David Essex is an English singer-songwriter, musician, and actor. Although largely unknown in the United States, Essex has attained a pop star status in his native country, especially during the 1970s. His first record was on the Fontana label, titled “And The Tears Came Tunblin’ Dow” in 1963. Ten years later, his self-penned single “Rock On” was a global hit, reaching the US Hot 100 in 1973, Essex’s only US Top 10 single. Most of the hits occurred at home: “Lamplight,” “America,” “Gonna Make You A Star,” “Stardust,” “Rolling Stone,” “Hold Me Close,” “If I Could,” “City Lights,” “Coming Home,” “Cool Out Tonight,” “Oh What A Circus” (a recorded version of one of the songs in the play Evita, where Essex also appeared), “Imperial Wizard,” “Silver Dream Machine,” “Me and My Girl (Night-Clubbing),” “A Winter’s Tale” and “Tahiti” and other minor hits. Essex is also an actor, having appeared on films, television and musicals.
From football to music
Singer-songwriter, musician and actor David Essex was born David Albert Cook in Plaistow, London E13 on July 23, 1947. Music may have run in the family, as his mother was a self-taught pianist.
Aside from music, football (or soccer to Americans) was also the young David’s other passion. He had played junior-level football leagues for a while and dreamed to be a pro football player someday. But somehow, music slowly overtook his earlier football dreams. He first played drums in a local band and then became a singer. During his teens, David Albert Cook moved to Essex, which may explain for his stage name.
Experiencing tough times
David Essex cut his first record “And the Tears Came Tumblin’ Down” on Fontana imprint. He also toured with a band named David Essex and the Moon Indigo and recorded a handful of 7″ singles (that eventually flopped) and a couple of unreleased acetates during the 1960s.
Seeing that his music career was going nowhere, Essex decided to try his hand at acting. Besides, by then he was married and expecting a family, so he had to eke out a living by driving trucks and cleaning windows in between acting appearances. His first most notable role was in a stage musical Godspell in 1971. He also acted in bit film roles. A couple of years later, Essex played the lead role in That’ll Be the Day.
Essex’s huge transatlantic hit “Rock On”
Essex recorded and released a single he himself wrote, “Rock On.” At last, after a series of flop singles, he finally had a hit — and a big international one at that. “Rock On” became a #3 hit on the UK singles chart, and also peaked at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973. “Rock On” would be his first and only US Top 10 hit (or Top 40 hit). It sold over a million copies and was given a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
A pop icon in Britain
Although Americans would only recognize David Essex through “Rock On,” or the movie That’ll Be the Day, back home Essex came to be revered as a pop icon. His good looks never hurt as well, that’s why most of his fan base consisted of teenage girls. It is being said that his tours in the UK created hysteric scenes similar to Beatlemania. Most of Essex’s biggest hits occured in his native land throughout the 1970s and the 1980s. “Lamplight” (#71 US, #7 UK), “Gonna Make You a Star” (#105 US, #1 UK). “Stardust” (#7 UK), “Rolling Stone” (#5 UK), “Hold Me Close” (#1 UK), “Oh, What a Circus” (#3 UK), “Silver Dream Machine” (#4 UK), “A Winter’s Tale” (#2 UK), “Tahiti” (#8 UK) and other minor singles that charted in the UK. You could say that Essex is pretty much a pop music institution in his homeland.
Essex continued on stage career, mostly on musicals. He went on to appear productions of Tommy (1973),The War of the Worlds (1973), Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Evita (1973). He also appeared in a few more films including Silver Dream Racer (where the his hit song “Silver Dream Machine” was the soundtrack). He also entered television acting, and his credits include the sitcom The Riverand the drama Heartbeat. He also appeared on the popular drama The EastEnders in 2011.
In 1999 Essex receied an OBE (Order of the British Empire) mostly for being an ambassador of Voluntary Service Overseas for six years. He continues to tour regularly as well as do acting in films and television and on stage.