This will be the first in a series of articles about singers and groups I like.

On August 26th, 2008, it will have been 4 years since Laura Branigan died.

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A gifted singer of both ballads and dance tunes, she died of a brain aneurysm at the age of 47. I must say that I find it sad that despite her tremendous success in the 80s, notices of her death have slipped through the cracks. I've looked at assorted videos of her on YouTube and there are people who say they learned of her death only months, weeks and even days ago.

I feel that Branigan was one of the best singers of the 80s, although she had been singing all the way back in the 70s, first as a member of a pop group called Meadow and later as a back-up vocalist for singer Leonard Cohen.

There were emotions in her voice that have always connected with me when I listen to her songs. Sensuality, fear, joy, heartache, excitement...As I've listened to Branigan's songs throughout the years, I can feel something I can only describe as cinematic, much like life itself can be.

I had described how I came to be acquainted with Ms. Branigan's music in my article "Famous Death: Caught Off-Guard", as well as offering up my thoughts on her song "Self Control" in that article and "The Lucky One" in my article "The Sounds Of My Footsteps", so now I would like to talk about some of her other songs and offer up my thoughts on them...Lyrical interpretations, connections to memories, things like that.

One of her first big hits was a song called "Gloria".

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This was originally an Italian pop track performed and co-written by a man named Umberto Tozzi. It was given English lyrics and peformed by Laura on her debut album "Branigan". The song is about a woman named Gloria, a very mysterious sort of a woman. Listening to the lyrics, it's apparent that Gloria has something about her that causes everybody to want her in one way or another.

I love the cover of the album. The contrast between the red shirt and those tight black pants seems to paint a visual of the song's lyrics...The red is the sensual heat that Gloria gives off, the black is the unsure mind-set. Emotions in sound, look and, most especially, performance.

Branigan gave the song an adrenalin rush like no other. A few months ago I acquired a bunch of "Solid Gold" episodes on DVD, and one of them featured Branigan wailing on this song while the Solid Gold Dancers strutted their stuff and sparks and flashpots went off everywhere. Branigan gave her all when she performed, and this performance proved it. I'm sure you can find the clip on YouTube, but make sure to find it soon, lest Viacom nuke it in favor of Tay Zonday's newest tracks and assorted videos of babies dancing to songs from "Sesame Street".

She was also great at performing ballads as well. I think one of her best tracks along those lines would have to be the song "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?", one of the biggest hits off her album "Branigan 2".

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Michael Bolton co-wrote the track, and the version he performed is the one that everyone is most familiar with, but Branigan recorded it first. The emotion she carries in this song is that of distress. Everybody has at least one special person in their lives. Whether it be romance or friendship, this person becomes a part of you. Eventually, though, most relationships fade, and this person whose love and/or friendship has helped to define your character, leaves and never comes back. That feeling is accurately reflected in Branigan's voice. As her voice swoops up and down, it feels like someone is aiming for her heart and hitting with pin-point accuracy.

The song is wonderful, and the ways I've seen it worked on YouTube are amazing as well. For example, one user combined Branigan and Bolton's versions of the song and turned them into a duet. It was beautifully done, and would've been a great hit if it had been recorded naturally. Yes, I like Bolton's voice, and I'm not ashamed of it.

The next track I would like to talk about was used well in the movie "Ghostbusters". The track is called "Hot Night". I wasn't able to find a clip on that song's usage in the movie on YouTube, so I settled for a clip from the 80s fantasy program "Automan" instead.

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(Sorry, it's the only picture I could find).

I know a decent amount about the bigger TV shows of the 80s, but not so much about cult programming like "Automan". I'll have to be enlightened by older members of this site regarding that show.

Anyway, I saw Branigan performing this track, and she did a great job with it. In lyrical and voice content, this track had a lot of resemblance to a track that Madonna might have done in the 80s, being as its' a song about sex. It wouldn't be much of a stretch for Laura...After all, she performed the American version of the song "Self Control", which I've talked about previously as sexually-charged both aurally and visually. She had a great way with songs like this...She even experimented with rap on a track called "Deep In The Dark".

"Deep In The Dark" was an adaptation of (believe it or not) "Der Komissar" by Falco (better known for "Rock Me Amadeus"). The song is a track about how people can be manipulative in the relationships with each other. In a way, it's like the flip-side of "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?". It's a song about backstabbing. In even the most loving of romances and the best of friendships, there's an element of secrecy. These are things that we secretly think about those we know...The stuff that, if it came to light, would cause chaos of all sorts.

Branigan spent some time in acting school, so she could know these emotions quite well. I can listen to this song and imagine a movie with lots of things being passed on...Cash, drugs, veneral diseases, various combinations of the above, stuff that is most definitely found in the dark.

For the final track, I would like to talk about her song "Solitaire".

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I feel that this to be a terrifically crafted song about romantic uncertainty. Branigan is singing in a rather split way. Part of her is distressed about her lover walking out on her...Part of her is wanting to turn the tables on him. Emotions like that can arise after a break-up. Some of us mourn the break-up forever, others mourn for a while and move on, and still others hope that the one they broke up with will come back. If that lover does come back, then the question arises as to what to do.

Romance, in a way, is about uncertainty. Will she go out with me? Will he marry me? Will she want to divorce me? Why am I going with him? These are all questions that arise when it comes to love. How you handle it can determine the course of your life.

Branigan's vocals say "You're on my terms now. It's not about you anymore. It's about me...I'm on top now, and don't think you can do this again".

Whether it's a ballad or a dance track, whether it's joy or sadness, whether it's sensuality or fear, Branigan could do it all. I regret that I'll never be able to see her in concert, but once I have enough money, I plan on buying all her discs. I came across the tracks I talked about on various mix discs I made...Now I want to hear everything she did. Go to YouTube as soon as you can, and look up some of her stuff. Whether you're new to her music or a fan from way back, I guarantee you'll love it.

Thoughts, guys?