Billy Ocean (born Leslie Sebastian Charles, 21 January 1950, Fyzabad, Trinidad) is a UK-based popular music performer who had a string of rhythm and blues-tinged international pop hits in the 1970s and 1980s. He was the top British-based R&B singer / songwriter of the 1980s. He waited seven years after scoring his first four UK top 20 hits, before accumulating an impressive run of transatlantic successes, including three U.S. number ones.
He was born in Fyzabad, Trinidad and Tobago to Grenadian parents, and moved to England with his family at the age of eight. In his teenage years, he sang regularly in London clubs. He also worked as a tailor in London's Savile Row as a teenager. He released his first single in 1972 on Spark Records as Les Charles.
By 1975 he adopted the name Billy Ocean, taking the surname from the 'Ocean Estate' where he lived in East London. The following year, 1976, was when he recorded his debut album, Billy Ocean, with its first single release, "Love Really Hurts Without You," charting at number 2 in the UK Singles Chart and number 22 in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. More hits followed, including as "L.O.D. (Love On Delivery)". He also wrote songs for other artists such as LaToya Jackson. In 1981 he hit the U.S. R&B chart with "Nights (Feel Like Getting Down)".
Ocean's period of greatest success began with Suddenly in 1984 and its main single "Caribbean Queen". The song's title and lyrics were changed for different regions, such that the song is also known as "African Queen" or "European Queen". The song won Ocean the Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance at the 1985 Grammy Awards. The album's title track also became a hit, and the song "Loverboy" from the album was the background music for the first scene of the popular UK BBC One TV series, Casualty, in 1986.
Ocean appeared at Live Aid in 1985, singing "Caribbean Queen" and "Loverboy", from the JFK Stadium, Philadelphia.
His 1986 album Love Zone also sold well. It included the hit singles "When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going" (the theme from the film The Jewel of the Nile, this was a number one hit in the UK and a number two in the U.S.; and "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)" (a U.S. number one, and also a major UK hit).
Ocean's next album, Tear Down These Walls (1988) featured another number one single, "Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car", whilst the album was certified platinum.
His later albums, such as Time to Move On, Love is For Ever (also known as L.I.F.E.) and Showdown, failed to spawn hits, but his 1989 Greatest Hits collection has been a steady seller over the years. Ocean's last studio album for Jive was Time to Move On, which he recorded in Chicago with R&B star R. Kelly. It turned out that R. Kelly had been a long-time admirer of the way Ocean was able to mix the more emotive soul style with a crossover pop vibe.
In 2002, the University of Westminster awarded Ocean an honorary doctorate of music.The awards ceremony took place in the Barbican Centre, in London.He continues to tour and record in Europe. He lives in Sunningdale, Berkshire with his wife of 27 years, Judy; and their three children Cherie, Antony and Rachel. Ocean is now a patron for Tech Music Schools in London, made up of Drumtech, Vocaltech and Guitar-X. He regularly visits to hold clinics and seminars for the students.
In October 2007, Ocean commenced his first British tour for over 15 years. In February and March 2008 he is scheduled to tour Australia and the Far East.