Rick Astley, a small town boy from Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire, England, was one of the most successful pop sensations of the '80s. However, as a child, Astley was never musically inclined toward any instrument including his voice. Astley admits that he "was dragged into choir, like anybody else who could half sing, and into school plays," and he struggled for a short period with piano lessons. He did enjoy the drums, and began playing in garage bands when he was 15. His first band was Give Way, but it wasn't until he began drumming for a group called FBI that he went on actual gigs. In a short period of time, he began writing songs for the band, and soon after, his band mates heard him singing. He was quickly replaced on the drum kit, and put behind the mic.
When he was 21, Astley released the debut single "Never Gonna Give You Up
," which achieved worldwide success; it ranked at the top of 25 charts all over the world from Belgium to Australia including the US. He was an instant hit because of his "confident romantic baritone" voice, as described in Seventeen
magazine. His debut album, Whenever You Need Somebody
, debuted at #1 on the UK charts in 1987. He followed it up in a big way: his first eight UK singles were all Top 10 hits.
By the time Astley was 27, he was ready to retire from the music business. The tipping point occurred while on the road after he'd developed a fear of flying, which was compounded by his intense performing schedule. Astley said, "I remember the exact moment when it happened. I was in the car on the way to Heathrow airport due to fly to New York and I said, tearfully, to my manager: 'You have to stop the car. I can't do this anymore. Its killing me.' As a kid all I wanted to do was to be a pop star and I got to the point where I hated it and I almost hated myself and that had to stop." As someone who had spent his entire adult life as a rock star, the sudden change meant he had to learn to take care of himself - he had to grow up overnight.
In 2007 an Internet phenomenon was born, known as rickrolling, that involves Astley's first hit single, "Never Gonna Give You Up." This occurs when you click on a link that is expected to take you to a particular site or page, and instead end up at a video site that is playing the Astley music video. The sensation has reached millions online, and has been recreated in unique ways, such as breaking into Astley song and dance during business meetings.
While Astley typically turns down requests to perform his '80s hits, for the Here & Now Tour 2009, he made an exception. After Boy George was sent to prison for beating a male escort, Astley was asked to replace the headliner for the concert series. Happy for his change of heart, Astley later said, "I realized I quite enjoyed the gig and so I did another one and it went from there - the audience know exactly what they're going to get. It takes the pressure off because you're performing with others who have had massive hits so it's not all about you." By 2012, Astley was hosting a Radio show called "Magic" and performing live shows of his classic hits. For relaxation, he enjoys skiing and taking strolls around Richmond Park.
Rick Astley was offered the chance to sing the title track for the 1990 film Pretty Woman, starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, but he turned the opportunity down. He recalled to The Guardian: "I remember thinking, OK then, Pretty Woman, what's the script? A billionaire meets a prostitute? Nah, I thought, I'm not sure that sounds right. Totally unbelievable. Who's in it - Julia Roberts? Never bloody heard of her."
"I was in the middle of my little bubble at the time, as well. There were certain other things I also said no to, and you do look back and think, 'hmm, maybe we should have done that.'"