Somewhere in southeast Asia, there is a man who can be found strumming his guitar in the afternoons, playing acoustic tunes only for a cameraman and the occasional small crowd who happen to be present at that time. But he's unlike your average street performer.
He's a middle-aged musician who once was a teen heartthrob in his native England. Along with two schoolmates, he formed a band and recorded three U.S. top-10 hits, two of which peaked inside the top-5. At one point in time, fellow Englishman George Michael rated his voice as one of the best he's ever heard.
So who is this fallen angel of a singer? His name is David Glasper, and his voice has gone unnoticed for far too long.
Glasper first achieved fame in the late 1980s as the frontman for Breathe, a British pop band. Their debut album, All That Jazz, was released in 1988, and three singles - "Don't Tell Me Lies" (#10 in U.S.), "Hands to Heaven" (#2), and "How Can I Fall?" (#3) - thrust the young man from Wales into the spotlight practically overnight. With his smooth vocals and heartfelt emotion, Glasper was poised to have a long, prosperous career. But after the release of his band's sophomore album, Peace of Mind, in 1990, contemporary tastes soon shifted from sophisticated pop to hard-rocking grunge and rap. While two singles - "Say a Prayer" (#21) and "Does She Love That Man?" (#34) - had moderate success in the U.S., it was evident Glasper's pop appeal was drawing its final breath by the early 1990s.
For well over a decade, up until the mid 2000s, Glasper remained out of the public eye. Aside from a single songwriting credit for Clay Crosse's debut CCM album My Place Is With You in 1993, it's unknown what Glasper was up to during this time, both professionally and personally. But by 2006, he resurfaced with a MySpace account, back when MySpace was still cool. He even released a few demos of original recordings for fans to hear, as if to say he hadn't fallen off the face of the Earth just yet.
But soon he did.
Somehow, someway, Glasper went from England to Thailand, had (or brought) a family there, and removed himself from all forms of global communication. Again, when exactly he did this is unknown. But what is known, albeit vaguely, is that he began having serious personal problems in the late 2000s. Among other troubling tidbits gathered throughout the World Wide Web is that Glasper's wife passed away, and this put him into a tailspin. He fled to neighboring Laos for three years, where he struggled to cope with said problems.
Then, on May 16, 2011, the first video of Glasper in twenty years surfaced on YouTube. The five minute clip featured him singing a rough demo of a song called "Soul Confidant" outdoors and shirtless. Not exactly the most flattering way to make a comeback after such a long hiatus, but it marked one of the few signs of his existence to a global audience since his singing days with Breathe. Later videos show him sporting a dragon tattoo over his right arm and ostensibly performing more demos before a small crowd.
So what exactly is he doing in southeast Asia? Depending on how you look at it, he's either at the end of his rope or grasping onto a stronger one. Like many other musicians whose success came primarily in the 1980s, his impact on pop culture has long since passed. But unlike many of those same musicians, Glasper has gone halfway around the world living in virtual obscurity, all the while dealing with his personal issues. Most would say from this that his troubles have gotten the best of him in spite of his success, even though he's still alive and only 46 years old (as of this post). But word on the web is that his experiences over these past several years have reinvigorated the songwriter within him to record a studio album's worth of new material. A forthcoming album, according to these posts, is expected sometime in 2012.
For longtime fans of Breathe and 1980s adult contemporary pop, this is a breath of fresh air from a voice whose presence has been sorely missed from the airwaves. It's not so much that David Glasper was an overlooked talent in a time dominated by fellow Brits, but in that he disappeared as quickly as when he first hit the charts with Breathe. To see him resurface, after a two decade hiatus and considering the circumstances he went through in recent years, is to see a man sharpened by adversity. It's a long-awaited redemption story finally coming full circle. All that's missing is the music to match the man's God-given talent.
Photo courtesy of Melissa Ott