Belinda Jo Carlisle (born August 17, 1958) is an American singer who gained worldwide fame as the lead vocalist of the Go-Go's, one of the most successful all-female bands of all time and the first such group whose members wrote their own songs and played their own instruments. Topping the Billboard charts with the Go-Go's, she sold more than seven million albums in just three years and later went on to a successful solo career with hits "Mad About You", "Summer Rain", "I Get Weak", "Circle in the Sand", "Leave a Light On" and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" among others, which were major successes in the United States and United Kingdom as well as internationally. Her autobiography, Lips Unsealed, published in June 2010, reached No. 27 on the The New York Times Best Seller list and received favorable reviews. On August 11, 2011, she received, as a member of the Go-Go's, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Belinda Carlisle was born in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles to Harold, a travelling salesman (he sold vacuum cleaners) and his wife Joanne, who raised the children at home. The first of seven siblings, with three brothers and three sisters, she was five years old when her father abandoned the family and upon her mother's second marriage, did not have a close relationship with her stepfather, Duke Kurczeski. Growing up in Ventura County's Thousand Oaks, a part of the Greater Los Angeles Area, she was a cheerleader at Newbury Park High School and, at the age of 19, left home.
Carlisle live with The Go-Go's in 2008
Carlisle's first venture into music was a brief stint as drummer for the punk band The Germs, under the name Dottie Danger. Around this time Carlisle did some back-up singing for the Black Randy and the Metrosquad. Soon after leaving The Germs, she co-founded The Go-Gos (originally named The Misfits), with friends and fellow musicians Margot Olaverria, Elissa Bello, and Jane Wiedlin. Olaverria and Bello were soon out of the group and the new line-up included bassist-turned-guitarist Charlotte Caffey, guitarist-turned-bassist Kathy Valentine, and drummer Gina Schock. The Go-Go's became one of the most successful American bands of the 1980s, helping usher New Wave music into popular American radio, and becoming the first all-female band, who wrote their own music and played their own instruments, to ever achieve a #1 album. The Go-Gos recorded two more studio albums on I.R.S. Records, including 1982 Vacation, which went gold. "Head over Heels", from their 1984 album Talk Show, made it to #11, but they never repeated the success of their 1981 multi-platinum debut, Beauty and the Beat, which featured the hits "We Got the Beat" and "Our Lips Are Sealed".
In 1984, Carlisle made a foray into acting in the movie Swing Shift starring Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and performed backing vocals for the Don Henley recording of "She's on the Zoom" from the Vision Quest soundtrack.
The Go-Go's disbanded in 1985 and Carlisle embarked on a solo career, although she continued to work with fellow Go-Go Charlotte Caffey.
Carlisle's first solo album Belinda was released in 1986, also on I.R.S. Records. This album was successful in North America and was certified Gold in the US and Platinum in Canada. Her summer hit "Mad About You" peaked at No. 3 in the US, topped the Canadian Singles Chart, and charted in the top 10 in Australia. "Mad About You" was followed by the Motown-influenced single "I Feel the Magic", and by a cover version of the Freda Payne song "Band of Gold". All three songs were included on her debut album. The single "Since You've Gone", co-written by Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac, was used only for promotion. Susanna Hoffs co-wrote the single "I Need a Disguise". Duran Duran's Andy Taylor played guitar on some album tracks and appeared in her "Mad About You" video clip.
During this time, Carlisle also had songs featured on movie soundtracks, notably "In My Wildest Dreams" from the movie Mannequin "Shot in the Dark" from the Anthony Michael Hall thriller, Out of Bounds, as well as "Dancing in the City" from the Whoopi Goldberg movie Burglar.
1987–1989: Heaven on Earth
Carlisle changed again her hairstyle significantly for her second solo album, giving up her California Girl blonde bob for a long auburn style for 1987's Heaven on Earth. The musical style eschewed the 1960s-influenced pop of Carlisle's first album in favor of slickly produced 1980s power-pop, and was released in the United States through MCA, and in the United Kingdom through Virgin. The album became a Top 5 bestseller in the UK and Australia, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. The album's producer, Rick Nowels, previously worked with Stevie Nicks, and would later collaborate with Kim Wilde, Jennifer Rush and Madonna. Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and The Papas, Chynna Phillips and Carnie Wilson sang backup for the album. Thomas Dolby played the keyboards on some album tracks.
