This is the 14th post in a biweekly series. Read about the series — and just what we mean by “freestyle music” — here. Freestyle Fridays post on the first and third Fridays of each month.
In the mid-1980s, Philadelphia-born Bob Rosenberg found himself deep in the Miami music scene. He worked at Miami’s WHQT as a radio-mix DJ, gained some local popularity, and set his sights on creating original music under the name Will to Power, in a nod to Nietzsche. He met singer-songwriter Suzi Carr at a Miami music seminar, and they soon started to collaborate. Their first single, “Dreamin” — which would later appear on Will to Power’s debut album — got picked up by Epic Records for national distribution; it peaked at Number 1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales in the late summer of 1987, and hit Number 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. The next spring, Will to Power released follow-up single “Say It’s Gonna Rain,” which hit #1 on the US dance chart.
Will to Power’s self-titled debut album was released on Epic Records in March 1988. Along with “Dreamin’“ and “Say It’s Gonna Rain”, the album contained “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird Medley (Free Baby),” which combined two popular 1970s songs by Peter Frampton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, respectively. This medley became Will to Power’s biggest hit, spending a week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in December 1988.
As with Information Society, I was initially surprised to find that Will to Power is widely considered to be a freestyle group. I was only familiar with their Frampton/Skynyrd medley, but listening to all their other songs makes their freestyle roots abundantly clear. I think now that their hugely successful medley was just another example of freestyle band finding its biggest success(es) in ballads rather than the freestyle dance songs they put out more regularly. (See Debbie Gibson and Martika for more dramatic and well-known examples of this phenomenon.)
It’s super-cheesy, but I always rather loved “Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird.” It was inescapable in late 1988/early 1989, which was for me a time fraught with anxious uncertainty as I headed into my final semester of college. The medley of two cover songs was nostalgic by definition and by design, and I easily fell under its comforting spell. I also loved the aesthetics of the video: Rosenberg’s pumped-up pecs, tight jeans, and 70s ‘stache certainly made an impression, as did Carr’s white, bejeweled bodice, skin-tight pantssuit, and slinky emoting on that dock. The whole video feels like the opening scenes of a soft-core Skinemax feature – in a good way.
I’m not too impressed with Will to Power’s freestyle songs, except for “Fading Away” (Number 2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Singles Sales chart, and Number 1 on Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart). I really dig the chorus — and there’s still plenty of Rosenberg and Carr’s somewhat sleazy appeal.
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