Retro spin: “Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean becomes a No. 1 hit

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On this day in 1984, Trinidadian-British singer Billy Ocean reached No. 1 with a charming, saxophone-filled song called “Caribbean Queen.” The song would be the first of a short string of hits for the singer. He had been performing since the 1970s with some success. But it was with “Caribbean Queen” that Billy Ocean made a name for himself among international audiences.

Billy Ocean and the mid-1980s

With his 1984 album “Suddenly,” success seemed easy for Ocean. A series of hit releases showed audiences the heart and vocal range of the singer. While the album’s title track would ultimately be a popular single for the performer, “Caribbean Queen” was released first and proved incredibly successful.

During the 1980s when “Caribbean Queen” was making its ascent up the US charts, during weekly countdown shows, audiences learned that the song’s title is changed to match the geographic area in which Ocean was performing. So the song could be “African Queen,” “European Queen,” and so forth. Perhaps it was a small touch, but it speaks volumes about Ocean’s intuitive way of connecting with an audience.

Ocean’s dapper style, smooth, yet expressive baritone voice, made him popular in the arguably garish 1980s. Men’s voices in pop were relatively high for the most part. Ocean stood out with an approach to pop and soul called by some “post-disco” that sounded quite mature in comparison.

“Caribbean Queen” by Billy Ocean

The saxophone that fills the song’s soundscape is both fluid and acrobatic. The instrument’s sound seemed to skip and wrap itself around the lyrics and the rest of the instrumentation. The song itself is about a romantic encounter. But the flirtatious moments are captured tastefully in Ocean’s lyrics. “She said I was the tiger she wanted to tame,” is an example of one the song’s sexier lines. Audiences get it without Ocean having to say anything undignified.

The woman of the song is forthright about what she wants, which is indicative of 1980s growing ideas about independent womanhood. And far from depicting a one-night stand, the attractive woman who wants to “tame” the singer ends up being a part of his life. “Now we’re sharing the same dream/no more love on the run.”

The rest of the 1980s found Ocean making a series of hits. “Suddenly,” “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car,” ” When the Going gets Tough, the Tough Get Going,” “Loverboy” and “There’ll Be Sad Songs(To Make You Cry)” made Ocean a household name.

While the 1990s were less generous to Ocean, he was far from forgotten. A momentous occurrence happened in 2016 when Ocean made an appearance on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon.” The singer, with white hair and his trademark tailored suits, surprised and pleased audiences at home and in-studio. Ocean appeared to promote his latest tour. He practically received a hero’s welcome, proving that no one had forgotten him.

Far from being a one-hit wonder, Ocean brought a series of songs into the world that showed audiences the development of a post-disco sound that was more mature than pop trends allowed for at the time. His star power and reputation was built starting with a song from 1984 about a relationship with an idealized woman.

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