in 1985. Besides Hornsby, Range members were David Mansfield (guitar, mandolin, violin), George Marinelli (guitars and backing vocals), Joe Puerta (bass guitar and backing vocals), and John Molo (drums).
Bruce Hornsby's recording career started with the biggest hit he would ever have, entitled "The Way It Is". With a propulsive yet contemplative piano riff and the refrain, That's just the way it is, some things will never change, the song was both catchy and reflective of the American Civil Rights movement, and it topped the American music charts in 1986. In years to come, the song would be sampled by at least six rap artists, including Tupac Shakur, E-40, and Mase. It is also used as some of the introductory music to Sean Hannity's popular talk radio program.
Bruce Hornsby obtain international fame. With the success of the single worldwide, the album The Way It Is went multi-platinum and produced another top five hit with "Mandolin Rain" (co-written, as many of Hornsby's songs were, with his brother John). "Every Little Kiss" also did respectably well. Other tracks on the album helped establish what some labeled the "Virginia sound", a mixture of rock, jazz, and bluegrass with an observational Southern feel. Hornsby and the Range would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1987.
The wave of fame continued to roll with Hornsby and the Range's second album, Scenes From The Southside (on which Peter Harris replaced Mansfield). Released in 1988, it featured such hits as "Look Out Any Window" and "The Valley Road". The song "Jacob's Ladder" was featured as well, having originally been written by Hornsby for musician friend Huey Lewis. Lewis' version became a number one hit from his album Fore!. Scenes was successful in its own right and it would also be the last to perform so well in the singles market.
Bruce Hornsby was called upon by Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead to fill the keyboard spot left open by the untimely passing of Brent Midland. In 1988, Hornsby first appeared on stage with The Grateful Dead, lending some assistance to that group's always unstable keyboards position. This collaboration would continue on an irregular basis until the Dead ended in 1995; in all he made over 100 appearances with them.
In 1989 Hornsby co-wrote and played piano on Don Henley's big hit "The End of the Innocence". In 1991 Hornsby played piano on Bonnie Raitt's popular hit "I Can't Make You Love Me". Hornsby would feature both these songs in his own concerts.
A Night On The Town was released in 1990. A change in style became apparent as the album was much more guitar driven, while the others were centered around Hornsby at the piano. After the album, the Range broke up with each member pursuing respective musical careers.
Bruce Hornsby would go on to release his first solo album, Harbor Lights, in 1993. This record showcased Hornsby in a more jazz-oriented setting and featured an all-star lineup, including Pat Metheny, Branford Marsalis, Jerry Garcia, Phil Collins, and Raitt. The tone was set by the opening title track, which after 50 seconds of expansive Virginia sound solo piano (written and recorded by Hornsby after the rest of the track was finished, because, as Hornsby would later say, he thought it would make a good opening to the album) lurches into an up-tempo jazz number, ending with Metheny's guitar runs. The album closes the same way on "Pastures of Plenty", this time with Garcia intertwined with Hornsby's piano. The mid-tempo "Fields of Gray", written for Hornsby's recently-born twin boys, received some modest radio airplay.
Bruce Hornsby was always held in high regard by critics and fans alike. Harbor Lights was well-received by critics and fans, but Hornsby acknowledged that his days of popular commercial success were behind him, saying in interviews that it had been an accident that his McCoy Tyner-influenced piano work ever found itself in the middle of a hit record in the first place.
In 1995, Hot House was released. The jazz feelings that peppered the previous album would be expanded on here, giving the album a constant uptempo party sound. As is typical with Hornsby, the underlying messages behind the catchy tunes are often very dark, such as on "Country Doctor" and "White Wheeled Limousine". Murder, nuclear disaster, adultery: these dark themes and more can be found in many Hornsby compositions. The album featured many of the same guests as on his previous record, such as Pat Metheny, and added folk music to Hornsby's usual mix. Even though Hot House and Harbor Lights were not as popular as his works with the Range, many fans viewed them as some of his most satisfying works.
Three years later, Bruce Hornsby released a double album, Spirit Trail. Featuring a decidedly goofy picture of his uncle on the cover, the collection blends instrumental tracks with the story-telling, rock, jazz, and other musical forms Hornsby had delved into over his career. Hornsby's piano playing gained further complexity here, as evidenced by his two-hand-independence on such tracks as "King of the Hill".
Bruce Hornsby next worked with several Grateful Dead reformation projects, released a live album in 2000 entitled Here Come The Noise Makers, and did extensive touring.
Bruce Hornsby would return to solo work. It would not be until 2002 when he would release another album of new material, entitled Big Swing Face. Hornsby wanted to experiment and did so by dropping the piano almost completely in favor of electric pianos and other synthesizers. "Big Swing Face" also evidences a greater reliance upon programmed loops than most of his prior work, as well as lyrics that are in many ways more eccentric and humourous. The album was not well-received by many.
However, in 2004, after 19 successful years on RCA Records, Hornsby returned to a more acoustic, piano-driven sound on his Columbia Records debut Halcyon Days. Guests included Sting.php"> Sting , Elton John, and Eric Clapton. With no signs of slowing down yet, Bruce Hornsby remains a musician more concerned with his devoted fan base and his own growth as an artist than with commercial success.
Bruce Hornsby has always loved to collaborate with other talented artists. In addition to those mentioned above, Hornsby has worked with many other artists over the years, including Squeeze, Warren Zevon, Chaka Khan, Stevie Nicks and B?la Fleck to name just a few. He continues to work with Dead-related projects, such as Bob Weir's Ratdog and The Other Ones, and in 2005 participated in a tribute concert to Jerry Garcia.
Bruce Hornsby has also taken an ownership interest in Williamsburg area radio station "The Tide", WTYD 92.3 FM, so that (he said) his music could be heard on the radio in his hometown. Accordingly, his Brunch with Bruce program, where he plays selections from his concerts, is heard on Sunday mornings.
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