This wee Scottish siren took the radio airwaves by storm – and all because of she wanted to be in The Big Time.
Born Sheena Shirley Orr, the young Scot was inspired by seeing Barbra Streisand in The Way We Were to become a singer.
She won a scholarship to the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama where she studied for three years, while at night performed with band Something Else in the Glasgow club scene. In 1979 she married Sandy Easton who she divorced eight months later, but kept the surname.
In 1980, the BBC was launching a new series called The Big Time, which wanted to chronicle the rise of an unknown to become a pop star. Sheena Easton became the subject and for the next year was documented as she worked to become a pop star, was signed by EMI Records and worked on her first single, Modern Girl.
The single did ok, but it was her second single 9 to 5 which captured attention, went to number three on the UK single charts and earning her a string of best new vocalist awards. Modern Girl was re-released, hit the top 10, and earned Easton two songs in the top 10 simultaneously. In the US and Canada 9 to 5 was released as Morning Train (9 to 5) to not cause confusion with Dolly Parton’s hit single Nine to Five. It earned Easton a top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary Charts.
In 1981, Easton was asked to sing the title track of the new James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only. The single soared to the top of the charts, earning Easton a nomination for Best Original Song at the 1982 Academy Awards and winning Best New Artist at the Grammys for 1981.
The next few years were hot ones for Easton with duet and collaborations with country star Kenny Rogers and Mexican singer Luis Miguel, as well as releasing her next single Telefone, from her album Best Kept Secret. Next she teamed up with Prince on several songs, including the top 10 hit Strut. Her follow up single Sugar Walls (also a collaboration with Prince) was banned by several radio stations because of the explicit lyrics, hit the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 and was named one of the Filthy Fifteen songs by Tipper Gore’s Parents Music Resource Council.
In the late 1980s, Easton kept making albums, but ran into problems when EMI was merged into EMI/Manhattan and her album No Sound but a Heart was delayed in distribution. Easton had several of her songs covered by other artists including Celine Dion, Pia Zadora, Yuri, Patti Labelle and Crystal Gayle.
Easton worked again with Prince in 1987, with the hot single U Got the Look, focused her efforts on the R&B and Dance and signed with MCA Records. The album and single The Lover in Me, brought Easton back to the top of the US charts with the album featuring collaborations with Prince, Babyface and Jellybean Benitez.
Meanwhile, Easton also became an actress – with a role 1980s series Miami Vice as a witness to be protected by Don Johnson’s character Sonny Crockett. Her single episode became a five episode story-arc, with the character gaining acclaim from viewers and Crockett’s heart as the two characters married.
Easton was a definite favourite for the dances at my highschool – especially her songs by Prince, which always seemed very naughty and we always felt we were sneaking them into rotation despite the approval of the playlist by the teachers.
Easton may have started out as a TV pop idol, but hard work and determination made sure she was a pop star of the 1980s from end to end.