Christopher Joseph Isaak is an American singer-songwriter-guitarist-and-occasional-actor born on June 26, 1956. His songs “Blue Hotel,” “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” and “Somebody’s Crying” is also well-known, but “Wicked Game” was his first big hit and remains his signature tune to this day. He has a wide vocal range and is noted for his reverb-heavy rockabilly revivalist sound. Most of his songs are about love, loss, and heartache.
David Lynch is a big fan of Isaak’s music and has featured it in several of his films. He has starred in two television series and guest-starred on several others, including the sitcom The Chris Isaak Show and the talk, show The Chris Isaak Hour. His film roles include appearances in Married to the Mob, The Silence of the Lambs, Little Buddha, That Thing You Do!, and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.
Chris Isaak Early Life
Dorothy (née Vignolo; 1931-2021) and Joseph “Joe” Isaak (1929-2012), a forklift driver, gave birth to Isaak at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Stockton, California. Isaak’s mother was Italian, while his father’s family was German. Isaak went to high school in Stockton, where he graduated from Amos Alonzo Stagg in 1974. When he graduated high school in 1974, he was the valedictorian and the leader of the school’s all-male cheerleading squad and served as president of his class all three years.
After that, he started at San Joaquin Delta Community College before moving to the University of the Pacific and eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in English and communications arts in 1981. His participation in an international exchange program made it possible for him to attend university in Japan. Isaak formed his first band, Silvertone, after completing his undergraduate studies. James Calvin Wilsey (guitar), Rowland Salley (bass), and Kenney Dale Johnson (drums) were Isaak’s permanent rockabilly band.
Chris Isaak’s Career
Isaak signed with Warner Bros. Records in 1985, the same year he released his debut album, Silvertone, to widespread critical acclaim and praise from artists like John Fogerty. The band’s moniker was obtained from his original lineup after he finished university; it alludes to the famous 1950s-era Silvertone guitar line. The CD blended country blues with more traditional folk ballads for a gritty, eclectic vibe. The album was well-received by critics but underperformed commercially. David Lynch used two songs from the album, “Gone Ridin'” and “Livin’ for Your Lover,” in his 1986 film Blue Velvet.
In 1986, Isaak issued a follow-up album simply titled Isaak, which just missed the cut for the Billboard 200. Isaak’s refined R&B sound can be heard on the album. Bruce Weber, a well-known fashion photographer, shot the album cover art for Chris Isaak. In 1988, Warner Bros. transferred Isaak’s recording contract to their Reprise Records division. Isaak’s “Suspicion of Love” was featured in the famous movie Married to the Mob, starring Matthew Modine, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Dean Stockwell, the same year it was released.
“Wicked Game” is arguably Isaak’s most well-known tune. Mark Needham, an engineer who collaborated with Isaak on “Wicked Game,” stated in an interview that the song’s production spanned multiple years. An instrumental rendition of the song first appeared in the 1990 David Lynch film Wild at Heart, after its first release on the 1989 album Heart Shaped World. Lee Chesnut, the music director of an Atlanta radio station and a Lynch film fanatic, played the vocal version, and it quickly became the station’s most requested song.
Thanks to Chesnut, a word about the song spread to other radio stations, and by February 1991, the record had reached the sixth spot on the Billboard Hot 100. On the UK Singles Chart, it peaked at position #10. The song’s music video, directed by Herb Ritts and starring supermodel Helena Christensen, was a huge smash on MTV and VH1. The entire thing was shot in black and white, and it depicted a passionate rendezvous between the two of them on a beach, complete with caresses and whispers.
David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart”-inspired version of “Wicked Game” is another lesser-known interpretation of the song. TV commercial airing in the United Kingdom for the Jaguar X-Type in 2001 included the song “Wicked Game” as the commercial’s background music.
Chris Isaak Illness
To rest and get better from illness (pneumonia), Chris Isaak has canceled the rest of his 2016 tour dates. The 60-year-old musician sent a message on Monday assuring his followers that he was doing well and would be performing again before the beginning of the new year. Saying, “I’m a pretty healthy, clean-living rock and roller,” he explained his lifestyle choices. “As a rule, I never have to cancel a performance, but I’m finally feeling better and can’t wait to return to my band as soon as possible.
I appreciate all the well wishes in advance from my followers.” Through 2016, Isaak had 17 scheduled performances in cities like Boston, Washington, DC, Salt Lake City, and Los Angeles. Exchanges for tickets can be made at the point of sale. This past year marked the anniversary of the release of First Comes to the Night, Isaak’s most recent album for Vanguard Records.
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