The first release from Heaven on Earth was "Heaven Is a Place on Earth", which topped the single charts, not only in the US, but also in the UK and in several other countries (the dance mix of the song also topped the dance chart). The radio-ready song was further propelled by a video, directed by Academy Award-winning American actress Diane Keaton. The second single from the album was the Diane Warren-penned "I Get Weak", which peaked at #2 in the US and #10 in the UK. The third single from the album was "Circle in the Sand", another Top 10 hit in the US, the UK, and Germany. "World Without You" was another British hit, followed by 1988 low-charting ballad "Love Never Dies", making this her fifth single from the album in the UK. In the US, the fourth and last single, "I Feel Free", a cover of the Cream classic, failed to reach the Top 40.
After the release of the Heaven on Earth album, Carlisle embarked on the 'Good Heavens' world tour during which she sold out Wembley Arena in London.
In 2009, a remastered edition of the album was released with extra tracks, remixes, and a bonus DVD containing a complete live concert from 1988 (available for the first time on DVD).
1989–1991: Runaway Horses
Carlisle's follow-up to the success of Heaven on Earth was Runaway Horses, released on October 23, 1989. The album hit the Top 5 in both Australia and the UK, certified double platinum in Australia and platinum in the UK and in Canada, but failed to reach similar success in the US The first release, "Leave a Light On", peaked at #11 in the US, and became another Top 5 smash in the UK, Australia and Canada. The song features a slide guitar solo by George Harrison; he also played on the song Deep Deep Ocean. The second US single, "Summer Rain", reached #30 in early 1990. The song, which Carlisle noted was the most difficult song she had ever sung up to that point, peaked successfully at #6 in Australia, where it has maintained popularity, and the tune saw a cover version, in 2004, by the Australian group Slinkee Minx. It was the final release from Runaway Horses in the UK where it was released as the album's sixth single in December 1990, peaking at #23 in January 1991. Whereas in the US Carlisle's success was decreasing, her popularity remained big in Europe and Australia. In 1990, further singles from the Runaway Horses album were successful as well: the title track, the summer mood influenced "La Luna", a Top 10 in Switzerland and top 20 hit in Germany and Australia, and "(We Want) The Same Thing", remixed from a country-styled release into a massive Pop hit, reaching #6 in the UK. Bryan Adams contributed backup vocals for the track "Whatever It Takes".
In the late autumn of 1990, the Go-Go's reunited for a tour to support their first best-of album, Greatest, including a new recording of the cover song "Cool Jerk" (Go-Go's original cover was featured on their 1980 European EP, with a second version being released in 1982). A notable feature of the tour was an anti-fur campaign, where the band members supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or PETA, an animal rights organization. That same year, Carlisle joined with The Smithereens lead singer Pat Dinizio on his group's ballad "Blue Period" and also performed backing vocals on Then Jerico's album The Big Area on the track "What Does It Take?".
1991–1992: Live Your Life Be Free
In 1991, Carlisle released her fourth solo album, Live Your Life Be Free. The album marked somewhat of a return to 1960s-influenced music for Carlisle and included songs mainly written and produced by Rick Nowels but also two songs co-written by Carlisle. The single "Do You Feel Like I Feel?" was accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek video, inspired by the B-movie Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. The title track, "Live Your Life Be Free", released as first single outside the US, was a Top 20 hit single in many countries reaching number 12 in the UK and #13 in Australia. Subsequent releases "Half the World" and "Little Black Book" (co-written by Marcella Detroit of the Shakespears Sister under her real name Marcy Levy) were also hits outside the US, and although Live Your Life Be Free as an album flopped in the US, it was a success in Europe (Top 10 in the UK and Gold certification). To date, "Do You Feel Like I Feel?" is Carlisle's final single to enter in the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at #73.
1992: The Best of Belinda, Volume 1
Still active in Europe and Australia with a record contract at Virgin Records, her 1992 greatest hits album The Best of Belinda, Volume 1 reached #1, and was certified double platinum in the UK and platinum in Australia. This first greatest hits album included all the hits taken from the Heaven on Earth, Runaway Horses, and Live Your Life Be Free albums. It neglected the ballad "Love Never Dies", and the three I.R.S. singles from her first album Belinda, as this only received a limited UK release and produced no hit singles there. Also, no movie-soundtrack songs appear on the collection. The US version of the album was named Her Greatest Hits and also included songs from the first album Belinda.
