Leif Garrett — one of the popular teen idols of the 1970s
Leif Garrett is an American disco, rock and pop singer and actor. His talents and good looks gained him popularity as a teen idol in the late 1970s. As an actor and television personality, Garrett’s notable appearances include Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Walking Tall installments, Family (TV series), Three For The Road(CBS), and others. In terms of his recording career, Garrett had a comparatively slow start, with his 1976 self-titled debut album (released on Atlantic) not making much noise. But a move to Scotti Brothers Records and his sophomore effort Feel The Need yielded the Top 10 pop single, the disco track “I Was Made For Dancin’”. However, following singles (as well as three albums successively released between 1979-1981) failed to spark further attention, and Garrett made a return to acting, but made a comeback to singing and recording in the 1990s.
Garrett has also been known to attract publicity because of his legal and drugs-related cases, having been arrested many times mostly on grounds of illegal drug possession. His drugs abuse and encounters with police still remain a problem, with his latest arrest occurring in 2010. Nevertheless, his career (particularly his singing career) has been very much active since his 1990s comeback, having released his latest album Three Sides Of… in 2007 as well as toured in the US and internationally.
Early life and acting career
Leif Garrett was born Leif Per Nervik in Hollywood, California on November 8, 1961. Showbusiness seemed to run in the blood. His younger sister Dawn Lyn is an actress who attained fame as a child star, through especially her role in the sitcom My Three Sons. His other sister Debralee Scott is also an actress.
Growing up and being raised in such an environment like Hollywood, it was a little wonder that Garrett was exposed to showbusiness early in life, just like his sisters. It helped that the blond-haired boy had attractive good looks that he managed to land on small acting parts. He and sister Dawn Lyn were cast in the horror filmDevil Times Five, and also appeared together in a few television series such asGunsmoke and Wonder Woman. He also had a recurring role on the TV seriesFamily as Kristy McNichol’s on-screen boyfriend (the two dated in real life).
He got the part of his stage name when he received an incorrectly-addressed mail with the name of “Leif Garrett.” He and his mother thought it was a good name and so it stuck.
As he matured, Garrett got more roles in big movies such as Walking Tall and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice as well as television shows such as CHiPS and the The Odd Couple. By 1976 he had begun to enter singing career as well. He signed his first recording contract with Atlantic Records and recorded his self-titled debut album, which was released in 1977.
Leif Garrett LP consised mostly covers and yielded modest hits, including two Top 20 singles “Surfin’ USA” (#20 pop) and “Runaround Sue” (#13 pop, #48 adult contemporary). The album itself landed at its peak position of #37 on the Billboard 200. The hits magnified Garrett’s popularity and boyish charm. The teen idol was frequently featured in magazines such as Teen Beat and Tiger Beat, as well as posters bedecking almost every a young girl’s bedroom.
Peak of success and popularity with the disco hit “I Was Made for Dancin'”
His second album Feel The Need was released in 1978. One of the album’s tracks, the disco single “I Was Made for Dancin’,” went all the way to #10 on the Hot 100. It charted even higher in the UK at #4. Other singles on the album such as “When I Think of You” and the title track didn’t quite match the success of its first single. As a result Feel The Need peaked at no higher than #34 on the Billboard 200. Despite these singles failing to crack in the higher rungs of the charts, Garrett continued to record.
The young idol was at the peak of his success and popularity. But behind the smiling, charming demeanor, his life had already been rigged by drugs and alcohol. In November 1979, five days just before turning 18, Garrett’s fall began when he was hit by a car crash. He was behind the wheel (obviously under the influence), and his best buddy Roland Winkler was in the passenger’s seat. The crash left Winkler a paraplegic for the rest of his life. Shaken with guilt as well as a negligence lawsuit filed by Winkler’s family, the devastated Garrett led himself to destruction. Needless to say, his career was also derailed by the tragic event, as well as more substance and alcohol abuse.
Trying to move on
Despite this, Garrett tried to move on. He left Atlantic and moved to Scotti Brothers label, releasing three more albums Same Goes For You (1979), Can’t Explain(1980) and My Movie of You (1981). In the 1980s he returned to acting, appearing in the movies The Outsiders, Shaker Run, Thunder Alley, Delta Fever andCheerleader Camp.
In the 1990s he also resumed his singing career, and the year 1998 witnessed the release of his greatest hits compilation The Leif Garrett Collection. He also formed his own band Godspeed, but it proved to be short-lived. In 2003 he released another album F8 (“fate”) and four years later he came out with his last studio album to date Three Sides of…
However, Garrett received much more publicity later in his life — but it was mostly negative publicity. He frequently made news about his brushes with the law. Garrett’s latest arrest was in early 2010, where he was again held by police for possession of narcotics. He ended up in (yet another) rehabilitation program, trying to kick his long-term habit.
He has also appeared on mostly reality television shows, the recent ones includingTy Murray’s Celebrity Bull Riding Challenge, The Smoking Gun Presents: World’s Dumbest..., and Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Despite his own personal and legal problems Garrett continued to extend his talents to other artists. His latest musical project was a 2010-2012 collaboration with punk singer-songwriter Craig Else. Together they released digital-only singles “Everything,” Help You, Make You” as well as a Neil Young cover “Old Man.”