Jon Lucien (January 8, 1942 – August 18, 2007) was a pioneering jazz-soul singer. Dubbed "the man with the golden throat" by Herbie Hancock, Jon Lucien was the premier crooner of the fusion era -- blessed with a deep, velvety voice ideally matched to romantic ballads, his sophisticated amalgam of soul, light jazz, and Caribbean rhythms never enjoyed commercial success commensurate with the esteem afforded him by critics and peers alike.
Born Lucien Harrigan on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands on January 8, 1942, he grew up on the neighbouring island of St. Thomas. An ardent fan of Nat King Cole, as a teen he played bass in Rico and the Rhythmaires, a group led by his father, Eric.
In the mid-'60s he relocated to upstate New York, recording commercial jingles and performing at parties, weddings, and bar mitzvahs. At one such gig he captured the attention of RCA exec Ernie Alshulter, and the label soon extended a contract offer.
Renaming himself Jon Lucien, the singer was also a gifted songwriter, but RCA limited his contributions to his 1970 debut, I Am Now. to just one original, instead insisting he record a series of jazz and pop standards: "The record company was attempting to package me as a sort of 'black Sinatra,'" Lucien recalled decades later. "Once the white women started to swoon at my performances, their attitudes quickly changed."
Three years in the making, the follow-up, Rashida, consisted solely of Lucien originals. Both the title cut and the bossa nova-inspired single "Lady Love" found some favour with U.S. radio, and the record also earned rapturous critical notice, even earning arranger Dave Grusin a Grammy nomination. Response from musicians and critics was strong, yet RCA found it difficult to market Lucien, and, after his Mind Game album in 1974 met with similar commercial failure, he shifted to CBS for Song for My Lady in 1975 and Premonition the following year. Disco was now the ruling form of black American popular music and CBS had no more luck than RCA in marketing him.
Lucien was guest vocalist on several jazz albums, including on jazz-rock bassist Alphonso Johnson's Yesterday's Dreams in 1976 and Weather Report's Mr Gone in 1978, but felt despondent at the music industry's failure to advance his career. Cocaine addiction and his daughter's drowning led him to return to the Virgin Islands in the 1980s.
Only in 1982 did he resume his solo career with the Precision label release Romantico. "My frustration stemmed from being asked to be a hit-maker...do disco, country...whatever it takes to sell millions," he later said. "I struggled for the executives to understand my music."
Lucien also suffered personal tragedy in 1980 when his young daughter Zeudi Jacira drowned. He spent much of the decade to follow battling drug addiction, and during the mid-'80s returned to the Virgin Islands, ultimately settling in Puerto Rico.
In the US in 1990, he found his old albums being played on jazz stations. An even greater surprise was discovering British "acid jazz" DJs championing him. He began to release new albums and performed again, his supple baritone in fine shape. In 1996, he suffered a further tragedy when his 17-year-old daughter was killed in a plane crash. This event informed his Endless is Love album in 1997.
His new-found popularity with British audiences meant Lucien started to play dates here, yet he could only ever be away from kidney dialysis for a few days at a time. Lucien issued four more albums on his own Sugar Music label and continued to perform, touring right up until July 2007 with the US Superstars of Jazz Fusion. Health problems plagued him, however, and he died of respiratory failure in Orlando, FL, on August 18, 2007.
(Info compiled & edited from Jason Ankeny @ All Music & Garth Cartwright @ The Guardian)