By Roy Jacobs
Does the name Rupert Holmes ring a bell? If you read album liner notes, then it’s a name you might know.
Holmes wrote for a great number of singers. His writing skills have been utilized by Wayne Newton, Dolly Parton, Barry Manilow and others. Barbra Streisand was so impressed with his songwriting and production skills that she used some of his songs in A Star is Born. Holmes went on to contribute songs to her 1975 album Lazy Afternoon and five other albums.
Does the name Rupert Holmes sound familiar now? I’ll give you one more hint.
It was late 1979, disco music was on the way out, and a certain song was playing on the radio in constant rotation. The song told the story of a man reading the personal ads, looking for some excitement, until one particular ad catches his attention with its request for one who likes drinking pina coladas and getting caught in the rain. He responds to the personal ad and arranges a meeting. As he waits to meet this mystery woman at a bar, a familiar face walks in—none other than his wife. The song ends on an upbeat note, and the two realize how much they have in common after all. The famous song is “Escape,” also known as “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” The song was the last Billboard #1 hit of the 1970s, and it was written and recorded by Rupert Holmes.
Since “Escape,” Holmes has been busy writing and collaborating on Broadway hits for the past 30 years. His first Broadway collaboration was on 1985’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood, later known as Drood, for which he won two Tony Awards in 1986. Singer and actress Jeri Sager (star of Broadway by Jeri, to be performed at Leach Theatre, April 17) performed in a production of Drood. Holmes went on to write the script for Say Goodnight Gracie (to be performed on stage at Leach Theatre, April 24), a play based on the relationship between George Burns and Gracie Allen, for which Holmes received a Tony nomination in 2003.
So, next time you hear “Escape (The Pina Colada Song),” remember that Rupert Holmes is not just a one-hit wonder from the ’70s. You may be surprised at the many places where you see his name.
Art Matters is a weekly column sponsored by Leach Theatre, a division of Student Affairs, on the campus of Missouri S&T, and produced by Emily Brickler, Managing Director of the theatre and ten-year veteran teacher with a Masters of Art in Teaching from Webster University.