Carlisle's fifth solo album, Real, was released in 1993 on the Virgin label in the US and in Europe. Produced without Nowels, the disc was a departure from Carlisle's polished pop music formula. Even the album's cover photograph featured her with little or no make-up. Carlisle co-produced and co-wrote much of the disc, collaborating heavily with friend and ex-Go-Go Charlotte Caffey. The album was Carlisle's fifth consecutive to reach the UK Top 10 peaking at number #9. Real peaked also at number #23 in Sweden. Its first single, "Big Scary Animal", peaked at #12 in the UK. The second single from Real was "Lay Down Your Arms", which made the Top 30 in the UK. Gregg Alexander of the New Radicals co-wrote the single "Here Comes My Baby".
At this time, Carlisle also recorded "One by One", on the soundtrack for the 1993 movie The Harvest and sang on The Lemonheads' Come On Feel The Lemonheads album on the track "I'll Do It Anyway".
After the 1994 Northridge earthquake, Carlisle and her family moved to Europe. The Go-Gos reunited again later that year to support the retrospective double-CD Return to the Valley of The Go-Go's, their second collection, which featured three new songs, including the single "The Whole World Lost Its Head". However, the band broke up again, soon after the promotional tour. Carlisle has since lived in France and England.
1996–1997: A Woman and a Man
Carlisle returned to the recording studio, and resumed working again with Rick Nowels. In 1996 she released in the UK and Australia her sixth solo album, A Woman and a Man, on the Chrysalis Records label. This album, consisting of mostly relaxed adult pop, revitalized her solo career in Europe, and included several hits. The leadoff single, "In Too Deep", returned Carlisle to the UK Top 10, for the first time in six years, reaching #6. "Always Breaking My Heart", written and produced by Roxette's Per Gessle, also made the UK Top 10, peaking at #8. The album spawned two more smaller hits in UK: "Love in the Key of C", and "California", which featured arrangement and back-up vocals by Brian Wilson. The album reached #12 in the UK, and was certified gold. As a result of A Woman and A Man's UK success, the album was released in the US during the summer of 1997 on the small Ark21 label. Despite the recent successful comeback in Europe, and the promotional appearances Carlisle made on American television and radio, the album did not enjoy similar success in North America selling only 17,000 copies.
In 1996, Carlisle recorded "I Wouldn't Be Here (If I Didn't Love You)" for the Two If by Sea official movie soundtrack. In 1997, she recorded "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" from Walt Disney Animation Studios's Hercules as part of that movie's standard distribution in Europe, and was released as a single exclusively in France and Germany. Neither of these tracks has been released on compilation albums.
1999–2000: A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits
In 1999, Carlisle released a greatest hits album in the UK, a double-disc on the Virgin label, collectively entitled A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits. Carlisle recorded three new tracks for the album's first disc, properly called The Greatest Hits, including the single "All God's Children", and the songs "A Prayer for Everyone" and "Feels Like I've Known You Forever". The second disc of the album entitled A Place on Earth, contained previously released remixes of some of her hits, plus a couple of B-sides which were previously unreleased. Some of the remixes were by William Orbit, who also worked with Madonna on her 1998 Ray of Light album. A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits was certified Gold in the UK and went on to sell an excess of one million copies worldwide.
2001: Go-Go's Reunion
In 2001, the Go-Go's reunited again and released an album of new material, God Bless The Go-Go's. Green Day's lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong co-wrote the only released single "Unforgiven". God Bless The Go-Go's received mixed reviews from critics. Rolling Stone wrote "Every bit as Go-Go's, that is, as their non-hits and less remarkable material. While the Go-Go's sound is intact, there is not a "We Got the Beat" or a "Head Over Heels" to be found. It is feasible that in this age of pop rebirth, the Go-Go's decided it was now or never". Allmusic wrote "The album doesn't attempt to update the band's sound with hip-hop moves or electronic frippery, for which God should bless 'em, indeed. The girls' hold on the current pop world remains so strong that Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong co-writes a song ("Unforgiven") in impeccable Go-Go's drag".
The album sold fewer copies than the previous Go-Go's studio albums but still managed to chart in the US Billboard 200, peaking at number #57.
Around the time of the Go-Go's definitive reunion tour, Carlisle appeared nude for the cover feature and a full pictorial of the August 2001 edition of Playboy.
In 2007, the singer released her seventh album Voila, which was her first full-length, solo studio album in more than ten years. The album was produced by John Reynolds and included Brian Eno on the keyboard. Consisting of a mix of French pop tunes and chanson standards, including covers of Françoise Hardy and Édith Piaf classics. Voila was released via Rykodisc in the UK on February 5, and in the US the following day, February 6, 2007. Carlisle was originally approached to make another pop rock album, but she declined immediately, in favor of recording this collection of songs, the style of which, she'd "absolutely fallen in love with", since moving to France in the early 1990s.
She recently toured as part of the Regeneration tour in the US, and the Here and Now tour in the UK and Ireland in 2008 and summer of 2009. The line up included Carlisle, as well as other acts such as The Human League, Bananarama, Boy George, Howard Jones, Paul Young, Naked Eyes, ABC, T'Pau, and Cutting Crew.
She took over the role of Velma Von Tussle in London's West End production of Hairspray on October 28, 2009 at the Shaftesbury Theatre. She remained with the show till late January 2010 and was replaced by Siobhan McCarthy.
Carlisle announced a Go-Go's farewell tour planned for July 2010, which was then cancelled due to a leg injury suffered by guitarist Jane Wiedlin.
Belinda Carlisle performed at Manchester Pride on August 27, 2010. This being her second appearance at this event, with the first being in 2007.
In October 2010, tickets went on sale for a concert tour of Germany in January 2011.
Carlisle played dates around Australia, commencing on February 4, 2011 in Melbourne. She appeared as part of the "Here and Now, 10th Anniversary Tour" at the Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on the 7th of April 2011. Carlisle also toured the US with The Go-Go's, including playing to a packed house at the iconic Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in August 2011. On October 10, 2011, Carlisle performed at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City, Philippines together with The Human League and Howard Jones. In February 2012
Outside of appearances on tour with The Go-Go's, Carlisle continued her string of TV appearances.
In 2004, Carlisle was the first star to be voted off the UK reality TV show Hell's Kitchen.
In 2005, Belinda appeared on both UK and USA versions of Hit Me Baby One More Time in which participants had to perform their biggest hit as well as a contemporary cover. Belinda sang Heaven is a place on Earth and Coldplay's The Scientist. She lost out in her show to Shakin' Stevens who went on to win the final.
In 2006, she appeared on the Simon Cowell-produced Celebrity Duets, a Fox network reality competition, pairing celebrities not famous for singing (like Lucy Lawless and Cheech Marin) with actual singers like Carlisle, Michael Bolton, Jon Secada, Taylor Dayne and Macy Gray. Carlisle sang "Heaven Is a Place on Earth" and "I Get Weak" with Lea Thompson on the September 7 episode.
In 2008 she appeared as a judge on the MTV reality show Rock the Cradle, a competition reality show featuring aspiring musicians who were also the children of famous musicians.
In 2009 Carlisle was on the 8th season of Dancing with the Stars, paired with Jonathan Roberts. She was the first star to be eliminated from the competition, on March 17.
In 2011 Carlisle performed on "Good Morning America", Friday June 3 in an appearance for the show's "Summer Concert Series", in New York City's Central Park.
In 1986, Carlisle married Morgan Mason, film producer and former Special Assistant to the President of the United States, as well as the son of British actor James Mason. Mason made appearances in Carlisle's videos "Mad About You" and "Heaven Is a Place on Earth". They have a son, James Duke Mason, born on April 27, 1992.
She has been reported as being "deeply into Buddhism" and chants Nam Myoho Renge Kyo daily. In an interview, printed on March 7, 2007, the singer stated that: "I was wondering about happiness and started reading a lot of books by the Dalai Lama, and slowly embraced Buddhism" (published by Newindpress, India). She told the Sydney Morning Herald: "I don't smoke any more, I don't drink any more and I don't do drugs any more. I am very much into my Buddhism. I found turning 40 a real passage in time for me."
In January 2009, it was announced that Carlisle was appointed the new spokesperson for NutriSystem.
Main article: Belinda Carlisle discography
See also: The Go-Go's discography
1987: Heaven on Earth
1989: Runaway Horses
1991: Live Your Life Be Free
1996: A Woman and a Man
1992: The Best of Belinda, Volume 1
1992: Her Greatest Hits
1999: A Place on Earth: The Greatest Hits
2002: The Collection